Wimbledon is upon us! And the oldest tennis tournament on the planet has put a hot spotlight on the sport's best and brightest. And by best and brightest, we don't mean the athletes.
We're talking about those fabulously fluorescent felted orbs whose satisfying pops and whirrs keep audiences enthralled for the two weeks of tournament play. But what happens to those tennis balls after the champion is crowned and athletes and fans alike start looking toward Queens and the next Grand Slam?
Much like aging tennis champs, they too must retire when they lose their bounce—that is, when they are no longer able to rebound the regulation height of 53 to 58 inches when dropped from a vertical distance of 100 inches. (At Grand Slam matches like Wimbledon, tennis balls are usually replaced every seven to nine games.) According to the International Tennis Federation, an estimated 360 million tennis balls are produced every year—which, if lined up ball-to-ball, could cover the distance between Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows four times over. That's a lot of pressurized rubber and felt.
But the golden years of these numerous tennis balls can be filled with purpose. Here are six lesser-known, unconventional, off-court uses for a tennis ball.
1. Sleep Aid
Have a light snoring problem? Tape or otherwise affix a tennis ball to the back of your pajamas before you go to sleep at night. The idea is that it will keep you from rolling onto your back mid-slumber, lowering the chances of snoring and raising the chances of a better night's sleep. Sleep researchers have found that sleeping on one's side does reduce snoring, but a Journal of Clinical Sleep study in 2009 concluded that most people think this trick is uncomfortable and give up on it.
2. Mouse House
If you bore a small, mouse-sized hole in a tennis ball, it can make a great safe haven for species of rodents like Eurasian harvest mice. In 2001, the All England Lawn and Tennis club donated used Wimbledon balls to a wildlife trust in the UK to use as protective homes and breeding nests for the endangered mice population.
Felt is a great material for dusting, because the thick woolen fibers cling well to dust and cobwebs. So why not get rid of those pesky, hard-to-reach dust and cobwebs by throwing a tennis ball at the problem? A tennis ball is also very effective at removing scuff marks from surfaces like hardwood and vinyl. A popular DIY scuff cleaning tool involves slicing an X into a tennis ball with a razor blade and affixing it to the end of a broomstick.
4. Laundry Mate
This is another popular DIY housecleaning trick. Throw a tennis ball into the dryer with your down comforters, pillows, towels and other fluffy and puffy linens. The tumbling balls keep your wet linens from clumping up and losing shape as they dry. It functions in the same way as a dryer ball, manufactured for that specific purpose.
5. Physical Therapist
Many physical therapists recommend using a tennis ball to work the kinks out of tight muscles or soothe muscle aches, as the pressure created by sandwiching a tennis ball between your muscle and a wall or floor is good for targeting the tension-sources or “trigger points” that cause muscle distress. The spine and legs are common spots for tennis ball “therapy.” Some physical therapists also recommend using them as substitutes for free weights (cutting one open and filling it with sand can add more weight), and as grip strengtheners.
6. Slug Trapper
Next time you have a backyard boozefest, pour one for your homies. A little beer in the garden may help keep your slug problem at bay. Apparently, the enemy No. 1 of gardeners the world over has a weakness for a good brewski (they're attracted to the fermented yeast), and many gardening resources recommend setting up beer-filled slug traps throughout the garden to catch them. Using a tennis ball cut in half is often suggested as a DIY option.