room with pool tables

How to Clean a Pool Table (& Extend It’s Life)

Pool tables can offer years of enjoyment and spirited competition, but only if you maintain those tables and clean them regularly. To help you do this, below we have compiled some very useful pool table cleaning information, from the proper way to brush and vacuum your pool table to some crucial tips for cleaning up spills before they have a chance to stain the felt. We have also included some preventive maintenance tips that will help keep your pool table consistently clean and always ready to use.

How to Clean a Pool Table: Brushing and Vacuuming

Like any flat surface, pool tables can gather a lot of dust and debris even in the best of conditions. These dust and dirt particles not only make your table’s felt surface look drab and dingy, they can also negatively impact how the balls roll on the table. For these reasons, it is imperative that you regularly brush and vacuum your table.

Brushing Your Pool Table

Before we explain how to brush your pool table, it’s important to note that brushing should only be done with a dedicated “pool table brush.” The brushes made for pool tables are equipped with very soft bristles so as not to damage the delicate felt. Other brushes may damage or even rip the pool table surface. Pool table brushes can be found at almost any pool table retailer, some recreation and hobby stores, and even at some big-box stores. In most cases, the cost of a dedicated pool table brush will range in price from $15 to $25, but when you consider the large investment you made in your pool table a good brush is well worth the price.

When brushing a pool table, you will always want to brush in straight even strokes. Brushing in a circular pattern only moves the dust, dirt and debris around and can actually grind the dirt into the felt, thus damaging the felt and making it much more difficult to vacuum up.

As you begin to brush, keep in mind that you never want to brush from the sides of the table in, but from the center of the felt out to the edges of the pool table. This will ultimately make it easier to vacuum up what you have brushed.

Beginning at one end of the table, position the brush in the center of the table and, using very light and straight even strokes, brush the dirt outwards to both the right and left sides of the table. Continue doing this until you have reached the other end of the table. Once completed, make one more pass, repeating the same pattern. When you are finished, you will have two straight lines of dirt and debris, one on the right and left side of the table. Take care not to brush the dirt under the bumpers, as this will make it much harder to vacuum up. Instead, stop a few inches shy of the bumpers on both sides.

Vacuuming Your Pool Table

Now that you have thoroughly brushed the pool table, it’s time to vacuum up the dirt you have brushed. The type of vacuum you use for this step is completely up to you. Handheld vacuums work great for this step, because they are easy to handle, but you can also use the hose attachment on your floor vacuum or that of a shop-vac.

Again starting at one end of the table, vacuum vertically along the line of dirt on the left-hand side of the table, making sure you suck up all the dirt and debris in that line. Repeat this step on the right-hand side of the table. Once the dirt in both of the lines has been vacuumed, use a thin narrow hose attachment to carefully vacuum under the bumpers of the table, where dirt particles tend to gather.

Next, switch to the thin, rectangular attachment on your vacuum (or grab a handheld vacuum) to prepare for the final vacuuming step. Once you have switched attachments, vacuum the table vertically, from one end to the other, using only straight strokes. Start on the left side of the table and continue this process until you have vacuumed the entire table. Do not push down on the attachment as you vacuum, as too much suction pressure can actually damage and weaken the fibers on the felt. Instead use very light and measured strokes.

What To Do About Spills

Although spills on a pool table should be avoided at all costs due to the potential damage they can do to the felt, you’ll be happy to know that if a spill does occur it is not the end of the world.

Water Spills

Water is the easiest type of spill to clean up, but it can still leave a stain on your pool table if it is not attended to immediately. Should you spill water on the pool table, follow these easy steps:

  • Place a dry, white towel or a small stack of paper towels on the water spill. Do not press down on the towel (s), as this can make the spill penetrate the felt, potentially leaving a permanent stain and perhaps even damaging the pool table.
  • After a few minutes, remove the towel and replace with another dry white towel or a fresh stack of paper towels.
  • Continue this same process three or four times until all the water has been absorbed into the towel.

Other Spills

While it is true that water that can leave a stain on your pool table, it is nothing like the stain that can be left from other liquids, such as soda, coffee and certain alcoholic beverages. For these spills you will need to take a more aggressive approach to ensure no lasting stain is left on the pool table felt.

After a spill, it is crucial that you act immediately before the liquid has an opportunity to sink into the felt and damage the table board beneath it. Here is what you will need to do:

  • Dampen, but do not soak, a soft white towel with water. Make sure to wring out any excess water in the towel.
  • Using the dampened towel, dab at the stain carefully without putting any undue pressure on the towel. Pressing too hard will definitely cause the spill to set in and leave a stain.
  • Continue this process, using a clean, dampened towel each and every time until the spill has been totally lifted. Do not use the same towel, as this will only reapply the liquid you previously lifted off the felt.
  • Once you have absorbed most or all of the liquid, place a clean, dry white towel over the stain, and repeat the same process you used with the water spill.

While this method will work on most spills if you catch them quickly, once the liquid has been absorbed into the felt you may have to turn to an even more aggressive approach to ensure there will be no lasting stain. Moreover, certain beverages, such as coffee and wine, may not be so easy to dab or blot out using water alone. In cases like these, dampen your towel with a 50/50 mixture of water and vinegar. Vinegar will help break down the chemicals in certain liquids, thus making them easier to lift. Vinegar is also less harsh than household cleaning chemicals, which can really damage the felt and make the playing surface unusable.

If none of these methods work, and a stain does indeed set in to your pool table felt, all hope may not be lost. There are many companies that manufacturer dedicated pool table felt cleaning products that can make lifting stains a breeze.

Remember: Never use any chemicals or home cleaning products to clean your pool table felt, as most of these are far too harsh to be used on the delicate fibers of the felt.

Preventing Dirt Buildup and Spills

Although keeping a pool table completely clean may be an impossible task, there are many steps you can take to ensure your pool table stays as clean as possible. Here are just a few tricks and tips on how to keep your pool table as clean as possible.

Brush the Table Regularly

Try to brush your table at least once a week when it is only used lightly, and once a day for tables that get very heavy use—such as bar pool tables. This will prevent any dirt from becoming ground-in and damaging the felt.

Chalk Your Cue Away from the Table

Pool table chalk, by its very nature, can be very dusty. And when that chalk dust falls onto your table it can gradually leave a big blue mess. To avoid this, never chalk your cue stick while hovering over the table, but instead stand back away from the table to chalk your pool cue. After you have chalked, tap your cue stick over a chair or the side of the table to knock off any leftover dust that can transfer to your felt.

Do Not Allow Drinks on the Side of the Table

The side of the pool table may sound like a great place to set your beverage as you take your shot, but in doing this you are merely asking for trouble. Not only can beverages produce condensation rings on the side of the table, when knocked over they can cause a nightmare spill that can be difficult to blot out. Instead, try to provide ample furniture or drink holders in your pool room, and place them far enough away from the table to prevent any unwanted accidents.

Buy a Pool Table Cover

Finally, one of the best ways to prevent your table from accumulating everyday dust and dirt is to buy and use and pool table cover. Like pool table brushes, these handy accessories can be purchased at any pool table supply store and are well worth the cost.

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