Can You Clean Pool Balls in the Dishwasher?

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Written By Justin

Justin is the owner of and sole contributor to Billiard Beast.

There comes a time in every pool player’s life where he (or she) decides to clean the billiard balls. Even the most careful and conscientious of pool players will have dirty pool balls eventually. They gather chalk, dust, sweat, dandruff, hair particles, and a million other microscopic things on them. This leads to the inevitable question of how best to clean the balls. This, in turn, leads to the question: “Can you clean pool balls in the dishwasher?”

You should never clean your pool balls in the dishwasher. If the balls are cheap, you’re likely to cause them to discolor, making it hard to tell the balls apart. If they’re medium or high-end balls, you risk removing or damaging that shiny protective layer they come with. 

Read on to find out why cleaning pool balls in the dishwasher is a bad idea— and some alternatives that work much better. 

Why Not Clean Your Pool Balls in the Dishwasher?

I know it’s tempting. You look at your dirty pool balls and then glance forlornly over at the dishwasher. It would be so easy to put them on the top rack to keep them away from that heating element in the bottom. Heck, you could even load up the bottom rack with your dirty dishes. No need to waste energy and water, after all, right? 

No matter how tempting it is, you must resist! There are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t clean your balls in the dishwasher, which we’ll cover briefly below. 

Dishwashers Get Hot!

It’s a well-known fact that dishwashers get hot— and not only during the heated dry cycle or the hi-temp wash. Unlike your washing machine, dishwashers don’t have a cold cycle. They aren’t even hooked up to the cold water line in your house. They only receive hot water. 

The optimal temperature for washing dishes is between 120 and 150 Fahrenheit. Compare this to the temperature for an average shower, which is 105-degrees Fahrenheit. Since most water heaters aren’t set to heat water near 150-degrees, dishwashers use their heating elements to increase the temperature to 140-degrees, the temperature required to kill most bacteria. 

While these temperatures aren’t high enough to do something as drastic as melting the pool balls, they can cause discoloration so bad that you can’t tell the balls apart. At the very least, the whites become a nasty shade of yellow that just makes your balls look worse than they did when they were dirty. 

Dishwasher Soap Can Cause Damage

Some dishwashing liquids can cause damage to pool balls, over and above the damage the high temperatures will do. These abrasive cleaning detergents can, at the least, remove the sheen from high-quality balls. 

For cheaper pool balls, the combination of dishwashing liquid and heat can remove the overlay of colors and numbers on the balls. Either way, your balls will never be the same. 

You Can Shorten the Life of Your Pool Table Cloth

In addition to making your pool balls look bad, the dishwasher can indirectly shorten the life of your pool table cloth. This happens when the dishwasher removes the smooth protective layer that has been put on the balls.

Although it may not feel much different to the touch, once the balls lose this protective layer, they are more abrasive. So, as you play with them on your table, they wear down the felt quicker than they would have if you had never washed them in the dishwasher!

Don’t Risk It! There’s a Better Way

At this point you may be thinking, “What if I washed them without soap on the rinse cycle only?” My response is: Don’t risk it! Even the rinse cycle in many dishwashers get too hot for pool balls. Plus, there’s a better way to clean your pool balls. It may take a little more effort on your part, but at least you won’t damage your pool balls or make them ugly. 

P.S. It’s also a good idea to avoid waxing your pool balls

They Make Pool Ball Cleaner! 

Instead of using the dishwasher or any other DIY cleaning method, it’s a good idea to use a cleaner made specifically for pool balls. Since Aramith Pool Balls are the best on the market, it should be no surprise that they also make Aramith Ball Cleaner. It’s cheap, effective, and risk-free! 

They also sell sets of Aramith balls with their cleaner and a cloth included. So if you’re in the market for a new set of billiard balls, you can do no better. 

Super Pro Aramith Pool Balls - VALUE PACK
  • Complete set of pool Balls15 numbered balls 1 cue ball
  • Weight: 6 oz per ball aramith Pro series cast-phenolic resin construction
  • Less vulnerable to burn spots Number in stripe Pro cup cue ball
  • Remke training ball aramith ball cleaner Micro-Fiber cleaning cloth
  • Complete set of 16 balls includes 8 solids, 7 stripes and a cue ball; Each ball is regulations size, measuring 2-1/4" in diameter

In a Pinch, Use Water, Soap, and Alcohol

If you’re in a hurry to get your pool balls looking clean, you can use soap, water, and rubbing alcohol. If you have Aramith balls, they’re made of phenolic resin and a little bit of warm water will do them good. If you have polyester balls, or you’re not sure what they’re made of, simply use lukewarm water. Here’s what you do:

  1. Soak the balls in a bucket with water (either warm or lukewarm) and some kind of mild detergent, like Dawn or Palmolive.
  2. After 5 minutes, remove the balls, rinse them off, and dry them with a microfiber cloth. 
  3. Once the balls are dry, use a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a microfiber cloth to remove any water or soap spots. 

You can also use water mixed with a bit of vinegar to clean billiard balls. This works well on balls that have turned a little yellow with grime, although it doesn’t do much for sun or age-faded yellowing. 

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In Conclusion

Using a dishwasher to clean your pool balls is tempting, but ultimately it’s not worth it. The balls can become damaged and lose their color, sheen, and protective layer. And it’s not just the heat that’s the culprit; dishwashing liquid can also cause problems. 

Investing in billiard ball cleaner is the way to go to keep your pool balls looking good and playing well for many games to come.

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