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Brushing That Chalk Away: Hold Brushes

Ever grabbed a climbing hold, and your hand slid right off because it was slick? It needs some brushing love.

In the gym or outside, climbing holds get dirty. Grease, grime, sweat, skin, chalk, and shoe rubber muck up holds over time, forcing you to apply more pressure to hang on. That’s not good for you nor the hold. Keeping holds free from chalk build-up improves the friction of the rock or plastic. So, how do we keep them clean or at least cleaner? Brush them off!

Brush it Off, Brush it Off

Hold brushes are an excellent tool to help clean the gunk off that builds upon hand and footholds. Brushing off excess chalk is usually done with a toothbrush. It’s narrow head fits on most holds, including small pockets and can clean effectively. Brushing is a quick and easy way to help leave the gym/crag a little better than when you walked in. Just remember not to mistake the brush for the one that you use in your mouth.

Brush Types

Commonly, dirty holds are brushed with a wire brush, although these can scratch the rock. Generally, a stiff-bristled brush will work as well and without damaging the stone. However, most rock types are quite soft and easily damaged by over-enthusiastic brushing. Even gritstone is soft under its abrasive outer layer.

Brush hair comes in different materials. These types are the most common ones you’ll see. What’s most recommended is one with horse or boar hair because it’s the easiest on rock and plastic.

After doing a little research, these are the most recommended hold brushes on the market. This list is from Climbing Magazine.

Best Brushes

Name Score Hair Type Shape Material
Top Pick: Sublime Slimline Climbing Brush 87 Boar's Hair Slanted Plastic
Best for Outdoor: Sublime Premium Boar’s Hair Climbing Brush 87 Boar’s Hair Flat Plastic
Best Coverage: Mammut Boulder Brush 80 Natural Hair Flat Wood
Lapis Boar’s Hair Climbing Brush 77 Boar’s Hair Curved Plastic

Methods of Brushing

Brushing a red hold.

When it comes to getting chalk off, everyone has their own brushing technique. Some people do the old-fashioned back, and forth, others in small circles. Thankfully, you can’t do it wrong. Your goal is to get as close to the original texture of the hold as possible, leaving just a thin layer of chalk for grip.

What if you don’t have a brush? It’s no big deal to ask to borrow someone else’s. In a climbing gym, you might also find some community brushes lying around, usually attached to a big stick for more reach. Or ask the front desk staff if they have one you can borrow. If you use one, be sure to put it back where it belongs and safely out of potential fall zones.

If you grease off a hold, brush it for the next person or let them know they might want to clean it themselves. Use the golden rule and be considerate of others.

If you’re outside, please don’t forget to brush off and get rid of any tick marks before leaving. This carelessness is from one of the most frequently overlooked rules of outside climbing etiquette, but easily done with a simple brushing. Over time, the chalk can affect the rock, so we want to preserve it for future climbers.

Don’t be a jerk. Be courteous and clean up after yourself. Mother Nature will thank you.

As I mentioned earlier, brushing is a quick and easy way to help leave the gym/crag a little better than when you walked in. Let’s keep it enjoyable for everyone. I hope this is helpful information for your next climbing session. Until next time, happy bouldering!