The best ways to clean golf balls (without using a ball washer)

a pile of golf balls

No ball washer? No problem. Here are the best ways to clean golf balls, including one that's better, and easier, than the other options.

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There are countless ways to get golf balls dirty but also many methods with which to get them clean. Here are some alternatives to a traditional ball washer, which most of us don’t have sitting in our garages.

A makeup kit

In the late 1800s, Spalding sold a pocket-size ball washer called the Edinburgh Ball Cleaner that looked like a makeup compact and came with a sponge. As far as we can tell, the product was short-lived, and it has yet to be revived on “Shark Tank.” But makeup compacts still exist. So do sponges. Think of it this way: you can spiff up your Bridgestone, and then apply some blush.

A portable ball washer

Picture a traditional ball washer, the stationary kind found on so many courses. Now picture it in a miniature, portable design. We wouldn’t say the market is — ahem — awash in them. But they aren’t hard to find. The Clean Flight ($37.99) is one such example. It comes with a bottle of cleaning solution and a strap and carabiner that clips to your bag.

The dishwasher

Load ‘em up and turn it on, just as you do with your plates after dinner. One wash cycle later, and those spheres should be clean. Now, bring them to the course and let the big dog eat.

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Denture whitener

You’re always yelling at your golf balls to bite. The least you could do is treat them like fake teeth. Leave them to soak in a solution of denture whitener, using a toothbrush to scrub off any stubborn stains.

The laundry machine

The internet lies about a lot of things, but it’s not fibbing about this. There are people who dump bucket-loads of golf balls into washing machines, just as they would their sweaty socks. The banging of the spin cycle might drive you crazy, but you can dampen the knocking — and prevent damage to the machine — by putting the balls inside a mesh bag, and then stuffing that inside a pillow case.


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Nail polish remover

With a cotton ball dabbed into nail polish remover, you can make quick work of everything from muddy stains to Sharpie scribbles. Warning: this stuff stinks, so work outside, or with the windows open.

Spit and a towel

Saliva can kill bacteria. It can also help get rid of dirt. Almost any towel will do. We recommend using your own spit.

The best way to clean a golf ball: Warm, soapy water

This just in: warm, soapy water makes an effective, non-abrasive cleaning agent. Fill a bucket with this mixture, drop your balls in and come back an hour later to conduct a final shine with a clean towel or a hand brush. This method gets bonus points for being easy and simple. The same approach with hydrogen peroxide or distilled white vinegar instead of soap can do wonders, too.

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