It is not possible to play ping pong without the ball. However, you cannot just play it with any ball, you need the specific ping pong ball, and that comes in various qualities, which we will discuss today.
Identifying Quality: Buying Ping Pong Balls
It is important to understand what qualities to look for, before buying a ping pong ball. This could shape the way you play and learn the game and how your experience playing ping pong could potentially change the way you feel about the game. So, it is a big decision, make it carefully and after reading this guide!
Ping Pong Ball Sizes
First of all, you need to understand, what is the diameter of a ping pong ball? The size of a standard ping pong ball is 40mm, which is slightly more than 1.5 inches in diameter. This probably raises the question, whether, there are other sizes of ping pong balls, available?
Well, initially, the ping pong ball used to be 38mm, just under 1.5 inches in diameter. The standard ruling, at the turn of this century, decided that the standard size will be between 40mm-40.6mm. This was because it was believed that the larger ball is slower, it will spin less leading to longer rallies meaning greater watching value for the game.
You can still find smaller-sized ping pong balls, but you have to remember that they do spin more.
This is a great option for fun-playing but if you have serious aspirations in the field of table tennis, then you should opt for the regulation-sized ping pong ball. Also, keeping in mind the expenses of playing table tennis, we suggest going for training balls, which cost considerably lesser as compared to the prime standard quality balls, for regular usage.
Ping Pong Ball Ratings and Stars
There is often a debate about a 3-star ping pong ball versus a 1-star ball. This is about the quality of a ping pong ball, 3-star ping pong balls are the epitome of quality and are used in official tournaments and matches. It is the highest rated tier of quality when it comes to table tennis balls, and 3-star balls are the only ones used as per official regulations, too.
1-star balls are a lot less durable and they are bought in bulks of 100-200, and the individual quality of the ball is not checked, as they are used only for training. Remember, these cost less but also can end up breaking too. We prefer the 2-star balls for training, because the 1-star balls are quite bad, in all fairness.
Properties of Professional Ping Pong Balls
The official regulations of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) states that a standard ball should have the following properties:
The diameter of the ball should be between 39.5mm to 40.4mm, as per the official regulations.
The weight of the ball should be between 2.67g and 2.77g. The mean is taken over a sample, and the mean should be between 2.69g and 2.76g.
Goes without saying but the ball should be spherical. Sphericity of the ball is measured between the minimum and maximum diameters and for the celluloid balls it should be less than .35mm and for the non-celluloid balls, it should be less than .25mm.
This also measures the roundness of the ball but in addition to roundness, it measures the thickness, too. You can test it by rolling the ball down a slight incline and it is observed whether it rolls down in a straight line or deviates off the line.
Consistency in bounce is also important. This is measured by dropping the ball from a height of 305mm on a steel block and if the ball bounces between the range of 240mm-260mm, it is considered as having a consistent bounce.
Ping pong balls should have uniform hardness all across and it is measured by a computerized device that presses a pin with a specific amount of force.
The 3-star ping pong balls have all of these characteristics to the optimum level. That is why those balls are far more expensive than the ordinary ping pong balls you can buy from almost anywhere.
Ping Pong Ball Repairing and Cleaning
Ping pong balls are a lot cheaper compared to the other items you require to play table tennis. Paddles tend to last you a long time if you take care of them, and tables, well, let’s just say people do not buy more than a couple of tables (that is also rare) in their lifetime.
Compared to those two, ping pong balls are considered a cheaper investment and if you are buying in bulk, you might not need to buy another package for a long time, based on how much you play.
However, if you are to buy the expensive balls, they do require some looking after. Even the 1-star and the 2-star balls should be managed well, especially, if you want an optimum playing experience. Not to worry, we will tell you exactly how to take care of your ping pong balls.
How to Fix Your Ping Pong Ball?
A lot of times, due to many reasons, you cannot go out and buy another ball. If you are having a bad day, then there is a good chance that either you or your opponent hits the ball really hard and it gets a dent. The good news is that you can repair a ball that has a dent, and we will tell you, exactly how-to, but if it is cracked, then you need to let it go and invest in a new one.
There are a few methods to deal with dents:
Use Hot Water
This is the easiest method for getting a dent out of the ball. Mechanics use the same method to repair dents in cars, so this is an effective way. All you have to do is heat the air that is trapped inside the ball, and that will cause the ball to expand.
First of all, you need to boil some water in a kettle. Once the bubbles start to appear and the water is hot enough, you pour it into a mid-sized container. Then, you have to drop the ball inside the water, remember it will not submerge because of basic physics.
Then, you have to get a spoon and submerge the ball underwater, just enough for the dent to pop back out. Once your dent is repaired, take the ball out with the spoon. We suggest taking it out with the spoon because the water will be hot and you do not want to burn your hand. Put it on a towel and let it dry.
Do remember that the ball will not be in prime shape and would have lost some of its roundness. Good enough for temporary play, but do remember to replace it whenever you get the chance!
The science behind the hot water method and the hairdryer method is the same. However, this is slightly more dangerous, so we suggest being careful with it!
All you need for this method is a hairdryer and a towel. Once you have both the things, you hold the ball with the towel, to avoid burning your hand. Then you heat the ball with the hairdryer until it pops.
Be careful with this because the hairdryer can get the ball hot and it could deform the ball, too. Let it cool down, if it has not popped back out and is getting hot; wait a while and go again. Like the hot water method, you will have to replace the ball if you use this method, too, because it will not be in its best condition, after being exposed to that much heat.
This is the method that is mostly used by everyone. It requires holding the dent with the thumb and pushing it out. It is not a very effective method as it could end in making the dent bigger, but it is still worth a try!
Although, as mentioned above, these methods will not work if your ball has a crack in it. That is very much possible, and in that case, you should not waste your time trying to save the ball.
How to clean a ping pong ball?
At times you might see that your ping pong balls have become dusty, especially if you do not play a lot and you have bought lots of balls. If that is the case and you want to clean your ping pong ball, then you should follow these methods.
You can either decide to put them in the washing machine, but use only cold water and do not use the spin cycle. Heat, as we saw in the aforementioned topic, can cause the ball to lose its quality and that is why we prefer cleaning them in cold water.
Especially, if you have lots of Nittaku Premium 3-star balls, which are simply the best in business, then we advise proper care!
If you do not want to risk putting them in the machine, you can use a bathtub with cold water. Add dishwashing liquid, soak them, and, rinse them properly. Remember to dry them with a towel, it is considered to be more effective as compared to air drying.
Ping Pong Ball Brands
Almost all of the ping pong brands are also manufacturers of ping pong balls. Most of these are originally from the East of Asia, with Chinese and Japanese brands leading the market. We will discuss some of the famous brands that manufacture the best quality balls.
Nittaku is one of the oldest brands of table tennis in the world. The Japanese brand has been manufacturing since the 1940s! They have built a strong reputation in the industry and their largest selling product are their ping pong balls.
In addition to their tournament standard Nittaku 3-star Premium balls, they also produce the highest quality of recreational ping pong balls. This includes a range of 44mm balls, which are super durable, and play slower than the smaller sized balls. Most of the coaches prefer teaching amateur players with these balls, as it helps with more control.
Butterfly is excellent at what they do. While, they have produced one of the most durable paddles, which almost every amateur and professional has owned at one point in their career, the 401, they have also succeeded in making a name for themselves in manufacturing top tier balls.
Butterfly’s A40+ 3-star ball is ITTF approved and tournament grade. It is also one of the highest quality balls, with a very high rating. They also manufacture balls for training purposes and of slightly less quality for all levels of players.
STIGA is another manufacturer that has earned the right to be considered among the very top tier of table tennis products. They produce one of the best quality ping pong balls that you could want. Their rates are also affordable, meaning you can get good stuff for cheap!
XuShaoFa, unlike the other names on this list, is an exclusive manufacturer of ping pong balls. Unlike the other names on the list, they produce different quality of balls, as well. They prefer producing plastic, rather than celluloid, abiding by the future restrictions that are supposed to come in by the ITTF on banning celluloid balls.
In addition to producing quality plastic balls, XuShaoFa also makes seamless balls. This means their balls do not have a line or a “seam” in the middle, meaning they do not have any “weak” point at all! This makes their balls of very high quality and rates very high according to professional players.
Best Ping Pong Balls
For your convenience, we have also compiled a list of the best ping pong balls. These are all of the highest quality, and we suggest buying these, even for your training purposes, if you are serious about improving your game.
It does not get better than this. These have been everyone’s top preference since they came out in 2014, however, the only problem with the Nittaku Premium is that they are really expensive! Compared to a normal ball, these Nittaku Premiums cost way too much, but if you want the best playing experience, we suggest going for them!
Debatable, but we rate these higher than almost every other ball on the list. The Nittaku Premium compares better than any other ball, of course, but made from revolutionary technology and providing seamless balls is a plus that we cannot find in most other balls. It is approved by the ITTF and USATT, which means, it is used in tournaments, as well.
Almost every list of the top ten balls ever compiled will have these three in their top three. The Butterfly G40+ is truly a class option to consider. It is also a plastic ball, and it is the closest they have gotten to replicating the feel of the celluloid balls.
It is hard, it is round and it offers a highly consistent bounce. We love it, we are certain, you will too! The only downside is that they are also highly expensive.
Nittaku 3-star Nexcel 40+
These come in the classic orange color. As similar to the white Nittaku Premium as you can get. However, we love the durability and consistency of the bounce. ITTF approved these, and these remain as the first approved orange balls and that is a great achievement.
Apart from the optics, these remain a great option for playing, too, so we suggest opting for these if for some reason you cannot buy the Nittaku Premium!
This is a big upgrade on the regular ping pong balls that you have. If you are starting and want to get the first feel of a proper ping pong ball, we suggest going for this one. It is also tournament grade and gives a very consistent bounce similar to the one you used to get with the celluloid balls.
It is also cheaper compared to the G40+ and the Nittaku Premium, making it another reason to be preferred over the top tier balls.
This is a cheaper alternative and the first step for using 3-star balls. While they lack in quality as compared to the balls mentioned above, you can be certain to get a consistent bounce and still experience quality play, if you have been used to playing with 2-star or 1-star balls. These are ideal for training and are made of poly material, ensuring durability as well.
MAPOL offers a cheaper and effective route into ping pong, be it balls or paddles. If you are looking to play at home, and want to play with quality balls, yet not spend too big and want to buy in bulk, then this is simply the best option. For the price of the 12 Nittaku Premium balls, you can get 150 of these!
This is one of the balls, along with the XuShaoFa, that are used in ITTF tournaments all over the world. The best quality of these balls is their durability and the consistency of the bounce because of the manufacturing quality and the materials used. Compared to the rest of the premium balls on the list, it costs a lot less, making it a fantastic option.
This is considered a favorite among many players. The only reason it rates this low on our list is that, with initial usage, it may leave white spots on the paddle. After all, it has a lot of powder. However, apart from that, it is still a top tier product made from ABS plastic that offers more strength and durability. It also gives the best sound when playing and is made from eco-friendly products!
If you are looking for a ball for casual play, then this is your product. It is slightly more expensive when compared to the other balls of this standard, but it is still ITTF approved and offers durability, as well. What we love the most about the R40+ is how easy it is to generate spin with this ball. Ideal for recreational purposes and fun playing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I buy ping pong balls?
You can order ping pong balls directly from one of the many online convenience stores like Amazon, etc. They have all kinds of balls from 1-star to 3-star.
What is the difference between beer pong balls and ping pong balls?
There is not a lot of difference between a beer pong ball and a ping pong ball. The only difference that comes to mind is that beer pong can be played with the cheap 1-star balls, as well, while table tennis is preferred to be played with the premium table tennis balls.
How are ping pong balls made?
If you are curious to see how ping pong balls are made, it is best to see this informative video about their production!
What is the mass of a ping pong ball?
According to the ITTF, a ball should have a mass of 2.7 grams (0.095 oz). However, this is the standard and internationally approved mass; other training balls can vary.
What is inside a ping pong ball?
Contrary to myths, there is nothing inside a ping pong ball. It only has air trapped inside. The reason ping pong balls caught fire quickly was that they were made from celluloid, but now the official material is being changed to plastic.
How fast do ping pong balls go?
The top speed that a ping pong ball can go is 70mph. While that is considered to be slower than other ball-related sports, it still requires fast reflexes because the playing field is also considerably smaller.