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25 Uses of Old Tennis Balls

Australian Open 2009

Old Balls© Getty ImagesUsed tennis balls are anything but useless.
What happens to the hundreds of millions of tennis balls produced each year after they’ve paid their dues on the courts? Like many tennis players, some are still working hard long after they’ve lost the last of their felt.

The tennis ball may be one of the most universally loved pieces of sporting equipment, but it may also rank amongst the least environmentally friendly, allegedly taking many lifetimes for the rubber to biodegrade. With green initiatives sweeping the globe, tennis tournaments and fans alike have come up with creative ways to extend the life of a tennis ball long after its seen its heyday on court.

We revisit 25 uses for old tennis balls submitted by visitors, first published in DEUCE back when it was a printed magazine.

1. Insert used tennis balls in the tank of a toilet to reduce the water used per flush of the toilet. Water conservation is achieved via recycling old tennis balls! - Bill Kunzman

2. My family and I have an old pool table in the basement with one of the balls missing, so we started using a tennis ball. The larger ball meant that your aim had to be even better than with a smaller billiards ball. So the game was transformed, becoming different and more challenging. To try to even things out, we started playing pool with ALL tennis balls, and it’s the ultimate! Sinking billiards balls is childs’ play once you’ve tried sinking a tennis ball in a billiards-sized pocket! - Nick DeToustain

3. In bushfire prone areas in Australia, an old trick is to keep a bucket of old tennis balls in the garage. If a bushfire occurs, the balls are wedged into the roof's down pipes and a garden hose is used to fill up the gutters with water. This creates a “moat” around the house, and prevents advancing sparks and flames from catching fire with the leaves and twigs that build up and collect in the gutters, and has saved many houses from being destroyed.

4. A friend I play tennis with collects tennis balls to take to Central and South America. Her husband is a dentist who volunteers with the Doctors Without Walls program. They take the tennis balls to remote areas and give them to children who have nothing to play with. It is amazing to hear her stories about the delight a bunch of old tennis balls brings to these children. I am happy to give them to her. - Sally Byrne

5. I am a huge tennis fan, but my first love is swimming. My coach uses tennis balls to help the swimmers with breaststroke and butterfly technique. We tuck the tennis ball under our chin and swim with it. It is the oddest thing every time! - Katie

6. My family loves to holiday, in particular in Queensland, Australia. Each year, fishing is one of the main hobbies we all love to participate in. We use all styles of fishing to catch our dinner, and tennis balls come in very useful in almost every application. We use them as markers for crab pots, flotation for lightweight nets, and if the fishing is no good, we play tennis, cricket, fetch or catch on the beach waiting for the fishing conditions to improve. I suppose in a way tennis balls are to man, what duct tape is to MacGyver. I never leave home without them! - Julian Sydney, Australia

7. After making a small incision, my daughter manufactured a small piggy bank from a used tennis ball. She’s saving for a new racquet! - Tom

8. While in college, a friend of mine down the hall came up with a new way to recycle old tennis balls: she cut them in half, poked a hole to run a string through, and suspended them from her dry-erase message board to serve as a handy eraser! - Megan L. Conover, Illinois

9. To relieve tension headaches, I get two tennis balls, put them in a sock, and tie the sock so the balls are shoved side by side at the end of the sock. I then place the balls in the sock on a hard book and lay my head on them so that they put pressure on the back of my head where it meets the neck. Most of the time, after five minutes, my headache is gone. - Jonathan Vessey

10. When my tennis shoes start to wear out, I cut old tennis balls into small pieces and glue them to my shoes. This way the tennis shoes last longer, especially on hard surfaces. - Alejandro Rodriguez, Mexico City

11. I used to hook a tennis ball to the end of a fishing line/pole and cast it across the yard for my dog to chase. Then I would reel it in, with her still chasing it. She absolutely loved it! - Monica Gallagher, Minnesota

12. The Estonian youth parliament uses tennis balls to manage their parliamentary discussions. Whomever speaks holds a tennis ball, and the others cannot speak in the meantime. Then, completing his/her speech, the speaker throws the ball to the next speaker. This allows them to manage their hot debates. - Toivo Mängel

13. While in an up-and-coming band, with the usual problem of having no money, we needed to deck out our studio with some soundproofing. I had a bucketful of old tennis balls from earlier days sitting in a hopper, so one afternoon we cut them in half, piecing them together on a few cork boards and then hanging them off the walls. We managed to create the funkiest studio in town, and made quite a jazzy LP at that! - John Darcey

14. We cut a slit in tennis balls and place them over the legs/feet of students’ desks and chairs. This prevents the desks and chairs from making noise and scraping the floor. Johnathan Clark

15. I use a tennis ball to prevent snoring. This is how I do it: I put a tennis ball down the back of my t-shirt. Then I go to sleep on my side. When I try to turn on my back (I usually snore when I sleep on my back), the tennis ball disturbs my back and I realize that I attempted to turn on my back. Thus, I keep sleeping on my side and do not snore. - Can Besim, Turkey

16. My dad is an astronomer, and he uses tennis balls as planets hanging from the ceiling in his hand-made model universe. He is such a big tennis fan that of course a big tennis ball is at the center of the universe, just as tennis is at the center of his life! - Francisco Brignole, Hawaii

17. My friends are coaches at the Parnu Rowing Club, and they ask almost every year for 20 to 40 balls to make safety bumpers for their boats. If beginners are rowing, they may bump up against other boats, and the boats may crash. The coaches cut the balls in half and fix them to their boats. - Raul Kukk Parnu, Estonia

18. In front of our tennis club, there is an avocado producing company, and sometimes they ask us for a tennis ball, because they use it in the calibration process of their avocado selection machines. Apparently, the size of a tennis ball matches with the size of avocado that they look for. - Pablo Carrillo, Chile

19. I hang tennis balls attached to a string from my garage ceiling to help with parking the cars. It allows for maximum use of the space inside the garage for other things and lets me safely park my vehicles. - Michael Conlin, Texas

20. I recently moved into an apartment building that does not allow waterbeds. Since I own a waterbed and can’t use it, I instead filled the bed frame up with old tennis balls. The balls provide a very therapeutic back massage while I sleep. My roommates thought I was crazy, but you haven’t slept until you have slept in a tennis ball bed! - Eric Smothers, Georgia

21. Tennis balls – to be more precise, halves of tennis balls – play an important role in the way I listen to music. Used as anti-vibration supports under my digital-to-analog converter (part of my high-end three-box CD player), they produce a stunning improvement in dynamics, overall coherency, soundstage and focus. - Alexander Baranov, England

22. Tennis balls are great for relieving pain, especially lower back pain. Usually, I just put two balls on the floor and press my lower back into the balls for a few minutes. Long car rides are helped by having two tennis balls in the driver’s seat to lean against.- Angela Mulcahy, New Jersey

23. I use tennis balls in the clothes dryer when I'm drying sheets. Sheets tend to form a ball in the dryer, and when this happens it takes forever to dry. But if you throw in two tennis balls, the sheets stay apart and hence they dry faster.- Missy King

24. Tennis balls have a multitude of uses! I have one on the car gear knob. I start the kids off early by making a baby mobile with one, hanging it above the cot for them to bash about! And I put them on the end of sharp objects and machines to stop people from walking into them. - Dena Nelson-Smith, England

25. When I used to play cricket with my mates, we used a tennis ball and put tape along one side of it. This made it swing a lot more when we bowled, and by using a tennis ball, we were also a lot less likely to break a neighbor’s window than by using a real cricket ball! - Shane Adams, Australia

How else can old tennis balls be put to good use? Send your ideas to and we’ll post the best submissions.

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