Bristle dart boards are made of sisal fiber, a natural plant fiber similar to hemp.Like any natural organic fiber, sisal is vulnerable to damp and temperature extremes.
Continuous exposure to direct sunlight or hot spotlights will also degrade the fiber, making it brittle.
Never let a bristle dartboard get wet!
There is an urban myth that says dartboards can be refurbished by spraying them with water. While this will cause the fibers to swell, and may briefly improve a badly used board, the moisture will stay in the fibers and the board will soon be completely ruined.
The fiber face of a bristle dartboard is glued to a wooden backing. This wood back in usually a composite material, similar to particle board. If the sisal bristles become wet, they will swell and act as wicks to convey the moisture to the glue layer. At that point, the fiber will pull loose from the wooden backing, and will the face of the board will develop bulges, or “bubbles”. At that point the dartboard is ruined, and clumps of fiber will begin falling out of the board.
Some of the belief in “wetting” dartboards may stem from the old days of solid-wood dartboards, made of elm wood. In order keep the boards from cracking, they had to be soaked in water each night. That also helped to swell the wood, sealing up many of the darts holes.
While soaking a chunk of elm wood may be good for it, doing the same to a bristle dartboard will cause it to quickly disintegrate!