How to Clean Every Inch of Your Pool Table

Billiard Balls

Treat your pool table as you would an exquisite baby grand piano. Chances are, it probably cost you nearly as much. Like a piano, you must maintain your pool table, you’ve got to clean it, and you’ve got to play it. Like any other fine piece of furniture, you want it to retain its beauty, its functionality, and you want it to last a lifetime.

Here’s what you do to clean your pool table and keep it in tip-top shape for maximum longevity and playability.

Pool Table Care: Prevention

Care for your pool table starts with prevention of dirt, dings, cracks, sun damage, and any forms of mishandling. Let your guests know the rules. If you are shy about doing so, you might consider placing a sign on the wall with some rules listed.

No Smoking near the Table: Allowing cigarette butts and ashes near the table means you’ll soon be shopping around for a new piece of felt.

No Drinks on the Table: Drinks on the rails damage the wood. Spilled drinks will stain the felt and seep into the table board beneath it. No, you don’t have to be stuck holding your drink when you shoot pool. Get a nice high side-table for holding drinks.

No Anything on the Table: Don’t confuse your gorgeous pool table with a mere countertop! It’s not the spot to plop your grocery bags or your briefcase, unless you love shopping for new felt every weekend. Using your pool table as a storage area dirties, stains, and misaligns the table felt. And it’s certainly not a couch. Sitting on a pool table can make the rubber rail cushions fall off, and can cause the legs and base to move and get wobbly, thus lowering your chances of playing a decent round. Such action has even resulted in cracked slate.

Don’t chalk over the Table: Chalk dust stains the table, and it’s minute enough to get under the felt and build up over time. For seasoned players, who rely on absolute precision, chalk dust is going to ruin their trick shots. For novices, however, chalk dust may offer them the excuse they were looking for. “It’s not me, it’s the microscopic debris under the table felt.”

Pool Table Cover

7-8′ Pool Table Dust Cover – lowest price guaranteed at

Get a Table Cover: This part of owning a pool table is cheap. So to protect your big investment, get smart, and spring for one. Not only will it protect your pool table from dust, a table cover will protect it from sun damage, including fabric thinning and fading.

This nifty pool table cover from GameTablesOnline has weighted corners that keep it in position.

Guide to Cleaning a Pool Table:

Now that we have prevention out of the way, let’s talk about how to clean that pool table of yours.

Cleaning the Felt

Dust: The biggest enemy of your table is the littlest, dust, so you have to get rid of it. How often? After every play, say the pros, and, at least, once a week.

Q: Can you vacuum a pool table?

Here’s where the pros butt heads. One camp says, “Never, ever, vacuum your table.” One camp says, “Always vacuum your table.” You can toss a quarter to determine with which side you agree,” (but don’t toss it on the table felt, you might damage it.).

The reason some pros say not to vacuum the table is because the suction can pull the dust from underneath the cloth, through the cloth, thus damaging the felt over time. I’m thinking a good compromise is to use a vacuum, but only if it’s low suction, or maybe use a hose attachment and don’t actually touch the cloth.

You’ll definitely want to use a soft brush to remove dust. Pool table brushes are specially designed for gently cleaning felt. The brushes are longer on the sides, so they can get deep into corners and along the rails. How to brush? Gently, in one direction only, like you would a head of hair. Brush from one end of the table to the other.

Pool Table Brush

Pool Table Brush – click image to learn more

10” solid hard-wood, rich dark cherry nylon brush from GameTablesOnline

Removing Spills and Stains:

Rule number 1, keep your beverages on the side table so you don’t have any spills. If you haven’t yet mastered rule number 1, here’s the trick for cleaning up beverage spills and stains. Get to them fast. First blot the liquid with a dry cloth or paper towels. Next, blot, don’t rub, the stain with a water-dampened microfiber cloth. Then use another dry microfiber cloth to blot the dampness.

Water alone may not be enough to break up particularly stubborn liquid stains. In which case, dampen your microfiber cloth with a mixture of one cup water and a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar. The vinegar will help break up the stain.

Some people recommend spraying 303 Stain Guard or Scotch Guard to repel moisture and prevent spills from staining. Never tried it, and don’t recommend it. Too many players have expressed that spraying liquid repellants interferes with ball control, plus, I’ve heard that repellants tend to make stretched cloth slacken a bit.

Vacuum the Pockets

You can use the vacuum hose attachment for this one. Also, wipe pockets gently with a damp microfiber cloth. Finally, if your pockets are leather, which most are, wipe them every six months with an oil-based conditioning product to keep the leather supple.

Polish the Rails

Keep the finish glossy and dazzling by wiping off dust, then applying lemon-oil or another citrus-based polish with a soft cloth. Stay away from silicone-based products, they will eat away the finish.

Cleaning Pool Table Balls:

The balls are the main culprits for tracking dust and dirt. After each play, make a bowl of water and a little dish soap, dampen a microfiber cloth, and softly rub each ball. Buff and dry with a microfiber cloth, then spread the balls out on a towel so they dry completely. For balls that are starting to yellow, mix baking soda and water to form a paste. Brush gently with a toothbrush. Many experts do not recommend waxing play or cue balls, as doing so adds a film that may decrease players’ control.

Play Ball

To shoot pool or not to shoot pool? Well, you know the answer to that question. You got your pool table to play it, and despite all those precautions listed above, playing pool is the best form of maintenance, for yourself and the table. Regular pool play improves your game, which makes you a more confident, happier person.

Overtime, the relationship between you and your pool table will grow, you’ll become more than friends, almost kin. You’ll get to know your table’s little idiosyncrasies, and adjust your game to them. Your pool table will become more responsive to you. You’ll develop a sixth sense so that you can easily detect when something’s amiss with your table, which will enable you to troubleshoot issues before they escalate. Mostly, you’ll enjoy years of brilliant moments with the table, and the other players that surround it.

Looking to befriend the perfect pool table? Game Tables Online offers a wide selection of top-quality pool tables for both recreational and commercial use. Plus, they specialize in other gaming tables, such as foosball, shuffleboard, air hockey, and bumper pool.

Game Tables Online consultant, Colleen Cochran, is a writer, graphic artist, and an aficionado of all things recreational.

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