New Research: Climbing Chalk Reduces COVID-19 Particles by 99% or More

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Good news for climbers! Now there’s evidence that a common item you probably use every time you climb is a powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19. What is that item? It’s chalk. 

Recent studies have demonstrated that both liquid and powder chalk can reduce the prevalence of virus particles on hands and surfaces by nearly 100%. Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and De Montfort University Leicester in England have tested the impact of different kinds of chalk on the virus, and results have been exciting (especially for those of us itching to be back on the wall). 

What does this mean for climbers? It means that you don’t have to feel uneasy about sharing a climbing wall with other people. Alongside safety protocols such as social distancing, face masks, and sanitizing, using chalk gives you added peace of mind as you do your part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Here’s what the research shows.

Powdered Chalk = 99% Virus Reduction

For the De Montfort University study, researchers dusted powdered chalk and virus particles onto plastic surfaces. Within just one minute, 99% of the virus particles were gone. The types of chalk used in the experiment were magnesium carbonate, calcium carbonate, and a combination of the two. Researchers confirmed that not only does the chalk reduce the number of virus particles on the surfaces, but also that the chalk makes the virus inactive (in other words, it doesn’t hang around in chalk dust or chalk bags). 

What does that mean for the climbing wall? It means that chalk left on wall grips will not harbor the virus, even if someone inadvertently carries the virus into the gym. 

Liquid Chalk = 100% Virus Elimination

But what about liquid chalk? Does it have the same ability to thwart COVID-19? Yes, according to the study conducted at University of Colorado. In that study, researchers tested liquid chalk that included 80% ethanol in the formula. They swabbed a plastic film with virus particles and then added liquid chalk. Within five minutes of the chalk application, 100% of virus particles were gone. 

Why does liquid chalk work so well to eliminate the virus? It acts in the same way that hand sanitizer does, said researchers. If you want to use liquid chalk for sanitizing purposes, choose a formula with at least 70% ethanol. 

Chalk It Up: How to Climb Safely

The research is clear: chalk and COVID-19 don’t mix. But that doesn’t mean you can relax other safety protocols when you climb. Air-borne droplets are still the most common way the virus is passed from person to person. That means social distancing and face masks remain vital components of a comprehensive safety plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Still, it’s comforting to know that chalk remains the climber’s best friend – in more ways than one. Liquid chalk is an excellent choice for its sanitizing benefits. Use it at the beginning of your climb and then sanitize again at the end to eliminate any virus particles you may have come into contact with while climbing. Powdered chalk is a great choice for reducing 99% or more of virus particles on surfaces, so you won’t have to feel as nervous about the virus lingering on wall grips. 

The takeaway? Whether you use liquid or powder chalk (or both!), be sure you always have plenty on hand when you head to the climbing gym. But you already knew that, didn’t you? 

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