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How to Clean Pool Balls

Have you noticed your pool balls looking a little dingy or yellow lately? When you're entertaining friends and family in your game room, the last thing you want is dirty and unmaintained pool balls and an unsightly table. Maintaining your pool table and accessories ensures you're keeping your game room looking great and ready for hosting those weekend parties.

Keep your game room looking its best, maintain your table and stay ready to welcome guests with a table full of clean and shiny billiard balls. We've gathered everything you need to know, from proper maintenance to the appropriate cleaning materials.

Reasons Why Pool Balls Yellow Over Time

While most billiard balls are resistant to chipping and cracking, these are vulnerable in terms of color degradation. Over time, pool balls turn yellow due to a series of factors, but it mostly has to do with what pool balls are made of. 

If your pool balls are made of phenolic resin, they'll turn yellow from exposure to UV light, heat and oxygen in the air. The presence of these properties causes a chemical change, which then leads to photodegradation. Balls made from polyester resin will not turn yellow from exposure to these elements and instead will turn grey.

Steps for Cleaning Your Pool Balls

Cleaning your billiard balls is a must to keep their appearance like-new and to keep the table in top condition as well. The best way to clean pool balls is to start with the basics. Understand what your pool balls are made of before you begin cleaning them.

Generally, pool balls are made from phenolic resin, but some sets of pool balls are made of acrylic or polyester. If your set of billiard balls is made from resin, then soap and warm water are the way to go and safe to use. If your billiard balls are made of acrylic or polyester, then you'll want to use a combination of lukewarm or room-temperature water with just a small amount of white vinegar as a ball cleaner.

steps for cleaning your pool balls

Follow these steps for cleaning pool balls made of phenolic resin:

  1. Fill a bucket or sink with warm water: It's important to use only warm water and avoid using water that is too hot or too cold. Hot water can cause damage to your pool balls while cold water won't work to loosen the dirt and grease.

  2. Add a mild detergent or dish soap: Use a mild detergent such as a little bit of dish soap to create a sudsy solution for soaking your billiard balls.

  3. Soak your billiard balls: Add your billiard balls to the sudsy solution for five to ten minutes and no longer. Any longer than five or ten minutes can cause discoloring of the pool balls and cause hard-to-remove spots.

  4. Scrub them clean with a rag: Once your pool balls have soaked for five minutes or so, remove them from the soap and water solution and scrub them with a rag or microfiber towel. Don't use a scrub brush or any other type of abrasive utensil to scrub them as this can damage and scratch the set as well as cause discoloring.

  5. Dry them thoroughly: Once you've scrubbed them clean, then it's important to thoroughly dry your billiard balls. Take your time and make certain you've completely dried each ball as any water or moisture that's left to sit on your pool balls will leave water spots and stains that are nearly impossible to remove once they've set in. You'll also want to ensure all your billiard balls are dry to keep any soap or detergent residue from transferring to your pool table as this can damage the felt and affect your game.

Acrylic or Polyester Pool Balls

If your set of pool balls is made from acrylic or polyester, or if you're unsure what your pool balls are made of, then don't risk cleaning them as though they were made of resin. Instead, use a combination of lukewarm water and a small amount of white vinegar to get your pool balls clean.

Soak the balls for five to ten minutes in the warm water and white vinegar solution and continue drying them as outlined above. It's important that you avoid using hot water and dish soap on your acrylic and polyester billiard balls. Warm water and dish soap can negatively impact and begin to break down your acrylic and polyester billiard balls.

How not to clean pool balls

Things to Avoid When Cleaning Pool Balls

You need to be careful of the things you apply when cleaning pool balls. The last thing you want to do is ruin a perfectly good set of pool balls because you failed to use the appropriate cleaning equipment or products. 

There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding ways to clean your pool balls or shortcuts to take, so let's set the record straight. Below are the products that you need to shy away from during the cleaning process:

Household Cleaning Products

First, avoid using household cleaners and chemicals to wash your pool balls. Household cleaners such as bleach or window cleaner can damage your set of billiard balls and leave them discolored. Household cleaners or other sprays are also abrasive, and using them can scratch your pool table balls. These types of products will cause damage to your pool balls as the chemicals will penetrate the surfaces too deeply.


Next, you might come across online advice suggesting you use toothpaste to clean billiard balls, but you'll want to avoid using toothpaste. Similar to using household cleaning products, using toothpaste to clean your billiard balls can damage them. Also, toothpaste will leave a residue on your billiard balls that is difficult to remove. The residue can also transfer to your pool table and damage your table's felt.


You might also be tempted to wash billiard balls in the dishwasher, but you'll want to avoid this method for cleaning them as well. The extreme temperatures and heat of dishwasher cycles will permanently damage your billiard balls.

Since pool balls are mostly made of phenolic resin or a polyester resin blend, they are easily damaged by heat and the detergents used in dishwashers. Dishwashers will impact the core of your pool balls, causing them to be less durable and shiny.  

Oil-Based Polishes and Wax

Last, it is also tempting to polish pool balls, but you'll want to avoid using any type of oil-based polishes or wax. The oil from these types of polishes will leave a residue on your billiard balls that will transfer to your pool table. This will damage the table's felt and negatively impact your billiards game in general. No matter how hard you try to remove and dry all of the polish or wax from your billiard balls, a light residue will remain and transfer to the felt on your pool table.

How to Polish Billiard Balls and Make Them Shiny

Shiny pool balls make your playing experience all the more enjoyable. So, you might also be wondering about the correct process of polishing pool balls. Once you've cleaned your billiard balls using soap and warm water, it's time to buff them up with the right materials: 

  • Find the right polishing solution: There are a number of products on the market designed specifically for polishing pool balls. However, you'll certainly want to use the right types of products and take your time shopping for a billiard ball polish. Using a cheap polish for your billiard balls can ruin your set.

  • Polish the pool balls with a gentle cloth: Once you find a good product for polishing your billiard balls, then be sure to use a microfiber cloth for polishing them. A microfiber cloth will not damage or scratch the finish on your billiard balls. The microfibers are soft enough to not cause any damage, but they are still strong enough to effectively remove all of the polish from the surface of your billiard balls.

  • Skip the oil-based products: Again, you'll want to avoid using any type of wax or oil-based polishes when cleaning and polishing your billiard balls. Try to use only polishes that are designed and made specifically for billiard balls.     

how to remove yellow from pool balls

How to Maintain Clean Billiard Balls

Now that you know how to clean a cue ball and others in the set, here's how to maintain the appearance of your pool balls.

Keep Them in a Carrying Case

The best way to get your pool balls back to their original color is to prevent them from becoming yellow to start with. You can do this by investing in a carrying case. Carrying cases will protect your pool balls from exposure to elements such as UV light, heat and oxygen in the air.

Storing your pool balls in a carrying case when they are not in use is the best way to keep them from becoming yellow in the first place. A carrying case will also keep dust, dirt and other debris away from your billiards balls.

Invest in a Ball Washing Machine

If your pool balls have already started to turn yellow, then you can try investing in a ball washing machine. A ball washing machine will obviously help you clean them, but will also help to remove any yellow tinting from your billiard balls. A ball washing machine is a big investment, but it will help get your pool balls cleaner and more polished than simply doing it by hand with soap and water or using a polish.

The yellowing of your pool balls will happen naturally as they age, so protection and prevention are going to be your best options. Again, yellow pool balls will not affect your ability to use them for playing games.

Clean Them Regularly

So, how often should you clean the billiard balls? The answer lies in the frequency of usage. People who play a few times in a month might only need to clean the balls every other month. Those who play more games in a week need to have a regular monthly schedule to keep the balls' original color. 

Benefits of Cleaning Your Billiard Balls

As discussed, there is a range of benefits to cleaning and polishing your billiard table balls. Consider the following benefits to cleaning your pool balls:

  1. Save money: Did you know you'll also save time and money by keeping your pool balls clean? Taking the time to clean your billiard balls is likely a cheaper option than investing in a whole new set of balls or replacing your pool table felt.

  2. Pool balls last longer: Pool balls with dirt and chalk embedded into them will not last long, or they certainly will not be suitable to use for playing games. Keeping your billiard balls clean will extend their life and create a better experience for you and other players.

  3. Protect your pool table: The dirt from pool balls not only impacts your pool game but transfers over to the felt on your billiards table. This dirt and chalk from the pool balls transferring over to your table and the felt means you have to clean and maintain your table more often. You may also have to replace all of the felt on your table if it's not properly maintained.

  4. Shoot better pool: Cleaning your pool balls keeps them in top playing shape. Clean billiard balls will roll better and offer you better shots. If you're serious about your pool game, then cleaning your pool balls regularly will help you shoot better pool.

Knowing how to clean billiard balls is an excellent way to keep your game room and pool table in top condition. By keeping your pool balls clean, you're essentially protecting your investment in your table, accessories and your game.

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