Is It True That Table Tennis Balls Are Likely To Explode?
3 min reading time
We have heard on a number of occasions that table tennis balls can be highly flammable and it got us thinking - What are the regulations on table tennis balls and are there balls that are less flammable?
The governing body of world table tennis is the ITTF – International Table Tennis Federation. They govern the rules and regulations and set the benchmark for the quality of balls and equipment.
We are looking specifically at table tennis balls here, there are 3 types of balls that are ITTF Approved
Plastic with seam
All of the above balls are manufactured by only 5 authorised manufacturers
Date of Approval
These manufacturers get approval from the ITTF for their design and quality of table tennis ball and then manufacture the balls for different brands. Different brands like Butterfly, Dunlop, Schildkrot....etc could all be made by one of the above manufacturers. We do not know which one makes each brand though, as this is a closely guarded secret.
Celluloid table tennis balls were regarded as being difficult to ship and store due to the potential risk from igniting. The new type of ball is a plastic design and although the makeup of the materials are not specified, as long as the materials are not dangerous to health and do not contain celluloid, then they shall be approved as long as they meet all of the other tests.
One issue with the Celluloid balls was an inconsistency to the actual size of the ball. The new plastic balls are thought to be more likely to be 40mm diameter unlike the celluloid balls which often came in under the size quoted.
The tell the difference between the celluloid ball and the plastic ball by looking at them is not easy but there is a code that tells them apart
Celluloid balls are marked with a 40 Plastic balls are marked with a 40+
The ITTF regularly buy balls from retailers and test them to ensure they get a random selection of balls, rather than specific balls sent by the brand or manufacturer. This ensures the quality is maintained. However, should a ball fail the tests applied by the ITTF, then actions are taken which could lead to that brand of ball being removed from the ITTF list of approved balls.
Although it is commonly thought that the table tennis balls are measured at 40mm this is not in fact true. Celluloid balls had to be in the range of 39.5mm to 40.5mm the new rule insists that all balls are between 40mm and 40.6mm. Most balls tested are measured between 40.02mm and 40.4mm.
Currently only plastic balls are to be used for all World Title and ITTF sanctioned events. For all other events be it, International, National, regional or local, it is up to the National Association or organiser to choose which type of ball will be used.
There are currently no plans to remove Celluloid balls from the list of approved balls but over time it is thought all manufacturers and brands will eventually switch to plastic materials.