How to Deflate a Basketball

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When inflating a basketball, one of the most common errors that occurs is over-inflating the ball. A basketball with too much air pressure will feel too hard when passing and receiving the ball, and will also bounce too high. When this happens, it is important to deflate the basketball.

How to Deflate a Basketball

Whether you over-inflated your basketball or you’re planning to travel with it and need to compress it, it’s important to know how to deflate a basketball. There are a few ways you can deflate the ball:

  • Using a pump and inflation needle
  • Using a pump and bobby pin
  • Placing the ball into the fridge

The first method is the recommended way to follow, though if you don’t have a pump and inflation needle easily accessible, the other two ways will work. Before covering these three methods, you need to know what the proper ball pressure should be. 

Examining the Ball Pressure

Normal basketball inflation guidelines suggest 7-9 PSI (pounds per square inch). A pressure gauge is a great investment, but if you don’t have one there’s a simple test to judge if the ball pressure is correct.

Man throwing a basketball in the air

Hold out the ball at arm’s length and let it drop – if the ball bounces to about waist level, it is inflated correctly. If it bounces higher it means the ball is over-inflated, lower means under-inflated. You can try this for when you’re practicing your free-throw skills or even when dribbling the basketball.

Deflating a Basketball With a Pump and Inflation Needle

The easiest way to deflate a basketball is with an inflation needle (also called a pump needle) that you would normally use to inflate the basketball. These are normally packaged with air pumps, but they can also be purchased separately.

Every time the needle is inserted into the ball, be sure that it is moistened – you can do this with saliva, water, or some other sort of lubricant. The easiest thing to do is to lick it, but that is not a very hygienic way to go.

There are two choices in regards to whether or not the pump is attached to the needle:

  • If only a small amount of air needs to be removed, it is recommended that the pump stays attached. 
  • For a large amount of air, or if deflating the ball completely, it would be a better idea to remove the needle from the pump.

Remove the inflation needle from your air pump if that is the method you’ve chosen. Moisten it and insert it carefully into the basketball inflation valve. Air will start coming out slowly. To increase the speed at which the air comes out, you can squeeze the basketball tightly with your hands, arms, or even by kneeling on it.

Once the ball feels like it has been reduced to the correct pressure, remove the inflation needle slowly from the ball and test. Be careful not to pull the valve out of the ball. If the air pressure of the ball is still too high, repeat the process. If the air pressure is too low, attach the needle back to the air pump and inflate to the desired pressure.

Deflating a Basketball Without an Inflation Needle

If you don’t have an inflation needle handy, there are some other tools that can do the job. A bobby pin, a sewing needle, or any other long, thin, stiff implement. The important thing is that the width of the tool you use is not too wide that it might damage the basketball valve.

Follow the same basic procedure as if you were using a pump needle, but be extremely careful. Since the tool isn’t meant for this job, it is very important that care be used so that the valve isn’t damaged. A damaged valve will not hold air and will make the basketball completely useless.

Pay special attention to moistening the tool.

Insert it into the ball through the valve, and listen for air releasing. You may need to tilt the sewing needle or other selected tool to the side a bit to create room for the air to get out, but be careful not to damage the valve or break the tool.

Deflating a Basketball Without Tools

If there isn’t an inflation needle or other tool available, the situation may seem hopeless but there’s a simple trick that is effective but takes a little longer. Stick it in the fridge and follow these steps:

  1. Clean the outside of the basketball first with a damp rag, especially if it is normally used outside. 
  2. Place a towel down on one of the shelves in the refrigerator and place the ball on it. 
  3. Close the door and wait, checking every hour or so. 
  4. The cold will reduce the air pressure in the ball by making the molecules move more slowly.

This should be only used as a temporary fix, because as the ball warms back up the pressure will increase – however it should still be less inflated than it was beforehand.

A basketball on an outdoor court

Basketball Care

There are three primary types of basketball covers: leather, rubber, and synthetic leather. Leather and synthetic leather basketballs are used inside gymnasiums on wood floors and should never be used on an outdoor court. Rubber or other synthetic basketballs can be used on any surface.

This same logic is to be applied when picking out the best basketball shoes for you.

Cleaning Leather Basketballs

The surface of a leather or synthetic leather basketball is very prone to scratching so be sure to only use it on an indoor court. Even when used indoors they will still collect a lot of dust from the wood surface, making the ball more slippery. Cleaning a leather basketball on a regular basis will help maintain the grip.

Take a clean towel or rag and get it damp, but not wet enough so that it’s dripping. Rub the entire surface gently. That should be enough when cleaning the basketball on a regular basis, but if a deeper cleaning is necessary, a small amount of mild detergent added to the rag will help.

Using another clean towel, wipe any excess detergent off and dry the basketball thoroughly. Water left on the leather surface will ruin the nap and make the basketball even more slippery.

Cleaning Rubber Basketballs

A rubber basketball can take a lot of punishment, so cleaning it isn’t as much of a delicate process.

The easiest way to clean a rubber basketball is to place it in a clean sink, run water over it, and scrub it with a wet rag soaked in mild detergent. A brush, scouring pad, or other classic dish cleaning tool could be used as well. Be sure to rinse any detergent off the ball and then dry it off.

When cleaning on a regular basis, rubbing the ball with a damp towel should suffice in most cases.

Close up of a Wilson basketball

Basketball Storage

Regular cleaning will help keep your basketball in good shape, but it’s not the only thing you need to do to maintain it. It’s easy to leave your ball sitting around in the backyard after practice, but sunlight, rain, and snow can do a tremendous amount of damage. Peeling covers, warped shape, or even bladder can all occur.

At the very least, keep your ball inside. A cool, dry place and a hanging bag would be the ultimate place to store it. Any weight pressed against the ball can deform a basketball, so try to keep it from being thrown into a bin with a lot of other objects around it.