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Liquid chalk vs loose chalk

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

Less mess, more grip, less environmental degradation, in the post Covid-19 era, with an increasing numbers of climbers, liquid chalk is the way to go.

Liquid chalk gained momentum during the peak of Covid-19 era as a way to mitigate the risk of spreading the disease. Rock climbing communities around the world, from bouldering gyms in London to Tokyo are now discouraging the use of loose chalk and only retail liquid chalk. There are several good reasons why we chose to follow that route at Mountain Extreme.

Clean air

Unlike traditional chalk powder, liquid chalk does not create a cloud of dust, making it a cleaner option. If you have climbed or bouldered a lot indoors in the past, you can probably recognise that distinct mustiness in the air from lots of chalk particles floating around. Bouldering gyms are especially impacted due to the higher volume and density of climbers as well as a lower roof.

Remember climbing with loose chalk, powder chalk got everywhere and on everything, no matter how conscious and careful climbers were when applying it This wasn't just messy, it was also a health hazard. Climbing, and more generally working out at an elevated heart rate in a fog of chalk dust simply isn't healthy for climbers and staff members.

Studies have clearly shown that indoor climbing gyms who do not use liquid chalk expose their members and staff to high concentrations of chalk powder, whilst liquid chalk reduces that environmental health hazard. Less mess, less air pollution!

Slippery Holds

Loose chalk left behind on holds plus moisture from many pairs of hands equals slippery holds that have to be brushed down more often. We’ve all been there - reach out for a hold only to slip and fall because the hold is like a soap bar.

Some climbers even went as far as 'chalking holds' in the false belief that adding more chalk to the hold would increase their grip and make them climb 2 grades above their climbing level. If a hold is slippery it probably has too much chalk on it, please use a brush to remove it, don't add more chalk.

Liquid chalk reduces the amount of chalk used and therefore leaves less residue on holds. Just make sure to wait for your hands to be dry after applying the chalk. Also watch out not to over chalk. It is possible to have too much chalk on your hands—what you’re looking for is a fine layer of chalk covering your fingers, but not a bunch of loose or caked chalk sitting on there.

Better Performance

Liquid chalk creates an effective base layer of chalk that lasts a lot longer than loose chalk. This means you’ll find yourself chalking up less when you are climbing. On a 12m wall, you should be able to go from start to top with out needing to add more chalk. It does take some adjustment because it’s a new behavior, but just like when you buy your first pair of aggressive shoes, once you learn to climb in this new way, your performance improves, Less time and energy fussing with a chalk bag means more focus on the route and your next move.


In this post Covid-19 era where colds and other viruses are making a comeback, liquid chalk also offers a more sanitary experience. Loose chalk dust isn't flying everywhere, and it reduces sharing chalk with a climbing partner. You can share chalk safely and hygienically, without dipping hands into the same chalk bag or bucket. Simply squirt a blob onto a buddy’s hand and let them rub it in. No shared contact needed.

Most liquid chalks also contain alcohol, which acts as a hand sanitizer.

In fact, some hand-sanitizing liquid chalks are actually more effective than traditional hand sanitizer at combating germs . Along with the traditional magnesium carbonate chalk formula, these liquid chalks contains 80% ethanol, even more than 60% that the CDC and WHO recommend for alcohol-based sanitizers during the pandemic.

Fewer germs on hands, and on climbing holds which are touched by thousands of climbers at the wall, is a great way to protect the public's health and reduce the spread of communicable diseases.

Always keep in mind:

  • Chalk won't make you climb better

  • Chalk doesn't replace finger strength

  • Most of the time, no chalk is better than chalk

  • If your hands are washed and dry, holds grips better than if it has chalk on it.

  • If your hands are sweaty, try wiping them on a towel first

  • If you seriously must chalk your slippery fingers, please use chalk sensibly

  • Always brush after you climb a slippery hold

In conclusion, from cleaner air to better performance, liquid chalk is the next step in the evolution of chalk. Gone are the days of climbers using pine resin in Fontainebleau to stick to bouldering holds (and leave it on the rock in the process), liquid chalk offers a better solution all around for climbers. Always remember that less is more, never apply directly to the hold and make sure to brush off the holds after your finish climbing with chalked hands.


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