How to Clean Your Leather and Composite Footballs, Basketballs, Volleyballs and Soccer Balls

Wilson LABS engineers have been busy testing the best way to clean game balls. Here's what they found. 


There are several different methods for sanitizing and disinfecting composite and leather game balls. You should use the method that fits your health and safety protocols, as well as the playing environment and timing needs.

Simple Game Ball Cleaning Method 

Much like washing your hands, you may want to use dish soap and water to wash your ball. With this method, it's important that you thoroughly rinse away all soap residue, and drying time on each ball may vary.
Here's an example cleaning regimen with soap, water, and two towels:
  1.  Add 1 tablespoon of mild dish soap into a 1-gallon container.
  2. Fill the container with warm water until you've got a soapy mixture.
  3. Wet your first towel with the soapy water, wring out excess water, and gently wipe down entire surface of the ball for at least 30 seconds.
  4. Re-wet your first towel with plain warm water, wring out excess water, and wipe off excess soap from the ball's surface.
  5. Rub your second, dry towel on the surface to wipe and dry off the ball.
  6. Let the ball air out overnight.

Quick-Turn Leather Game Ball Cleaning Method

To clean the ball with faster turnaround times, we reference the following recommendations. The CDC released a list of effective disinfectants for disabling SARS-CoV-2 (i.e., the virus that causes Covid-19 disease) on hard, nonporous surfaces.
Since our game balls are neither hard nor nonporous, we cannot assume that 99% of virus particles will be eradicated, but we believe the CDC’s list is a good starting point for greatly reducing virus particles.
  • It is critical to follow the manufacturer and CDC recommendations for the correct application and contact time for each cleaning product to maximize efficacy against SARS-CoV-2. Please note that some products require a wetting time up to 10 minutes to be effective.
  • We do not recommend using high concentrations of bleach or alcohol to disinfect your ball because it can degrade the ball's performance.
  • We also do not recommend using hand sanitizer, which can also negatively impact the ball's performance and is not on the CDC’s list.
  • Another consideration in cleaning our game ball products is maintaining performance (e.g., grip, pebble, color) over multiple applications. We tested several of the CDC's recommended cleaners (up to 5 applications in a 24-hour period) and found they had minimal or no effect on performance:

Table of CDC's recommended cleaners

  • Please note that the solvent-based cleaners above may leave a residue on your ball depending on
    the method of application and amount of cleaner used. The cleaning regimen with soap and water outlined above
    may be used intermittently to prevent or reduce the buildup of cleaner residue over time.
  • While most of the products above can be easily found online for purchase by end consumers, we have identified two possible sources for BTC 2125 M 10% solution (EPA # 1839-86):

Special Note on Leather Game Balls

For leather game balls, recommendations are limited. The CDC-recommended disinfectants we tried dried out
the leather and decreased performance in most cases. Wilson LABS is working on alternative solutions for
leather goods, but in the meantime, you might be able to disinfect the ball and then apply a leather
conditioner as a secondary step.


Next Steps

As coronavirus is an ever-changing situation, we are working to deepen our understanding of various
disinfectants and procedures for disinfecting our products without affecting performance.
Make sure to check back often for updates, or sign up for emails to be notified automatically. 

Wilson LABS' primary recommendation is to follow CDC, state, and local guidelines for health and safety. The below widely accepted definitions are relevant for composite rubber and leather game ball care (CDC reference):

CDC Sanitizing Table


Updated September 13, 2022