What is the difference in Pool Table Felt?Pool table cloth for standard American pool games is made from a combination of wool and nylon, or wool and polyester. It is the way the cloth is woven, the quality of the wool, and the manufacturing process that separates different brands and styles of cloth for a pool table.
Pool table cloth is generally referred to as either woolen or worsted cloth. These are two common types of wool yarn and both have specific characteristics that make them unique.
The most common type of pool table felt is woolen cloth. This is the "felt" than many people are familiar with. It is usually thick and heavy, comprised of at least 60% wool, and has that familiar "felt" feel when you touch it. It is considerably less expensive, and most commonly found on home pool tables and on coin-operated tables that you find in many bars and recreational facilities. Billiard balls will generally roll much slower on woolen cloth. Pilling, the shedding of the cloth into tiny little fuzzy bits, is common with this type of cloth, and therefore not allowed for use in any WPA sanctioned tournament. This type of cloth is usually recommended for casual play situations.
The second type of pool table cloth is made from worsted wool. This isn't "felt" at all, and feels more like a woven suit when you handle it. When you look closely, you can even see that actual weaves in the cloth. Worsted cloth is used primarily in professional tournaments, in pool rooms that host league and tournament play, and by discerning home owners looking for a high quality billiards gaming experience. Worsted cloth is also referred to as speed cloth, since billiard balls will roll much faster on worsted cloth as compared to woolen cloth. Because of a shearing and milling process used to produce the optimum playing surface, there is an "upside" and a "downside" to many brands of worsted cloth, with the down side being fuzzier than the side you will play on. Worsted cloth generally doesn't "pill" like a woolen cloth will. Because worsted pool table cloth is generally made from the best quality combed wool found in the world, and manufactured on highly specialized machinery built specifically to produce top quality billiards cloth, it is usually much more expensive than its woolen counterpart, but also delivers a much higher level of response for more consistent and accurate play.
All styles of pool table cloth will eventually show signs of use. The most common are small white marks called burns (or bruises) that are a result of the heat produced from the friction of synthetic billiard balls burning the nylon or polyester content of cloth. The use of a "break pad" can help slow these burns, but will not prevent them entirely. Burns and bruises, in and of themselves, are more aesthetic in the effect as they do not generally affect the actual playability of the cloth. In some brands of cloth however, these burns and bruises can develop into holes that will have an affect on how the cloth plays. Picks and divots, most commonly found in worsted cloth, will also have a great affect on the playability of cloth since they can affect the roll of a ball. Recovering your pool table is subjective, and dependent upon how often you play, how bothered you may be with any burns, bruises, picks, divots, and holes there are in your current cloth, and how much you want to invest in replacing it.
Choosing cloth for your table should be dictated by your budget and and playing goals. If you are a serious league/tournament player or simply want a premium playing experience for your billiards game room, we recommend buying a worsted cloth like these we offer from Strachan - SuperPro, Artscape, NCAA. For more casual players, you will want to select a woolen blend like Championship Invitational pool table felt.
There are a few other blends of cloth that are not very common in the US market.
Snooker cloth is commonly referred to as "nap" cloth, meaning it is directional and the fibers of the cloth point in one direction. If you run your hand along the cloth towards the top of the table it feels smooth, however when you rub your hand in the opposite direction it feels rough. It is thick, heavy, and made from 100% wool.
Carom cloth is usually a worsted cloth, but made even thinner to facilitate even more speed for the larger table and numerous bank shots required to score.
There are even some cloths being made that are produced from 100% polyester. We generally recommend not purchasing these for any use other than outdoor pool table as they are not made to billiard play specifications and have a tendency to wear out much quicker than cloth made specifically for use on billiard tables.
If you would like to recover your pool table yourself, please check out our guide on "How To Install Pool Table Felt."