You and your friends played pool all night. As you’re cleaning up, you find stains, and now you’re wondering how to clean pool table felt -- especially because refelting the pool table is not in the budget.
As you learn how to clean pool table felt, you’ll discover that regular cleaning of your pool table not only helps you maintain the playing surface, it might even improve your game. A dirty pool table can cause your balls to go precisely where you don’t want them. Eightball in the corner pocket, anyone?
So, how should you care for the table?
Regular Care and Cleaning
Like it or not, your pool table felt is going to get dirty. Dust and debris from the air will fall on the felt and accumulate over time. And, let’s not forget about flying chalk dust! While these things don’t seem like a big deal at first (after all, they’re so small), over time, these particles can accumulate and start affecting how the balls roll.
When you don’t learn how to clean pool table felt, you’re missing a fantastic opportunity to improve your game and help your table last. If you’re not cleaning your pool table, the dust rests on the felt. But, as you play, the balls will ground all that dust into the felt, making it that much harder to get out when you do get around to cleaning it.
So, to improve your game and extend the life of your pool table, you will need to learn how to clean pool table felt so you can do it regularly. What is regular? Well, that depends on where your pool table is and how often you use it.
For example, if you keep your pool table someplace that you clean weekly, you won’t need to clean your pool table that often. That's because there’s likely less dirt and dust in the room. If, however, you keep your pool table in an unfinished basement or a garage, you’ll need to clean the pool table more frequently.
How to Clean Pool Table Felt
Whether we’re talking regular cleaning or emergency triage for stains, you need to have not only the right tools to clean pool table felt, you need to know the right technique to clean pool table felt. Just like you have to hit the cue ball “just so,” you’ve got to clean your table “just so.”
Invest in the proper tools
Part of learning how to clean pool table felt means investing in the right supplies. One of those supplies is a proper pool table cleaning brush. You can’t use any old brush to clean your pool table. Well, you could, but that won’t end well.
Buy a brush that’s designed specifically for cleaning pool table felt. These brushes have bristle tips that are always soft. They can be either synthetic (nylon) or natural (horse hair) bristles, but the point is that they are gentle on your pool table felt. Bristles that are too hard or stiff will damage and tear the felt.
Learn the proper technique
Just like you had to learn the proper technique for shooting pool, you also have to master the proper technique when you learn how to clean pool table felt. Brushing the felt isn’t like sweeping the floor or brushing your hair. You have to use the right motions to avoid damaging your table felt.
Always move the brush in a straight line, either left to right or up and down. Never, ever move the brush in a circular motion. A circular sweep can snag, stretch and even tear your felt. As you sweep, brush with the fabric grain (the weave) so it doesn’t pucker or shift position.
On the same note, use a light touch when you sweep. It may be tempting to press hard to get the ground out dirt in, but don’t!
Again, snagging, stretching, or tearing could occur. If you’ve got ground-in dirt that doesn’t come out with a light sweep, don’t panic. We’ve got instructions for dealing with that, too.
While it’s tempting to start brushing at the edge of the table (after all, it is closest to you), you should start in the middle, and work your way toward each end. Divide the table in half and work your way from the middle to each side.
Gather the dirt at the one end of the table (once for each side), sweep the dirt into a dustpan. However, make sure the dustpan doesn’t have hard edges on the bottom that could snag or tear the felt. Use one with a rubber edge. Or, use a piece of cardboard instead.
Vacuum it (or maybe don’t)
You might think it’s better to vacuum the felt instead of sweeping it. Vacuuming takes less time and is probably a little more thorough than you could ever be with a brush.
While you can vacuum your pool table felt, some experts advise against this. The concern is that no matter what kind of suction your vacuum has, it’s going to be too much. That suction could stretch or pull the felt out of place.
However, some people say that you can use a hand vac as they tend to have less suction. If you do use a hand vac, use the lowest suction level possible and go slow! Watch for pulling and make sure the felt isn’t get sucked into the vacuum.
When It’s More than Just Dust
So, you’ve told your friends not to eat or drink near your pool table and guess what they did?
Whether you watch the spill happen in slow motion and you react too late, or you find the tell-tale beer mug ring on your felt the next morning, don’t despair. There are ways to save your pool table felt from permanent damage.
When you see a spill happen, don’t wait to act. Spring into action that second -- even if it means halting the game. Never wait to clean a spill in progress.
Blot, don’t rub
Grab some clean rags. Microfiber cloths are great, but paper towels are fine, too. Blot the liquid. Do not wipe it. If you wipe the liquid, you risk rubbing the stain into the felt, making it harder to get out. Try to blot from the outside of the puddle into the middle. This helps minimize the liquid spreading further.
Keep cool (we don’t just mean you)
When one rag is full of liquid, either get a clean, dry rag to keep blotting or, rinse out the rag you are using and keep blotting. While it might be tempting to use warm water to rinse the rag, don’t. Only use cold water. Heat of any kind is bad for pool table felt -- even warm water.
Keep blotting and rinsing. Repeat until the stain is gone.
Air it out
Check out your work between rinses and blots. If you’re satisfied with your work and are sure the stain is out, let the felt air dry. It might take a few hours or even a few days to dry out completely. While you’re waiting, don’t touch the spot too much, and don’t play until you’re sure the felt is dry.
When the felt is completely dry, check your work. If you’re satisfied that the stain is out, fantastic. Good job! Have a chat with your friends about being careful.
However, if you still see traces of a stain on the felt (or, you find a stain later), it’s time for more drastic measures.
Mix one tablespoon of white vinegar into one cup of cold water. Dip a clean cloth in your solution and start dabbing and blotting. Rinse the rag between applications and do this until the stain is gone. Let the felt air dry.
Repeat as necessary
While vinegar and water is a miracle cleaner, it may not get the stain out of your pool table felt the first time. Or second, or third. Repeat the dab and rinse process as necessary until the stain is gone.
You’ve tried vinegar and water, but that spot will not come out. Don’t panic just yet. There’s one more thing you can try before you resort to refelting the table.
While you might think you can grab any old fabric stain cleaner, you can’t. Regular fabric cleaners will ruin your pool table felt. Why? Because regular fabric stain cleaners are wet, the kind of wet that can ruin your pool table felt.
Instead, try a commercial cleaning product made for specifically cleaning pool table felt. Commercial cleaners are “dry” cleaners, foams that you spray on the felt that clean your table while they dry.
Keeping It Clean
Now that you’ve learned how to clean pool table felt, take a few additional steps to keep your table clean for as long as possible.
Establish a “no-food zone” around the table. Even if people aren’t shooting, tell them they can’t get too close to the pool table with their food.
Do not allow people to place their drinks on the edge of the table. It’s all too easy to have a glass, bottle, or can spill in the wrong direction.
Also, consider spraying some stain repeller on the felt. Accidents are still bound to happen. A little stain repeller can go a long way toward keeping your pool table felt in tip-top shape.
How to Clean Pool Table Felt: Rack ‘Em Up
Now you know how to clean your pool table felt! A little bit of maintenance and prevention can go a long way toward maintaining and extending the life of your pool table. Accidents happen, though. So, the next time you and your friends are battling for the Pool Basement Champ title, you’re prepared for even the largest of beer spills.
What are your pool table cleaning tips? Anything we left out? Let us know in the comments!