What Are Table Tennis (ping pong) Balls Made Of

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Lately I’ve been looking into getting table tennis balls and notice that there was a range of options.  Table tennis balls are so light and hollow yet they have a much greater bounce than a rubber ball that got me curious about what it is made of. So I did some digging and found out some interesting things about table tennis balls and ping pong balls and what they are made of.

So what are table tennis balls made of?  Most table tennis (ping pong) balls are made of celluloid. This is the same material as photographic print film. Though not a true plastic, celluloid was one of the first man developed plastics and was used as a substitute for a lot of things. Celluloid is made of nitrocellulose and camphor.

Celluloid is very flammable with shipping and storing restrictions. So it is not as commonly used material as it once was. 

The International Table Tennis Federation has approved a new non-celluloid ball made of poly-plastic material (known as plastic balls, 40+ Balls, or poly balls). Since then sanctioned events are now using the non-celluloid balls. Even with that said both types of balls are still in use.

Professional table tennis players select their balls based on material and quality. There are different balls for different types of players and there are a lot of other things to consider when picking out a ball.

Are table tennis balls toxic? 

No table tennis balls are not toxic. But if it is a celluloid ball, the ball is toxic if you set it on fire and inhale the fumes. Celluloid is flammable and toxic when set on fire. Since they are flammable they can be considered potentially toxic, but not toxic to use or touch.

What type of balls should I get for causal Table tennis playing? 

If you are going to play for fun you don’t need the highest quality balls, just something with a good bounce. But be warned don’t go too cheap. Cheap tennis table balls can break and don’t bounce well.  

What type of table tennis balls should I get for training? 

When training it is easiest and best to have a big box of training balls so you can do drills and service practice. Generally star 1 or 3 balls will be good as they come in packs of 100 - 200.

What type of balls are used in table tennis competition? 

If you are planning to play in competition, then get 40+ balls. Since they are used in competition, they should be in your arsenal so you will be practicing with what you will be competing with.. 40+ balls are plastic balls that are 4mm.

What is the difference between orange and white table tennis balls? 

Orange balls are used in more casual games. The orange ball is more visible than a white ball so beginners can see more clearly. However, white balls are popular in tournaments.

Generally during a competition the tables and floors are darker colors as well as the player’s uniformers. It’s important for judges to keep track of balls and in order for TV audiences to see the ball white balls are more appropriate in a Table Tennis Tournament.

Which table tennis balls are the best? 

Table Tennis balls are graded with stars. No stars, one star, two star, and three stars being the best. Ping pong balls are rated with a star system. 1 star and 2 star balls are lower quality and cheaper and they are brought in mass in 100-200 balls so it can be used for training. Higher stars 3 star ratings are the best quality balls and are used for matches and competitions.

What’s a difference between a 1 star and 3 star rated table tennis ball? 

The one and two stars are less durable and generally brought in mass in packs of 100 to 200 for practice. Balls that are three stars are good for competition but also will last a long time if they are treated well.

Is there a 5 star or 4 star ping pong ball? 

No there isn’t the three star ball is the same as a 5 star or 4 star ball of another brand if they are both the brand’s highest tier rated balls.


What equipment is used in table tennis? 

Racket - The racket is an important piece that you use to hit the ball back and forth. The paddle shapes are very similar but they do vary in materials. The racket is usually made with wood and rubber and divided into two parts: handle and the blade. The quality of these parts can affect your play.

Ball - A ball should usually be 2.7 gram usually the color white or orange. They come in size 38mm to 54mm in diameter. For international leagues and competition 40mm diameter ball is the standard set by the International Table Tennis Federation.

Table Tennis Table- Table tennis table usually comes in black or blue. It’s usually made of hardboard and the surface must be as smooth as possible to create the least amount of friction. The International Table Tennis Federation dictates that a table tennis table must be 9 ft long x 5 ft wide. The table should be 30 inches high from the ground.

Net and Post - the net should be 6 ft long and 6 inches wide. Generally it has an upper white tape that is not more than 15 mm wide, it’s attached in the middle of the table tennis table.

How do you fix a dented ping pong ball? 

A dent in a ping pong ball can be undented with hot water. It’s important to just leave the ball in the water for just a few minutes otherwise ping pong balls can often melt or burn when overheated. When heated up the gas inside the ball heats up and expands and then pushes out the dent in the ping pong ball, therefore making it useful again.

What’s inside a table tennis ball? 

Just air. Since celluloid was so flammable people used to think that the inside of a table tennis ball was filled with flammable gas, but that’s not true. The balls just contained regular air.

Why does a ping pong ball bounce high? 

It has a light and hard surface.The balls are very stiff and springy, so they only lose a small fraction of their energy when they bounce of a hard surface.

If you had a soft and squishy ping pong ball it may bounce less well. Against hard surfaces ping pong balls do very well, however on cloth and padding it will have not much bounce at all compared to heavier balls (bowling ball, basketball). In a game, this makes for a quick back and forth between players.

About the author



  • Hi Cory, I thought you might appreciate a short film I made about table tennis.

    In Motion is a homage to ping pong, a conceptual study of ball and paddle in motion.

    Visible and invisible forces interact poetically shaping the flight of the ball. Velocities contract and expand forcing a racket to slice through the air. Every movement, every second, an action and a reaction. The infinite grace of force meeting resistance.


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