There is conflicting advice when it comes to darts and dartboards because of the rapid increase in popularity over the years has also led to a rapid increase and improvement in manufacturing and product innovation.
I’ve been playing darts since the 1990s and in 20 years, the game has changed completely. Therefore some advice you see these days for dartboard maintenance and buying guides are not always relevant. One issue that people might be coming across and finding conflicting answers to is why is your dartboard bulging?
Dartboards will bulge or swell for a few reasons. The first is general wear and tear. With continuous practice, even the best boards will eventually find the bristles become damaged and either bulge or fall out. Other reasons can include dartboards being too moist, too dry, or not being rotated on a regular basis.
Modern dartboards need specific tasks done in order to maintain the board and get the most longevity out of the board as you possibly can. In this article, I’ll run through why dartboards bulge/swell, how to avoid it, and whether or not you can fix it.
What Is a Bulging Dartboard
A bulging (also usually referred to as swelling) dartboard is fairly self-explanatory, it occurs when certain areas of the dartboard start to form bumps/lumps and look as though they are bulging or swelling. These bumps are usually prominent and you’ll see them form around numbers that you throw for frequently.
The most common areas that you’ll find a dartboard to be swelling is around the bullseye, treble 20, and treble 19. These are the areas people tend to throw for most frequently and while this is not the cause of a bulging board, they do contribute and it’s usually these areas where you will first start to notice bulging.
Before getting into why the dartboards bulge, it’s important to know how these modern boards are made. A bristle dartboard is typically made from sisal fiber which is resilient, tightly compacted, and self-healing.
What this means is that when your dart enters the board, it won’t take as much damage as a paper board will and it will also have the ability to bounce back to its original shape once the dart is removed (just make sure you don’t leave darts in the dartboard when you are not playing).
These boards may be good at self-healing in the short term but over time, they will age and face wear and tear so keep this in mind when first noticing a bulging dartboard.
Why Is Your Dartboard Bulging
A bulging dartboard is a serious issue and in most cases, it will mean the dartboard is no longer usable. My first dartboard was one I got second hand from a family member and I remember the 16 was so swollen that you couldn’t even see the treble.
Did it bother me though? No.
I was watching the BDO and PDC tournaments and because they threw at the treble 20, so did I. I also played around the board so it wasn’t too much of an issue. Eventually, though, I got better, the treble 19 became swollen and the board was no longer usable. My point is once you start to get semi-decent at darts, you need to be playing on a decent board.
There are two main reasons why your dartboard is likely to be bulging:
If you practice consistently (daily, or at least a few times per week) the wear and tear is going to be one of the major causes of bulging and swelling for your board.
While the sisal fibers of your board will have a good capability for recovery, they can only take so much damage before they lose this ability. If you are an accurate player and frequent practice, you should really be rotating your board before every session to get equal wear out of it.
This factor is not really avoidable but a board bulging from wear and tear should not happen for a long time provided you have a decent quality board.
2. Environment & Atmosphere
As bristle boards are made from sisal fiber, these fibers are highly susceptible to the atmosphere. This may sound a bit extreme but sisal fiber boards do not respond well to humidity, moisture, or damp.
Any time a sisal board gets wet, you run the risk of the fibers swelling up and also becoming detached from the soluble glue that holds them in place. Don’t get me wrong, these boards are well designed and are fit for purpose but if stored in places close to moisture, there’s a high chance of swelling.
You should keep your dartboard away from open windows, direct sunlight, hot lamps, radiators, fires, and any heat or water source really. Setting your dartboard up in the wrong location could mean you are unnecessarily reducing the lifespan of your board.
How to Stop Your Dartboard From Bulging
As there were a few factors that lead to a dartboard bulging and swelling, there are similarly a few things you can do that will help stop (or minimize the risk) of this happening to you.
- Playing environment – Do not keep your dartboard somewhere that will let water, humidity, or moist air get to it easily. Ideally, you want to keep it out of these conditions completely. This means when not playing close your board away in a cabinet or store it somewhere cool and dry if you don’t wall-mount it.
- Rotate your board – If you keep throwing at the same segment of the board, day after day, practice session after practice session then your board will swell up in no time and chances are this will be around the treble 20 and treble 19. Therefore, to minimize this risk make sure to rotate your dartboard regularly at once per week or even every few days.
- Washing – Do not wash your dartboard. This might seem like a good solution to reduce drying or fiber damage but watering your board will make the fibers swell and weaken their bond with the glue holding them in place.
Following these basic steps will help to reduce the risk of your dartboard bulging and becoming unusable but as I’ve mentioned, wear and tear to your dartboard is inevitable and over time, your board will face irreparable damage as a result of frequent use.
Something I also didn’t cover in this article is dartboard quality as a better quality board will be more resistant to bulging and will typically have a longer lifespan than a cheap and poorly manufactured board.
Winmau makes the best boards on the market in my opinion and I personally use a Winmau Pro SFB board. While it’s starting to show some signs of wear, it’s still going strong after 2 years of semi-frequent use. For a top-quality board though, you might also want to put the Winmau blade 5 on Amazon as it’s the most popular board on the market for a reason!
The Watering Myth
Finally, while I touched on washing/watering your board earlier, I just wanted to explain the comment I made at the start of the article about conflicting information these days. Traditionally, dartboards used to be soaked overnight when using wooden boards made from Elm wood.
I currently own a Manchester log-end dartboard (the first league I ever played in was on this board) which is made from solid wood and is an Elm wood board. After use, this dartboard needs to be left to soak so that the wood can expand and fill in any holes.
It also needs to be soaked to prevent the board from drying out, cracking, and splitting. Bristle boards are different, they should not be watered and as dartboard technology evolves, it’s important to keep on top of the maintenance recommendations as mistakes can be made like seeing someone recommend soaking a bristle board!
If your dartboard is showing signs of bulging and swelling then, unfortunately, the damage is already done and you won’t be able to reverse it. The best thing you can do in this scenario is to find out what caused the swelling and then apply more frequent or specific maintenance to your next board to stop it from happening again.
Some key takeaways should be, do not let your board get wet, be it from washing, or from being in a moist or humid area. Take good care to rotate your board regularly in order to prevent damage from frequent darts impact and finally, invest in a good sisal fiber dartboard from a reputable manufacturer.