Introduction: 10 Unusual Uses for Tennis Balls

Picture of 10 Unusual Uses for Tennis Balls
Tennis balls are ubiquitous and inexpensive. They're great for tennis... for a little while. Then they lose that carefree, Tigger-like bounciness and become dog toys.* But what if you don't have a dog? What can you do with some tennis balls?
  • Laundry? Yeah, tennis balls.
  • Household cleaning? Yep.
  • Parking? Got you covered.
  • Sensual self-massage? You bet your felted fluorescent balls.
Don't you worry, baby birds. I have chewed on this wooly problem for a while now, and I am ready to regurgitate my knowledge into your cheepinig little maws. So let's help you fledge the nest and unlock the McEnroe/MacGyver potential you have buried deep inside your life-hacking soul.

Go grab some balls from the bushes behind the local tennis courts. Intercept a lobbed ball at the local dog park. Begin training as a Wimbledon ball-boy. Do whatever you need to do to get a hold of these magical golden orbs.

*According to small, panicky corners of the Internet, tennis balls may be bad for your dog's health. That fuzzy yellow coating might be ruining Fido's teeth. They're choking hazards for large dogs. They could randomly explode.

Step 1: Protect Your Floors

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Refinishing a floor is a messy, time-consuming, and expensive task. It sucks, and you probably don't want to do it. I've done it professionally and it's not even fun when you're being paid for it.

Protect your precious floors by capping chair legs, walker feet*, and pirate pegs that might need to consistently slide or tap across your floor.

Just cut an X into the top of a tennis ball and insert the offending leg into the warm embrace of the tennis ball. Done.

*You've probably seen this trick at the local senior hang-out. Probably alongside a rousing game of shuffleboard or aqua-robics. Walker feet covered in tennis balls facilitate safe sliding and are easier to replace/cheaper than little rubber caps.

Step 2: Laundry

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I like my towels to be fluffy and absorbent, but I hate the smell and texture of clothes that have been laundered with fabric softening dryer sheets. In an attempt to ditch the dryer sheets, I decided to just go without. My clothes were fine, but my towels just weren't fluffy enough.

To fluff those towels, I decided to toss in a tennis ball. Or three. Just to see what would happen. Would they have the same effect as those made for TV dryer balls? Would they destroy the dryer? Would my neighbors complain about the thunking noises?

Turns out, tennis balls make a GREAT replacement for dryer sheets with regard to fluffification. Static prevention and scent, not so much. But those aren't necessary for my towels. Or comforter. Or any of my other giant linens that require fluffiness.

Step 3: Garage Penetration Indicator

Picture of Garage Penetration Indicator
Sometimes it can be difficult to pull into one's garage without crashing into the back wall. Even with daily practice, pulling into the garage can be a nerve-wracking experience. Sure, it's not landing an F-16 on the deck of an aircraft carrier, but it can be a tricky maneuver. Particularly for guest drivers. Or teens. Or anyone else who is secondary on your insurance forms.

To keep those fragile boxes full of Christmas decorations and 6th grade soccer participation trophies safe, why not dangle a tennis ball from your garage ceiling to mark where you should stop?

Here's a way to do it*:
  • Hang a string from where you think it will hit the center of your windshield or the spot right in front of the driver.
  • Park better than you ever have before.
  • Using a stick, laser pointer, friend, or your eyeballs, determine where you should hang your tennis ball.
  • Put a screw into your sweet spot, then tie on the string.
  • Attach the string to the tennis ball.
Then just remember to stop when you hit the tennis ball as you drive into your garage.

*You could also make a dowel/tape/nail contraption to stick the string to the ceiling all in one go. Or just send a lanky friend onto the roof of your car. Or tie a string to a spear gun. There are other options, is all I'm trying to say.

Step 4: Pool Cleaner

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Now that the summer swimming season is just about winding down, I can share this little fact with you: Swimming pools get nasty. The more people who swim in them, the thicker and more disgusting the slick of human grease that floats to the top of the pool. Those kids who are retrieving various weights from the bottom of the pool? They're avoiding the BP* oil sheen at the surface.

Tennis balls can help absorb some of that people oil. The felted surface collects the nasty goop from the surface of the water. Toss in a few balls if your private pool is looking a little shiny.

This will not help in giant, public pools. Unless you make your own tennis ball floaties. (Which you might want to do, just in case you are afflicted with a case of prose-inspired hypochondria.)

*Buttery people.

Step 5: Remove Floor Scuff Marks

Picture of Remove Floor Scuff Marks

Any school janitor worth his salt knows that there's no need to scrub the floors like Cinderella just to remove some scuff marks. There's an easier way. A faster way. A better way.

In the irony of ironies, tennis balls remove scuff marks. I know! I'm sure you've been playing a match at the local courts and have seen the signs that say, "No black-soled shoes." The signs are there to prevent the court from looking like a flat, green skate park, police academy driving range, or something else that is all scuffed up.* And to think, the tools to remove those scuff marks are RIGHT THERE.**

To remove those scuff marks, just put a tennis ball on a stick. Rubbed vigorously on top of a scuff mark, tennis balls act as an eraser. The felt has a good texture for removing the scuffs: rough without being too abrasive and gentle enough for special surfaces. Just like a school janitor.

*Ran out of similes.
**Well, maybe. If any budding David Foster Wallace***-types want to write up an explanation of the scuff-removal qualities of tennis balls, I'm sure we'd all appreciate it.
***I'm open to other suggestions of literary tennis players. Or tennis-playing literati.****
****Sorry this was so self-referential. No po-mo.

Step 6: Massager

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After a long day of pushing a giant rock up a hill, I imagine that Sisyphus gets tired. Maybe he could use a massage. But he's doomed to an eternity of solitude. What's a lonely man to do if he needs some immediate relief in his sore muscles?

Grab a tennis ball, Sissy. Rub it over your boo-boo till it feels better. In fact, you can even lie down on that tennis ball to get a great back massage. Carleyy demonstrates this significantly better than I can in her Tennis Ball Back Massager instructable.

A tennis ball against the wall works for me. Just place it near the epicenter of pain, then wriggle around until it feels like I am no longer in jeopardy of suddenly separating into two halves like an earthworm. An earthworm with aspirational vertebral issues.*

(This also works on other muscle groups. It will not, however, work as a "personal" massager. Unless you are WAY into tennis.)

*Chordata ain't all it's cracked up to be, my little friend. Unless you have tennis balls.

Step 7: Childproof Corners

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There are few scenes scarier than seeing a child bleeding profusely from the face. Especially if that child is rapidly losing blood in YOUR home.

If you're going to be hosting toddlers, or anyone else prone to running into sharp corners with the tender parts of their heads, try putting tennis balls over the nastier corners. If there's a bit of pipe jutting dangerously into your living space, pop a tennis ball on there. It'll deflect all but the most self-destructive of blows, and it'll give your home that "tennis pro" look that never goes out of style.

Step 8: Sand Curves

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Under most circumstances, sanding is a necessary but unpleasant task. When you're sanding a curve that needs to stay curvy, try wrapping a tennis ball with sandpaper. It'll prevent the flat spots and unevenness that you might get if you only sanded by hand.

Pros can generally sand any shape without sanding down corners or otherwise permanently affecting the shape of their project. If you're failing to get a smoothly rounded shape, try a tennis ball.

Step 9: Jar Opener

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Has this ever happened to you?

You've just finished a particularly sweaty tennis match, and you reach into your bag for a delicious and refreshing jar of pickles. But the lid seems to be glued to the jar. Not even He-Man (nor the other masters of the universe) could get that thing open. No pickles for you!

Not so fast. A tennis ball cut in half can easily pop those lids off. Just cut along the seam of the tennis ball. That'll leave you with a bulbous little green friend, coated with rubber on the inside. You can get a great grip just by using the modded ball to get a handle on the lid.

Big thanks to fungus amungus for this awesome use of tennis balls. Check out his full-on Instructable for this use here.

Step 10: Photo Mount

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Your pictures are probably wobbly. It's not your fault. You're a full-sized human being operating a camera the size of a pack of gum with a super-sensitive image sensor. If you breathe, you've ruined the shot. And you like breathing. So much so, in fact, that you will do it even while performing photography.

Like any good Instructaballer, you know that a tripod will make a world of difference. Perhaps you, like me, do not own a tripod. Perhaps you have a surplus of tennis balls. Perhaps you do have a tripod, but require a counterbalanced ball mount for steadiness off the 'pod.

Here are some great options for the budding photographer and flagging tennis stars out there.*

  • Lftndbt put together this tennis ball camera stabiliser, the iSteadii 2.0, which uses a tennis balls and some hardware to deaden any movement fluctuations that'd ruin your pictures.
  • iectyx3c made a simple tennis ball tripod that you can use as a sort of Gorillapod-type base that can be placed on a variety of surfaces for stability and support. Optional mounting holes allow you to incorporate velcro, bungee, or suction cup attachments. 


Step 11: Put Stuff Inside

Picture of Put Stuff Inside

Tennis balls are hollow and easy to cut into. This makes them perfect vehicles for intra-office correspondence, hiding precious valuables at the gym, or any other activity that might require ballistic containment.

Just cut a slit into the side of the tennis ball. Cram in your message. Hurl it to your intended recipient.


Cut a slit into the side of the tennis ball. Cram in your cash. Stuff it under some dirty socks in your gym bag next to the Tinactin.


lknowles (author)2011-09-08

Put the ball in a long sock or stocking, throw it over your shoulder, and you can move it around while rolling against a wall. It doesn't drop every time you move.

Kenno79 (author)lknowles2017-05-30

or beating up a fellow inmate..

RayJN (author)lknowles2017-05-29

Ball in a tube sock is also good for playing catch.

bloominaround (author)lknowles2017-05-28

Genius tip. Thanks for sharing

eddand (author)lknowles2017-05-28

I thought bending over and picking it up was a part of the therapy.

CaseyCase (author)2011-09-06

Door knob used to hit a wood post in my basement--drywall screw and tennis ball solution!

wilgubeast (author)CaseyCase2011-09-06

Awesome! I can't believe I missed this one. I've seen this done with the tennis ball placed over the doorknob, but this seems a lot better.

For posting another use and a pic, have 3 months of pro membership.

vincent7520 (author)wilgubeast2014-03-05

Wrap a ball with each corner of a tarpaulin : the bulge thus made will allow you to tie the latter very taut without the risk of seeing the lines slip from the tarpaulin's corner as it happens too often. You can use soft rocks too …

Your description is unclear. Also, I have never heard of a "soft rock".

eddand (author)glen.ryerson.12017-05-28

its a way to listen to hip music when your 60 and dont want to destroy what is left of your hearing.

coony (author)eddand2017-05-29

Great one 64 and still rocken.

BettyG25 (author)glen.ryerson.12017-05-28

I'm thinking they meant, smooth rocks, without sharp edges

flag1aa (author)glen.ryerson.12015-10-28

I understood perfectly. I thought that soft rock was a bit of homur. lol.

Tie the corner of the tarp around the tennis ball then loop a rope or bungee around the "neck" (if you picture the tennis ball bulge as the head) and use rope or bungee to tie the tarp to whatever.
One can only assume he meant smooth rock.

Mi cha el (author)vincent75202017-05-28

Great idea! I didn't have grommets in my rain-fly the last time I went camping. I think ping-pong balls would work even better because of the weight.

eddand (author)Mi cha el2017-05-28

superballs or other small choking hazards are just abt perfect

CaseyCase (author)wilgubeast2011-09-06

Pro membership? Thanks! I appreciate your kindness.

tulekah (author)CaseyCase2017-05-28

cut a large X in ball that will grab doorknob for doors that tend to close on their own....or screw small rubber or wood ball to door and the tennis ball will grab and hold the door...this is good because because you can mount the catch assembly high up or low down, out of sight or out of the way...good for workshop cupboard doors...also a line of balls with X's screwed to a wall, bungee or rope loop with wood ball wrapped around bundles of dowels, handles of garden tools etc, keeps long stuff handy and standing up.

Fezder (author)CaseyCase2015-10-28


ibwebb (author)CaseyCase2014-04-13

When I was younger (in my teens) my older brother and I were rough on the dry wall behind doors. My dad would a version of this on those doors.. I won't go into the punishment we got on top of having to fix the dry wall. Anywho, he would cut an X on the back and put the tennis ball over the door handle. He also did the same to put over his trailer hitch to protect it and make it more visable.

Dawsie (author)2017-08-08

loved the sanding tip ??? now where did I put the old balls from my youth ??

helenvance (author)2011-09-13

I've read in several sources that tennis balls are not recommended as chew toys for dogs because the covering is very abrasive and hard on their teeth. Sounds like this quality works to the good in scuff removal.

dbicher (author)helenvance2017-06-06

I am soooo late to this game, but had to post about dogs fetching tennis balls. They truly, truly are abrasive. My poor ball-obsessed German Shorthaired Pointer wore her teeth down about halfway with her constant fetching. Even her sharp canine teeth were ground flat. I guess we should have stopped playing fetch, but she lived for that tennis ball and we couldn't deprive her of her mission in life. Racquet balls are much better, but expensive when constantly lost or stolen by another dog at the dog park.

austinbacak (author)2011-09-08

Here is another great use for tennis balls.

I once was playing tennis and upon finishing I went to my car to realize that I had locked my keys inside. I took a tennis ball and cut a quarter-sized hole into it. I placed the hole over my car door key-hole and hit the ball with my hand sending a burst of air into the key-hole and watched as my door lock popped up. I was in my car in seconds.

This worked every time on my 1999 Toyota 4runner, I have not tried it on any other vehicles.

anuckels (author)austinbacak2011-12-12

I hope someone does this to my car and takes it. I need a new one anyhow.

Alaskan Bev (author)anuckels2017-05-28

If only I still had my old (1950s) Chevy... Last night I reminded my husband of something that happened the day we got engaged (like 53 years ago). Bud's mom sent me out to get (top name brand) fried chicken to celebrate. I've forgotten the reason I had to take her car (a newer model Olds) rather than my older Chevy, but when I got back she and Bud gave me weird questioning looks. I asked why. Then one of them asked me when and why I had made a copy of her car key! What? I definitely had not! I handed Bud my keys and invited him, "Here, go start Mom's car and drive it around the driveway." To their great surprise, it worked! Shocked us all! I also, in the 1990's, opened someone else's late model van with My own van key! Our vans looked identical, except that the one I opened by mistake was full of wrapped Christmas gifts that could have easily disappeared! Maybe there's actually a reason that the newest vehicles have such expensive computerized keys!

terpy (author)Alaskan Bev2017-06-01

Hah! Never tried it on another car, but one time when we locked ourselves out of the house, a friend who was with us tried her car key on our front door AND IT WORKED. She had an older model American car, and we had a pretty new door lock. We were stunned.

malibro (author)Alaskan Bev2017-05-28

i remember a similar incident when i was a kid in the 60s. every year, factory car locks get more complex with fewer (now zero) duplicates on different cars.

Rick velocity (author)malibro2017-05-29

There are only so many key combo's.

That's right, I know for the mid-1950's GM cars that were being produced down the assembly line every fifth car had identical keys.

nmleon (author)austinbacak2017-05-28

Nonsense as anyone who has ever worked on a car locking mechanism knows.

espdp2 (author)austinbacak2011-09-10

This sounds unlikely... May I ask, if you locked your keys in the car, exactly WHAT did you cut a hole in your tennis ball with?

malibro (author)espdp22017-05-28

it was on a tv show

WELDERHEAD (author)espdp22017-05-28

Perhaps he's a Macgyver fan and always carries his boy scout knife with him. I do!

KadenP (author)espdp22011-12-05

A guy comes up with this ridiculous story and THAT is the fault you find? Ever hear of a pocket knife? :)

wilgubeast (author)austinbacak2011-09-08

Sweet! I was looking for someone who could confirm this for me. In doing the research for this, I came across a few conflicting anecdotes about the tennis ball car door trick. Can you post a video showing this trick in action?

I'm of the opinion that this is a really, really unlikely means of opening one's vehicle. But I'd love to see it actually work. Because I'd like a '99 4runner and happen to have a bunch of tennis balls on hand.

TN777 (author)wilgubeast2012-04-12

The tennis ball opening a locked car door doesnt work. The web video u mite have seen- fake. Someone was standing behind the camera with the keys and unlocked it.

Alaskan Bev (author)TN7772017-05-28

Not keys. A remote. One of the greatest inventions ever. They can even be easily retrofitted to vehicles without one.

Alaskan Bev (author)wilgubeast2017-05-28

You can Google that and watch a variety of vids showing that and interesting related topics (how to break into Your Own car using a potato, a cat, etc.).

finton (author)wilgubeast2012-02-05

If austinbacak is actually saying that Mythbusters is wrong, why would you want a car that can be easily opened without the key (and then it or the contents stolen)???

reynosof (author)wilgubeast2011-09-09

Check out:

witmoreluke (author)reynosof2011-09-19

The car has an electronic locking system, and somebody else has the key. I believe it to be faked, because locks aren't designed to be airtight, and the pins on the inside most definitely aren't. I don't believe that this is a true demonstration, but you have the video, so you can form your own opinions.

J-Ri (author)witmoreluke2011-12-11

Definitely faked.

Is it possible that the air may temporarily line up the tumblers in the lock? Maybe. It's far from likely, given that equal air pressure across all of them would push them all the way out, then they would spring back in at the same rate.

What is absolutely impossible is that the gentle breeze that would have been generated by her pressing in on the ball (or a blast of 200 PSI from an air tank, for that matter) would rotate the lock mechanism the 45 to 90 degrees necessary for the linkage to be moved. I'm not sure what they claim having power locks does... a power lock system is exactly the same as a non-power lock. On older vehicles that had power locks as an option, the linkage, latch, lock cylinder, etc. are usually identical whether or not it had power locks. With power locks, there is usually one extra rod and an actuator, that snaps into a clip that is there on the one without power locks. The only difference is that the lock actuator adds drag on the linkage, making this more likely to work on something without power locks. Except you need the power locks to make this look real... a hand on the inside pulling up on the lock would make this a much more obvious fake.

TaylorSPL (author)wilgubeast2011-12-11

Old Audi's used to use a pneumatic locking system which the tennis ball trick does work on. It does not work on any cars that use real linkages to connect the lock to the latch/handle.

finton (author)austinbacak2012-02-05

I second the Mythbusters comments others have made. What's more, I can only assume your lock is busted for that to work as all the key locks I've ever opened require a twisting motion after all the tumblers have been correctly lined up by the key. Blowing air into the lock is not an unlocking method that would fill me with, um, belief.
Would you post a video of you doing this without someone in the background operating a remote? I'd love to see this proved possible (but see Mythbusters). If you post your address, perhaps some local 'ibles members could come over and test the idea while you're asleep (better leave the car somewhere accessible). : ]

Tim Temple (author)finton2012-06-17

I hate to pop bubbles, but don't forget -- the Mythbusters have to remain on good terms with local law enforcement to handle explosives and use their range. Thus some "conclusions" they come up with were suggested to them by law enforcement.

ttaylor10 (author)austinbacak2011-09-09

This was debunked on Mythbusters. I was tried on 100 makes and models of cars and failed every time.

I'm sorry but mythbusters have busted this one.

jfitzpa22 (author)2017-06-01

Addendum to Step 3: Attach the string to the top of your garage door, then run the opposite end through an eyelet screwed into the garage ceiling, THEN attach the string to the tennis ball. The tennis ball now drops into position when the garage door is open (i.e., when you need to park) and retreats to the top of the garage ceiling when the garage door closes (i.e., once you've parked). This modification is especially handy when working in an empty garage; no more walking into suspended tennis balls!

pmann1 (author)2017-05-31

Fluffiffication? Excellent!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an English teacher and former Instructables staff member.
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