How to Clean a Basketball

When basketball was invented, the hoops were peach baskets with chicken-wire backboards!  Today, aluminum hoops hold nets from a glass backboard and basketballs are mass-produced in factories.  Most are made from several layers of synthetic rubber, but leather basketballs are still common outside of the US. 

While far more readily available, and specifically built to withstand the rigors of many games, basketball equipment still requires regular maintenance to ensure its continued use and safety.  Basketball equipment is expensive and suffers a lot of wear and tear, so cleaning and caring for your basketball will make it last much longer.

Knowing how to clean your basketball saves you money and makes you a better player.  A clean, properly inflated basketball is much easier to handle.  After explaining the best ways to clean your basketball, we will give you a few storage and care tips.  Some of this seems like common sense but it never hurts to know!

First, determine the material of your basketball.  If it is synthetic, the specific material is not too important but, if it is leather, the care is very different.  You never want to get a leather basketball wet, if it can be avoided.

Although cleaning a synthetic ball does not require any special solvents, it is best to do this outside or in a bathtub; leather basketballs should always be cleaned outside because of the solutions used, which can be harmful if inhaled.

Rubber Basketballs

Get a container large enough for a basketball, some (dishwashing) liquid soap or soap powder, a soft bristle brush like you would use in the shower, and a pencil eraser.

Fill the tub, bucket, children’s pool, or whatever you have with warm water and your soap.  Get it good and foamy (which is easy if you use the shower or a hose)!

How to Clean a Basketball

Before dunking your ball (in the soapy water), use a soft pencil eraser – the same kind you would use at school – to remove any scuff marks.  Large or stubborn stains may require a brush with soft bristles.  You might need to let it soak for a while to loosen stubborn marks, stains, or dirt.

Submerge your ball in the water then gently scrub the entire surface with your brush.  Rinse with clean water as you go.  If necessary, use a little more soap applied to the ball or brush.

Rinse the ball with clean water.  Do not leave soap on it or let the soapy water dry on your basketball or it will pick up even more dirt the next time you use it.

Dry your ball thoroughly before storing it properly; letting it “air dry” can cause dry rot.  See below for more storage tips.

Leather Basketballs

Far less common in America, leather basketballs are still manufactured and used around the world.  They are more expensive, harder to care for, and not for regulation use in organized gaming events, but they are also prized possessions for the basketball obsessed!

To clean a leather basketball, you need leather shampoo or leather cleaner.  Do not use leather softener or creams; you do not want to soften your leather basketball!  Leather basketballs can be expensive, so test any cleaning product on a small area to see how the material reacts before using it.

Do not use the same leather solution for your basketball that you use for your shoes.  These solutions are specially manufactured and can damage your equipment if used improperly.

Inflate your basketball to the correct pressure first so it dries that way.  Apply the cleanser to a soft, dry rag and not to the ball.  Clean the entire surface in a firm, circular motion without applying too much pressure.

Afterward, dry it thoroughly; never leave leather shampoo to dry on your basketball.

Storage and Maintenance

While you should clean your basketball regularly, it isn’t necessary to do so after every use.  However, improperly storing your basketball can quickly lead to permanent damage.  Storage is the same for basketballs made from rubber, synthetic materials, and leather.

If possible, “spot-clean” your ball after each use to remove large stains and marks before they set in.  If the ball is dirty, it is best to take the time to do a proper cleaning.  Otherwise, cleaning your basketball will be more difficult later.

Never use a hairdryer or leave your ball to air dry or in direct sunlight as this can cause it to crack.  Heat, humidity, and moisture can also cause the ball to crack.  Keep it in a cool, dry place.

Regular cleaning and proper storage of your basketball and sporting equipment will extend its longevity and improve your performance.  Bookmark this guide and set a reminder to clean your basketball at least once a month!