Last update: November 2021
If you are a rock climber, chances are you’ve used rock climbing chalk before. Climbing chalk is necessary to help you get a solid grip on climbing holds, but using powdered chalk blocks may be getting in your way.
If you’ve used powder chalk, you may notice that the stuff can quickly build up in the cracks and crevices of your hands, making it less effective. You may also find that you have to keep applying it over and again to get full coverage. If you have excessively sweaty palms, regular chalk may quickly wear right off.
A solution to these problems is to stop using the old-fashioned powder method and start using liquid chalk.
What is Liquid Chalk?
Liquid chalk is a mixture of dry powdered climbing or gymnasium chalk (magnesium carbonate) and isopropyl alcohol. It’s basically a liquid version of standard climbing chalk, and it’s both incredibly easy to make and can even help you save money.
Using liquid chalk over powder chalk provides an even and consistent coating on your hands.
After rubbing it in, the alcohol evaporates, leaving a light base layer, making it more effective in improving your climbing grip. The greatest part about making liquid chalk is that it’s the easiest DIY you will ever do!
Why Liquid Chalk?
I find that using regular powder chalk causes chunks to form along the cracks on my palms and, no matter how many times I layer the powder, my hands will often still slip right off of the holds because of my sweat.
I often have to keep applying powder chalk over and over again or wash my hands before reapplying. Wet chalk not only has naturally less caking, but it requires less reapplying and isn’t as affected by sweaty palms.
After some research and trial and error, I found the most straightforward 3-step process to make my own. Premade liquid chalk is available in stores, but DIY liquid chalk is an even cheaper solution because you can make it using any leftover chalk blocks you already have.
DIY Liquid Chalk Homemade Recipe
- Climbing chalk; block or loose powder
- Isopropyl alcohol
- A bowl
- A spoon
- A measuring cup
- Leakproof, airtight squeeze bottle or container
Using your favorite chalk brand and isopropyl or rubbing alcohol, you can make a 2:1 ratio of chalk to liquid.
Use these 3 easy steps below to make liquid chalk:
Step 1: Grind your chalk to a fine powder.
- Grab a large bowl and a spoon or a mortar and pestle. Crush your climbing chalk into a fine powder. Be sure to smash all the chunks into as fine a powder as possible.
- You can also place chunks of your chalk block into a plastic bag and smash it with a rolling pin.
- If using rock climbing chalk powder, place it in a bowl and move onto step 2. Use a fine-mesh strainer to help break up any large chunks.
Step 2: Mix your chalk powder and alcohol together.
- Using a 2:1 ratio, powder to liquid, mix together in a large bowl to make a loose paste. For every two cups of chalk, you’ll use about one cup of rubbing alcohol.
- Make sure to use rubbing alcohol with a 70% alcohol content, or labeled isopropyl alcohol.
- Start stirring in the alcohol a little at a time. To get the perfect paste consistency, aim for something similar to toothpaste or yogurt.
- Mix well to get a consistent solution, being sure not to leave any dry chalk in the bowl.
- If you prefer a looser mixture, add a bit more rubbing alcohol to get the consistency you’re looking for.
Step 3: Place your liquid chalk in an airtight container.
- Place the mixture into a small airtight bottle, like a travel shampoo bottle or a squeeze bottle. Fill it completely if possible. Keep in mind the size of the bottle. Make sure it’ll fit in your climbing bag since you’ll be taking it with you on all of your climbs.
- Alcohol will evaporate over time, so a leak-proof bottle is going to be your best option to make your final product last longer.
Using Your Liquid Chalk
When you are ready to use your homemade liquid chalk, squeeze a small amount, about the size of a coin, onto your palms. Rub your hands together, spreading the mixture around evenly. The alcohol will evaporate quickly, leaving your hands covered in a thin layer. It can be your standard application for your next climb or can be used as a barrier to prevent sweat in conjunction with using loose chalk.
Keep in Mind…
- Liquid chalk isn’t for everybody. For climbers who have sensitive skin, the alcohol may cause further irritation. If you have any cuts or open blisters, it may sting each time you reapply.
- If you have excessively dry hands, liquid climbing chalk may not be the way to go. The alcohol can leave you with extra dry skin and may cause it to crack.
- Rubbing alcohol has a strong smell. If the smell bothers you, you can choose to wear a mask or create your mixture outside in a well-ventilated area.
- You are free to use any brand of chalk you’d like for this recipe. Homemade liquid climbing chalk is a great way to put your favorite quality chalk block to use, especially if you have a specific brand that you prefer.
- Don’t make more than you think you’ll need and try to make it as close to when you’ll use it as possible. Liquid chalk can dry up quickly when not in use. Make sure your storage container is airtight before placing it into your chalk bag.
- You can purchase alcohol-free wet chalk, at the store, if needed. There are both spray and lotion versions.
Many climbers swear by liquid chalk and see great benefits in using it while rock climbing. Use this simple 3-step guide to make your own liquid chalk, take it on your next climbing trip, and let us know how well it works for you!
A native of Indiana, Carolyn has been traveling and climbing around the US since 2012. She has worked at high ropes courses, climbing gyms and spent several seasons in Southeast Alaska working as a Tour Manager for a remote zipline. While traveling, she likes to climb at both indoor gyms and outdoor crags. She now runs her own business, Avanelle Co., and writes about her experiences.