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I have very wet hands by nature and therefore I need a good layer of chalk (= magnesium carbonate) on my hands before climbing. Especially when it gets warm I sometimes can’t keep up with the dry chalk or I don’t want to reach into the bag all the time and waste my strength. That’s why I find Liquid Chalk so practical because it allows you to apply a really good base coat before climbing and the alcohol dries out your hands even more. When I apply Liquid Chalk to my hands before an attempt, it often happens that I don’t have to reapply any chalk at all after that. The problem is that Liquid Chalk is quite expensive*. That’s why I always mix my Liquid Chalk at home with a very simple recipe to make your own Liquid Chalk. In principle, dry magnesium powder, i. e. normal chalk for climbing, is mixed with alcohol to form a paste and then filled into a bottle for dispensing.
Liquid Chalk is particularly practical in climbing halls where the dry powder is prohibited. Liquid chalk leaves hardly any traces and above all does not produce any annoying dust clouds. Since it leaves hardly any traces, it is also recommended to use it outside in nature, because you have to clean less after climbing.
The Recipe for Liquid Chalk
The first ingredient is obviously dry climbing chalk, either as a whole block* or powder*. I would recommend a block because we have to work on it anyway when mixing the two ingredients and we can crush the block at the same time. This makes our self-made Liquid Chalk even cheaper, as whole blocks of Chalk usually cost less than the loose powder.
The second ingredient is alcohol. Pure ethanol is, of course, the best solution for home-made liquid chalk. With pure ethanol, there is no need to worry about what remains after the evaporation of the alcohol. However, since pure ethanol is usually quite expensive, there are other alternatives that can be used. A higher alcohol content is always better. It should have at least 70% alcohol content. Rubbing alcohol is one way of keeping the costs down, but the result could smell very unpleasant. There are also many people who use vodka, which is a waste in my opinion. I think the best alternative is bioethanol, which can be ordered quite cheaply from Amazon*.
If we have a chalk block, we have to crush it as finely as possible. This can be done either in a mortar or in a closed plastic bag to avoid clouds of dust. The end result should no longer have clumps. Next, we add the alcohol. As a ratio between magnesium powder and alcohol, we should aim for a ratio of 2 to 1. The consistency of the final product should look like toothpaste or hand cream. When mixing, you always have to try out where the perfect mix is. I found out for myself that the perfect ratio is somewhere between 2:1 and 1:1.
In order to mix the two ingredients, I put the magnesium, which had previously been crushed into powder, in a bowl and then I add the alcohol gradually while mixing it with a spoon.
Attention: Since alcohol is a flammable substance, you should think twice about using an electric mixer to mix the ingredients together…
After preparation, the liquid chalk should be quickly filled into a container, otherwise, the alcohol will evaporate. If you have stirred a larger amount and want to store the rest, you should look for a completely airtight container for it, because even small leaks let the alcohol evaporate over time. Since the preparation is super fast, you can always produce new Liquid Chalk whenever you need it.
As a container for the Liquid Chalk on a hike or in a climbing hall, I find smaller tubes from which the paste can be squeezed out most useful. Small shampoo or hand cream tubes work great.
How to use Liquid Chalk?
Shortly before you start climbing, rub the Liquid Chalk between your hands like hand cream. Of course, you should concentrate mainly on the fingers and palms of your hands – we don’t need our back of our hands for climbing. Before doing so, shake the tube, or whichever container you filled the Liquid Chalk in, thoroughly to ensure a uniform consistency. The evaporation of alcohol will give you a cold sensation, just like when disinfecting your hands. Because alcohol is so incredibly liquid, it brings the magnesium powder into the smallest cracks and grooves of our skin. Quickly the alcohol evaporates and at the end, only a white, fine layer of magnesium powder remains on our hands and we are good to go climbing. I probably always look like an idiot when applying Liquid Chalk to my hands because I always stare at my hands, watching them dry – the effect of how they gradually turn white is awesome!
Who should not use Liquid Chalk?
As already mentioned at the beginning I have very wet hands myself and have no problems to completely dehydrate my hands when climbing. But there are a lot of people who have problems with dry hands – especially in the cold seasons. Then the double effect of the dry magnesium powder and the alcohol can be too much for the already stressed skin. And burst hands are neither beautiful nor pleasant. If you already have small tears or other wounds on your hands, the alcohol will burn a little when applying. You have to test for yourself how compatible your own hands are with Liquid Chalk. In any case, everyone should always wash their hands after climbing, whether you climbed with Liquid Chalk or normal Chalk, and apply moisturizing cream* if necessary.
Liquid Chalk Advantages – Liquid Chalk vs. Powdered Chalk
- Liquid Chalk leaves very little residue. Many indoor climbing halls prohibit normal, loose powder because of the potential mess it can cause. Especially outdoors it is advantageous to leave fewer residues as it is not very nice to see beautiful rock formations smeared with white chalk. You can even shake hands with someone with Liquid Chalk without them having a completely white hand afterward.
- There are no clouds of dust. If you rub loose magnesium powder between your hands, you get a huge dust cloud which you and all around you will inhale. In the long run, this is not healthy.
- Liquid Chalk is economical. Liquid chalk can be dosed very precisely through the tube and one needs generally less than dry chalk.
- Liquid Chalk is very effective because the alcohol brings the magnesium into the smallest grooves of the skin. In addition, the alcohol also degreases and dehydrates the skin even more than is possible with normal chalk.
- The applied layer lasts very long. A good layer of liquid chalk usually lasts as long as a normal indoor climbing route and you don’t have to touch your chalk bag all the time while climbing.
- Liquid Chalk is very practical. Since you need less of it and it lasts longer, you have to take less of it with you on a hike to the crag. And the whole backpack isn’t completely white afterward, as it has often happened to me with dry powder!
Liquid Chalk is excellently suited to dehydrate your hands for the upcoming climb and to provide them with a good, even layer of climbing chalk. Because it lasts a very long time, it is particularly suitable for short distances and because it leaves so little residue, Liquid Chalk is ingenious for indoor climbing halls in which loose powder is sometimes prohibited and also for climbing outdoors, where you want to leave as little chalk on the rocks as possible. In order to avoid the sometimes high costs, it is very easy to produce your own Liquid Chalk with loose magnesium powder and alcohol. If you generally have dry hands you have to test how your hands respond to Liquid Chalk since the combination of alcohol and climbing chalk will dry your hands out even more than normal climbing chalk.
Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on climbtheearth.com only helps you to learn. Before you climb, you should make sure that you have been properly instructed by an expert and that you follow all safety precautions.
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