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How To Clean Golf Balls


Golf balls can quickly become dirty and scuffed up from repeated play, picking them out of the woods and sand traps, and exposure to grass, mud and dirt. While some golfers don’t mind playing with dirty, cut-up balls, keeping your golf balls clean can help improve performance and extend the life of the balls. Here is an in-depth guide to properly cleaning golf balls.

Why Keep Golf Balls Clean?

Before jumping into the various methods, let’s first go over the benefits of keeping balls clean:

  • Improved aerodynamics – Debris, dirt and mud on the cover of a golf ball can significantly impact the aerodynamics, reducing distance and accuracy. Keeping the cover clean improves airflow over the ball.
  • Optimal spin – Ball spin is also affected as dirt alters the texture of the cover. Clean golf balls generate proper backspin, sidespin and roll.
  • Consistent ball compression – Dirt and debris can get lodged into the depressions on the covers of golf balls, affecting the compression and launch.
  • Prevent cuts in cover – Small particles on the cover can act like sandpaper, slowly cutting into the urethane or surlyn covers every time you hit the ball with an iron or wedge.
  • Extend ball life – Regular cleaning keeps the covers like new and removes abrasive particles that damage the covers over time.
  • Improve feel and sound – Ever hit a muddy golf ball? It feels and sounds terrible. Clean balls offer that satisfying click at impact we love.
  • Better visibility – Removing dirt, grass stains and scuff marks makes the ball easier to see during flight and on the green.
  • Restore luster – Bring back that white sheen and brand new look with regular cleaning.
  • Remove bacteria – Balls rolled through the wet rough or left outside overnight can harbor bacteria. Give them a sanitizing clean before the next round.
  • Set a good example – As an ambassador of the game, you should respect your equipment and keep a tidy bag and gear.

Now that you’re convinced every golfer should keep their balls clean, let’s explore the various methods and best practices for cleaning golf balls.

Hand Washing

The most basic and effective method for cleaning golf balls is good old fashioned hand washing. Here’s how to clean balls manually:

Supplies Needed

  • Bucket or bowl for water
  • Mild dish detergent
  • Clean towels, rag or soft bristle brush

Fill Container with Warm Water and Detergent 

Fill your bucket or bowl with warm water. Water that is too cold won’t clean as effectively. Add a small amount of mild detergent like dish soap or laundry detergent and swish around to mix.

Scrub the Golf Balls

Place a ball in the water and scrub lightly with your towel/rag/brush. Apply light pressure as you scrub – you don’t need heavy scrubbing to clean modern urethane-covered balls. Pay extra attention to embedded dirt or stains.

Rinse Away Residue

Once scrubbed, transfer balls to a container of clean, cool water to rinse off any detergent residue. You don’t want soapy chemicals remaining on the cover.

Air Dry the Balls

After rising, dry the balls using a fresh towel. You can also let the balls air dry in a towel lined basket or container. Don’t leave in direct sunlight too long as the UV rays can damage the covers over time.

Repeat as Needed

Check for any remaining dirt spots and re-wash if needed. A toothbrush can help scrub out dirt lodged in dimples and grooves. With a little elbow grease, you can get golf balls looking like new again with hand washing.

Bleach Soak

For balls with tough stains or significant dirt that requires heavy duty cleaning, try soaking in a dilute bleach solution. Here is the process:

Mix Bleach Solution

In a plastic bucket or tub, mix a bleach and water solution. Use 2 parts water to 1 part bleach. If using concentrated bleach, dilute with even more water.

Soak the Balls

Fully submerge balls in the solution. For thorough cleaning, soak for 30-60 minutes. Agitate and turn the balls periodically.

Rinse Thoroughly 

Remove balls and rinse very thoroughly with clean water. Bleach can damage the covers if not fully rinsed off.

Dry Completely 

Allow balls to dry fully before reuse. Bleach soak cleaned balls will look freshly minted once dry.

Take care when using bleach – it can diminish logos and markings on balls if left too long. Don’t soak more than an hour.

Alternative Soak Solutions

Other cleaning solutions can be used as soaking alternatives to bleach:


Mix OxiClean powder with hot water per package instructions to activate the cleaner. Soak balls for 30-60 minutes, agitating periodically. Rinse thoroughly.

Hydrogen Peroxide 

Mix a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. Soak balls for up to an hour to lift stains. Rinse well after soak.

White Vinegar

The high acidity in white vinegar cuts through dirt and stains. Mix a 50/50 vinegar water solution and soak balls up to an hour.

Dishwasher Detergent

For a more heavy duty soak, use dishwasher pods or packets dissolved in hot water. Check balls periodically to avoid cover damage from harsh detergents.

Experiment with cleaners you have on hand to determine which work best for your golf balls. Just be sure to dilute the solutions properly.

Dishwasher Method

If you need to clean a lot of balls at once, the dishwasher can be used as long as some precautions are taken:

  • Place balls in a mesh bag or container to prevent rattling around
  • Use the gentle or delicate cycle
  • Low heat dry cycle only
  • Avoid detergent with bleach
  • Check on balls periodically to avoid cover damage

Washing excess dirty balls accumulated over a few rounds can restore them to near new quickly. Just don’t overload the dishwasher with too many balls.

Advanced Scrubbing for Bulk Balls

If you come into a lot of very dirty used range balls or lake balls, they may require some extra scrubbing and cleaning beyond soaking:

Remove Debris with Stiff Brush

Use a stiff nylon brush, toothbrush or ball washer with stiff bristles to dislodge ingrained dirt and debris. Scrub vigorously to remove the top layer of gunk.

Apply Concentrated Degreaser 

Spray on a degreasing cleaner like Simple Green to break up oily grime and grass stains. Let soak 5 minutes.

Scrub with Towel

Wipe down balls with a towel, applying pressure to get into crevices and dimples where dirt hides. Reapply degreaser and scrub again if needed.

Wash Normally 

Once the grimy top layer has been removed with brushing and degreasing, wash the balls normally with soapy water or bleach soak to finish the cleaning process. Let dry fully in sunlight to sanitize.

With some serious scrubbing and soaking, even the dirtiest used bulk golf balls can be revived for additional play.

Removing Scuff Marks

Scuffs and abrasions on the cover of a golf ball are inevitable through normal play. Here are some tips for removing scuffs and scratches:

Magic Eraser

The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser can remove light scuffs and discoloration. Gently rub on problem areas and avoid excessive pressure to prevent further damage.


Apply toothpaste to scuffs and buff the area with a towel. The abrasives in toothpaste can lift some light markings. Rinse residue after scrubbing.

Rubbing Alcohol 

Alcohol on a towel can dissolve scuff residue and discoloration marks. Be careful not to wipe logos/decals off along with scuffs.


Lightly rub very fine grit sandpaper over scuffed areas. Use a circular motion. Be cautious not to remove layers of cover material.

Clear Coat Spray

For minor scuffs, apply a clear coat nail polish or hobby paint to act as a buffer. Lightly sand area first before spraying.

With patience and the right tools, moderate scuffs and abrasions can be minimized to keep balls in play longer. Know when to stop and replace excessively damaged balls.

Removing Stains and Discoloration

In addition to physical scuffs, stains from dirt, mud and grass can discolor ball covers. Try these stain removal methods:

Rubbing Alcohol

As mentioned, rubbing alcohol can dissolve residue and lift stains. Dip cotton ball in alcohol and rub stained areas. Rinse ball after applying.

Hydrogen Peroxide 

The whitening powers of peroxide can help restore stained white covers. Apply peroxide to the stain and let sit 5-10 minutes before rinsing.

Baking soda and vinegar

For tougher stains, make a paste with baking soda and vinegar. Gently rub paste on stains, let sit briefly, then rinse. The chemical reaction can break down stubborn discoloration.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

The handy Magic Eraser can scrub off dirt stains and grass stains that other methods may not lift. Carefully rub stained parts of the cover.

Bleach Pen

A bleach pen allows you to apply bleach directly onto stains. Let sit briefly before rinsing off. Be very careful to avoid logos and markings.

With some targeted stain removal methods, you can erase discoloration for pure white golf ball covers again.

Removing Permanent Marker

Found a “range ball” marked with permanent marker? Try these tricks to erase marker and reuse the ball:

  • Rubbing alcohol – Soak a cotton ball in alcohol and rub marks until removed.
  • Toothpaste – The mild abrasives in toothpaste can lift some permanent marks when rubbed vigorously.
  • Hairspray – Spritz hairspray onto the marker stain, let sit 5 minutes, then wipe away.
  • Nail polish remover – Use a cotton swab dipped in acetone-based remover to rub off marks.
  • Mr Clean Magic Eraser – The magical cleaning powers of this melamine foam block can erase stubborn permanent marks.

With some persistence, you can remove permanent marker from golf balls. Just don’t use harsh chemicals that could damage the covers.

Specialty Golf Ball Cleaning Tools

Beyond typical household cleaners and tools, there are specially designed golf ball cleaning accessories:

  • Groove tubes – Long tubular brushes clean dirt out of dimples and textures.
  • Automatic ball washers – Electric cleaners spin and scrub balls. Some have built-in soap dispensers.
  • Ultrasonic cleaners – These machines use ultrasonic waves to dislodge dirt and debris without abrasion.
  • Ball crunches – Plastic covers apply pressure to squeeze grit out of depressions.
  • Cleaning putty – These cleaning clays lift dirt out of dimples like Play-Doh.
  • Microfiber towels – The microscopic fibers snag and trap debris without scratching.
  • Ball shaggers – Multi-fingered cages allow balls to be scrubbed aggressively.

While not essential, specialty ball cleaning tools can make the process easier, especially for high volume cleaning.

Avoid These Mistakes

When cleaning golf balls, there are some mistakes to avoid:

  • Soaking too long – More than an hour in harsh solvents can damage the covers.
  • Storing wet – Storing balls wet can lead to corrosion and cover penetration. Ensure fully dry.
  • Sun drying – Don’t leave balls drying in direct sunlight. Long UV exposure degrades the covers.
  • Abrasive brushes – Stiff metal bristles and wire brushes mar ball covers. Use soft brushes/towels only.
  • Undiluted bleach – Full strength bleach will quickly eat away at the covers. Always dilute.
  • Harsh scrubbing – Modern urethane balls don’t require vigorous scrubbing. Gentle pressure removes most dirt.
  • Dishwasher heat dry – Exposing balls to high heat can melt or distort the covers. Use air dry only.
  • Overstuffing washer – Crowding too many balls in the dishwasher prevents effective cleaning.

Avoid these missteps to ensure cleaning improves the balls rather than causes damage. Your covers will thank you.

Repurposing Unwanted Balls

After cleaning your golf balls, you may find some with cosmetic or performance defects you just don’t want to play. Here are smart ways to repurpose balls you planned to discard:

  • Practice balls – Use for chipping practice and other short game work where you’ll lose balls anyway.
  • Donate to charity – Local youth golf programs would love your unwanted balls for lessons and practice.
  • Craft projects – Old balls can become home decor, holiday ornaments, pet toys and desk fidgets with a little DIY creativity.
  • Resell as range balls – You may be able to sell balls with minor defects to driving ranges or resell shops.
  • Return for recycling – Golf ball manufacturers like Callaway and Titleist recycle old balls into components for new balls.

Don’t contribute to landfill waste by trashing balls. With some imagination, you can extend their usefulness in new ways.

Why Clean Golf Balls: Recap

Let’s recap why it’s so important to keep golf balls clean:

  • Enhanced aerodynamics for maximum distance
  • Optimal spin and launch conditions
  • Consistent, predictable ball compression
  • Prevents cover cuts and abrasions
  • Prolongs life of golf balls
  • Provides better feel and sound at impact
  • Improves visibility
  • Restores luster and whiteness
  • Removes bacteria, mold, mildew
  • Shows respect for your equipment

Make ball cleaning a habit for improved performance. Take good care of your golf balls and they’ll take care of you!


What ratio of vinegar to water should you use to clean balls?

For a vineagar soak, mix equal parts white vinegar and water – a 1:1 ratio. You can also do a slightly weaker solution of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water if needed.

How long can you soak golf balls in soap and water?

Avoid soaking golf balls in soapy water or other cleaners for more than 1 hour. The covers can become damaged or discolored from prolonged soaking.

How do you clean golf balls without water?

Dry cleaning options include using a microfiber towel, a soft-bristle dog brush, or cleaning putty designed for golf balls. These lift dirt without water.

What is the best way to dry golf balls after cleaning?

After washing, dry balls using a soft cotton towel then allow to fully air dry. Avoid direct sunlight. You can also use a portable electric ball dryer.

Can you use a toothbrush to scrub golf balls?

An old toothbrush with soft bristles can help scrub out nooks and crannies on the golf ball covers. Avoid stiff-bristled brushes that could scratch.