Are you in a situation where you are running short of balls in a recreational game of table tennis (or ping pong) and the only ones available are dented in nature? What do you do if you have dented table tennis balls you need to use but don’t know how to inflate them back to their shape? Here’s a step by step guide on how to get a dented table tennis ball back in shape to play.
At the highest level, a table tennis ball once dented is obviously not used again. Typically, a three-star ball is used by pros which tends to last way longer and typically cracks away once it’s been played with for a while.
The technique we will be talking about below is useful for a lower-star table tennis ball, used in recreational sport and not really if you are training to be a table tennis player of some pedigree. So, that being said…
There are a couple of ways you can do this. The basic principle to inflate a table tennis ball which has gone out of shape remains the same. (and in case you wanted to know everything about table tennis balls, here’s an exhaustive guide about it)
Physics Behind Inflating a Dented Table Tennis Ball
In one or the way, the air inside the table tennis ball needs to increase in pressure to a level more than the air pressure outside the ball and that would do the trick.
It’s basically simple physics. The pressure of air is the same everywhere, and it’s the same of the inside and outside surface of the table tennis ball too. The process of trying to increase the air pressure inside the ball with the external pressure remaining the same can do the job for you.
For those wanting to really drill in and understand why this is the case, can read this paragraph too, others can skip right to the next section below.
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The Ideal Gas Law or the General Gas Equation states Pressure X Volume = n X Temperature, or basically the product of Pressure and Volume is proportional to the Temperature.
Essentially, if one can increase the temperature of a substance, either the pressure or the volume of the same substance would need to increase to balance the above equation mentioned.
Keeping this in mind, if the temperature inside of the table tennis ball can be increased, the pressure will also need to increase, in turn pushing the dented ball surface from inside and getting rid of the dent by increasing the volume. This in turn will reduce the pressure till everything is normalized.
How Do We Inflate a Dented Table Tennis Ball?
Enough with the physics, I suppose, we can directly get down to the basics of how to inflate the table tennis ball.
As mentioned above, the way to increase the internal pressure is to increase its temperature but not so much that the ball breaks. Here’re two different ways one can help get the table tennis ball back in shape.
Boiling Water Technique
This is a simple process. Basically you need some water, a gas/heater, a cup and a spoon for this.
- Boil some water
- Pour it in a cup
- Now dip the ball which needs to be un-dented into the hot water
- Press the ball down gently using a spoon for about 15-20 seconds
- Take the ball out in 90-120 seconds using the spoon
- Allow the ball to cool down by wrapping it up fully in a handkerchief. This is done to avoid the ball from fully collapsing because of overheating
- Once it’s cooled down enough, the ball will regain its shape and will be fit to play again
- It should take about 1 to 2 minutes using this method to inflate your table tennis ball
Please Note: The ball might not regain some of the hardness from before and obviously won’t seem like it’s new but if you are playing at a recreational level and have fallen short of table tennis balls, this is good way to get it a deformed ball back in shape.
Hair Dryer Technique
It works similar to the boiling water technique except the fact it allows the table tennis ball to endure lesser heat than the boiling water. The method is similar in that there is an involvement of heat to get the table tennis ball in shape.
- Set the hair-dryer on to the hot mode and reduce the pressure of the air
- Keep the table tennis ball in the palm of your hand
- Switch on the hair-dryer and keep it at a distance of about seven inches from the ball
- Every now and then, switch off the hair-dryer to allow the ball to cool down
- Restart and repeat the process till the ball has inflated itself to its original shape again
Don’t Overheat the Ball
It’s very important to never overheat the table tennis ball because of the material used in the ball. Do not use direct flames/fire to heat the ball either because that would ensure the ball crumbles away.
Yep, some might recommend the use of a gas lighter or some such other means to directly heat the ball but please avoid it like a rash because of the risks involved not just to the ball but also to your hand.
Do not microwave the table tennis ball. It will, in all likelihood, crack with that much heat.
It’s always best to use an indirect form of heat like boiled water or the hair-dryer as mentioned above. Even while using the hair-dryer, it might make more sense to hold the dented portion away from direct heat in order to prevent it from cracking.
Why Does My Table Tennis Ball Not Inflate?
The aforementioned methods should work most times but at times, it might not. For starters, if the ball already has a crack, these techniques won’t work and you will need purchase a new table tennis ball.
Also, sometimes the ball is so deformed it would be very difficult to inflate it fully to its original shape using any of the methods mentioned below. Again, in this case, your best bet is to buy a new ball.