Can climbing gyms filter chalk out of the air?

Chalk dust is the bane of a climbing gym owner’s existence. Everything gets covered in it. The holds, the floor, you name it. It seems to get into every nook and cranny at a gym, significantly increasing cleaning costs. Chalk dust isn’t just annoying to clean, it’s also unhealthy and uncomfortable for staff & patrons alike.

We always recommend gyms to discourage the use of powder chalk. It’s best to attack the problem at the source: in the climber’s chalk bags. Good alternatives exist in the form of liquid chalk and chalk balls.

But climbers will be climbers. Chalk powder has become an integral part of climbing culture & we don’t expect gyms to be able to change their customers’ habits overnight. If you can’t attack the problem at the source then air filtration is an option.

Magnesium carbonate was in use by gymnasts years before climbers adopted it & the gymnastics world has come up with ways to filter out chalk dust from their training facilities. So-called chalk-eaters can be installed either as standalone devices or integrated into a gym’s air filtrations system. These filtering systems can remove airborne chalk and dust from gymnastic and climbing gyms. They do require an upfront investment & regular cleaning though, so if your gyms has a chalk problem we recommend you to use less chalk first & upgrade to an air filtration system only as a last resort.

One step up from air filtering systems are air purifiers. These move the full volume of air in a building & replace it with fresh, filtered air. These systems tend to be expensive to install & operate because they are energy-intensive. They also typically are not designed specifically for climbing gyms but need to be adapted from generic systems.

For home gym use climbers may want to look into the woodworking world for inspiration on how to build your own filtration system. A standalone system is essentially a box fan to move the air & a dust filter. Failing that building in a fan into your window can work wonders to move air, and chalk, out of your training room.

All of this extra expense can be avoided of course if you use less chalk in the first place.