How To Clean Rock Climbing Holds: A Simple Guide

Just about everyone has heard about just how fun rock climbing is. But I’ll bet that you haven’t heard about how to clean the most important tool in amateur rock climbing: those rock climbing holds. I’ve done the research to find out how to clean them properly.

How do you clean rock climbing holds? You can use the old school method, which requires scrubbing the holds with a brush and water. You could also take a more calculated approach to cleaning them by removing them and soaking them in water and a cleansing solution before brushing away the residue. 

Continue reading for detailed instructions for cleaning rock climbing holds, as well as some information that you may not have known about rock climbing holds. 

Ways to Clean Your Rock Climbing Holds

Rock climbing hold, as you might be able to imagine, get extremely dirty over time. Dirt, chalk, grease, and anything else from the bottom of a shoe end up on the holds. These need to be cleaned regularly. 

Let’s look at some methods for cleansing these holds. 

Dish detergent

Many people use the dish detergent method because it is simple and cost-effective. 

You need the following items: 

  • Dish Detergent (Dawn is preferred)
  • Water (tap is fine)
  • A scrubbing brush
  • A drying towel 

Directions for the dishwashing detergent method: In this method, all you need to do is wet the climbing holds with water, add dish detergent directly to the holds, and scrub the dirt off with a cleansing brush. After scrubbing vigorously for a minute or two, rinse the holds off and inspect them. If there is still scum, soak them additional time to remove it. 

White Vinegar

The white vinegar cleansing method is popular in commercial spaces where holds are utilized (a gym, for example). There is little to no scrubbing involved. 

You need the following items: 

  • White Vinegar
  • Water (tap is fine)
  • A large bowl 
  • Brush for scrubbing (optional)

Take the following steps: 

  1. Get a very large container and fill it with 1 part white vinegar to 1 part water. 
  2. Remove all of the climbing holds off of the climbing wall and place them in the bowl. 
  3. Allow the mixture to lift the grime off of the holds for at least 15 mins. 
  4. Take the holds out of the mixture and rinse them under running water for a few seconds. You can also scrub them a bit to remove any stubborn dirt. 
  5. Place them back in the bowl if additional lifting action is needed. Repeat if necessary. 
  6. Towel dry

Many swear by this method, stating that it allows them to get their holds clean without much scrubbing. 

Simple Green

Simple Green is a natural cleanser that you can try. Simply spray a little Simple Green onto your climbing holds and use a damp cloth to wipe away the grime. If the grime is sticky or hard to remove, allow the Simple Green spray to sit on the holds for a few minutes prior to wiping it off.

Grip Wash 

Grip wash is a detergent geared towards rough cleaning jobs. It is recommended especially for cleaning rock climbing holds, and it’s endorsed by people all over the world for the great results that people get when they use the wash. 

It will remove rubber, chalk, sweat, and oils. All of which are associated with regular use of rock climbing holds. 

Basic instructions for using Grip Wash:

  1. First, you’ll need to create a cleansing solution. 
  2.  Mix 1 part Grip wash with 8 parts cold water. 
  3. Place the holds in the mixture and make sure that the holds are completely covered. 
  4. Allow the holds to soak in the solution for 5 to 15 minutes.
  5. Take the holds out of the Grip Wash bath and let the excess solution drip into another container. 
  6. Rinse the holds off with cold water. 
  7. Allow the holds to air dry. 

Pump-Up Fire Extinguisher

If you aren’t too keen on taking the time to scrub your holds, there is another method that you can try. It’s the Ben Sorrow Amerex 240- a pump-up fire extinguisher. 

You may be thinking “How can a fire extinguisher help me clean my rock climbing holds?” Well, you will not be using this fire extinguisher in the traditional way. Let me explain. 

This pump-up fire extinguisher will be filled with water and pressurized with a bicycle pump.

About the Extinguisher

It can be found on Amazon for around 150 bucks. It holds around 2 and a half gallons of water. When pressurized to 100 to 180 psi, the extinguisher becomes a power washer ghat you can use directly on the holds (that are still attached). You can spray grime with great force using this method, and it doesn’t stand a chance. This extinguisher is essentially a power washer.

Things to Keep in Mind

  1. The fire extinguisher, without water, weighs about 7 pounds. But after water is added, the unit will weigh close to 30 pounds, which will seem heavy to some. So, make sure that whoever will be doing the hold washing is able to comfortably carry the extinguisher around and aim it at the climbing holds. If necessary, use a top-loading crag pack to move the extinguisher around. 
  2. Safety should be considered at all times when using this cleansing method. If you have children running around and one gets hit in the eye with pressurized water, they will be seriously injured. Keep the kids away and be careful using the extinguisher around other adults.


People have experimented to find out the best way to get climbing holds clean, and another method that some people swear by is the dishwasher. 

Some just throw their holds in the dishwasher and put them on a regular wash cycle (as they would do with their regular dishes) and this works for them. However, if you are dealing with holds that have lots of build up, a white vinegar soak prior to placing them in the dishwasher may help.

This method does take several hours, so make sure that you have ample time to wait for the holds to be cleansed. However, since you will not be standing and watching the holds while they are washing, you may not mind the long wash time.

If you happen to use your dishwasher at home to clean your holds, you may want to give your dishwasher a good clean after cleansing them. You’ll want to make sure that the rubber, chalk, sweat, and more are completely removed from the dishwasher prior to putting any of your own dishes in there. 

Ultrasonic Cleaner 

You can give your rock climbing holds an ultrasonic bath. An ultrasonic bath is a way to clean your climbing holds without having to actually do any cleaning. It is an automatic washer for climbing holds.

All that you have to do to clean your climbing holds with an ultrasonic cleaner is to remove your climbing holds from the wall, place them on the rack of the ultrasonic cleaner, allow the ultrasonic cleaner to work, and then remove them from the rack.

People love the ultrasonic cleaner because it removes all dirt particles, providing a complete clean. After using an ultrasonic cleaner, your holds will look like they did when you first purchased them. 

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