What Happens if a Basketball Gets Wet?

Have you ever left your basketball outside for too long, or perhaps your expensive new ball was recently found in the pool? What should you do if your basketball gets wet?

Leather basketballs are done for indoor playing. Making it wet could damage it permanently if you do not dry it immediately. Outdoor basketballs are typically made of synthetic materials for the purpose of being used outdoors, but they can also absorb water from the outside. In this case, nothing will happen for making it wet once, but you could end up damaging it if you make it wet regularly and you don’t dry it afterward.

What’s the difference between an outdoor and indoor basketball’s reaction to water? What do I need to know about my basketball’s material? Keep reading to learn more!

What You Can Do

Getting wet isn’t the most desirable thing to happen to your basketball, although it shouldn’t be fatal to your ball if you don’t let it stay wet for too long.

Now, if you do find that someone’s kid has used your expensive leather ball and somehow it ended up in a pond or pool of water for a few days before someone found it, you may want to cut your losses and buy a new one. You can still test it by drying it off and letting it sit for a couple of days. But you could find that it has a permanent water stain or has become brittle. At that point, you may have ruined your basketball. The way to tell is that it just doesn’t feel right afterward.

How Leather in Basketballs Works

Basketballs are made from the strongest leather, full-grain, which comes from top-quality hide and is prepared immediately so that the best condition of the skin is kept in tack. Most of the nicer basketballs have leather in them, and leather doesn’t react so well to water.

If you catch the ball before it has soaked in too much water, you can prevent true damage from happening. When water sinks in, it combines with the oils within the leather, and when the water eventually evaporates, it pulls those oils out, making your leather hard and brittle. That’s why you’ll see men with fancy leather shoes polishing them to re-add the moisture back into them. There are leather conditioners that you can buy that will absorb into the ball and re-vitalize that leather. (Source)

Indoor Vs. Outdoor Basketballs

Both indoor and outdoor basketballs need to be broken into and used just like a pair of new shoes. There are genuine leather balls only meant for indoors, rubber balls made for just the outdoors, and composite balls made of leather and rubbery plastics for both outdoors and indoors.

There is a difference between an outdoor basketball and an indoor basketball. Indoor basketballs are made for professionals and everyone else who plays on wooden or other indoor courts. Those balls are made of leather and usually some combination of rubber and leather. They don’t need to hold up under the weather, so, they are made for grip, texture, and control. They usually run about $20-$70.

An outdoor basketball is made for concrete all-weather conditions. These balls are made for durability and longevity, but they tend to run cheaper than indoor basketballs, usually $15-25. If you were to use an indoor basketball on concrete, you will see the ball will wear out over a period of just 2 hours of playing. It’s not a pretty picture. Plus, the ball will lose its grip quickly, making it difficult to work with because it will lack texture. Indoor balls should never be used outside.

An outdoor basketball will be more durable as well, staying inflated over a longer period of time than an indoor ball. Spalding makes a durable outdoor basketball that when left out in the rain will absorb water and take up to 2 days to fully dry out because of the materials it’s made from.

Proper Basketball Care

Caring for your basketball overall is so important. You should clean your basketball as often as possible. Dirt and grime can break down the materials of your ball and wear it out prematurely. You don’t want to soak it in soap or a chemical if it’s got leather in it. Be sure to inflate the ball fully before cleaning.

If it’s a leather basketball, you’ll want to wipe it off with a rag, clean it with a leather cleaner, and then dry it off, removing all of the stains with a new rag and letting it sit to dry.

If it’s a composite ball, you can clean it off with a little bit of soap and water for 5-10 minutes, clean your rag, and continue removing dirt and stains from the ball. Once you’ve done that, you can let it dry.

Rubber balls are not as particular. You can clean them off with soap and water and even use a scrubber to get the more difficult marks. Afterward, you may rinse it off, but don’t soak it in water either.

Cleaning Methods to Avoid:

  • Soaking a basketball will ruin the materials used to preserve its outer layer no matter which type of ball you’re using, so definitely avoid that.
  • Don’t clean your ball if it’s not fully inflated.
  • Never put harsh cleaning agents on your ball. They will destroy the integrity of the ball and make it wear out more easily.
  • Avoid drying the ball off by rubbing it. The material is very sensitive to harsh cleaners.
  • Never put your ball in the washing machine or dryer. Not only will that ruin your ball, but it very well may ruin your washing machine or dryer.

Wet Playing Conditions Could Cause Injury

A wet basketball can actually be slippery to the touch and being harder to grab can cause injury to the players. Overextension can cause serious injury, especially in a fast-moving game of sports. When the courts are wet, this can also cause a problem for the players physically, thus, proper footwear with enough grip is essential to avoid injury.

Think about it, would you rather have to wait or call off a game, or would you rather risk tearing or twisting something wrong and have to sit out for a season while you recover? It is always best to play it safe and get to play more games in the future, so avoid playing basketball in wet weather—it’s not good for you or the ball.

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