Some of us are fortunate to play in glorious sunshine all year round, others play in all seasons and weather conditions. The amount you play and in what conditions will have an impact on the condition of the tennis balls. New balls can pick up dirt and become wet if there is rain or dew on the court. In this article, we will cover some simple steps and the best techniques to clean dirty tennis balls and bring them back to life.
We have heard of people washing tennis balls in the shower, a hot tub and even a bath! I do ask myself if I am wasting my time when I wash tennis balls sometimes.
We have found for best results, tennis balls can be washed one of two ways. Either by hand with some warm soapy water and something to scrub them with, or they can be put into the washing machine on a cold spin cycle. You do not need to spend lots of money on cleaning products and fancy gadgets to bring tennis balls back to life which is good news.
What do I need?
- Brush or toothbrush (softer bristles preferable)
- Bowl of warm water
- Soap (dishwasher soap is fine)
- Sponge or a damp cloth
- Regular laundry detergent (if using a washing machine)
Step 1 – Fill the bowl with hot water and add soap
First thing, make sure to fill a large bowl with hot, clean water (this should NOT be boiling water or you will damage the ball and more importantly your skin). Add a small amount of liquid soap to this water and allow it to mix with the water. Do not add soap directly to the tennis ball.
Step 2 – Let the balls soak
Depending on how dirty the tennis ball is, you will want to soak it for a minimum of ten minutes and potentially up to forty minutes. By doing this it will allow some of the dirt and stains to start being removed by the warm water.
Step 3 – Get scrubbing
Once the balls have been allowed time to soak, gently start scrubbing the ball with a toothbrush / brush to remove any dirt or particles stuck to the outside of the ball. Then repeat this wash with a sponge or a damp cloth to make sure everything is removed. Do not do this hard or you have the potential to damage the felt.
Step 4 – Rinse
Rinse your tennis ball under cold water, making sure all the soap has been removed and your ball is now clean.
Step 5 – Dry
The drying process is important. Allow your ball to sit in a dry place (a drying mat, a heated airer) or if there is good weather then let the ball dry outside on a window sill. By doing this process your ball should restore its color, look good and is then ready to go into your tennis bag for the next game of tennis.
Can I put my tennis balls in a washing machine?
In short the answer is yet. A washing machine is probably the easiest way to clean balls (we’ve all been there when we don’t have time to scrub tennis balls!). Our advice is to wait until you have more than one tennis ball as it is a waste to just put a cycle on with one tennis ball in. When using a washing machine, it is important to set the machine to a cold wash (you do not want to cook the rubber of the ball!) and DO NOT put on a spin cycle or your ball will be ruined. This is really important.
Add a little bit of soap (same you use on your clothes) and set the machine off.
We find this a really effective cleaning method. Our advice is to not mix tennis balls and clothes in any of your washes as sometimes the colors run and the felt from the ball can stick to clothes.
Can I put my tennis balls in a tumble dryer?
If there is no obvious space to dry your balls, or you need them as soon as possible, a tumble dryer is a good alternative. Some people say that it is ok to combine tennis balls and laundry. We have not had a good experience with this, clothes smell like rubber, we have experienced some color running (neon dye) onto our clothes. Do not leave in for too long and do not use a high temperature. A short, sharp burst in the dryer with just tennis balls is a better way to dry them in our view (note; it can sound like the thunder is starting with all those tennis balls bouncing around in the machine 🙂
Cleaning Pet’s balls
As a pet owner we know how much certain animals like to chase a ball. Our dog has a variety of pet toys but the good old tennis ball is her all-time favorite. It is therefore important to make sure that the ball is cleaned on a regular basis. The cleaning process is broadly the same as we have outlined above.
The only thing we would add is to make sure that you use pet-friendly detergent, or the soap used is chemical free. If you do not want to add soap an easy way to clean the tennis ball is to add a little white vinegar to warm water before cleaning. That way you can be happy that the tennis ball going into your pets’ mouth will do them no harm.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does washing balls mean they lose their pressure?
This is the most frequent question we get asked. The cleaning process of a tennis ball will not make it lose pressure. Pressurized tennis balls start to lose their pressure the minute the can is opened. We think it is a good idea to always use warm water and certainly do not put through a hot wash cycle!
Will it affect the bounce of the ball if I wash them?
An old tennis ball will lose bounce regardless of how you look after it. By washing it using the technique above it will not affect its bounce or the outside of the ball.
When should I replace tennis balls?
It depends how often you play and in what conditions you play. We believe the average player has 4-6 hours of play time with a tennis ball before it starts to lose pressure and the bounce becomes lower and more noticeable.
The good news is even the most avid tennis player can extend the life of a new tennis ball with a little care and attention. Tennis balls are an essential but expensive part of any tennis player’s game. A little extra care and attention can go some way to prolonging the life of a ball and also its effectiveness on the tennis court. The team at Tennis Pursuits always keep the balls in the can after play and make sure that they are dried after use if wet. Dirty balls do not make for good games of tennis. It does take time and attention but very worth doing in our view.
We hope you found this article useful and do let us know how you go, as always, we are open for tips and new ideas on how you get on.