When you’re in the gym by yourself or with a few people, chalk never seems to be a problem. But when it’s packed, you see the chalk haze in the air and your clothes seem to be constantly covered in chalk...
The Climbing Wall Association published an article about chalk dust mitigation last Fall. A handful of gyms worldwide have banned loose chalk all together. Many gyms only allow chalk balls. Big box gyms like 24 Hour Fitness don’t allow chalk in their facilities, forcing athletes to sneak in their chalk. There is clearly an underlying issue so we decided to do something about it.
After reviewing independent research, the solution seemed clear, encourage athletes to use liquid chalk—but change is hard and the available products left a lot to be desired...
Some long standing issues that need to be addressed:
1. You heard all chalk is the same and ‘chalk is just chalk’, so you bought the cheapest stuff you could find. Turns out #chalkmatters! That cheap chalk is being used more often and making a bigger mess.
2. Stop using chalk as an excuse. Whether you’re a little nervous on a climb or in the middle of a workout and want to sneak a break, athletes of all sports will use chalk as an excuse for a break. In climbing, you’re making it more difficult as you hang on your hands even longer than needed. In your workout, you’re robbing yourself when you could be pushing yourself.
3. There’s no such thing as a FREE lunch... if your gym is providing free communal chalk, it’s likely low quality. You take pride in your gear and when you’re trying to perform your best, you demand the most from your gear. Yet one of the most important factors of performance is the quality of your grip. Use the free stuff and you’re smearing cheap chalk full of impurities—along whatever the sweaty guy before you had on his hands—onto climbing holds and equipment. #YUK
4. Stop using too much chalk. You’ve been there, you put chalk on but your grip still feels slimy so you add more and more in a desperate attempt to get the grip you need. Instead of crushing your goals, you’re left with flappers and tears, trashed skin and a big mess in the gym.
5. Using liquid chalk products does NOT corrode your equipment.
At FrictionLabs, we set out to improve this problem. We developed a new product line, looked at how we could improve how athletes chalk up, and found some tips for common issues that make a gym look chalky...even if it was just cleaned!
The Secret Stuff product line will make the biggest impact in reducing chalk dust in your gym. There is original Secret Stuff and our new Alcohol Free Secret Stuff. Both products start with our high purity magnesium carbonate. This is important because if you make a chalk product with poor quality ingredients, it’s never going to perform...no matter how much creamer you put in gas station coffee, it’s never going to taste good.
We developed these chalks as creams, which seems counter intuitive. If you want a dry grip, why put cream on your hands? The reason is that the creamy texture allows you to spread your chalk more evenly across your skin. It gives you complete coverage and gets deep into your skin, not just a topical application.
Rub the cream on your hands where you need grip. Secret Stuff will quickly evaporate while Alcohol Free Secret Stuff takes about two minutes to dry. Once it’s dry, you’ll be amazed at how long the chalk lasts, especially if you’ve only ever used chalk blocks before. Most athletes can use our base-layer products as little as once in a workout to get the grip they desire. This guide can help you determine which base-layer is best for you.
Start at the source.
It’s assumed that athletes know how to chalk up and when to reapply chalk, yet we’ve seen in climbing gyms, boxes and traditional gyms that few athletes are using chalk properly. Most often they use way too much chalk. Below is a simple step by step approach to using chalk. If you want all the details check out how to use chalk and how not to.
1. Start with a base-layer.
2. Look at your hands. If there is some skin showing through your chalk at the spot where you need friction, you’re still good to go. You don’t need a thick coat of chalk to get a good grip. In fact, that will not help your grip.
3. When you MOSTLY see skin through your chalk, it’s time to reapply. You can choose to add more base-layer or you can use traditional loose or block chalk. Be sure to keep your hands over the chalk bucket so any dust or excess falls back in the bucket and not on the floor.
4. At the end of your workout, wash your hands with soap and water. You can use some white vinegar as well, which will dissolve any chalk off your hands. Leaving chalk on your hands can dry out your skin.
PRO TIP: It’s RARE to need grip on the back of your hands, so you don’t need to apply chalk there.
Clean up the air. Finding or making your own chalk eater is an easy fix to help get chalk dust out of the air. You can use an air hose to blow the filters out on a regular basis. We use this one in our production facility.
Cleaning that works. Chalky floors make the gym look messy even if you just cleaned it! Use vinegar-based floor cleaners. Diluting vinegar with water and mopping the floor is an effective way to clean up the chalk dust. If you use soapy water, you often find the floor is still chalky when it dries. Soap doesn’t dissolve chalk, but vinegar or any weak acid will. And vinegar shouldn’t cause any harm to your equipment.
To get your gym to be less chalky, try implementing any of the above tactics. For too long, chalk has been overused, wasted, spilled and clapped up in the air. When used properly though, it helps give you the confident grip you need to perform your best without making a mess.
If you try any of these approaches, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know the result. We’d love to hear from you!