Back-to-Basics Series: Cleaning Your Climbing Wall

Back-to-Basics Series: Cleaning Your Climbing Wall

We are featuring a Back-to-Basics Series for our weekly blog posts during the month of November. These posts are ideal for those with new climbing programs or new climbing instructors. They’re also great refreshers for experienced instructors, or those in need of some retraining. In case you missed them, in week one, we featured safety rules and day one activities. Week two detailed how to install, remove and move hand holds. Week three provided quick ideas to refresh your climbing wall. And this week we offer cleaning instructions.

Cleaning Your Climbing Wall

How frequently you clean your climbing wall, hand holds and safety mats depends on how often your climbing wall is used. If your hand holds are starting to get smooth, or look dirty to the eye, then it’s time to wash them. If your climbing wall panels are also looking visibly dirty, it’s time to clean them too. Safety mats tend to require the most frequent cleaning and thankfully are the easiest component to clean.

Here are step-by-step instructions for cleaning hand holds, climbing panels and mats:

Cleaning Hand Holds

How to Tackle the Task

This is a big task. There are several ways to go about it:

  • Rip-Off-the-Band-Aid® Method – Close your climbing wall and remove all of the holds, clean them and then replace them. Try to get volunteers to help you as this is time consuming.
  • One-at-a-Time Method – Remove and clean one color hand hold at a time. Depending on the density of holds on your wall, this could allow the wall to remain open and will just make it a bit more difficult without some of the holds. Note: This method is not compatible with cleaning the panels. See below.
  • Panel-by-Panel Method – Remove and clean one or two panel’s worth of holds at a time. This also allows the climbing wall to remain open. Climbers should be instructed to climb down and walk in front of the holdless panel(s) and get back on the climbing wall when there are holds.

How to Clean Hand Holds

  • Remove hand holds from climbing wall. Be sure to follow instructions for removing and re-installing hand holds.
  • Choose one of the below methods to clean holds:
    • Dishwasher Method – This is the easiest and most popular choice. Place holds in a dishwasher with or without detergent. Choose “air dry” and not “heat dry.”
    • Hand Wash Method – This is more time consuming but works well if you do not have access to a dishwasher. Using a soft bristle scrub brush and mild dish soap, scrub the hand holds in warm water. Rinse well. Note: Do not use a metal bristle brush.
    • Car Wash Method – Go “old school” with this method. Take holds to a self-service car wash and lay them out on the floor. Spray down holds with the soap mixture and then rinse well with plain water. Note: If you have access to large bakery bread trays, they are a great way to transport and clean holds. Since the trays have openings, holds can be left in them for the cleaning and drying steps.
  • Allow hand holds to completely dry for at least 24 hours prior to re-installing on the climbing wall.

Cleaning Climbing Wall Panels

  • All hand holds should be removed before cleaning panels.
  • Place towels on mats at the base of panels to absorb any soap/water that may drip down on them.
  • Starting at the top and working your way down, wipe each panel with a mild soap and water solution.
  • Rinse by wiping down with plain water, again working from the top down.
  • Allow panels to thoroughly dry before re-installing hand holds, accessories or Mat Locking® System. 
  • Notes:
    • It’s easier and more effective to clean the panels with the hand holds removed, so we suggest you complete this step while your holds are drying.
    • Leave the Red-Relief® Line installed on the wall and clean/rinse it along with each panel. 

Cleaning Safety Mats/Mat-Locking® System

Note: Keeping your mats clean will also help to keep your hand holds and climbing panels clean.

  • Place mats in the down position on the floor.
  • If there is visible dirt and debris, vacuum mats first.
  • Wipe mats clean using a soft, non-abrasive cloth or sponge and warm water or mild soap.
  • A soft bristle brush can be used for stubborn dirt. Note: Avoid steel wool and metal bristle brushes.
  • 303 Brand Product Cleaners, Spot Removers and Protectants can be used following their instructions.
  • Avoid harsh cleaning products, solvents and acid-based chemicals including household cleaners, concentrated detergents, concentrated bleaches, dry cleaning fluids, industrial cleaners, waxes, petroleum distillates and silicone oils.
  • Allow safety mats to thoroughly dry before closing them up against the climbing wall (which must also be dry).
  • Next, clean the outside “closed” side of the mats using the same instructions.

Pro Tips

  • Have climbers wash their hands before using the climbing wall to help keep hand holds clean.
  • Place doormats on each side of your Traverse Wall® safety mats, or in front of the mats of your Top Rope Wall. Have climbers wipe their feet before climbing to keep mats and foot holds clean.
  • If possible, have climbers wear indoor shoes only when on the climbing wall.


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