How to Clean a Basketball

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When a basketball gets dirty and covered in dust and grime, it tends to get slippery. This can affect your overall gameplay. To keep your basketball longer and in good condition, you must know how to clean it. 

Types of Basketballs You Clean

Before I learn how to clean a basketball, I must first know what type I am cleaning. Every type of basketball requires a different cleaning method because of the material it is made of. 

The material used to make a basketball affects how you clean it. There are three types of commonly used materials:

  • Leather – Leather basketballs are mainly used for indoor basketball and wooden floors. 
  • Rubber – Rubber is used for outdoor use and is sturdy.
  • Synthetic – An alternative to a leather basketball and can be used both indoor and outdoor basketball.  

Leather provides the best grip. Leather is also cleaned differently.  

Synthetic copies the feel of leather but is made affordable. Synthetic basketballs can be used indoors and outdoors because the material can withstand wear and tear, unlike leather. 

Rubber basketballs are the most affordable among the three. It’s best to use these in outdoor basketball games because rubber bounces well with cement or asphalt. Rubber also doesn’t get easily damaged by bouncing it on outdoor courts.  

Now that I’ve got my basketballs identified, it’s time to learn how to clean them. 

How to Clean a Basketball

Clean basketball laid down on a bed of leaves

A basketball can affect your game in many ways. When a basketball is dirty, there’s a high chance that both the way you dribble the ball and your shooting form will be affected. 

Dust and grime buildup on a basketball makes it slippery and affects how you grip it. To avoid experiencing basketball slippage in games and have better chances getting the ball through the basketball hoop, you should clean it once every 2-3 weeks or after every use in outdoor courts. 

Gather All Materials Needed

For cleaning a basketball, you will need: 

  1. Plastic bowl
  2. Toothbrush
  3. Washing cloth
  4. A bucket of warm water
  5. Cleaning detergent

Clean your basketball in a bathroom, backyard, or any space where you wouldn’t mind water being splashed around. 

Cleaning a Rubber or Synthetic Basketball

Rubber and synthetic basketballs are durable and you can easily clean with water. Use a cleaning detergent mixed with water. 

  • Step 1: Place your basketball in the plastic bowl. The plastic bowl will protect it from catching dirt from the ground especially if you’re cleaning it in the backyard. 
  • Step 2: Add the cleaning detergent to the bucket of warm water. This will produce a bubbly foam mixture. 
  • Step 3: Dip the washing cloth into the detergent mixture and wash your basketball using the dipped washing cloth. 
  • Step 4: Using a toothbrush dipped with the detergent, clean the seams of your basketball. Cloth won’t be enough for reaching the seams and cleaning it thoroughly. 
  • Step 5: Use cold water to soak off the foamy detergent mixture on your basketball. 
  • Step 6: Dry your basketball with the washing cloth
  • Step 7: Let it dry in a cool and dry place. Do not subject it to heat. 

Rubber and synthetic basketballs last longer than a leather one. You can use them multiple times without having to clean them. Just make sure to keep the dust off for a better grip. 

Cleaning a Leather Basketball

For leather basketball, you need to be careful when you soak it in water. When water seeps inside tiny cracks or holes in the ball, it will go inside the basketball. This will cause damage inside like abnormal lumps. It could even cause big holes. 

Leathers are soft but provide better grip when palming a basketball. When you’re cleaning a leather basketball, be careful when using rough materials like brushes.  

  • Step 1: Brush off excess dirt on the basketball using a soft brush.
  • Step 2: Use a cloth with a little bit of water to wipe dirt off your basketball.
  • Step 3: If you want to be on the safe side, use a leather cleaner for cleaning your leather basketball. If you don’t have leather cleaner at home, you can also use wood polish as an alternative.
  • Step 4: Use a toothbrush to thoroughly clean the seams of your basketball. 
  • Step 5: Using a cloth with water, rinse your basketball. Use only a little bit of water to rinse off excess dirt. 
  • Step 6: Dry your basketball. 

When drying your basketball, don’t let it come in contact with high heat or temperature. High heat can cause it to form abnormal lumps which can affect the normal dribbling motion. 

Additional Tips for Cleaning Basketballs

There are some habits I often do without thinking. This could end up damaging or lessening the lifespan of the basketball. To keep your basketball in good condition a lot longer, try following these tips.  

  • Never submerge your basketball in the water. You’re only inviting damage to your basketball by doing this. It might be a fast and easy way of cleaning but it’ll only damage your basketball. 
  • Don’t let your basketball sit in your car. Cars can easily heat up, especially in the summer. The heat may cause damage to your basketball.  
  • Never let your basketball sit still in sunlight. Basketball players often place theirs on the sides after practice or a game. Make sure that when you rest the ball it isn’t in sight of direct sunlight. 
  • Don’t use sprays or cleaning creams. It can affect the leather quality of your basketball. A leather basketball has a sweat absorbing capability. Applying inappropriate cleaning agents might cause it to lose this capability.
  • Do not use a hairdryer to dry your basketball.  Even if it’s at the lowest power, it’s not advisable to use a hairdryer to dry your basketball. Just use a dry cloth to dry off the water and dirt around the basketball. Let it sit and dry at a cool place.  

Preventing Damage to Your Basketball

Conditions to AvoidEffect on the Ball
Humid and warm temperaturesCarcass deterioration
A court in bad conditionsLumps on the ball
Bad storageOverall deterioration

You don’t want to risk cleaning your basketball with water too often. Water can also shorten the lifespan of your basketball. Because of this, it’s important to know how to prevent damage to the ball.

As you frequently use your basketball during your games and the more you clean it, the grip also decreases. Avoiding having to clean your basketball should be in every basketball player’s mind. This way, you can increase the lifespan of your basketball. 

Use Your Basketball in its Proper Court

An ongoing basketball match

Because leather basketballs are prone to wear and tear, you should only use yours on indoor courts. Leather might be known for being durable but it doesn’t stand a chance against rough surfaces.

Cement and asphalt can easily flatten the small lumps in the leather which helps with grip. This will make the ball slippery and most likely will only annoy you if you use it in games. 

Synthetic and Rubber basketballs can be played both indoor and outdoor. However, synthetic and rubber can withstand rough surfaces, unlike leather. If you use your basketball on the right court, it will last for a long time. 

Don’t Play in Wet or Hot Conditions

Rain in the middle of basketball practice or games can be very annoying. Some basketball players continue with their game without knowing it can damage their basketball. 

Water can affect the grip of the ball. Not to mention that a wet court can also cause serious injuries. It can also permeate your basketball causing damage. 

High heat can also cause deformities that affect how the ball bounces. It may cause abnormal lumps or end up deflating the basketball

Air it Right

Air pressure inside your basketball can also affect its lifespan. Too much air in your basketball and it may cause abnormal lumps around your ball. Over-inflated balls can also easily tear when you bounce them around. 

Under-inflated makes your basketball bounce low and makes it uncomfortable to play. You can measure the air inside your basketball by placing the basketball above your head and releasing it. If the basketball bounces near your chest height then the amount of air is correct.  

Person holding a basketball

Keep Dust Away 

Dust buildup can make the basketball lose its grip. You don’t have to use a lot of water to remove the dust. You can dip a towel with warm water and squeeze it so the excess water is removed. Use the wet towel to wipe your basketball. 

You can also use a cloth dipped with detergent or leather shampoo to clean a basketball. Use a towel to dry it off immediately or it could damage the surface. 

For synthetic and rubber basketballs, they can have dust on them for a while. Don’t make it too long or it will eventually damage the basketball. 

Play on a Clean Court

When playing on any indoor or outdoor courts, be watchful of sharp objects that your basketball can bounce into. Before playing or practicing your free throws, you should inspect the court and its surroundings.

Watch out for dust inside the playing court. Inspect the playing court and its surroundings for sharp objects and take them away. 

Your basketball could end up bouncing into sharp objects and cause irreparable damage. Even if it doesn’t puncture the basketball, it can cause deformities that affect the function of the ball. 

Store Your Ball Right

Storing your ball in hot places can affect its shape. Make sure you store your ball in a cool and dry place. You can use a basketball bag and have it placed on a safe spot in your home. 

Also, make sure that there are no other objects on top or pushing your basketball. The pressure may cause the ball to change its shape. 

Related Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about cleaning a basketball

Is It Bad for a Basketball to Get Wet?

It is bad for a basketball to get wet only if it is not immediately dried. This is because, if the ball remains wet and is kept in a humid space, it might start to lose its grip. Therefore, you should avoid leaving it outdoors.

Do NBA Balls Get Washed and Reused?

Yes, NBA balls get reused after a match only if the officials claim them to be apt. For instance, if an official checks the basketball and detects that it has imperfections, the ball will not be reused.

Why Is My Basketball Peeling?

If your basketball is peeling it might be due to excessively moist and warm temperatures. This combination can start deteriorating the ball’s carcass, which will end up in a peeling basketball.

That is why you need to dry the ball and keep it in a dry space. If not, your ball could deteriorate quickly, and lose its grip.


Cleaning your basketball helps with its longevity and keeps it in good condition. It’s important to know how to clean a basketball. A well-cleaned and well-maintained basketball helps improve your basketball skills. Otherwise, you’ll end up frustrated with basketball practice when you’re using a slippery basketball.  

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.

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