It’s not uncommon to spend hundreds of dollars on buying table tennis rubbers (or ping pong rubbers), which makes it particularly satisfying when you find rubbers that perfectly suit your game. There’s a beautiful feeling when your first play with these rubbers, as you punish your opponents with speed and spin.
Over time, however, your rubbers start to lose some of that sparkle and magic they had at the start. You find yourself looking longingly at buying some fresh rubber sheets to get that extra kick of spin back.
That’s why I often get players asking me how they can take care of their table tennis racket, wanting their rubbers to last longer and continue to provide top-level performance.
If that sounds like you, then you’re in the right place as we’ll cover everything you need to know about cleaning your table tennis racket.
Why is it important to clean your Table Tennis racket?
It’s much easier to just throw your bat into your bag at the end of a training session, forgetting about it until the next time you step up to a table. Unfortunately, this can have a seriously negative impact on the useful life of your rubbers. When you play, the rubbers are constantly picking up little bits of dust or droplets of sweat that can cause the rubber coating to degrade.
Over time, you’ll see a significant drop in the performance of your rubbers. I have bats that I’ve had for 10+ years that were super spinny brand new but now struggle imparting any real topspin or backspin. That’s why it’s important to look after your rubbers in particular.
When you buy new rubbers, they have a protective coating on the rubber that makes them “tacky“. Having tackiness helps the rubber impart additional spin onto the ball, giving your opponent a really difficult time trying to return your shots.
As the rubber gets covered in dust particles, this makes it more difficult to get spin on the ball. As the ball contacts the rubber, there is less friction with dust and your shots will become less effective.
This underlines how important it is to clean your rubbers whilst also protecting the rubber coating. You’ll find that effective, consistent cleaning prevents the need to boost your rubbers.
The other main reason to clean your table tennis rubbers is simply so that they last longer. Over time, your rubber will degrade and lose performance. This is sped up by the presence of dust and sweat soaking into the rubber itself.
Have you ever tried playing with a rubber that’s been sitting in the cupboard for a few years? It definitely makes it much harder to play how you want to. You’ll almost certainly end up wanting to buy new rubbers.
With rubbers often costing upwards of $70, extending the life of your table tennis racket can save you quite a lot of money.
What can I use to clean my Ping Pong paddle?
The safest, cheapest and easiest way to clean your table tennis rubbers is to simply use water. No special equipment is necessary. Here’s a simple 3-step guide:
- Dampen a clean sponge with lukewarm water.
- Gently wipe the surface of the rubber in a circular motion.
- Let the rubber air dry at room temperature.
If you find there is still dust on the rubber after cleaning with this method, try going through the process again which should get rid of any remaining particles.
There are a few important rules to follow when cleaning your table tennis racket:
- Do NOT use an abrasive/wire sponge. The back of a standard kitchen sponge or micro-fibre cloth works perfectly.
- Do NOT use lots of water. This will soak into the rubber and cause more problems. The sponge only needs to be damp.
- Do NOT scrub hard with lots of pressure. You should only need to gently guide the sponge across the rubber.
- Do NOT try and dry the rubber over a harsh heat source (e.g radiator, direct sunlight) as this can damage the rubber.
These simple guidelines will ensure that you don’t cause any harm to come to your rubbers. After cleaning your table tennis bat, you should see a noticeable improvement in performance.
If you’re serious about maintaining the performance of your rubbers, it’s worth considering investing in some specialty bat cleaners that I’ll discuss next.
Alternative cleaning methods
Whilst cleaning with water alone might be the cheapest and simplest way of caring for your table tennis rubbers, it’s not the most effective treatment. Using water might struggle to get off any ingrained stains, and it will also degrade the stickiness of your rubber’s protective coating over time.
That’s why I want to introduce some alternative methods, starting with my recommended approach for serious players.
Spray Bat Cleaner
Plenty of Table Tennis manufacturers offer a dedicated cleaning spray for looking after Table Tennis rubbers, including Butterfly and Tibhar. These are generally made of a formulation similar to a light dishwasher detergent which adds some extra cleaning power on top of just water.
These cleaners are fantastic to carry around in your bag and clean your rubber after training every couple of weeks. They often come with a sponge applicator, or a micro-fibre cloth which makes sure your cloth doesn’t leave any fibres on the rubber. The advantage of these cleaners is that it becomes really hard to over-apply the liquid and your rubber will be dry within a couple of minutes.
Considering the low price of these kits, they are a fantastic investment for anyone who wants to look after their table tennis racket. I recommend only cleaning your rubbers once a week at most. If you follow some of our preventative care methods for table tennis bats below, you’ll find you won’t need to clean very often at all.
Using a mixture of water with a small amount of dishwasher liquid can give a very similar result to using a dedicated cleaning spray. However, it can be quite risky to create your own formulation. If you want to try this method, follow our two important rules:
- Use a non-biological liquid dish-washing soap, without any additional harsh chemicals.
- Use a small amount of soap in ratio with water. A little can go a long way.
Whilst I don’t generally recommend this approach, it can be very effective at cleaning off some more difficult dirt and oils that may have found their way into the rubber.
Please be careful that you are using a gentle detergent as these can otherwise make the rubber more brittle and shorten the lifespan.
We don’t recommend using alcohol as your regular cleaning material for any table tennis rackets. It can be highly abrasive and soak into the rubber if you’re not careful. However, it can be very useful if you have an area of your rubber that is soiled or stained.
If you do want to use alcohol spirits to clean your rubber, use a 100% Isopropyl alcohol liquid. You should only apply a thin layer to the rubber, applied gently with a circular motion. Make sure you air out your racket for a few hours before playing with it. Avoid the temptation to wipe it clean as this may cause the rubber to lose its protective layer.
Using alcohol to clean a table tennis racket should be considered a last resort.
How often should you clean your ping pong paddle?
Now we have looked at all the methods you can use to clean your paddle, it’s important to know how often these should be used. There are three important factors that you need to consider:
- How often the paddle is used.
- The environment the paddle is used in.
- The environment the paddle is stored in.
Over time, all rubbers are going to dry out and lose their performance. If the racket is being used regularly, then this is mostly caused by dust, sweat and oils which should be cleaned off every couple of weeks. If the racket is rarely used, the rubbers will dry out and collect dust if stored in your garage or a cupboard. They should be cleaned once a month or so in order to prolong their useful life.
Preventative care for your Table Tennis racket
You can reduce the need to clean your racket regularly by taking preventative care measures. These are designed to prevent your rubbers from getting dirty in the first place, ensuring they are in the same condition each time you go to play Table Tennis.
Store in a Bat Case
The most effective way of protecting your Table Tennis racket from picking up too much dust is to store it in a protective bat case. These cases are designed as a perfect place to store your racket, protecting it from the environment it’s stored in. Here’s my personal list of the best ping pong racket cases you can buy.
There are a few different designs you can purchase, including single-bat cases and multi-bat cases. If you’re buying a beginner’s racket, you’ll find that many options already come with a protective case.
The other advantage of using a bat case is that it will help protect your racket from any drops or bumps that might occur when storing/transporting your Table Tennis equipment.
Use protective film
If you want to really look after your rubbers, then the best thing to buy is a protective plastic film that goes over the rubber itself. These are made of a soft, non-sticky plastic and they adhere using the tacky nature of the rubber itself.
Using protective film guarantees your rubber won’t collect dust or oils during storage between training sessions.
I personally feel these are unnecessary as long as you’re storing your racket in a clean protective case. However, I know plenty of players who swear these films keep their rubbers performing better for longer.
Final Thoughts on Racket Care
Now you know everything you need to look after your Table Tennis racket and keep it performing effectively for much longer. In case you need a recap, here are my top tips:
- Clean your rubbers with water, or a specialist cleaning solution, every 2 – 3 weeks.
- Use a non-abrasive microfibre cloth/sponge to wipe your rubbers with.
- Store your racket away from harsh environments, preferably in a bat case.
Follow those 3 simple guides and you’ll make the most of that money you spent on your brand new racket.
Have any other tips/tricks? Let me know in the comments section.
David's been playing Table Tennis since he was 12, earning his first coaching license in 2012. He's played in national team & individual competitions, although he prefers the more relaxed nature of a local league match! After earning his umpiring qualification in England, David moved to Australia and started Racket Insight to share information about the sport he loves.
Blade: Stiga WRB Offensive Classic | Forehand: Calibra LT | Backhand: Xiom Musa
Playstyle: All-Round Attacker