Many climbing gyms are now asking climbers to make the switch to liquid chalk. Leaving behind the ultra premium, organic blend, loose stuff might be anxiety inducing for some. Relax and let us guide you into a whole new world of magnesium based goodness.
What Is Liquid Chalk?
Liquid climbing chalk is standard climbing chalk mixed with a liquid - normally a form of alcohol - that evaporates when exposed to air. You pour it onto your hands, rub it in, then leave it for 20-60 seconds to dry. Once it's done you get a brilliant and even layer of chalk that gets into the crevices in your fingers really well.
Quite aptly referred to as "anti-lube" by a friend. The main ingredients are normally: -
- Magnesium Carbonate - MgCO3 - Nearly all climbing chalk is a form of this
- Alcohol - Either isopropanol, ethanol, or n-propanol - Keeps in liquid form, then dries when exposed to air
- If not alcohol then something that does the same job
Other ingredients can also include a thickener that gives a more gel like consistency and stops separation in the bottle. This can also aid in getting a thicker coating on the hands. An extra drying agent can be added which can help some people with sweaty hands and be too much for others. Some brands include Rosin which can help stickiness - but is generally frowned upon for outdoors use. More on that below. Sometimes a scent is adding to counteract the smell of the alcohol.
Is Liquid Chalk Better Than Loose Chalk?
It's really a personal preference - though people some swear by the stuff. After putting on a layer you tend not to have to chalk up again for a while. It can be really helpful if you're pushed to your limit on a route and finding that chalking up is pumping you out. Some of the advantages are: -
- Less wasted chalk
- Way less chalk dust in the air
- Really good even coating
- Can be better in damp conditions like sea walls
- Great for Deep Water Solo - Put it in your pocket and it stays dry
- Great as a base layer
- Alcohol cools the hands quickly as it evaporates
Does Liquid Chalk Kill The Coronavirus?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2. We've written an article testing if liquid chalk is antibacterial and if it would work to kill the virus SARS-CoV-2. In summary: some claim that liquid chalk with alcohol in it is antibacterial and could also kill the virus. However, there is no proof and there are a few things working against it - so we really can't say yes for either.
A lot of gyms are asking climbers to use liquid chalk as a substitute for loose chalk. Sharing chalk bags seems like a plain bad idea so not doing that seems reasonable. If the alcohol content of liquid chalk is over a certain percentage (60%+ ethanol or 70%+ isopropanol) then it could be helpful in killing the virus as well as being antibacterial. Could being key here.
We don't know if liquid chalk might help as a disinfectant - but it might be worth a try. Loose climbing chalk dust could affect lung health, plus there is a possibility that the virus can spread on dust in the air. Again, these things haven't been studied in depth yet but we do fully cover these topics in this article.
If your gym asks you to use liquid chalk - please do. Everyone is trying their best to stop the spread of Coronavirus. This isn't a conspiracy cooked up by big chalk and the alcohol industry.
Is Rosin In Liquid Climbing Chalk Bad?
Climbing chalk sometimes contains Rosin, a pine tree sap which helps with stickiness. Sometimes called Colophonium or colophony, resin, or also Styrax Benzoin if from a different tree. It's the same sap in the "pof" that old school Fontainebleau boulderers commonly used to use. In liquid chalk it can help bind the chalk to the hands and also may help in creating extra stick to the wall.
Pof and resin are well known to actually leave residue which is very hard to remove from rock. Blocs in font with long term resin use have noticeably "glassier" holds. It's not entirely clear whether resin in liquid chalk can do the same but there is some evidence. In most of the world, resin use is strongly discouraged outdoors on real rock.
Disadvantages Of Liquid Climbing Chalk
It can feel pretty weird squirting a white liquidy mess on to your hands for the first time. Chalk is there to remove moisture so it might seem counter-intuitive to use a liquid. Some disadvantages of liquid chalk are: -
- Can smell bad - Though does go away over time
- Drying time - Can take around a minute
- Dries out hands - A blessing or a curse
- Bottle dries out if you leave the cap off
- Can't easily chalk up mid route
- Alcohol on top of cuts and scrapes stings like mad
- Doesn't look as cool clapping your hands together in front of birthday kid's parents
Does Liquid Chalk Dry Out Skin?
Alcohol is very good at drying out hands. For some, loose chalk doesn't cut it and the liquid stuff is a god send. Those with really sweaty hands might find it really helpful. For others with sensitive or very dry skin it can be too drying. You should always wash your hands really well after climbing and using chalk anyway - but especially so with liquid chalk
Moisturize or use a climbing balm after climbing. Try and get one that nourishes but doesn't soften your skin. A possible solution to dry skin from liquid chalks containing alcohol is...
Alcohol Free Liquid Climbing Chalk
Some liquid chalks like are completely alcohol free but still have the same benefits. Some find these are much easier on the skin and don't dry out your hands as much after a session. It has the added bonus of not smelling like booze which some would prefer.
Best Liquid Climbing Chalk
Many liquid climbing chalks are sold out right now
Check and see if you can help your local climbing gym or outdoor retailer by buying from them. You can also make your own liquid climbing chalk with the recipe, instructions, and video below this list.
Friction Labs Secret Stuff
Friction Labs have been making high quality and very well reviewed loose climbing chalk for a while now. The liquid version is the same chalk but with ethanol and water. That's it, no extra additives. The downside is that it's expensive for a smaller amount.
Mammut Liquid Chalk
Black Diamond Black Gold Liquid Chalk
Black Diamond White Gold Liquid Chalk
Friction Labs Alcohol Free Secret Stuff
Metolius Liquid Super Chalk
Rock Technologies Dry 5 Liquid Chalk
One of the original liquid climbing chalk brands used by mnay. Comes in 100ml or 250ml bottles.
Make Your Own Liquid Chalk
It's as simple as mixing rubbing alcohol with your regular chalk in a 2:1 chalk to alcohol ratio. Get the chalk as powdered as possible and remove any big stubborn blocks. Mix the ingredients up in a bowl or blender to a thin consistency. You can use an icing bag or ziploc bag with a corner cut off to squeeze it into your container.
Once mixed it's important to store it an an air tight container to stop it drying out. Try a little batch first to test the results and see how it lasts. Let us know how it goes on facebook, instagram or twitter.