Surprisingly, lacrosse balls are a rather expensive piece of lacrosse equipment considering their small, simple stature. Consequently, many players ponder the question of whether or not lacrosse balls can get wet, as it is not their intention to ruin these balls before they even have a chance to use them.
Lacrosse balls can occasionally get wet since their entire surface is made with rubber, a waterproof material. However, consistently subjecting lacrosse balls to water can accelerate the rate at which the surface grip wears down, causing the ball to become so slick that it’s unfit for play.
As you can see, the relationship between lacrosse balls and water is puzzling at best. First, we will analyze the exact reasons why lacrosse balls can endure the effects of water every so often. Afterwards, we will move on to how water could potentially destroy the grip of your lacrosse balls as well as effective methods that you can use to combat this issue.
Why Lacrosse Balls Can Occasionally Get Wet
If you’ve ever physically touched a lacrosse ball before, you know that the surface is made entirely of a solid rubber material. This rubber material is water resistant. You can easily observe this by simply pouring water onto a lacrosse ball. The water doesn’t get absorbed into the material. Rather, the water beads on the surface of the ball because the material is impermeable to water.
You can see this water beading effect in the picture below.
Lacrosse balls have to be manufactured in this fashion since lacrosse is largely an outdoor sport. Not to mention that lacrosse takes place from late winter, through the spring, and into early summer. These balls must be built to take on all the elements, including heavy snow and rain, because they’re a definitive part of the game. It is one of the few stipulations that these lacrosse balls must satisfy.
It just wouldn’t make sense for a piece of outdoor sports equipment to crumble in the face of water. If you think about it, these lacrosse balls are meant to be thrown at 80 mph on a regular basis. Mind you, these lacrosse balls don’t always get the benefit of colliding with the soft net either. Many times, these lacrosse balls ricochet off of the metal framework of the goal or the ground at an extremely high velocity. And yet, they still hold together.
If lacrosse balls can handle this sort of intense physical abuse, I would be utterly shocked to find that these same balls would fall to something as pitiful as a short stint in the rain. It just wouldn’t add up.
Lacrosse balls are left uncovered to the effects of water all the time. During my high school lacrosse years, I had a considerable number of contests in the rain. Coming from the midwest, it was a given that at least some of our scheduled games would get wet.
The lacrosse balls always held up fine, no matter how much rain was pouring down onto the field. The balls may have been a little bit slicker since they were all coated with a thin film of water, but they always returned back to normal once they dried.
How Water Overexposure Can Wear Down a Lacrosse Ball’s Grip Over Time
The problem only occurs if lacrosse balls are exposed to water virtually every day. In this case, it’s extremely likely that the lacrosse balls lose their textured grip in a shortened period of time relative to other lacrosse balls that have not been exposed to the elements quite as often.
Traditional lacrosse balls are designed from vulcanized rubber, which is infused with oils and plasticizers. Sustained exposure to the elements, such as UV rays or rain, causes these oils and plasticizers to rise to the surface of the ball and harden (source). This is what’s responsible for producing the slickness and shine on the ball’s surface. In the lacrosse community, these worn out lacrosse balls are generally referred to as greasers.
Learn more about the defining characteristics and how they come to be by clicking over to my article What is a Greaser in Lacrosse? (& How Does it Affect Play?
Keep in mind that it’s only the very surface of the ball that has a thin film of this glossy, slippery feel. The layers that lie underneath, along with the core of the ball, still retain the original grip since the oils and plasticizers have not affected these portions of the rubber material.
The deterioration of the superficial grip is important to note because it can have a tremendous impact on play. Since the ball is super slick, players tend to pass and shoot higher than they normally would. When a worn out greaser finds its way into a lacrosse practice or game, the players notice almost immediately.
Not only is it extremely frustrating to deal with from a player’s perspective, it can also be dangerous as wild shots and passes are much more likely to do collateral damage.
So although lacrosse balls can get wet periodically, daily exposure to water will bring about significant negative effects in the long term.
How to Restore a Lacrosse Ball’s Grip After Water Overexposure
As aforementioned, it’s only the very surface of the ball that loses its original, textured grip. The layers beneath are still intact.
Knowing this lacrosse players have tested out unconventional methods of removing the thin, slick film that is characteristic of greasers in order to unearth the textured grip that lies underneath.
Manually Rubbing Greasers Against Sandpaper
One basic method that lacrosse players have refurbished the texture of the ball is through good old sandpaper. The abrasive surface of sandpaper is remarkably effective at removing the superficial film on greasers and restoring the ball to its former glory.
To do this, players take one of their worn out lacrosse balls and physically rub each individual portion of the ball against sandpaper until the grippy layer underneath is exposed. In theory, this will make the lacrosse ball brand new again.
However, there are a couple of glaring issues with this method. For one, it is a tedious process that requires a great deal of time. Manually rubbing every section of the ball against sandpaper takes about five to ten minutes. Not to mention that the tiny flakes that were left on the ball by the sandpaper have to be washed off. This may be effective for one ball, but it can become tedious if you have to do this for 20+ balls!
Moreover, there is no special guarantee that you will rub off the superficial layer evenly. In fact, it’s far more likely that you will shave off more material in certain areas more than others. Although it can be difficult to discern with the naked eye, these effects may be more pronounced when you go to throw the ball. The microscopic lopsidedness may end up throwing off your accuracy.
Using a Tennis Ball Canister with a Sandpaper Interior
Another unconventional strategy that lacrosse players have been known to use is layering the interior of an empty tennis ball canister with sandpaper.
With this method, you do not have to go through the painstaking process of physically shearing off every little section of the superficial layer of the lacrosse ball. Rather, you can simply throw one of your greasers into this little makeshift canister, give it a shake for a couple of minutes, and allow the sandpaper interior to do the work for you.
What is intriguing about this method is that you can also do several balls simultaneously. Plus, the superficial layer is much more likely to get shaved off evenly because every portion of the ball will be in contact with the sandpaper for approximately an equivalent amount of time.
Although this method certainly supersedes the first, it still has its drawbacks. It still demands a lot of time on your part and there is no telling how much physical shaking you’ll have to do to unearth the textured layers below the surface.
The Ball Scratcher (Lacrosse Ball Refurbisher)
The ideal option for restoring lacrosse balls that have been exposed to water too often is the The Ball Scratcher.
This product is specially designed to remove the tiny layer of slippery film from the surface of worn out lacrosse balls in a quick and easy fashion. Instead of having to go through and shave off the surface of each lacrosse ball individually, you can actually restore six balls at once with this product within two minutes!
The Ball Scratcher is a bucket and is equipped with an abrasive bottom surface. Up to half a dozen balls can be piled onto this abrasive surface. Once the balls are in, all you have to do is replace the lid, connect a power drill to the lid to rotate the abrasive interior, and hold the trigger for two minutes. The power drill rotates the abrasive interior at a rapid rate to shear off the worn out surface of the lacrosse balls. When these two minutes are up, you’ll have six lacrosse balls that are practically brand spanking new.
The best part about this product is you don’t have to waste unnecessary time manually sheering off the superficial surface of your lacrosse balls with no guarantee that it will work. It only takes two minutes for this product to do what it needs to do, which can save you a great deal of time and money on new lacrosse balls in the long run.
To see the Ball Scratcher in action, check out the clip below!
The Best Lacrosse Balls to Withstand Constant Water Exposure
In a perfect world, we would be able to bypass the issue of refurbishing our worn out lacrosse balls by simply buying extremely durable balls that could stand up to recurring rain and snow.
Fortunately, we don’t have to wait around for a perfect world any longer. There is a lacrosse ball manufacturer that has recently burst onto the scene by releasing a lacrosse ball that claims to be greaseless, granting it the ability to withstand long bouts of exposure to rain or snow. This innovative lacrosse ball made by Guardian is called The Pearl.
The polyurethane complexion gets rid of the need for infused oils and plasticizers, the main culprits of why lacrosse balls become greasers. As a result, The Pearl preserves its original grip far longer than any other lacrosse ball on the market.
Furthermore, I also found it interesting that the Guardian team is not comprised of former lacrosse players, but full fledged material science engineers. Prior to trying their hand at manufacturing lacrosse balls, they spent 20+ years heading a material sciences tech company (source).
Yet, I was a bit weary of the bold claim of them creating the first greaseless lacrosse ball. However, what thrust me over the edge was the fact that The Pearl by Guardian got named the official ball of US Lacrosse (source). If that does not give validity to the claim of a greaseless lacrosse ball, I don’t know what does!
Since then, Guardian has also put out other lacrosse ball products that are resistant to the elements. Recently, Guardian partnered with the big name lacrosse company East Coast Dyes to release the ECD Mint lacrosse ball. These lacrosse balls also combat the issue of greasers, helping to pave the way for a more long term solution to the issue of worn out lacrosse balls.
Only time will tell if these innovations will revolutionize the lacrosse ball industry.
The Bottom Line
Lacrosse balls can get wet… to a point. After all, lacrosse is an outdoor sport, so lacrosse balls have to be able to withstand a certain degree of exposure to water. Nonetheless, leaving out lacrosse balls for months to bask in the rain and snow will not have a positive effect on their durability.
If you’re looking to sidestep the issue of having to refurbish your lacrosse balls, keep them out of the rain and invest in Pearl or ECD Mint lacrosse balls! I have a hunch that these balls will overtake the sport in the near future.