Why Do Pool Balls Turn Yellow?


Nobody likes to play with dirty pool balls. Whether you run a pool hall or have a single table at home, you’ll eventually come across the problem of pool balls turning yellow.

Pool balls turn yellow due to exposure to UV light, heat, and air. These elements combine to break down the materials used to construct pool balls, giving them an off-white appearance.

Even though many people would consider it normal, having your pool balls lose their clean white look will make the game less enjoyable. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent and clean your balls to bring back the joy of playing pool with your friends and family!

What Causes Pool Balls to Turn Yellow?

Pool balls turn yellow due to age and exposure. Over time, the materials used in the construction of pool balls, whether it be polyester or phenolic resin, begin to wear down. Once these materials begin to wear down, their vibrant colors begin to fade.

Pool balls made from phenolic resin will turn yellow as they age whereas those made from polyester resin will become dull and grey looking.

How to Prevent Pool Balls From Yellowing

You can’t completely prevent pool balls from yellowing, but what you can do is delay it for as long as possible. To prevent pool balls from yellowing, there are two things you need your attention on:

  1. Cleaning and storing your pool balls.
  2. Maintaining the environment around your pool table.

First, it’s a good idea to keep your pool balls cleaned regularly. That could be as simple as taking a dry cloth and giving them a good wipe down or polish from time to time.

You could also take it a step further by investing in a pool ball cleaning product or even a pool ball cleaning machine.

Next, pay attention to the environment around your pool table. Remember: pool balls turn yellow because of exposure to UV light, heat, and air. There’s not much you can do about the air, but you can reduce the balls’ exposure to light and heat.

What does that mean exactly? Avoid letting your pool balls be exposed to excessive sunlight or extreme temperatures. Doing these two things alone will go a long way to preserving your billiard balls.

Related Article: How to Clean Billiard Balls: Step by Step

Are Yellow Pool Balls an Issue?

Yellow pool balls are only a superficial issue and do not affect the gameplay directly. However, many people may find that a game of pool becomes less enjoyable with balls that aren’t perfectly clean.

So, if your pool balls have become too yellow over time, you might want to consider restoring them or replacing them entirely. Some people prefer replacing pool balls entirely, but that might require a fair bit of money depending on the quality of the pool balls you want.

But if you believe in fixing instead of replacing, then you might want to spend a bit of time, money, and effort on restoring those yellow pool balls instead.

How to Restore Yellow Pool Balls

Restoring a yellow pool ball requires purchasing pool ball cleaner, restorer, or polishing products. If you’re willing to invest a bit more into the process, you can also buy a pool ball cleaning machine.

These days, you can find cleaning, restoring, and polishing solutions tailored to any kind of pool balls that you have. They might not be able to make your ball look entirely brand new, but they can reduce the yellowing. That’s more than enough to make your ball’s natural look last longer.

Pool ball cleaning machines will automate the cleaning process. Using a cleaning device might involve a more significant investment at first, but they’ll clean your pool balls much better than if you did it manually.

How NOT to Restore a Yellow Pool Ball

When it comes to restoring a yellow pool ball, do not use chemicals like bleach or abrasive cleaners, or put them in the dishwasher.

Chemical cleaners that are not explicitly designed for use with pool balls may cause a lot of damage. So, it’s important to avoid using regular household cleaners that you may have laying around.

Using a dishwasher to restore your pool balls might damage it even more. The soaps and high temperatures used by dishwashers might strip the balls’ colors even more and damage them overall.

Do All Pool Balls Turn Yellow Over Time?

No, not all pool balls turn yellow over time. It all depends on the materials that manufacturers use to produce the pool balls that you’re playing with.

These days, most manufacturers use phenolic resin to make balls. Those are the most common types of pool balls that you can find in stores now.

Still, in some rare cases, you can find pool balls made out of polyester resin or even those made out of ivory.

Polyester resin pool balls don’t turn yellow. Instead, these balls will turn off-white or grey over time. 

However, rare and hard-to-find ivory pool balls do turn yellow over time, as well. The odds of you seeing these ivory pool balls is rare, especially since they’re considered to be antiques. Plus, people nowadays aren’t so keen to buy or sell products made from ivory. 

Whatever type of pool balls you have, the reasons for their discoloration are the same: exposure to the environment and prolonged and repeated use.

Final thoughts

The yellowing of pool balls is natural, and it’ll happen with time. While there’s no stopping it, you can take some easy steps to delay the process. Proper storage and a little bit of cleaning will go a very long way towards keeping them in the best shape, for as long as possible.

With that, you can prolong the life of your pool balls without having to replace them too soon.

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