Do Unused Tennis Strings Go Bad?

How often do you restring your tennis racket? Usually, a set of tennis strings will cost between $10 and $30.

This may not seem particularly expensive, but it quickly adds up if you string it often.

You can save money on tennis strings by purchasing them in bulk. For example, with a 660 feet reel of string, you can normally cover around 17 rackets.

Economically it makes sense to buy string in bulk, especially if you restring often, but there is one concern.

What if you don’t string very frequently? Is there a use-by date for strings? Do unused tennis strings go bad?

Tennis strings left unused over time will not go bad to the point that they are useless. The quality and condition, however, can be poorer. How much the strings deteriorate depends on the material of the strings, where they are stored, and at what temperature.

In this piece I will be discussing:

  • The shelf life of tennis strings
  • Signs that tennis strings are dead
  • The string type that lasts longest

Imagine if you have a set of natural gut strings and decide to store them on your car dashboard for months.

On top of that, it is parked in the middle of a desert, exposed directly to the sunlight. This is hardly going to do the strings any good.

What Is The Shelf Life Of Tennis Strings?

A male tennis player facing the back and ready to hit a ball with his racket pointing in the air

For most types of tennis strings, they will last several decades. This is provided they are stored in a suitable environment and at the right temperature.

In short, if you can keep the strings away from the sunlight and in an area where they will not get wet, you should be fine.

Natural gut strings are the ones you have to be most cautious of.

If you’ve read previous string articles on this site, you will already know how vulnerable the natural gut is to both extreme heat and water.

Natural gut strings are made from a section of the cow intestine called the serosa. It takes approximately three cows to produce one set of tennis strings.

The natural gut is more vulnerable to the elements because it is a natural substance.

If it is left in a humid environment and the pack has been opened, the strings can get damaged by the moisture in the air.

I once used a pack of three year old Wilson natural gut (Amazon). To be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference between that and a brand-new pack.

The string had just been stored in a cupboard at my old club. Although to be fair, I don’t usually play with a natural gut.

Based on this, I can say that the natural gut can last for at least three years if stored in a suitable place.

There are, however, some stringers I know who disagree and consider the lifespan to be just one year.

Nylon tennis strings have a virtually unlimited lifespan.

As they do not absorb liquid, the worst thing is that they go a little soft and perhaps discolored. Also, if you have white strings, they can go a little darker due to tanning from the sun.

Polyester is a synthetic material. However, due to its composition, it can last indefinitely.

The worst thing that can happen is if you leave it out in the sun, it will get a little softer.

If you had left a polyester string such as Luxilon Alu Power (Amazon) sitting in a cupboard for 5 years, the string will be as good as when you first made the purchase.

Related: Do Tennis Racket Strings Make Any Difference?

How To Tell If Tennis Strings Are Dead?

Five sets of legs sitting in a line with their tennis rackets touching the ground

When the string is on the racket, it is usable right up until the point it breaks.

Even if the string isn’t broken, it can begin to get a dead feeling to it. When you get this dead feeling, it is probably time to change.

When the string is wearing out, it will begin to feel softer. Unfortunately, there is no way of measuring when strings go dead because all players have different preferences.

Some will tolerate very soft strings; others will feel discomfort when they lose the initial stiffness.

If the strings are still in the packaging, you cannot assess how they feel to hit with.

Except for the natural gut, most strings will last for many years if stored properly.

However, if there has been a production error that has perhaps allowed the strings to be exposed, there are a few things you can look out for.

If you notice the string in one pack is discolored, it could mean a couple of things. First, there may have been a hole in the packaging, which has allowed air particles to come in.

The other possibility is that it has been exposed to the sun or heat, and the string has become brittle and weaker.

The string can still be used, but its quality will be poorer, and the chance of it breaking sooner increases.

For standard polyester strings they will not go dead before stringing if stored somewhere away from heat, strong light or damp.

Which String Type Last Longest?

A man holding a bunch of different tennis rackets in his hands whilst smiling

Apart from the natural gut, most strings can be stored for several years and still perform as they were brand new.

Even a natural gut’s lifespan can be prolonged if stored in a cool, dry place.

Some people put their natural gut string in zip-lock freezer bags to offer further protection.

Polyester is undoubtedly the longest-lasting string material when it comes to shelf life. This is because of both the way it is manufactured and the type of material.

Polyester is a synthetic material and started out in a different form.

At the beginning of the process, polyester is just a series of plastic pellets. They will look similar to the pellets used in BB guns.

These plastic pellets are dropped from barrels into a machine that melts them down to form the strings that we use in our rackets.

As you will undoubtedly be aware, plastic is a nightmare for the environment. It is hard to break down even once it has reached a landfill.

Plastic takes between 20 and 500 years to decompose.

This means that as the polyester string we know started out as plastic, it will be hard to break down.

Even if it is exposed to the sun or pockets of air, it is unlikely to affect the string or its qualities.

If you’ve just found a pack of 5-year-old polyester strings in your attic, chances are it will be just as usable now as 5 years ago.

Also read: Difference Between Open And Closed String Pattern

Final Words

If you have just purchased strings from a reputable tennis shop, I can confidently say they will be fine.

The only exception is if the strings have been exposed to the elements. In this case, you should be able to notice them as they will be discolored and softer.

If you have polyester strings that have been opened but not applied to the racket, these will be fine.

In essence, the only string you need to be concerned about is the natural gut that has gone bad.