Soaking a Dartboard: Should You Do It? An In-Depth Guide

Whether you are getting into darts for the first time or have been around the sport for a while, you might stumble across the standard advice that says you should soak your dartboard. However, after a fair bit of research, it turns out this advice is not great after all and could lead to you ruining your dartboard beyond repair.

You should never soak your dartboard with any type of liquid. It is a common misconception that this is a good idea, but the truth is, it will just damage your board. Wooden dartboards can be soaked occasionally to close up holes, but most modern boards should never come into contact with water.

Telling you not to soak your dartboard is the general advice that I would give to anyone wanting a quick answer to their question, but there is a little more to think about in regards to whether or not soaking your dartboard is a good idea. 

Below I’ll take a much more in-depth look at this question and hopefully clear up any further questions that you might have. So let’s just jump right into it and get started! 

should you soak a dartboard

Should You Soak Your Dartboard? The Truth

The misguided advice that you should soak your dartboard to fix holes and clean it is often thrown around among the dart community, but many people aren’t aware of its consequences.

It all dates back to when the vast majority of dartboards were elm or made of another kind of wood, and you would soak the board to make the wood swell and fill up the holes. But times have changed since then, and unfortunately, the advice on whether or not to soak your dartboard hasn’t.

To be on the safe side of things, it is a good idea to avoid soaking your dartboard. But there are some exceptions to this, and it all depends on your dartboard’s material makeup and construction.

Dartboard TypeShould You Soak It with Water or Other Liquids?What Happens if You Soak It?
Sisal Fiber Dartboards (Bristle Dartboards)NoThe sisal fibers expand and will deform the board.
Cork DartboardsNoCork absorbs water and will deform/crack when it dries.
Paper DartboardsNoPaper will fall apart or become deformed if it is wet
Plastic Dartboards (Electronic)No/YesPlastic is OK to soak, but many boards have electronic parts that should not get wet.
Wooden DartboardsYesWood can be soaked and could help close up holes.

In the following sections, I’ll go over all of the materials commonly used to make dartboards and whether it is a good idea to soak each board type.

Sisal Fiber Dartboards (Bristle Dartboards)

By far one of the most popular types of dartboards on the market today, dartboards made from sisal fibers are very durable and some of the longest lasting boards that you can purchase. They are often called bristle dartboards, due to their construction.

The surface of a bristle dartboard is thousands of sisal fibers that are compactly attached to the board’s frame. When you throw a dart at a bristle board, and it hits, the dart’s point wedges between the fibers and is held in place because they are so compact.

Soaking your bristle dartboard, for any reason, is a terrible idea.

The sisal fibers that make up the dartboard come from sisal plants, and when they get wet, they expand in size. Over time, your dartboard will deteriorate and form all sorts of deformities if it gets wet because of the expanding and shrinking of the sisal fibers.

To make things more complicated, it is often difficult for you to know if your bristle dartboard is holding water. It can seem dry from the outside even if the sisal fibers have a 25-30% water content. Just make sure to take all precautions to keep your bristle board as dry as possible.

Cork Dartboards

Another type of dartboard that you might run into are ones made of cork. Cork is a handy and versatile material, but it does not handle moisture very well.

When cork comes into contact with water, it expands pretty rapidly. If you take your cork dartboard and soak it in water, it will swell up because the cork will absorb a lot of moisture. However, things start to get worse when it begins to dry out.

Once a cork dartboard has been soaked in water, it will eventually dry out over time. Drying will cause the cork to bend, buckle, and become very deformed. Your cork dartboard might even crack and entirely fall apart.

All that to say, soaking your cork dartboard is a horrible idea.

Paper Dartboards

As most of you know, a piece of paper does not fare well when it becomes wet. You can see the effects of this if you get some standard printer paper wet. Even if you don’t thoroughly soak it, the piece of paper will become very weak and begin to fall apart after only coming into contact with a small amount of water.

This same principle applies to paper dartboards as well; don’t get them wet if you want them to last a long time and not fall apart.

Paper dartboards are what many beginner dart players start with because they are often pretty cheap. However, this is bad because many beginners soak their dartboards without knowing the consequences.

Because of the material that paper dartboards are constructed of, it is especially important to keep them as dry as possible. 

Circularly wound paper is usually how paper dartboards are constructed, so when you throw a dart, it sticks between the pieces of compactly wound paper. If your wound paper dartboard becomes even slightly wet, it could become deformed and fall apart. 

Plus, darts will have a more challenging time sticking into a deformed board because the paper isn’t wound as tightly as it should be.

Plastic Dartboards (Electronic)

Over the last few years, electronic plastic dartboards have become increasingly popular. Many hobbyists like these dartboards because they offer a wide range of different game modes and scoring options.

But, to just answer the question directly: you should never soak your plastic electronic dartboard.

A select few plastic dartboards are adequate to soak because they don’t have any electronic components. However, most plastic dartboards have electronic scoring systems and other elements that would be ruined or could harm you if you soaked them in water.

Plastic, as a material, is acceptable to soak in water. So if your plastic dartboard doesn’t have any electronic parts, it should be just fine to soak for a reasonable amount of time. But, you should always CAREFULLY check your dartboard for electronic components before submerging it in water or getting it wet in any way.

Wooden Dartboards

And finally, last but not least, wooden dartboards. The entire sport of darts began with people using wooden tree trunks or boards as targets, but recently, wooden dartboards have dropped in popularity. There are so many better alternatives, such as sisal fiber dartboards, that wooden boards are becoming quite rare to see.

Unlike all the other types of dartboards that we covered today, wooden dartboards can be soaked.

However, soaking your wooden dartboard should be done with a certain level of moderation. If you expose your dartboard to large amounts of water too often, it can result in it cracking and dramatically cutting down its lifespan.

You also should be careful about drying your dartboard after you soak it. Never put it in a windy environment or by a heat source. 

If you cause your wooden dartboard to dry faster than it would naturally, it could crack and deform. Just give it plenty of time to dry and don’t try to rush the process.

Why Would You Want to Soak Your Dartboard in the First Place?

In the everyday use of a dartboard, there isn’t a good reason why you would want to soak it.

The whole idea comes from the early days of the sport when people would soak their wooden boards to help seal up holes formed by dart points. However, since dartboards are now made using materials other than wood, this common practice is no longer necessary.

Sisal fiber boards don’t show holes from darts because the fibers close around the area where the dart sticks into the board.

The only real reason you would want to soak your dartboard is if it is wooden, and you want to seal up holes created by darts. And even then, it isn’t necessary to do.

Many beginners to darts tout the misguided advice that soaking your dartboard will make it last longer, but there is no truth to this. In fact, for any material other than wood, soaking it will dramatically decrease your dartboard’s lifespan.

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