Can Billiard Balls Wear Out?

can billiard balls wear out

Billiards, a game of skill and precision, has been a popular pastime for centuries.

Central to this game are the billiard balls, which, like any other sporting equipment, are subject to wear and tear. 

Whether billiard balls can wear out is not just a matter of curiosity but also of practical importance to players and enthusiasts alike.

Key Takeaways

  • Billiard balls do wear out over time due to factors like friction and impacts.
  • The rate of wear depends on the frequency of play and the quality of the balls.
  • Signs of wear include size reduction, shape distortion, and visible damage.
  • Regular cleaning and maintenance can extend the lifespan of billiard balls.

Can Billiard Balls Wear Out?

Billiard balls do wear out, and usually the cue ball is the first of the balls in the set to wear out. 

If you go by the WPBA (World Professional Billiard Association) standards, billiard balls should

  • Weigh between 5 ½ to 6 oz and
  • The diameter should 2 ¼ inches

Therefore, if they weigh less or have shrunk to a smaller size, you could say they have technically worn out.

However, unless playing at the highest level, most players don’t need their balls to meet the specifications set out by the WPBA.

Slightly smaller balls are fine, and not even noticed by the majority of players.

The longer you’re playing pool, experience tends to tell you when it’s time to replace them.

When Should Billiard Balls Be Replaced?

Generally speaking, pool balls should be replaced when:

  1. They have scratches, chips or cracks
  2. The balls are misshapen
  3. The cue ball is noticeably smaller than the rest of the set
  4. You can feel the numbers on the balls because they wear away at a slower rate

How Long Are Pool Balls Good For?

In general, most quality pool ball are good for a year on average, usually need to be replaced in and around that time.

However, this is not an exact science as it depends on several different factors: 

  • How often you play with them
  • The condition of the pool table’s felt
  • The cleanliness and maintenance of the billiard balls
  • The quality of the balls
  • How they are stored when not in use

Why Do Billiard Balls Wear Out?

There are different reasons why billiard balls wear out, which include:

  • The quality of the balls
  • Wear and tear from play
  • Poor maintenance
  • Their storage
  • Friction

The Quality of the Balls

One of the biggest factors that affect how long your set of balls may last, is the quality of the set. 

Brands like Aramith, make high-quality balls that withstand the rigors of play several times longer than standard, low quality polyester-based balls.

If you only play in the weekends, or even less occasionally, Aramith balls will last years before needing to be replaced. 

Wear and Tear from Play

The more you play with your billiard balls, the quicker they will wear out, as the impact damage from every hit slightly shortens their lifespan, especially the cue ball, which sees the majority of the hits. 

Impact hits include:

  • Balls hitting into each other
  • Dropping into pockets
  • Balls flying off the table
  • Rebounds off the railings

This is why a casual weekend player, could be using the same set for years, whereas a serious player’s set of pool balls will wear out much faster.

Poor Maintenance

There are many benefits to maintaining and cleaning your pool balls, but none more so than preserving their longevity. 

Quite simply:

  • Dirty balls wear out the protective outer layer quicker than ones that are cared, cleaned and maintained 
  • The cleanliness also affects the longevity of the playing cloth, as the dirt and grime transfer contributes to increased wear and tear in the cloth also

Their Storage

One of the best ways to look after your balls, is to store the set in a BILLIARD BALL CARRY CASE, when they are not getting used. 

They’re fairly inexpensive, and keep them clean when not being used and offer protection against the likes of

  • Heat
  • Oxygen
  • UV light 

These are all things which react with phenolic resin balls and turn them yellow, while cheaper, low quality plastic balls will go grey.


When a ball travels across the playing cloth, a small amount of friction is created between the ball and the cloth.

It is something that is unavoidable, however it is one of the main reasons why pool balls wear out. 

  • Over time, the friction kind of eats away at the balls, which causes them to decrease in size
  • Incidentally, more friction is created when dirty balls are played, or the cloth is worn and dirty
  • It’s another reason why the cue ball usually wears out quicker than the rest of the set

Depending on the level you play at, most players continue with the same set, unless they become misshapen.

If they dramatically shrink in size, you will notice a change in gameplay and need a replacement set.


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