What Are Ping Pong Balls Made of? – Everything You Need to Know!

Ping Pong Balls are one of the most versatile balls in the sports’ history. They can be used for ping pong, beer pong, and many of those minute to win it games! But have you ever wondered what are these majestic balls really made of?

If you have, then you are at the right place to know everything about ping pong balls. And if you haven’t, then probably you’re going to learn something solid for sure!

Let us start with the history of ping pong balls.

History of Ping Pong Balls

ping pong balls made

There are traces that the game was first played in India by the British Officers that modified the game of tennis in order to play it indoors. The game was first played in England during the 1880s.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, the game was played using balls made from rubber or strings. Sometimes the players even used a champagne cork. But an Englishman named James Gibb, during his visit to the United States in 1901 discovered ball made from celluloid. These celluloid balls were perfect for the game named ping pong, which came from the sound the ball made while bouncing off the table.

Currently, we use celluloid balls, or plastic balls with a seam to play professional ping pong games.

Do Ping Pong Balls Really Explode?

As we mentioned earlier that ping pong balls are made from celluloid and celluloid is a highly flammable synthetic plastic.

So the answer is no. There is nothing inside a ping pong ball that can really make them explode. The hoax was derived from the fact that celluloid used to burn really well, which made people suspect if there was a flammable gas inside the ping pong balls.

Cutting it short, celluloid ping pong balls can catch fire but there is no flammable gas inside the balls. It just contains normal atmospheric air.

What Are Ping Pong Balls Made of?

Celluloid is a composition of camphor and nitrocellulose. This is the same material using which photographic films are made.

However, here the making process is a little different. First of all, a celluloid sheet is made using its root compounds. Then in order to make ping pong balls out of them, this sheet is soaked in hot alcohol. Afterward, this sheet is used to cut the halves of the ping pong ball. These halves are then joined using a machine and the seam is smoothened.

Celluloid is regarded as the first synthetic plastic material. It is highly flammable and can damage other kinds of plastics if came into contact. It is important that anything made from celluloid is kept away from flames.

However, since the year 2011, ITTF has been promoting plastic balls instead of celluloid balls. And effective from July 2014, all the ITTF events use plastic balls instead of celluloid. This is due to the fact that celluloid contains harmful compounds. And therefore many countries are not willing to let them be manufactured.

In order to deal with the possible shortage of celluloid balls, ITTF promotes plastic balls.

Current Ping Pong Ball Regulations

What Are Ping Pong Balls Made of

  • Ping Pong Ball Dimensions: 40mm in diameter, spherical shape.
  • Weight: 2.7 grams
  • Material: Plastic or celluloid
  • Colors: White, orange, or matt.
  • The volume of a Ping Pong Ball: 33510 mm3

Balls with all the above characteristics and passing some additional testing are graded as 3 Star ping pong balls.

Ping Pong Ball Size

Ping Pong has not been played with the same kind of ball ever since the game was invented. There have always been some improvisations to find the perfect ping pong ball.

Earlier, the game was played using 38mm celluloid balls. Playing with 38mm balls made the speed of the game too high, which was tough for television viewers to follow. Also, high speed resulted in a low number of rallies, which made the game less interesting. And being smaller, the ball spun a lot.

Keeping all the above things in account, in the year 2000, ITTF declared that the ping pong ball diameter will be changed from 38mm to 40mm which will eventually decrease the ball speed, increase the number of rallies and will add to the popularity of the game.

Ping Pong Ball Grading

ITTF grades its ping pong balls in 3 categories. The balls are graded in stars. The finest quality ping pong ball is graded with 3 stars while acceptable is graded with a single star.

1 Star Balls

These balls come with the same regulations dimensions and weight. However, the weight of some of these balls can vary between 2.6 to 2.8 grams.

These balls are not too durable. They tend to break if stricken pretty hard. However, these balls can be used for non-professional games like school or other small competitions.

2 Star Balls

These are the balls that come closest to the 3 star balls quality. They are not of the top-notch quality and therefore they cannot be used for professional competitions as well.

However, these balls are great alternatives for practicing ping pong for professional players. Also, these balls work great with ping pong robots and other machines.

3 Star Balls

These are the finest quality balls that pass all the ITTF tests. These balls are therefore called ITTF approved balls.

These are used during official ITTF and many other big ping pong events. If someone is looking for some professional ping pong practice, they should use such kind of ball.

Other Balls

All the other ping pong balls that do not fall into the category of 1, 2 or 3 star balls, can either be practice balls or novelty balls. Whenever you purchase one without any star grading, make sure that they are not novelty balls because such balls are not meant to play ping pong with.

The EndNote

So this was everything that you may need to know about ping pong balls. Starting from the history of the ping pong balls, the changes, and the current standards, we have discussed it all.

Comment below if you need to know anything else. We will love to hear from you.


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