Do Billiard Balls Wear Out? What You Need to Know


Like with any hobby or sport we put money into, we want to know how long our equipment will last. The same can be said for us pool players who have put hundreds, if not thousands of dollars into our equipment, billiard balls included. And because billiard balls take so much abuse at the table, its natural to wonder it they’ll ever wear out. So do they?

Over time billiard balls do wear out due to the friction that occurs between the balls and the table itself. This friction causes the balls to diminish in size usually within one years time.

However, there are steps you can take to improve their longevity. What’s more, there are certain types of billiard balls that last longer than others.

Whether you are a novice who likes to rack them up on the weekends or an advanced enthusiastic competing regularly, there are a lot of questions pertaining to the quality and general care of your equipment including the billiard balls.

To help you better understand when and how billiard balls wear out, we have put together this informational guide to explain how to keep billiard balls from wearing out, how long they normally last, when to replace them, and with which options. 

Why do Billiard Balls Wear Out?

Billiard balls wear out due to the friction produced during the shot. Cue balls tend to wear out faster because they’re used for every shot and are struck with the cue tip, whereas the object balls don’t receive as much abuse.

However, in order to fully understand why billiard balls wear out you need to understand the three biggest influencers on billiard ball wear and tear:

  1. What they are made of – Most billiard balls are created with polyester which is a durable, synthetic polymer (effectively, plastic). Higher quality balls are made from phenolic resin. Both of these materials, however, will wear down over time. 
  2. What friction they are exposed to – Every time you take a shot, friction is created between the ball and the table. This is unavoidable simply due to the nature of the game. This friction, however, is the primary culprit of billiard ball wear and tear.
  3. Environmental Factors. Exposure to UV light, oxidation, humidity, and heat can wear down the structural integrity of the ball with time. For this reason, its best to keep your billiard balls in a cool, dry area when not in use, preferably in a case.

How Long do Billiard Balls Last?

Depending on the quality of the balls being used, how often you play, and the environmental conditions they’re exposed to, billiard balls last between one to three years. High quality billiard balls made from phenolic resin, however, will last much longer before needing to be replaced, usually between five to eight years.

That being said, this doesn’t mean your billiard balls have become useless after a years worth of playing, but that they no longer meet the minimum specifications of the WPA. According to WPA guidelines, billiard balls must measure 2 1/4″ in diameter and weigh 5 1/2 to 6 oz. But because most of us aren’t playing professionally or in tournaments, we can still use our billiard balls well after they drop below the specs given.

Another factor that affects how long your billiard balls will last is the condition of your pool table felt. A dirty playing surface will create more friction and therefore cause your balls to wear our faster.

This is especially true for any chalk dust that has accumulated on or in the felt. Pool cue chalk is made with very fine sand and when left to embed itself in the felt, can act as sandpaper towards your billiard balls.

That said, keeping your table clean can help delay the time it takes before your billiard balls wear out.

In summary, high quality billiard balls made from phenolic resin last longer than those made from polyester materials. Keeping your billiard balls away from adverse environmental conditions such as excessive heat or sunlight can increase their lifespan. And playing often will cause your billiard balls to wear out faster, regardless of their quality.

How to Keep Billiard Balls From Wearing Out

All billiard balls will eventually wear out, regardless of what preventive measures you put in place. However, there are certain things you can do to extend their lifespan. Here’s what you should do to get the most out of your current set.

  1. Keep Your Felt Clean – As already mentioned, a clean playing surface will reduce the friction between the balls and the table. Obviously, less friction is better. Clean your table regularly to help prevent the buildup of dirt and chalk, which can act as an abrasive to your billiard balls.
  2. Clean & Polish Your Balls Regularly – Clean billiard balls are smoother and provide less resistance when rolling across the table. Not only that, cleaning and polishing your billiard balls can help protect them from wearing out due to environmental conditions such as exposure to excessive sunlight which can cause yellowing.
  3. Avoid Harsh Environmental Conditions – Billiard balls exposed to excessive sunlight, or high levels of heat or humidity will wear down faster. Whenever possible, its best to keep your billiard balls in a cool, dry place such as a closet. Even more protection can be provided by keeping them in a case when not in use, which is highly recommended. Not only will a case block out sunlight, it’ll protect your balls from accidental drops as well.

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If you follow the steps above, you can greatly increase the longevity of your billiard balls. One other thing you can do to make your billiard balls last longer is to play less…But where’s the fun in that?!

When to Replace Billiard Balls?

You should replace your billiard balls any time they become damaged, are visibly misshapen, or when their condition negatively impacts your shots. Billiard balls that are cracked or chipped are not just cosmetically flawed, but structurally compromised and should be replaced immediately.

Balls that show no physical damage but are smaller than the specs given by the WPA can still be used so long as they don’t adversely affect your game. For most casual players, pool balls that are smaller in diameter have no noticeable affect on shot performance and, therefore, don’t need to be replaced.

Another way to tell if your billiard balls are worn out and need to be replaced is if you can physically feel the numbers. Numbers generally wear down slower than the rest of the ball causing them to feel raised from the surface. If you can physically feel the numbers on your billiard balls, its time to replace them. You’ve certainly gotten your money’s worth!

Here are all the signs you should look for when trying to determine if your pool balls need to be replaced. If you notice any of the following, you should replace your set:

  • Damage in the form of cracks or chips
  • Balls are misshapen or no longer perfectly round
  • You can feel the numbers
  • Condition of the balls negatively impact your game
  • Balls are out of spec (for advanced players)

Replacing the Cue Ball

Because the cue ball is involved with every shot, it typically wears out faster than the object balls. With this being said, you may need to replace your cue ball well before the rest of the balls need replacing.

You should replace your cue ball if its visibly smaller than your object balls or shows any signs of damage. A smaller diameter cue ball may make your draw shots a bit easier but will have the opposite effect on follow shots. Its best to just keep things consistent, wouldn’t you say?

Fortunately, you can purchase a replacement cue ball without having to buy an entire set. No need to replace them all if you don’t need to!

How Often Should You Replace Your Billiard Balls?

How often you should replace your billiard balls is determined by how often they show signs of needing to be replaced. Obviously, this is going to vary depending upon how often you play, the quality of the billiard balls themselves, and your tolerance for out of spec billiard balls.

If you’re a casual player who uses standard quality balls and plays mainly on weekends, you should expect your billiard balls to last at least three years before needing to replace them.

Given this same criteria, however, a high quality set of phenolic resin balls, such as those made by Aramith, will last up to eight times as long before needing to be replaced.

Related Article: Are Aramith Pool Balls Worth the Money?

Of course, I cant say definitively how long a particular set of billiard balls will last you, as it really depends on all the factors we’ve discussed so far in this article.

Do Billiard Balls Make a Difference?

The billiard balls you use will certainly make a difference in terms of how they play and how well they hold up over time.

Budget friendly billiard balls, which are usually made of a polyester blend, don’t hold up as well or last as long as those made of higher quality materials such as phenolic resin. However, depending upon your circumstances, this may or may not be of concern, but should be kept in mind when looking for a replacement set of billiard balls.

If you’re in the market currently, see our recommendations below for both a budget friendly option and one that that offers less regard to your bank account!

Our Billiard Ball Recommendations

If you’re in the market for a new set of billiard balls, you should definitely consider the two options below. The first option is geared towards casual players who don’t want to spend a ton of cash on pool balls and are cool with replacing them every few years. The second set is for those who take the game a bit more seriously and who need a high quality set that will last a very long time.

Japer Bees Deluxe

If you’re looking for a quality set of billiard balls that wont break the bank, this set by Japer Bees should definitely be considered. They’re made of high quality polyester resin and are regulation size and weight. This set is perfect for those who consider themselves to be Weekend Warriors and aren’t overly concerned with the lifespan of their pool balls.

Furthermore, these billiard balls offer a high density surface that is scratch resistant, provides low friction, and looks amazing. They also have a few different designs to choose from.

Aramith Tournament Series

If you’re serious about investing in a set of billiard balls that will last a lifetime, this Tournament Set by Aramith is the way to go. Made from high quality phenolic resin, they offer some serious benefits including: burn spot resistance, increased lifespan, optimal rebound, and a perfectly true and accurate roll.

On top of the benefits mentioned above, these balls are designed to last up to 40 years with residential use! You may never have to buy another set of billiard balls again!

Aramith is known for their high quality products and are used by professionals in tournaments around the world. However, they are a bit pricey. But for most the cost is justified simply by how long they last. Definitely check them out if you want to buy a set of pool balls you can pass down to your children and grandchildren.

In Conclusion

Hopefully by now you have all the information you need about billiard balls wearing out. As unfortunate as it is, all billiard balls will wear out over time. But by taking the time to do a bit of preventative maintenance, we can increase their lifespan greatly.

I hope this article has been helpful. Check out the rest of the site for more helpful content just like this! Thanks for reading!

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