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.
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.
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