Can Tennis Balls Be Washed?

Imagine it’s a cold day in late November. You’re playing in the pouring rain, and you suddenly hit the ball, and it lands in a bush.

The ball is now covered in dirt and soaking wet. It still bounces somewhat okay but is filthy.

Perhaps you have been playing on a clay court, and the ball is now covered in clay. Is there anything you can do to clean it and make it look fresh again?

You can wash tennis balls either in the washing machine or by soaking them in warm water. If left in water for a long time, they will be drenched and take some time to dry out and return to their typical bounce. Pressurized and pressureless balls will react differently to the cleaning process.

I will be talking about that in more detail later.

In this article I will be discussing:

  • Whether tennis balls can be washed in warm water
  • Whether you can put tennis balls in the washing machine
  • If the tennis ball will go flat if washed

Tired of dirty balls? Read on!

Can You Wash a Tennis Ball In Warm Water?

Washing ball in warm soapy water

You can wash tennis balls in warm water. The water should be hot but not to the point that it is uncomfortable putting your hands in.

Once the balls are rinsed in warm water, you can use a sponge to scrub the dirt off. After this, just leave them some time to dry.

If the weather is nice, you can put the balls out in the sun once they are cleaned.

I believe that washing tennis balls in a bucket with warm water is the best choice. This is because you have more control over the process. You can see what’s happening and take the balls out when you feel they are clean enough.

When using a washing machine to clean balls, you are at its mercy. In other words, you place the balls in the machine and trust that the job will be done, and they will come out squeaky clean.

This being said, my personal policy is not to wash the balls. For me, if they continue to bounce fine, it doesn’t matter how dirty they are.

A little dirt will have no impact on the playability of tennis balls.

There is one big sign to look out for to know when the balls are beyond help, and it is time for a new set.

That is, if the ball is stained and the mark won’t come off. This suggests that the fuzz has worn off. If the ball is still fuzzy, the stain should come off without much effort.

The tennis balls need to be fuzzy to add more control when in the air. The fuzz slows the ball down in flight. Without the fuzz, it would also cause the bounce of the ball to be less consistent. It might bounce off at odd angles.

Using the rinsing in the warm water method won’t make a difference whether the ball is pressurized or not.

They will not be in the water long enough to have any real effect. As it is warm water, the temperature will also not affect the pressurized balls.

If you put pressurized balls in a bucket of icy water for a few hours, you will notice a difference.

Can You Put A Tennis Ball Into The Washing Machine?

Washing machine thinking

We have now learned that you can safely wash tennis balls in warm water. What about in the washing machine?

You can put them in the washing machine, but it carries a little more risk. Pressurized balls lose pressure faster in cold conditions. If the balls are left in the machine for hours after they have finished washing, they will likely get cold.

However, it is unlikely they will be cold enough to do any harm. Still, as the temperature drops, the pressure loss increases.

This problem is easier to avoid with the warm water method. You can just wash them in hot water and put them straight into the sunlight after. If the weather is bad, you can leave them in a warm place to dry and put them in a tube or bag after.

It is easier to forget and let them sit with the cold, wet clothes all day with the washing machine.

If you have pressureless balls, you should experience no problem putting them in the washing machine. Pressureless balls are not reliant on air pressure, and thus the effect of cold temperature is less.

Judy Murray mentioned that when Andy and Jamie were young, she would chuck wet balls in the tumble dryer. She did this as she couldn’t afford to buy new balls.

Elena Dementieva, who had a career high ranking of #3 said she also used to wash tennis balls after practice so they could be reused. She did not specify how she washed them though.

Will The Tennis Ball Go Flat If I Wash It?

Bouncing tennis ball

There is no scenario in which washing tennis balls will actually do them any good or improve performance. It will literally just clean them and make them look better.

Water will not cause pressureless balls to go flat or lose bounce. Washing pressurized balls can cause them to lose some pressure, but I would not consider the ball to become flat in most cases. This, of course, depends on your definition of flat balls, though.

Regardless of whether the ball is pressurized or not, water can’t get inside. It is so tightly sealed that the only way water could get in is if severe damage has made a hole in the ball. You would virtually need to dig a sharp knife in to break it.

Pressurized balls can lose some pressure if left to get cold in the washing machine.

For me, I consider a flat ball as one that has lost pressure to the point that it bounces unnaturally. By this, I mean that it is totally useless for matches and serves little purpose in practice.

A good example I use for feeling that the ball is flat is if you are hitting a standard yellow ball and it bounces like a green ball. Green balls bounce 25% slower and are aimed at children and new beginner adults.

By my definition of flat, you will have no problem washing the ball and then playing. If you are pickier about the bounce quality and consider it flat when it doesn’t feel new, you probably won’t be happy.

If you fall into the picky category, I recommend just giving the balls away and buying a new set.

Final Words

Bear in mind that everything I have written assumes that the balls you are washing are for practice.

If the balls are to be used in a serious match, I would never recommend you wash them. You should just buy a new set.

For me, I am not fussed if the balls are dirty. I think it’s more effort than it is worth cleaning them.

Have you ever tried washing balls? Perhaps you have a friend who has. What was the experience? Did they bounce okay? What do you think?

I’d love to hear, maybe you will convince me to start washing my tennis balls!