Keeping your air hockey table clean is an imperative; not only does a smooth, white surface like this look absolutely terrible when it gets dingy, but it actually impacts your ability to play on the table at all. Dirt and grime are going to snag at the puck and slow them down, making it harder to control (as it shifts in different directions) and less fun to play with. After all, the appeal of air hockey lies in large part how fast paced and frenetic a match can be, right?
Knowing when to clean your air hockey table is pretty simple, then: whenever you an see any kind of dust or smudge on it. Or, failing that, at least once a week as a preventative measure.
But the how is a little more complicated. These tables can be relatively delicate, so you want to ensure you use gentle cleaning methods. Here are some tips.
Keep the Jets On
One of the most important things to keep in mind is to make sure your jets stay running throughout the whole cleaning process.
This keeps any dust you wipe away from slipping into the little holes and clogging them up. Clogged holes make “dead spots” in the air flow of the table, adding unpredictability and weird slow areas on the table.
Use your Vacuum Cleaner
Make sure you keep the vacuum attachment a little bit above the surface of the table, as a hard attachment in particular could chip or crack the top of the table.
Doing a few light passes should be enough to get any of the loose dirt and dust from the top of the table, leaving only the more stuck on bits and bobs.
Avoid Astringent Cleaners
As mentioned, the surface is delicate, so rules that must be followed when cleaning the tabletop. Harsh chemical cleaners are a bad idea here. Anything with bleach or ammonia in it is right out, leaving you with very few options, though some window cleaners (the ones without ammonia, of course) work just fine.
But your best bet here is a simple damp cloth and a little bit of soap or an alcohol based cleaner, which you’ll use to gently wipe down the surface until all the visible grime has come up from the table.
Once you’re done with that, take a little bit to let the table’s surface dry.
Test it Out
Do a few quick shots with the puck and see how it glides. If it goes well, then the benefits will show. Do another quick pass with your cloth to get up any grime you just put back on, and you’re done.
If not, though, there’s a few more things you can try to get everything gliding across the table properly again.
Clean out the Jet Holes
Now get your cleaning equipment. Using a thin, rigid tube of some sort (like a toothpick) or cotton swab), poke down into the holes on your table to loosen up any dirt in there. This is another task which keeping the jets on through the process will help greatly, as you won’t need to “catch” all of the dirt; much of it will be loosened and then forced out by the power of the jets themselves.
Once done, do another quick pass with your damp cloth. If that didn’t solve all your problems, there’s something else you can potentially try.
Sand your Pucks
Sometimes, the issue isn’t with the table at all, but with the equipment. In air hockey terminology, they’re called pucks and mallets. These can get rough and start snagging on the table over time.
The option is always there to buy new ones, of course, but old ones can always be salvaged if you’re willing to put a little effort in.
This is actually quite easy, so long as you have some ultra fine sandpaper on hand. Just take that sandpaper, and sand both sides of your pucks, and the bottoms of the mallets until they’re completely smooth again. Make sure to do it evenly so you don’t end up with uneven sides, which will be even worse than leaving them with the chips and burrs they may have accumulated over time.
Optional: Use Air Hockey Table Polish
Table polish is available from specialty shops, and is great for ensuring your table stays clean a bit longer, and glides even more smoothly over the table’s surface.
This is optional, but recommended. Everybody likes having a shiny table, so if nothing else it will show its benefits in terms of aesthetic value. By doing these cleaning tips the benefits will show because playing on a well maintained table will raise your game on air hockey.
As with most things, the best way to keep your table clean is not by cleaning it, but by ensuring it never gets dirty in the first place.
This covers everything from the obvious to the not so obvious. Don’t use your air hockey table as a dining table, for instance. Less tongue in cheek, just be sure to keep food and drinks away from the table. While it is a great party game, try and keep the spills and food debris to a minimum; wipe the chip dust off your fingers before playing, and so on.
Likewise, keep your table off when not in use, so it doesn’t attract dust, and keep it somewhere with as little dust as possible in the first place.
Finally, even if you’re owning a high quality air hockey table, you still should keep your table covered when not in use; this will prevent all sorts of mishaps with it over time, like micro abrasions accumulating on the surface.