Should You Wax Pool Balls?

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Written By Justin

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

The old saying, “Nothing gold can stay” comes to mind when thinking about cleaning or shining pool balls. There’s something very aesthetically pleasing about clean, shiny, billiard balls on a nice, clean pool table. But, like the old saying suggests, this can’t last forever. However, there are plenty of options out there for getting the balls shiny. Wax is the first that pops to mind for many people. But, this begs the question: Should you wax pool balls?

Unless your pool balls are just for show, you shouldn’t wax them. This is because waxing the balls can change how they behave on the table. There would be no consistency unless you constantly waxed the balls. Even then, every time you played at a table with unwaxed balls, those balls would behave differently. 

So, while waxing the balls may sound like a good idea in theory, it will just make things harder on you in practice. In reality, waxed balls make spin-transfer and throw shots difficult, if not downright impossible. 

But don’t worry, there are a couple of ways you can keep your balls looking good— and playing consistently— without using wax. Read on to discover drawbacks and alternatives to wax.

Waxing Pool Balls: Pros and Cons

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons to give you a better idea of what exactly the consequences are of waxing pool balls. 

Waxing Pros

  • Makes the balls look clean and shiny.
  • Balls will slide across the felt smoothly. 
  • Balls will be faster during play while the wax remains on them. 

Waxing Cons

  • Wax may build up on the table’s felt, affecting gameplay.
  • Miscues are more likely to happen. Even if you don’t wax the cue ball, it will collect residue from the other waxed balls as you play. 
  • Wax residue may collect on your cue tip, making chalk less effective and English shots harder. 
  • Balls will slide more than spin, making spin-transfer and throw shots unattainable. 
  • Balls will behave differently than you’re used to, making shots more difficult. 
  • As the wax fades, you’ll have to make adjustments in your play to compensate. 

Do Tournaments Wax or Polish Their Pool Balls?

If you’ve ever watched a pool tournament on television, you’ve probably noticed that the balls look nice and shiny on the electric blue cloth. You may want your balls to look just as good at home, which you can do. But, you don’t need to use wax or polish. And neither do the tournaments. In fact, here’s what the World Pool-Billiard Association says about waxing or polishing balls:

“Balls should be unpolished, and should also not be waxed. Balls should be cleaned with a towel or cloth free of dirt and dust, and may also be washed with soap and water. Balls contaminated with any slippery substance – treated with a polishing or rubbing compound and/or waxed – must be cleansed and dewaxed with a clean cloth moistened with diluted alcohol before play.”

As you can see, the idea is to maintain consistency by ensuring that all the balls are clean but not slippery with wax or polish.  

How to Keep Your Pool Balls Clean and Shiny

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Just because you shouldn’t use wax or polish on your balls doesn’t mean that they can’t look good. In fact, cleaning your balls regularly can help keep your gameplay consistent, your felt lasting longer, and your table cleaner. Here are a couple of ways to clean your pool balls.

Pool Ball Cleaner

By far the best way to keep your balls clean and shiny is to use a cleaning solution made for pool balls. The gold standard for this is Aramith Pool Ball Cleaner and Restorer

However, this is made for phenolic resin balls. If you don’t have phenolic resin balls, or you’re not sure what your balls are made of, you may want to use a different cleaner, like this Chem-Pak Pool Ball Cleaner. This billiard ball cleaner is safe to use on different types of balls. So, if your balls are made from anything but phenolic resin, this is the stuff for you. 

When in Doubt, Use Water

If you don’t want to spring for a pool ball cleaner, the next best option is warm water. Simply soak your balls in the water for 5 to 10 minutes, then dry them with a towel and wipe them with a microfiber cloth. 

For really dirty balls, you may want to use a gentle dishwashing liquid. You can soak the balls in warm soapy water for 5 or 10 minutes. Then rinse them off, dry them, and wipe them with a microfiber cloth. But, soap residue can cling to the balls afterward, so you may want to use a little bit of rubbing alcohol to take any residue off the balls.  

Pool Ball Case

If you want to ensure that your balls stay cleaner for longer, putting them in a protective case can help. You can use one of these for transport or just for storage when you’re not playing pool. This Aramith pool ball case even has a place for pool ball cleaner!

How Often to Clean Your Pool Balls

Now that you know how to clean your pool balls, let’s talk about how often you should do it. Really, this depends on how clean you want to keep your balls and table. Wiping down the balls after every game seems a little excessive, but it will keep your billiard balls nice and clean. 

For most casual players, cleaning the balls is best done every three or four sessions. If you keep your balls in a case or use a pool table cover when you’re not playing, you could extend that to every five or six sessions.

In Conclusion

Although waxing your pool balls may seem like a good idea, the bad far outweighs the good in practice. Wax on the balls changes how they behave on the table, especially in regards to throw and spin. Most of all, wax takes away consistent play. And in order to get better, you’ve got to have consistency on the table. 

But, you don’t have to do without clean and shiny billiard balls. You can use specially made billiard balls cleaner or just plain water to keep the balls playing smoothly and gleaming in the light.

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