The Importance of Brushing Climbing Holds: Enhancing Grip, Friction, and Community Etiquette

Bouldering gyms are fantastic places to test your strength, technique, and problem-solving skills. However, maintaining the quality of the climbing experience requires some shared responsibilities among climbers. One of the most important tasks is brushing the climbing holds. This might seem like a small detail, but it has a significant impact on your performance and the overall climbing environment. Let's dive into why brushing holds is so crucial and some general good chalk behaviors to keep in mind.

Why Brushing Holds Matters

1. Enhancing Grip

Climbing holds are designed to provide the best possible grip for climbers. Over time, chalk, sweat, and natural skin oils can accumulate on the holds, reducing their effectiveness. Brushing the holds helps remove this buildup, restoring the surface to its intended texture and improving your grip. Better grip means you can focus more on your climbing technique and less on whether your hands will slip.

2. Improving Friction

Friction is essential for climbing. Clean holds provide the friction you need to stay on the wall, especially on those tiny, delicate footholds. When holds are covered in excess chalk and grime, the friction decreases, making climbs harder and more frustrating. Regular brushing ensures that the holds maintain their friction, helping you stick those challenging moves.

Good Chalk Behaviors

1. Keep Chalk in a Bag

Chalk is a valuable tool for climbers, helping to keep hands dry and improve grip. However, it’s important to use it responsibly. Always keep your chalk in a bag to minimize spills and reduce the amount of chalk dust in the air. Loose chalk can create a mess and impact the gym's air quality, making it less pleasant for everyone.

2. Be Mindful of Spillage

When you chalk up, do it over your bag to catch any excess. This not only keeps the gym cleaner but also conserves your chalk. Spilled chalk on the mats can be slippery and create a dusty environment that’s not enjoyable for other climbers.

3. Use Just Enough Chalk

It’s tempting to cake your hands in chalk, but using too much can be counterproductive. Excess chalk can actually reduce your grip by creating a slippery layer on the holds. Apply a moderate amount and reapply as necessary, brushing holds regularly to keep them clean.

Brushing Etiquette: First Brush, First Climb

In many bouldering gyms, there’s an etiquette rule that the person who brushes a climb is the next person to jump on it. This practice ensures that the effort put into maintaining the holds is rewarded and helps create a fair and orderly climbing environment. If you see someone brushing a route, it’s a sign that they’re preparing for their turn, so let them go first once the holds are clean.


Brushing climbing holds is a small but crucial part of bouldering gym etiquette. It enhances grip and friction, making your climbs safer and more enjoyable. Along with good chalk behaviours—keeping chalk in a bag, being mindful of spillage, and using just enough chalk—you contribute to a cleaner, more pleasant gym environment for everyone. Remember, if you brush a climb, you’re next in line to jump on it. So next time you’re at The Crux or any bouldering gym, keep these tips in mind and help maintain the quality and community spirit of the climbing experience. Happy climbing!