how to clean tennis balls

How to clean tennis balls

So, your tennis balls are filthy. 

This is a common occurrence, as tennis balls touch many different surfaces and many people’s hands.

And, if you happen to be playing in the rain, it is almost certain that your tennis balls will be dirty after your sparing session.

So, how to clean your tennis balls – and should you?

The answer is yes – it is perfectly safe to clean your tennis balls as long as you’re using some of the methods below. If not cleaned correctly or at high temperatures, you’ll damage the rubber on the ball, making it useless.

There are 3 main methods to clean your tennis balls safely – by hand, in the washing machine, or using a kleenball.

Let’s dive in?

On this Article

How to clean tennis balls by hand

Cleaning tennis balls by hand is the safest method to wash them and is the one that produces the best results.

Here are the steps you should follow to restore your tennis balls to their diamond shine condition:

1) Container and Warm Water

First, grab a container big enough for the balls to soak completely. Any container (a bucket, for example) will work as long as it is large enough to submerge the balls. 

Put the balls you wish to clean in the container, and fill it with warm water.

The water should not be too hot, though, so it doesn’t damage the rubber of the tennis balls.

Cold water won’t work either – the dirt is better removed with some temperature. The same logic you would apply when washing dishes.

The temperature is perfectly fine if you feel comfortable putting your hands in the bucket.

2) Add detergent or liquid Soap

After the balls are soaked in warm water, it is time for you to add some detergent or liquid soap.

The same kind of detergent you would use for your clothes is excellent. You can also use dishwasher soap, although we prefer the first one because it is less abrasive.

How much detergent should you use to clean your tennis balls?

About the same you would for washing your dishes.

3) Let the tennis balls soak

After adding the detergent to the mix, allow it to penetrate the balls before giving them a deep clean.

This will allow the dirt to slowly detach itself from the ball’s felt, making the washing process much more manageable.

We suggest you let the tennis balls soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour before moving on to the next step.

4) Scrub

After letting the balls rest in the warm water with detergent, you’ll notice that most of the dirt will be gone from the balls.

Use a scrub or a towel to remove the remaining dirt.

Your tennis balls should be perfectly clean by now.

5) Rinse

Now that the tennis balls are cleaned, it is time to rinse them to eliminate the remaining detergent.

We suggest you use warm water at about the same temperature as you’ve washed them. 

It is vital not to skip this step because the detergent could deteriorate the balls’ felt if you let it dry on the ball’s surface.

Make sure they are perfectly rinsed and have no more detergent before drying.

6) Dry

Now that the tennis balls are cleaned and have no more detergent on them, it is time to dry them.

We suggest you dry them instantly after rinsing them.

Using an air dryer will produce a better outcome. If one is unavailable, dry them well using a towel and leave them in a dry place to finish drying. 

Now you know what is the best way how to clean tennis balls.

How to clean tennis balls using a washing machine

If you have a lot of tennis balls to wash, it may be convenient to clean them in the washing machine.

This is perfectly fine if you follow the steps below to avoid damaging the balls or the washing machine itself.

1) Set the machine to a low temperature

First, you’ll need to set your washing machine to a low temperature.

High temperatures can harm your tennis balls, causing the rubber to melt or warp them irreparably.

2) Turn off the spin cycle (or set it to very low spin)

To not damage anything, you need to turn the spin cycle off (or, at least, to the minimum possible). 

Washing machines can spin very fast, and this can cause your tennis balls to be damaged or, worse, it can damage the washing machine itself.

So, be cautious with this.

3) Add Laundry Detergent

Next, you’ll need to add laundry detergent to the mix.

Use the same detergent and amount as if you were washing your clothes. You can even throw some clothes in the mix if the machine is not full enough!

4) Turn On the Washing Machine

Now, it’s time to let the machine do its work.

Turn on the washing machine and let the program run.

5) Dry

Now your tennis balls should be perfectly clean.

Dry them immediately after the wash. 

If your machine has an in-built drying function, ensure it is not too hot, as it could damage the balls.

Alternatively, you can use an air dryer or, if one is not available, dry them thoroughly with a towel and let them dry in a dry space.

Cleaning tennis balls using a kleenball

There is an ancient method for cleaning tennis balls – it is called kleenball. It is the first patented tennis ball cleaner. 

It was created in 1905 and has an egg-like shaped wood surface on the outside and brushes on the inside. It is divided in half so you can insert the ball inside and scrub.

The same logic applies to golf ball cleaners.

However, this is a collector’s item, and getting one will not be easy – they sell for over 200 pounds and are rarely available – mostly on auctions. If you are one of the few people in the world who own one of these, use it!

FAQ About cleaning tennis balls

Is it safe to put tennis balls in the dryer?

Yes, you can put tennis balls in the dryer to clean them.

However, set the dryer to a low temperature; otherwise, you could damage the balls.

Should you use cleaned tennis balls in a match?

It depends.

Go ahead if you are a recreational player and want to play tennis for fun.

If you’re serious about your game and hit balls at astonishing speeds, you may notice that the ball’s performance deteriorates.

But again, if you play that seriously, you will have to replace your balls almost every match, even if you do not clean them! 

If you’re unsure on when to replace your tennis balls, feel free to read our article about it.

Should you clean tennis balls or replace them?

A new tennis ball will always perform better than a cleaned one – tennis balls start deteriorating from the minute you open their case (and even before!).

But cleaned balls can be perfectly usable if you’re using them for practice.

Can washing detergents be used to clean tennis balls?

Yes. You can use any detergent to clean your clothes or dishes to clean tennis balls.

We suggest clothes detergent over the one for the dishes, because it is less abrasive.

Can I give washed tennis balls to my dog?


Just be sure to use a pet-friendly detergent to do so.

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