How To Clean Billiard Balls At Home

Dirty pool balls can create an unpleasant experience when you’re playing pool and they’re a real eyesore, too. Get years of great enjoyment from your pool table by learning how to clean billiard balls at home – the right way!

How to clean billiard balls at home

how to clean billiard balls family playing billiards at home

Anyone who has played a quick pickup game of pool knows how frustrating it can be when the pool hall’s equipment is dirty and hasn’t been maintained.

Dust, oil, chalk, and residue from food and drinks will quickly build up on pool balls and make them darkened, big messes. Even worse, the dirt and gross that builds up from handling billiard balls will transfer to the felt. This buildup of dirt will damage the felt, allowing the particles into the felt and creating changes in the surface.

Maybe those dirty pool balls weren’t your fault, after all!

When you learn how to clean pool balls properly (and clean billiard balls without damaging them!), you can lengthen the life of your table surface and the shine of the balls.

Before we cover the best way to clean pool balls, let’s discuss what you should not do when cleaning your pool equipment.

Things to avoid when cleaning billiard balls

things to avoid when cleaning billiard balls

It is very important to clean billiard balls without damaging them.

Popular internet hacks always make it seem easy – just try this one, standard household product, and your pool balls will come out bright and white!

These hacks don’t mention that tarnished or balls that are not well cleaned can create imbalances in their weight. This will affect the movement of the ball, changing its direction.

Some products on the billiard ball cleaning don’ts include:

  • The dishwasher (see more info about this cleaning method below.)
  • Windex or glass cleaner
  • CLR (Calcium Lime Rust)
  • Bleach
  • Acetone
  • Toothpaste
  • Soaking them in a dish soap

How to clean pool balls in a dishwasher

how to clean pool balls in a dishwasher

This tip has been spreading on the internet for years, but it might be one of the most damaging ways to attempt to clean your billiard balls.

Billiard balls are made from a combination of resins and weights. Specialty pool balls can sometimes be made with acrylic, plastic, or silkscreens. All of these materials are vulnerable in the high temperatures in a dishwasher – even on the cool setting, you risk the chance of permanently messing up the color of your billiard balls at best, or  at worse damaging them forever.

Many pool dealers and manufacturers will tell you not to use a dishwasher under any “how to clean pool balls” section.

How to clean pool balls with natural products

how to clean pool balls with natural products

Before you begin to clean your pool balls, make sure you refer to the set’s manufacturer manual. They will always provide instructions on how to clean pool balls produced from them, and what materials are safe to use.

Other natural products you can use include:

  • Warm water and a microfiber cloth
  • White vinegar
  • Manufacturer-approved cleaners

Steps to clean billiard balls

steps to clean billiard balls

Products that are safe to clean pool balls will range from simple dish detergent to professional specialized pool ball cleaners. There are even special machines designed mainly to clean billiard balls!

Whichever method you pick, remember only to use cleaners that the manufacturer approves using.

Here are some simple steps to follow when cleaning your billiard balls.

  1. Find a bucket. A sink that can be plugged will work well too! Any container that is big enough for all your balls will work just fine.
  2. Fill the container with warm – not hot – water. (Coldwater won’t get stubborn grime to release from the surface, and hot water can damage acrylic or polyester. Pool balls that are 100% resin can be soaked in hot water.)
  3. Use a mild detergent, like Dawn. You want to find a soap or detergent that is gentle.
  4. Let them soak for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Rinse the balls thoroughly. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe any remaining dirt from the balls gently.
  6. Use a clean, dry microfiber towel to dry them. Then, once you are sure they are dry, sit them out to dry before you polish them.

How to remove yellow stain from pool balls

how to remove yellow from pool balls

Billiard balls will turn yellow or become discolored over time as they are exposed to oil and the environment. Just like metals, billiard balls may even rust over time.

It is important to clean billiard balls without damaging them. Don’t use a product with CLR (Calcium Lime Rust). It may seem strange, but CLR can cause your billiard balls to yellow faster!

Another big no-no? Leaving your billiard balls in hot, soapy water and walking away. This will create a hard-to-remove grime layer on the surface of your balls that will cause them to be yellow.

How to clean yellow pool balls

how to clean yellow pool balls

The best way to clean pool balls that have turned yellow or have lost their color is to use a professional cleaner.

However, you can use the cleaning method of dish soap and warm water. Let them soak, and then buff them with a microfiber cloth to break up and remove dirt.

Why do pool balls turn yellow?

why do pool balls turn yellow

Almost every type of pool ball will discolor or turn yellow over time.

If you never use the billiard balls, they may not turn yellow – but what fun is that?

The pool ball’s exterior will discolor over time as it is exposed to UtraViolet light, heat (such as from your hand), and the air. However, it is not a permanent process and can be brought back to normal with specialized cleaners and polishes.

Regular maintenance of your billiard balls will increase your balls’ lifespan and keep any yellowing at bay.

How to polish pool balls

how to polish pool balls

Once you have cleaned your billiard balls, you should polish them. This not only creates a beautiful shine, but it helps to fight yellowing and the buildup of grime on the surface.

Why should you polish billiard balls?

Regularly polishing your billiard balls will ensure that any remaining dirt after washing is buffed off the ball.

This will increase your pool balls’ lifespan and guarantee that you have a consistent cue impact.

What to use to polish billiard balls

Never use a polish that is made from oil, such as wood polish. This can change or damage the ball trajectory, stain the surface felt, and even change how the ball spins!

Another product to avoid? Car wax! Wax is hugely damaging to the table’s felt and changes the speed, spin, and cue contact of your pool balls.

Use a professional billiard ball cleaner, such as Aramith, or a polish recommended by the manufacturer. Always follow the instructions in the kit, and use a microfiber cloth.

The best way to polish your billiard balls is to buff them with a clean, dry microfiber cloth after cleaning them.

What are billiard balls made of?

what are billiard balls made of

Billiards is a game that has been played since the 16th century. Thankfully, the materials the balls are made of have changed since then!

High-end pool balls were originally made of ivory, usually from elephant tusks or other (now extinct or endangered) animals. Lower-end balls were crafted from hardwood. Hardwood balls wouldn’t last very long but are cheap to produce. Ivory balls will yellow with age and crack under pressure.

In 1869, New York inventor John Wesley Hyatt made the first kind of synthetic plastic ball. American Phelan Leo Baekeland created a durable plastic ball in 1907, and these were industry standards into the 1920s.

Today, billiard balls are made from either a poly-blend or a resin blend. These durable products last for years and can withstand higher levels of impact.

What are pool cues made of?

The best pool cues are custom pool cues. These custom-made cues are hard maple and milled to have a straight grain.

The disadvantage of maple is its cost. Foreign woods like ebony, Brazilian Rosewood, Olive Wood, and Becote make excellent cues – if you have the money.

Pool cues can be made from almost any material, ranging from aluminum to titanium to acrylic to plastic to the tree growth Burls.

How to clean pool table felt stains.

how to clean pool table felt stains

Just as it’s important to clean billiard balls without damaging them, it’s vital to clean the pool table felt without damaging it.

Remember, felt can easily rip and tear, leading to costly repairs or replacements.

To remove stains from the pool table felt:

  1. Clean any spill as quickly as possible.
  2. Using a microfiber cloth, lightly damper the fabric.
  3. Dab the stain, but do not rub. Rinse and wring the cloth as necessary.
  4. Mix 1 capful of white vinegar with 1 cup of cool water in a bowl. Using your clean microfiber cloth, rinse it in the solution, and wring the material out.
  5. Dab the area again with the cloth and vinegar solution. Continue this process until the stain is gone.
  6. Ensure the stain is completely dry before playing on the felt again.

How to clean a cue ball

It is crucial to learn how to clean a cue ball.

Don’t worry about learning two cleaning methods, though – cue balls can be cleaned with the same warm water and microfiber cloth technique we mentioned above!

Why you need to regularly clean your pool balls

why you need to regularly clean your pool balls

The most important point of note concerning your billiard balls’ cleanliness is playability – clean balls will ensure consistent, smooth energy transfers so you can shoot better and enjoy the game more.

The cleaner the balls are, the smoother the balls will roll – and the more accurate your stroke will be. How great is that?

Benefits of regularly cleaning billiard balls

When you hit the cue ball, it moves the spin and momentum from the cue to the billiard ball you aim at. This process is called frictional co-efficiency. Dirty balls can change how the impact transfers, as well as cause a slight stickiness.

As your dirty pool balls roll across the surface of the felt playing surface, the residue from the ball transfers to the felt. This causes the particles to embed themselves into the felt fibers, causing stress and resistance to the ball’s movements. Worst of all, micro-tears will develop that will eventually spread into many tears.

The cleanliness of the pool balls will affect how you perceive how you are playing. The cleaner the objects you are playing with are, the more you will be attracted to play!

The build-up of especially dirt remains, such as grease from food, can create total discoloring of the pool balls. This will make them seem dull over time, and even destroy the exterior markings.

James Marshall

About the author

James is a business management professional and consultant with a former background in maintenance, repair, and hands-on projects. He enjoys DIY tasks and maintenance around the home as well as part-time writing. Read more »