Covid-19 and climbers’ chalk

Frictionlabs chalk, available from The Castle Shop

In the spring, as climbing centres closed in line with the initial lockdown, rumours abounded that climbers’ chalk could be a source of transmitting particles of the virus, fomites, to use the jargon.

However, more recent research would suggest that these early fears were misguided. Investigations by a team at De Montfort University suggests that, on the contrary, chalk may actually help to prevent transmission. A statement has been issued by the Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC):

A model coronavirus for SARS-CoV-2, human coronavirus OC43, was used for the experiments. The presence of infectious virus on a plastic surface dusted with chalk was monitored over the course of one hour. The results indicated that the amount of infectious virus was reduced by around 99% immediately upon contact with the chalky surfaces. By comparison, the control test where no chalk dust was present, showed only a slight decline in infectious virus over these time periods.

Read the ABC press release

What about liquid chalk?

Traditional liquid climbing chalk chalk contains less than 70% alcohol, so it is below the minimum level required to kill Coronavirus. New forms of liquid chalk have a higher percentage, but the latest research suggests that it is no more effective. A chemist charged to investigate the issue concluded that:

[Liquid chalk] is completely ineffective in killing any potential viruses on the climber’s hands, and more importantly, on the holds on the wall.

Read the full report on liquid chalk and Covid-19

Conclusion…

While powder chalk may help to limit transmission, it is important to stick to the three things that we know to be effective:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based gel for at least 20 seconds
  • Wear a mask (over your mouth and nose) wherever and whenever possible
  • Maintain social distance

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