I always intend to put my tennis balls back into the canister when I’m done playing. I think I even succeeded once. You’d think that they would be fine rolling around in my gym bag but you’d be wrong. I can play half a dozen matches and my balls still look new. After a couple of days in my gym bag though? Not so much.
But can tennis balls even be washed?
Call me crazy but dirty tennis balls play differently than clean ones. As they come in contact with dust, mud, and other particles and get dirty they bounce differently, fly differently, etc. Not to mention that I don’t love to catch and hold dirty balls.
However, instead of relegating my dirty tennis balls to my dog or kids (they both love them), I figured it was probably in the best interest of myself and my wallet to try and clean them. The amount of money I can spend on tennis and badminton is limited (by my wife) so the longer I can use my balls, the more likely it is that I can get a new racquet!
Can Tennis Balls Be Washed?
Tennis balls are made to withstand both water, scuffs, and scrubs. Tennis balls can be washed with soap and water without damaging the ball or nap. However, be careful of aggressive scrubbing as you may wear down or stiffen the fuzz.
Now, there are several other ways to clean tennis balls effectively. For example, you could get a ball washer. However, such things are not only expensive but space-consuming. I just want to know how to clean tennis balls, not dedicate a corner of my garage to the process and start a side hustle.
Luckily, tennis balls aren’t complex, and cleaning them isn’t rocket science. I was able to find several tutorials but eventually narrowed it down to three methods for cleaning tennis balls that provide the best results with the least expense and effort.
Method 1- Washing Tennis Balls By Hand
I hesitated to even include this as a method here but it is the cheapest and best option for most people. Washing tennis balls by hand is quick, easy, and pretty much free. Here’s how to go about it the right way:
1. Fill a Sink or Bucket With Warm Water
You will obviously want to vary the amount of water you use based on the number of balls you have. I typically use a 5-gallon bucket filled around 1/2 of the way full.
2. Add a Detergent to the Water
I add either dish soap or laundry detergent to the water. Laundry detergent isn’t quite as good at cutting grease and getting rid of really hard stains but it is easy on the balls.
Optional Step: Weigh the Balls Down
Tennis balls float. If you don’t want to mix them up, do as I do and make sure they stay under the water. I typically add a 25 pound barbell plate to the bucket which pushes all of the dirty tennis balls to the bottom. If you don’t have anything to weigh them down with, I’ve also heard of people soaking the tennis balls in a bag. That way you can both squeeze out all the air and move them around with just a little shake of the bag.
3. Give the Balls Ample Time to Soak
The tennis balls should be left in the water to soak for approximately 30 minutes. Very dirty balls should be given more time to soak. The extra time provides the detergent with sufficient time to remove the dirt from the balls cleaning them thoroughly.
4. Scrub the Balls and Rinse Them With Warm Water
After the balls have soaked for around half an hour, one should scrub them with a piece of rag to remove the dirt particles that could have been trapped on their surfaces. I’ve heard of people scrubbing them with a toothbrush but I’m not that dedicating. I mostly just slosh them around and scrub them a bit as I see fit. After scrubbing, rinse the balls with warm water and give them approximately 10 minutes to dry. If in a hurry, dry the balls with a dryer and set it to the lowest heat level.
Method 2- Washing Tennis Balls in a Washing Machine
Washing tennis balls in a washing machine is one of my favorite ways to clean them (maybe it’s because I’m lazy?) Whatever the reason, it is a method that I only discovered recently when I got a new washer and dryer. My old washer set-up was a top loading contraption which is not recommended for washing tennis balls! (I’m not saying it won’t work, I just haven’t tried it and can’t tell you whether it will destroy your washer or not…) Here’s how we’re going to clean your dirty tennis balls in your washing machine:
1. Turning on the Cold Water Setting
Hot water is not effective in cleaning the balls because it can cause them to warp and even split. Contrary to what most people think, cold water can be just as effective for cleaning.
2. Add Liquid Soap to the Water
This should be pretty obvious but you’re going to wash the tennis balls in the washer just like you’re doing laundry. This means that the next step is to add detergent to the water to boost the cleaning process. You may want to slow down the spin cycle, however,
3. Dry the Balls
Once the machine has cleaned the balls, they should be dried using a dryer set to the lowest temperature setting. If you don’t want to dry them (the sounds is pretty annoying) you can also just put them in the sun for a bit or toss them into the living room. As long as you don’t have a slobbery dog they’ll be dry pretty quickly.
Method 3- Cleaning the Tennis Balls Using Kleenball
Kleenball is a tennis ball cleaner that can be used to remove dirt particles from the balls. It uses softly bristled brushes to gently massage away dirt and grime.
While using this method, insert the tennis ball in the kleenball tool, lock it and move the brushes in a circular manner until the balls become clean. You can find a kleenball or similar tool many places online and in most sporting goods stores. Is one necessary? No but they sure are handy!
At the end of the day, knowing how to clean tennis balls should provide you with not only clean and fresh balls, but another way to fill a boring rainy afternoon when you can’t make it to the court to play. If you have tried any of the above methods or have other ideas, feel free to leave a comment below!