How to Soften Pool Table Bumpers | Complete-Guide

  • By: Rob
  • Date: April 23, 2023
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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Although a great investment, a pool table can be costly in the long run if not properly cared for. If you notice that your pool ball is losing speed after several rebounds, then it’s time to examine your pool table bumpers. Although soft by nature, pool table bumpers can age and harden with time. But how exactly can one soften pool table bumpers?

Unfortunately, there is not much that you can do for pool table bumpers that have hardened with time. Ideally, high-quality bumpers can last between 10-20 years. However, when your pool table bumpers start to deteriorate, the best possible solution is to replace them.

It is important to know when to replace your pool table bumpers, especially if they are beyond the 5-year mark. Luckily, there are several things that you can do keep your bumpers in tip-top condition. Read on further to know how to soften pool table bumpers and keep them from hardening.

How to Soften Pool Table Bumpers

Rubber cushion ages in various ways, and this can affect the quality of play. When your pool cushion hardens, you will notice a decrease in the speed, and the ball won’t bounce in the rails as before.

Also, you will know that you have a pool table cushion hardening problem if the balls make a thudding sound when in contact with the rubber cushion. 

Unlike popular belief, the best remedy for hardened pool table bumpers is to replace old cushions with new ones. This can be tackled as a DIY project, and all you need is a set of new rails, glue, a staple gun, a sharp knife, and a straight edge.

Ways to Keep Your Cushion From Going Hard

As discussed above, the only solution for hardened pool table bumpers is a replacement. Fortunately, there are several measures that you can take to prevent this problem from occurring. Below are tips to help you maintain the state of your pool table cushions and prevent them from hardening. 

Protect from Harsh Elements

One effective way to ensure that your pool table cushion does not go hard is by shielding it from elements. When exposed to the rain or sun, the cushions or soft bumpers of your pool table will be ruined, and this can impact your game. 

If you intend to store your pool table outside, make sure that you use a pool table cover. This cover will protect your pool table from getting into a deplorable state. Furthermore, covering your table after use will help shield the cushion from dirt and debris, which can harden and deteriorate the soft bumpers. 

Also, it is highly recommended to place your pool table indoors if possible. This will limit exposure to elements and prolong its life in the long run.

Regulate the Temperature

Too hot or cold temperatures can cause pool table cushion problems. As you shield it from the weather outside, also ensure that the temperature inside is optimal. So, if you store the pool table inside, consider investing in insulation to help control the temperature in the room. 

Similarly, an HVAC unit will keep the room cool at all times.  If you live in a humid area, then your pool table bumpers are prone to getting hard with time because of the muggy air. In this case, you can use a humidifier to soften your pool table bumpers and keep them in the right state. 

Vacuum & Clean the Felt

In most cases, the pool table bumpers may harden because of dirt from the environment. When dirt is trapped on the felt, it can affect the performance of the pool table bumpers. Vacuuming can help remove dirt from the surface and keep your bumpers in the best condition possible. 

For this tip, you can use a vacuum with soft bristles or an attachment without the bristles to prevent damaging the bumpers. Also, ensure to set the vacuum on a low suction level. 

For more information on how to properly clean your pool table felt, check this out. There is a full step by step guide on how to clean all sorts of stains and dirt so its worth bookmarking that page!

Clean Balls with Soft Towel

After playing for a while, the pool table balls can get dirty, causing wear on the surface. A good tip is to wipe the balls using a soft towel and hot towel after playing several games.

Luckily for you, I have an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide on how to clean pool balls – Whether you have resin-based balls or polyester-based balls, there’s a simple guide for you to follow.

Why Do Pool Table Rails Get Hard?

If properly maintained, the rails on a pool table can have a lifespan of about 20 to 50 years. However, pool table rails can become hard when exposed to extreme heat or cold. Furthermore, exposing your table to moisture can cause problems with the rails. If you want your pool table to last longer, keep away any foods and drinks while playing.

If you’re interested, check out my article on How long do pool table bumpers last for more information.

Alternatively, the hardening of rails can occur when low-quality rubber is used. Some manufacturers use cheaper rails to save on cost, which can harden with time.

How to Test Pool Table Cushions

With time, rubber pool table cushions tend to age, and this can negatively affect your play. Luckily, there are several tests that you can do to determine if your pool table cushions are in the right state.

  • Sound– Shoot the ball on the rails and listen keenly to the sound they produce. If the ball makes a thud sound, then it means that it is making contact with the rail, and the cushion needs replacing.
  • Bounce– When you roll a ball on the rails, it should bounce 3 to 4 times. However, if the ball stops, then it means that the rails are worn out. 
  • Look– You can also do a sight test of your cushions. If your cushions are okay, the edges of the table will be steady and even. However, exposure to extreme temperatures can cause the bumpers to melt and start, and the edges of your table will appear uneven. 
  • Feel– Use your fingers to feel the table rail to find out if the grooves or tracks are worn out. If they are, they can render the rails less springy. 
  • Squeeze– Squeeze the rail cushions of your pool table, and see if they compress between 1/8 inches and ¼ inches. If not, consider getting new cushions.


Bumpers that are of good quality can last between 10 to 50 years. Use the tips discussed above to soften and maintain your pool bumpers to get value for your money. However, don’t hesitate to replace them once you realize that they are worn out to enhance your gaming experience.

If you’d also like to know How Much Does It Cost to Replace Pool Table Bumpers, be sure to check out the article I wrote on the subject for detailed information.

Rob is an avid player and fan of all cue sports, particularly 8-ball, and snooker. He has competed in a few local 8-ball tournaments and although he is not a professional, he can compete with the best of them.

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