You can’t play table tennis without a ping pong ball. In this guide, we’re going to cover all our favorite table tennis balls along with a buying guide to help you choose the right kind.
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Ping Pong Ball Buying Guide
What things do you need to look for in a table tennis ball? Below we’ll cover everything you need to know.
Types of Table Tennis Ball
While there are many different types of balls, there are only three classifications of quality that matter.
If you plan on playing in a tournament, you should play and practice with the best ping pong balls the same kind the professionals use.
Buying table tennis balls
In the modern era of Table Tennis, far too many casual players insist that all balls are equal. While at a level where you’re not really spinning the ball too much, it really doesn’t matter if you’re using one star balls. However, once you have progressed you’ll start to note the inconsistent shape and bounce.
The lack of durability in cheaper balls is also noticeable at a higher level. Especially with the ITTF decision to jump to plastic balls in July 2015, it can be difficult to decide which brand of generic sphere to purchase. With this guide, I hope to advise you on the best Table Tennis balls currently available.
Celluloid Vs Plastic Ping Pong Balls
The laws of Table Tennis state that you can use either plastic or celluloid balls for play. If you plan to participate in tournaments, I recommend looking up which type of ball the local leagues use, as the two materials handle very differently. Plastic balls are slower and don’t hold spin as well as celluloid balls. These were adopted by all ITTF events in a desperate attempt to make rallies longer. Plastic balls also break significantly faster than their celluloid counterparts, which is something to keep in mind if you are particularly budget conscious.
Butterfly’s G40+ three star balls are their much-anticipated entry into the line of plastic Table Tennis balls. Since their release, they’ve been met with significant critical acclaim from players. Aiming to replicate the feel of older balls, Butterfly pride themselves on their consistency, hardness and roundness.
The only criticism I have of these balls is that they reportedly break a good deal quicker than most others.
One key thing to note is that these are unlikely to be adopted for the ITTF for international tournaments as they are faster than most other plastic balls.
Nittaku Premium 40+ Japan plastics have been a standing favourite of the Table Tennis community since the introduction of plastic balls back in July. More durable than a good deal of the competition, these balls are also very consistent. Part of the reason these balls are so popular is that they have been adopted for the upcoming 2016 Olympics. Various Olympian athletes have also endorsed these balls.
The only downside is that they are a good deal more expensive than their competition.
Xushaofa’s Seamless Ball Factory has been churning out large quantities of a new type of ball. All celluloid balls and most plastics are constructed from two halves glued together, leading to there being a seam. Currently, there is only one factory producing these balls, so almost any brand of seamless ball is identical. Brands that produce seamless balls include (but not limited to):
These balls are a lot more durable and floaty than the competition, however they pay for this with consistency. The manufacturing process for these balls is still the subject of refinement, so sometimes only half of your balls will be viable for serious play, though most defects are removed at the factory.
Butterfly’s 3 star balls are extensively used across Great Britain for almost all the major national leagues. Adopted by the ITTF Youth World Championship in 2003, they have been used in every subsequent tournament.
Good quality, consistent balls. You won’t find cheaper 3 star balls from a major brand anywhere. You really can’t go too far wrong.
Nittaku Premium 3 star balls are much-loved companions of the older generation of Table Tennis players and Nittaku knows it. These balls are a lot more durable than the rest of the competition, which is one of the key selling points of this ball.
However, quality comes at a price. Just like their plastic counterparts, these balls are a lot more expensive than the competition, which can be a turn-off.
A brief history of the ping pong ball
Table tennis was invented in the late 1800s in Victorian England (read more about the history of table tennis here). The first ping pong balls were made out of rubber and cork but some improvised and even played with golf balls or string.
In 1901, Englishman James Gibb was traveling in the United States and discovered some lightweight celluloid balls that he thought would be “perfect for the play of ping pong.” In 1926, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was formed, and competition table tennis balls were standardized at being 38mm in diameter and made of celluloid.
Over time, advances in rackets made the game faster and faster to play. For the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, the ITTF increased the size of the ball, from 38mm to 40mm. This was intended to make the ball easier to see for television cameras, and slow down game play to make the game more entertaining for spectators. Today, table tennis balls that are labeled “40mm” are these 40mm, celluloid balls that were implemented at that time.
In 2014, the ITTF changed table tennis ball material from celluloid to a non-flammable plastic. Contemporary table tennis balls are typically made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). These balls are just slightly larger in diameter than the old celluloid balls, so they are sold as “40+” table tennis balls.
Ping pong ball FAQs
How much do ping pong balls weigh?
The official weight of a ping pong ball should be 2.7 grams. As with diameter, some amount of variation is acceptable, and a ball may weigh between 2.67 and 2.77 grams. A mean sample must be between 2.69 and 2.76 grams, and no more than 1 ball out of 24 sampled may be outside of the acceptable range.
Where are Ping Pong balls made?
Almost all table tennis balls are produced in China, as well as a few other parts of Asia, but there are smaller companies located around the world. For a great behind the scenes look at how balls are made, check out this video of the DHS factory in Shanghai:
Ping pong ball star ratings and what they mean
Table tennis balls are given a number of stars, from 1 to 3. Balls with 3 stars are of the highest quality and are the most durable, while 1 star balls will break or lose their shape quicker. Novelty balls, toy balls, beer pong balls, and table tennis balls intended for children often don’t have any stars at all.
It’s important to know that these star ratings are not official or standardized; each manufacturer assigns their own star ratings, and stars aren’t an independent measure of quality. In fact, some manufacturers give their table tennis balls four or five star ratings, but they aren’t higher quality than other brand’s three stars.
Balls with three stars are usually better quality though and to be ITTF approved they have to go through rigorous tests and meet official ITTF regulations for tournament play. Two and one star balls are very similar, and should only be purchased in bulk for coaching. Ball without a star rating have no quality assurance, are wildly inconsistent and are much more likely to get damaged.
The ITTF has very strict requirements for table tennis balls, with very small allowances for variation during manufacturing. Competition table tennis balls must conform to these standards:
The ball should have a 40mm diameter. Celluloid balls may be between 39.5 and 40.4 mm, but the mean of the average of the sample must be between 39.6 and 40.4mm.
The ball should weigh 2.7 grams. A ball may weigh between 2.67 and 2.77 grams, but the sample mean must be between 2.69 and 2.76 grams.
Table tennis balls must be round. Sphericity is measured as the difference between its minimum and maximum diameters, which for celluloid balls should be less than .35mm, and less than .25mm for non-celluloid balls.
Veer is another measure of roundness but also measures any differences in thickness. Veer is tested by rolling the ball down a slight incline and measuring whether it rolls straight down or deviates off of a straight line.
When balls are dropped from a height of 305 millimeters onto a steel block, they should bounce back to a height between 240-260 millimeters.
Balls are measured for hardness on a computerized device, where they are pressed with a pin with a set amount of force, and then any indentation is measured. They are measured on the poles and on the seam, for overall hardness, but also for any lack of uniform hardness.
Balls are measured ultrasonically for the thickness of their walls. This test is performed on the 5 samples who scored highest on the veer test, and lowest on the veer test. However, there is no current requirement for thickness; this data is gathered to improve ball manufacturing and standards.
Balls must be white or orange for high visibility, and the finish must be matt with no shine.
There are rules about stamp size, placement, and color. With ITTF permission, a company may add a second stamp that is specific to a certain event.
Balls must be labeled as either “40” or “40mm” for celluloid balls, and “40+” for non-celluloid balls. All packaging must include a date code.
ITTF balls may not use a star rating higher than 3. For a list of the table tennis balls that are currently approved by the ITTF, it’s always good to check their website. The approval list is updated approximately every six months, so even an old ball with an ITTF stamp may no longer be approved.
Popular ping pong ball brands
Here are some of the top brands for table tennis balls, in no particular order:
Joola is based in Germany, and is one of the brands responsible for the first table tennis tables in the early 1950s. In 2018, the company was acquired by American company Sport Squad Inc. Joola table tennis balls draw consistently high praise from experts and amateurs alike.
Based in Japan, Nittaku has been making table tennis equipment since 1920. Their ping pong balls are considered to be some of the best in the world, and they have supplied competition balls for 13 World Championships, 3 Olympic Games, and 7 years of European Championships.
DHS stands for “Double Happiness Shanghai”, and they are one of the largest manufacturers of table tennis balls in the world. Founded in 1959, the company was the official table tennis ball of the 2008, 2012, and 2014 World Championships.
Double Fish is based in Guangzhou China, and has been making sport equipment for more than 60 years. Better known as a supplier of table tennis tables for ITTF international competitions, Double Fish also makes highly rated table tennis balls.
Cornilleau is based in the Picardy region of France and has been an industry innovator for over 50 years. They specialize in exceptional design and quality equipment, and many experts give their table tennis balls very high reviews.
Keeping your ping pong balls in the best condition
If you have invested in high-quality table tennis balls, it’s a good idea to take care of them properly. Over time, they will get scuffed by contact with the bat or table, and need to be cleaned. Table tennis balls need to be cleaned gently, to preserve the surface texture that “grips” the bat. When cleaning table tennis balls, do not use soap, scrubs, or detergents, in order to preserve the manufacturer’s label, and to preserve the surface texture.
To clean a table tennis ball, use a soft cloth or cotton ball dipped in water to lightly buff away any scuff marks, using a gentle circular motion. For stubborn spots, make a paste of baking soda and water, and use that to gently scrub at the ball with the same circular motion. Spots and stains should gently release, and then you can rinse the ball and allow it to dry completely before use.
Whether your table tennis balls are made of ABS or celluloid, they should be stored at moderate temperatures and out of direct sunlight. UV rays will damage and break down both celluloid and ABS composites.
The top competition ping pong balls
- The high balance-performing and a comfortable feeling
- Competition quality , Approved by International Table Tennis Association (ITTF)
- 40+ ball , made of plastic
- Premium version. Made in Japan
- Pack of 12 balls ( 4 box x 3 balls / box )
- Revolutionary technology offering the most advanced table tennis ball on the market
- Poly plastic material - safer and more durable than traditional celluloid
- Seamless construction for consistent and accurate bounce during play
- ITTF and USATT approved for international and domestic competitions