Touching the table – When it is allowed and when not? – Table tennis rules explained

There is often confusion about whether you are allowed to touch the table while playing table tennis. Fortunately, this is clearly regulated. With what can the table be touched? What happens if you move the table? And do you lose a point if you touch the net? In this post you will find out!

The official rules state the following: 

You win a point if: 

  • the opponent, or anything the opponent wears or carries, moves the playing surface (
  • the opponent, or anything the opponent wears or carries, touches the net assembly (
  • the opponent’s free hand touches the playing surface (

Accordingly, one may touch the table with everything except the free hand. Touching the table with the racket hand, the paddle, the clothes or any other part of the body is therefore allowed. However, if you move the table or touch the net, it will be considered a fault.

Still have questions? – Don’t worry! In the following, I explain the single points again more in detail. 

Here is a small overview:

Which is the free hand?

“The free hand is the hand that is not carrying the racket.” (Rule 2.5.6) – For right-handers, the left hand is the free hand, for left-handers, it is the right hand.

So during a rally, you should be careful not to put your free hand on the table unintentionally while hitting the ball. This is an avoidable mistake.

Is it possible to change the free hand?

Yes, because it is allowed to change the racket hand by simply taking the paddle into the other hand during a rally.

The hand that was holding the paddle then becomes the free hand and must not touch the table.

Is it allowed to move the table during the game?

No, the rules clearly state that the table may not be moved by you or anything you are carrying. This is considered a fault and results in a point for the opponent.

Therefore, you have to be very careful not to move the table unintentionally, e.g. if you stand further behind the table and the opponent plays it short.

What exactly counts as a “movement” of the table?

This has not been clarified more precisely. Therefore, there is no tolerance range. As soon as the referee registers a movement of the playing surface, he will consider it a fault. 

Is it allowed to lean on the table?

In principle, this is allowed. However, only with the racket hand. You are not allowed to lean on the table with one hand and hit the ball back with the other.

If you lean on the table with the racket, there is no problem.

The only condition is that you do not move the table.

Is it allowed to touch the net?

No, the net must not be touched by your body, clothes or racket. If you play closely by the net, you have to be very careful, otherwise, you will lose the point.

What is included in the net assembly?

According to the rules, the net assembly consists of “of the net, its suspension and the supporting posts, including the clamps attaching them to the table.” (2.2.1)

So, you are not allowed to touch the actual net, suspension, posts or attachments during the game.

Is it allowed to touch the table between the points?

Yes, it is allowed to touch the board between points or sets. There are no more specific rules about this.

During a pro match, you see this very regularly: Many players go to the net before a point and wipe their hands over the table. 

In this post, you will learn why they do that.

More |   What Is a Let in Table Tennis? - When to Replay a Point?

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