How to Clean Your Pool Table Felt Like a Pro for Spotless Play

Avoid the eight ball and pocket every stroke by learning how to clean pool table felt and why it's so important.

Published December 7, 2023
playing pool in a bar

There’s only one rule to growing up with a pool table in your parents' basement — don’t tear the felt. Considering half of the time you’re fighting off your siblings or cousins using the pool cues as imaginary light sabers, they probably didn’t have much to worry about.

But, if your dreams to conquer the pool table like Paul Newman’s “Fast Eddie” Felson haven’t faded, then you need to know how to keep yours spick-and-span. As they say, you’re only as good as your tools, and the table is a major one. Keep your game in top form by learning how to clean pool table felt properly. 

How to Clean Pool Table Felt so It Lasts for Years

A beautiful antique billiards table can add a little panache to even the dodgiest of dive bars. Beyond having a pool cue, some chalk, and billiards balls, you’ve got to have a quality pool table to really drum up a game. And when you think of pool tables, the standard bright green or red felt top probably comes to mind.

To enjoy the games you’re playing, you need to start with a high-quality surface. This means learning how to clean dust, dirt, and chalk debris from your pool table’s felt.

@hoppopool Table cleaning ASMR My regular routine for cleaning and maintaining the cloth. Important to cover all steps and look after it! #fyp #ultimatepool #pool #poolplayer #funny #pooltable original sound - HoppoPool

Brush the Debris Using Straight Strokes

The first step to cleaning pool table felt is brushing all of that debris into a pile. Dust and chalk powder can accumulate in all the 90° bumper edges, and you need to clear it off once a week or so. Use a pool table-safe hand brush and dustpan with a rubber edge to clean up any tiny particles.

When brushing, always brush down and in one direction. Never brush in a circle or back and forth, as this can pull against the staples or glue holding the felt in place.

Quick Tip

The vacuum just might be pool felt’s worst enemy. The suction, no matter how low, always has a chance of tugging at the felt and creating tears/saggy spots or ripping it from the table entirely.

Wipe the Table Top Down With a Damp Cloth

After brushing your table down, the next (and last) step for a regular pool felt cleaning session is grabbing a towel, dampening it slightly, and wiping the felt down in one direction.

After you’ve wiped it down, take a dry towel and follow your path from before. This will ensure you don’t have any lingering moisture. Water that’s left can seep into the felt and cause rippling, which almost always ends in a table needing to be refelted.

Some people also like to use a commercial felt cleaner (which you can easily grab online) to give it an extra boost. If this is more your speed, you can forgo the damp cloth and use the spray cleaner instead. 

Helpful Hack

If you want to invest in your pool table, consider grabbing a specialty cleaning cloth like the Simonis X-1. It’ll give you extra stability, so you don’t push and pull at the felt when wiping it down.

See a Spill, Clean It Up

Of course, the easiest way to keep your pool felt stain-free is to only permit balls and pool cues to touch the felt. Beer cans and glasses of water can be super dangerous to your felt. Once that ring of moisture sets in, it’s going to be hard to clean it up without overstretching the material, thanks to friction.

But if your overzealous buddy gets a little elbow happy during game night and one of their spills turns into a stain, there is a way to clean it up. Take a cotton towel and dampen it with warm water. Press the wet cloth into the stain.

As the water pulls the stain out, you might be tempted to scrub. By all means, if you’re looking to rub a hole into the felt, scrub at it like you would a carpet stain. But if you want the felt to last for a few more years, try not to stretch it whenever possible. Blot, don't rub.

All Pool Table Felts Have to be Replaced at Some Point

No matter how well you keep the felt maintained, you’ll need to replace it at some point. For recreational players, you can make your felt last up to 15 years with the right maintenance and care. This involves cleaning it properly, attending to tears and ball burns when they happen, and preventing stains.

When you start to see an impact on your game because the felt is worn, torn, or puckering, it’s time to get it refelted.

Quick Tip

Worsted wool is the most common material used for pool felt, but it can lead to pilling with or without a cleaning faux pas. So, if the pilling is slowing down your game, consider investing in the professional-grade (more expensive) worsted wool instead.

5 Tips for Making Your Felt Last Longer

pool balls lined up on a table

Ultimately, with something as expensive as a pool table, you want to try and make every piece of the kit last for as long as possible. Here are a few things you can do at home to give your felt a fighting chance.

  • Avoid getting moisture on the felt. Drinks are the easiest (and worst) ways that water gets left on pool felt. Even with coasters, you should keep those cans far away from the tabletop. 
  • Regular cleaning can give it a longer life. As with anything, the more you neglect it, the less likely it is to hold up over time.
  • Don’t let people mess around with it. People have good intentions, but those intentions can go awry when they’ve got a pool cue in their hands. Leave the fancy ball-jumping tricks to the pros.
  • Don’t vacuum the felt. You may see other people swearing that they’ve never had a problem with using the vacuum on their felt. But they won’t be paying the $500+ to fix your felt if it goes wrong for you.
  • Chalk your cues away from the felt. Don’t stand over the table and rechalk your pool cues. That debris builds up over time and can damage your felt.

Don’t Lose It All on Bad Felt

Pool tables are like any other recreational equipment. They need to be maintained. Thankfully, keeping the pool felt clean isn’t that difficult. But misbehaving around the table and falling short on your weekly cleaning can lead to an unsavory felt that’s not functional. Save yourself some money by adding the pool felt to your weekly cleaning list.

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How to Clean Your Pool Table Felt Like a Pro for Spotless Play