Rubber Types: Tacky vs Non-Tacky

ok, before we start, lets dispel a myth straight away….

Tacky rubbers does not mean Chinese rubbers and non-tacky does not  mean European rubbers, it just describes how they were produced.

So now that we have got that out of the way, lets go through a few general points to help you decide the type of rubber you want to use:

Tacky Rubbers

Tackiness or stickiness means the ability to hold two things together, here we are talking about the table tennis ball and the rubbers topsheet.

This is achieved through a hook and loop mechanism of partially free rubber polymer strings which form hooks by using environmental heat. This hook then catches the fuzzy cellulose ball and provides a better chance to catch the ball in general. The bond has to be broken once the ball leaves the rubber which costs some energy in form of much speed and a bit of spin.

Ok, so that is a technical explanation of how a tacky rubber works and its result, but what does that mean in simple terms?  What will a tacky rubber do for a player?

Tacky rubbers are especially good at receiving short and blocking.  This is because the tacky rubber will “hold” the ball for a split second before releasing it.  The trade-off is that the ball being released is generally not as quick as with a non-tacky rubber (and we say “generally” because this largely depends on the players own skill level), while being demanding at the same time in terms of a proper technique when attacking and the basic understanding of the game.

Non-Tacky Rubbers

Non-tacky rubbers tend to be more forgiving when it comes to technique and as they do not hold onto the ball it makes it easier to generate speed when returning the ball.  This helps the player return the ball longer and results in less “netting” of the ball.

So, tacky or non-tacky?

The answer to this question is largely based on your personal level of skill and type of game that you like to play.

Here are a couple of thoughts again from the same source…

Given that most amateurs have trouble at truly brushing the ball, tacky rubbers give a higher security to hit the other table half even if they hit nearly through the ball.

The receive is easier with non-tacky rubbers regarding sidespin and backspin, the most common amateur bottlenecks.

Blocking might be easier with a tacky rubber on the forehand side as long as the attacker has sufficient spin and speed on the ball.

Weak balls are easier to block with a non-tacky rubber.

Counterlooping/Looping might be easier with tacky rubbers – given that amateurs hit more than they brush and hence they don’t need to fear overhitting with tacky rubbers.

In General

Do you like to block and control the game in a short play exchange, then Tacky rubbers are probably more suited to your needs.

Do you like to open up as soon as possible and play an offensive style, then non-tacky rubbers are probably more suited to your needs.


Do you like to open up as soon as possible and play an offensive style AND are quite technically proficient with your table positioning and shots, then you might actually find that tacky rubbers work well for you especially on the forehand (think Ma Long).