How To Soften Leather Pool Pockets


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A quality pool table must be treated with care. Your ‘amazing’ pool table may offer a great play experience today, but unless you have a proper maintenance routine in place, it will be awful to play on in next to no time at all. One of the most important tasks is softening the leather pool pockets. How do you do this? Well, let us explain.

So, how do you soften leather pool pockets? Well, it is surprisingly simple! You need to get your hands on some quality leather conditioner, and gently work the conditioner into the pocket. This can be done while the pockets are still attached to the table, but most people recommend removing them to make the process a little bit easier.

Of course, if you want to soften leather pool pockets properly, you should follow a rather specific process. This way you can be sure everything is done ‘by the book’. It also means that you do not have to worry about shortening the lifespan of your pool table. Read on to discover more.

How Do You Soften Leather Pool Pockets?

The reason why leather pool pockets may be a bit too stiff is because the natural oils within the leather will have started to dry out. Once this happens, the leather will lose a little bit of flexibility. If the leather is allowed to continue to dry out, then the pockets will start to crack. The result would be the pockets breaking if you hit a shot too hard at them. You need to deal with the problem before it gets to this point.

It is worth noting that ‘fresh out of the box’ pockets will always tend to be a bit stiff. As long as there is no cracking, it shouldn’t be that much of an issue. If you find that they are not loosening up after you have pocketed a few balls in them, then you can follow the rest of these instructions.

Leather Conditioner

In order to soften the leather pockets, you will need access to a quality leather conditioner. Ideally, you would purchase one that has been rated specifically for pool tables, but this is not 100% necessary. As long as it is a leather conditioner, then it is fine.

Do not use standard household cleaning waxes or chemicals on your leather pool pockets. Not only will they not work, but they will cause the color of the leather to fade. So, not only do you still have stiff pockets, but you will have completely ruined the look of your table.

Always buy the best leather conditioner you can find. It will be formulated a little bit better, which means that there is a lower risk of damage to your pockets.

Applying the Leather Conditioner to the Pocket

Exactly how you do this will be dependent on the leather conditioner. Most will require you to apply the leather conditioner using a lint-free cloth. You should not be applying the leather conditioner directly to the leather. This will ruin it.

Using the lint-free cloth, rub gently, in a circular motion. Do not push too hard. This will damage the leather. Small, gentle, circular motions should be more than enough to work the leather conditioner into the leather.

Make sure that the entirity of the leather is coated. You should be able to tell visually when everything has been covered. The leather will be of a slightly darker color.

There will now be excess leather conditioner on the leather pockets. You will now need to grab a clean lint-free cloth and gently buff the extra leather conditioner off. It does not need to be perfect, but try and remove as much of the leather conditioner as you possibly can.

At the end, just let the leather pockets start to dry out. You should let it air dry. This should take about a day, at the most.

Play Pool

Once the leather conditioner has dried off a little, the pockets may still be a little bit stiff. This is fine. As long as you conditioned them properly, they will loosen up as you start to play the game. It won’t take more than a few pocketed balls for them to be fine.

When Do Leather Pool Pockets Need Replacing?

The only time you will really need to replace your leather pockets is if you haven’t properly cared for them in the past. Leather, in theory, should last for the lifetime of your pool table. However, that is only if you regularly condition the leather.

If you fail to regularly condition the leather, it will start to dry out. Once you see cracks appearing on the surface of the leather, then you will know that it is beyond repair. At that point, just replace the leather. It is the only way your table will play ‘properly’.

How Can You Prevent the Leather Pockets Drying Out?

Leather will eventually dry out regardless of what you do. However, it will dry out quicker in rooms that are a little bit too dry. Keep the room cool. That is pretty much all you can do. 

Related Questions

What happens if the leather in a pool pocket is too stiff?

If the leather is too stiff, then the balls will not bounce into them in the right way. The leather pocket will be too tight. This means that a shot that you normally would have been able to make doesn’t quite work. The ball will just bounce out of the pocket.

Do new leather pool pockets need to be softened?

Probably not. It does depend on the manufacturer. Top manufacturers will have often treated the leather before shipment. However, if the pool table will have been sitting around in a warehouse for a while, the pockets may end up being a little bit stiff. It is always wise to check then when you take delivery of a new pool table. This way you can soften them if required.

How often should the leather be conditioned?

Ideally, you should be conditioning the leather pockets of a pool table at least once every 3-months.’

See Also:
How to Maintain a Pool Cue Shaft
How Long Does Pool Table Felt Last
When to Replace Pool Cue Tip

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