Golf Ball Cleaning by Chuck

Golf Ball Cleaning by Chuck

Hi. My name is Charles and I’m a golfer.

That should explain a lot. I spend a lot of my spring, summer and fall days hitting and chasing golf balls. It borders on mental illness, I think.


I’m really very bad at it – a good round for me is double-bogey golf – and that’s a good round – but I repeat myself.

I usually walk when I play – and I usually play alone. I do have golfing buddies, but they have lives and do other things than play golf, so I usually only play with them once or twice a week.

Since I’m playing alone and since I’m spending a lot of time in the rough – in the woods – along the edges of the ponds and streams – I look for and find a lot of “lost” golf balls. I put quotes around the word lost back there because once I find them, they aren’t lost any more – now they’re found balls. And I clean them up and reuse them.

[If you’re a good golfer – playing bogey golf or better, don’t cheap it out – buy and play new golf balls. You don’t need the headache of a ball that won’t spin the way you want it to or one that has lost 10 yards on a drive. To me it makes little difference. But I would guess that used golf balls don’t play quite like new ones.]

Only now I’ve got a lot more golf balls than I’ll use in a lifetime – so I give some away and I’ve got my local club selling some of them for me. Others I have stashed all over my garage and my shed.

I went looking online for some ideas as to how to clean and refinish the balls, but I discovered that refinishing them isn’t for the amateur – it takes some equipment and knowledge that I don’t have. So I narrowed the process down to just cleaning golf balls and I like to think I’ve become a bit of an expert. If anyone else who cleans golf balls happens to wander in here, you might find something interesting and/or useful.

First of all, make sure the golf ball you’ve found is actually lost and not that of the golfer following you or coming up another fairway near the one you are playing. It is not considered good etiquette to pick someone else’s ball that is in play. I think that’s one reason there aren’t too many friends who will play with me anymore.

Secondly, consider it a lucky find if you come across a golf ball that is lying in the fairway or in the edge of the rough which doesn’t require too much cleaning. Just wait until the next tee box and run it through those brushes in the ball washer and bingo – it’s clean and ready to use.

BUT most of the golf balls I find are badly scuffed, bruised, muddy or covered in algae. Some of these are salvageable, some are not. The balls that are cut (maybe sliced by a bad golfer or maybe run over by a lawn mower) should be tossed. They won’t play well.

Of those balls that I recover and keep, I grade into three categories – Excellent, Good and Fair. I mention this because it makes a difference how much time I am willing to spend cleaning them – it can take five minutes to clean a ball dredged up from the bottom of a creek after it has been there for two years only to discover that it is a yellowed, pitted ball.

When I bring the “found” balls home, I toss them in a bucket of soapy water and leave them for a day or two to soften up the dirt on them.

When I pull a golf ball out of the bucket to clean it, I assess it’s condition. Lightly soiled balls might be clean just from soaking in the bucket, I dry them with an old terry cloth bath towel.

For others, slightly more stained, I scrub the damp ball lightly with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge. These sponges are a little pricey (they’re sold in grocery stores, drug stores, department stores etc.) and wear out quickly, so I use them sparingly.

If a ball hits the grunge jackpot, a deep coating of stains or algae, I use some cleanser (Bon Ami) on the damp ball and scrub really deeply. One piece of advice I found on the Internet suggested using some dry Tide laundry detergent powder instead, but we use liquid detergent so I haven’t tried this. Finish up with the Magic Eraser.

For any golf balls that I’ve cleaned and want to brighten a little, I soak them in a bucket of 50% bleach, 50% water. Sometimes this works, sometimes not. This also probably works better if part of the time you keep this bucket in the sun – but I’m just guessing.

If the ball you’ve found has magic marker initials or dots on it for identification of the previous owner, I find that rubbing with the magic eraser often lightens it, than a day in the bleach/water bucket gets rid of it.

Finally, I sort out the balls into my three categories. I play with those I deem excellent (like new or very good condition).

The balls that are good, but slightly discolored or maybe a small scuff, I use as practice balls around the yard or if I want to play a second shot out on the course for practice when things aren’t busy.

The last batch, those that are only fair, I hit them off into the woods out behind our house – or I’ve been known to take them to a driving range where they’re not particular about the quality of the golf balls they give you. You could also drive them into a pond out on the course, or something like that.

I find a lot of golf balls so I don’t need to chance a bad shot out on the course, when I’m keeping score, on a lousy ball.

But it’s your call.

UPDATE: I’m still cleaning and one piece of advice I might have missed – I use old terry cloth towels cut into rags to clean the balls. The coarseness of the terry cloth often times is enough to clean off stubborn dirt and algae without the expense of using Magic Erasers and scouring powder. Just sayin’.


This is rather out of place on this blog that I fill with funny stuff I find on the Internet, but it’s my home away from home in the blogging world, so this is where I post it.

My original post on cleaning golf balls was here.

Okay, so now I’ve found and cleaned a couple thousand golf balls, I’ve simplifed my process.

1. I take a couple dozen golf balls and soak them in a pail of water and about 1/4 cup of Clorox Clean Up (cleaner with bleach) over night. I buy the big gallon jugs at BJs, but you could probably use some kind of cheap detergent and some laundry bleach.

2. I wash each ball with a terry-cloth rag or old wash cloth – this will usually take about 90% of the dirt and  grime off the ball. If it’s perfect at this point, dry it and toss it in your “keeper” bag for later use.

3. At this point, if I realize the ball is scuffed up or badly discolored, I toss it in the bag of balls to use for practice. There’s not much you can do for them unless you’ve got the equipment to refinish them (and I don’t).

4. There are a select few balls that have some magic marker ID marks on them, or some stuff that didn’t wash off but looks like it could be cleaned. I use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (sponge – can get in grocery store) on this stuff. They are expensive, so I try to use them as a last resort.

5. If the ball is looking better, go back to #2.

6. Last  step – if it’s a really nice ball except for some magic marker ID written on it, I TRY (operational word is try) a little nail polish remover on it. This is not kind to the ball – it may take some of the sheen off the finish of the ball along with some of the magic marker. To be honest, I have reached the point where I leave the markings and use the ball anyway.

That’s it. If you’ve got some suggestions to add, I’m glad to hear them – but I don’t want to spend much time on any one ball anymore – I’ve got tons of them and there seem to be tons more out there on the golf courses to retrieve.

Happy golfing.

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