What Is A Ping Pong Ball Made Out Of

What Is A Ping Pong Ball Made Out Of

Last modified: October 15, 2023


Immerse yourself in a journey as we delve into the very core of the captivating world of ping pong! Have you ever held a ping pong ball and wondered, “What is this tiny sphere made of?”. If you have, then you are in for a treat as we uncover this intriguing mystery together. Sit back, relish this piece of interesting trivia, and perhaps it might change how you view your next game of ping pong!

Decoding the Composition of A Ping Pong Ball

At first glance, a ping pong ball might appear like a simple, small sphere. However, the truth is far from that. It’s the result of carefully selected materials and an intricate manufacturing process.

Material Selection

The main ingredient of a ping pong ball is celluloid, a type of plastic. Now, why is celluloid chosen? The answer lies in its incredible features. Celluloid is lightweight, bouncy, and highly resistant to heat and electricity. These factors contribute to the ball’s ideal weight and bounce during the game.

The Manufacturing Process

The celluloid is initially in the form of sheets. These sheets are softened and then formed into two hemispherical shapes. These two halves are later cemented together to form the full sphere, creating the seamless ping pong ball we know and play with. The ball is then polished and coated to ensure a smooth surface and a consistent bounce.

Standardization of Ping Pong Balls

International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has established specific standards regarding ping pong balls. They should have a diameter of 40mm, weigh 2.7g, and have a bounce of 240–260mm when dropped from a height of 305mm. These standards ensure fairness and uniformity in the sport.

Transition to Plastic

However, the tale doesn’t end here. A significant shift in the material used to manufacture ping pong balls happened in 2014. But, why the change and what is it about?

The Shift from Celluloid to Plastic

In a move to make the sport more viewer-friendly, the ITTF decided to increase the diameter of ping pong balls from 38mm to 40mm. Celluloid, while perfect in many ways, proved problematic due to its flammability, leading to safety concerns during manufacturing. Thus, a safer alternative, polyethylene, a type of plastic, was introduced.

Impact on the Game

Plastic balls behave differently than celluloid, producing a different bounce and speed, thereby affecting the overall spin, pace, and style of play. Thus, players had to adjust their techniques to the new ball material.

The Verdict: Celluloid vs. Plastic

The transition to plastic balls is still debated among players, with some preferring celluloid’s characteristics and others appreciating the safety and standardization brought by plastic. However, since plastic is eco-friendlier and safer to produce, the sport seems set on its current course.


So there you have it! The seemingly mundane ping pong ball turned out to be quite an interesting rabbit hole. From celluloid to plastic, the core material of a ping pong ball has been the subject of much change and debate. Irrespective of the material, the thrill and joy that a game of ping pong brings remain unmatched. So, the next time you serve or return a ping pong ball, remember the intriguing journey it’s been on to reach your paddle!

Additional Ping-Pong Resources:
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