If you’d like to ensure your skateboard or longboard has a long life and comfortable riding, it’s important to know how to clean grip tape.
Doing so will not only make your board more aesthetically pleasing by removing dirt and dust spots, but it will also revitalize the grip of your board, making tricks and balance easier.
Below are a few techniques you can use that will help you properly clean your grip tape and avoid ruining either it or your board, and if you’re looking for the best grip tape available, check out our recommendations here.
What to Know Before You Clean Grip Tape
For starters, know that skateboards and longboards use most of the same equipment to clean their grip tape.
However, because the grip tape on skateboards is usually thinner than the grip tape on longboards, you’ll want to avoid using water or window cleaner on them. This is advice you’ll sometimes hear online.
Both water and window cleaner have the potential to soak into your board. What this then may do is weaken the wood and/or the grip tape itself, essentially shortening the longevity of your board.
Longboards are a bit different. Their thick grip tape is usually impermeable or waterproof, allowing for the use of water and cleaning solutions like soap or window cleaner without damaging either the board or the grip tape.
How to Clean Grip Tape on a Skateboard
You’ll need a couple of tools:
- A natural rubber eraser
- A soft wire brush
Step 1: Use a Natural Rubber Eraser
The first thing you’ll want to do is get a piece of grip gum or rubber cement eraser and firmly rub the surface of your board.
Grip gum can be purchased at skate shops for about $5-$10. Rubber cement erasers are generally a bit cheaper and can be purchased at art shops or Amazon. Either will do well to clean grime off the surface of your board.
Treat the process like erasing words on paper. Target dirty spots on your board’s grip tape but aim to cover the entirety of your board for an overall cleaner feel.
Once that’s complete, you’re ready for step two.
Step 2: Use a Soft Wire Brush
With a soft wire brush, thoroughly brush the grip tape from one end of the board to another.
Soft wire brushes can be purchased at hardware stores like Home Depot or Lowes. They’re generally no more than $5.
Brush the entirety of the board with special attention on the spots where dirt accumulated heavily.
After you’ve done this, repeat steps one and two again to cover any grime you might have missed with the first scrub and brushing. This way you’re sure to significantly enhance the quality and appearance of your grip tape.
Note that an old toothbrush can be used in place of a soft wire brush. Some boards, however, may have spots of heavy dirt accumulation, making it too difficult for the weaker bristles of a toothbrush to effectively penetrate the dirt and properly clean the board.
How to Clean Grip Tape on a Longboard
You’ll need a few items:
- A natural rubber eraser
- A soft wire brush
- Water and a cleaning solution like Windex or soap
- A microfiber cloth
Step 1: Prepare a Cleaning Solution
In a medium-sized bowl, mix water with a bit of soap. As stated earlier, the grip tape on longboards is generally thicker than that of skateboards so using solutions like this one is okay.
Step 2: Dip and Use a Soft Wire Brush
Take a soft wire brush and dip it in the solution. Start at one end of the board and scrub towards the other end.
Be sure to avoid letting puddles form and settle on your board as they can lead to damaged wood. While the grip tape is generally waterproof, any experienced rider knows that water and boards don’t mix. Be cautious with the amount of water you apply.
Avoid applying too much pressure as you scrub as doing so may tear and strip the grip tape.
Step 3: Dry the Board Using a Microfiber Cloth
Lay your microfiber cloth on the surface of your board and pat it dry. Let the cloth soak up the moisture, fold it, and repeat. Do this until the board is as dry as it can be.
Avoid using paper towels as they can rip and cause more harm than good. And, avoid swiping back and forth with your microfiber cloth as doing so can leave ripped pieces of cloth stuck on the grip tape.
Step 4: Leave to Dry
Place your board in the sun or a dry area and leave it for a few hours to dry. You want to be sure it’s dry before using grip gum or rubber cement eraser on it.
Understandably, if you really enjoy skating, you may not want to wait hours as your board dries. While it’s great to want to skate, rushing this process is not a good decision for two main reasons:
1) Grip gum and rubber cement erasers are less effective on wet or even slightly damp surfaces
2) Water that soaks into your board can warp it or eventually ruin the adhesive properties of your grip tape.
You can use a hairdryer to speed up the process. Just be sure to double-check if the board feels wet at all before moving on to the next step.
Step 5: Use a Natural Rubber Eraser
With some grip gum or a rubber cement eraser, firmly rub the surface of your board. After, use a dry soft wire brush to get rid of the excess grime.
When this is all complete, you should have a board that looks and feels notably better. If necessary, repeat steps 2-5 for a deeper clean.
How do you clean grip tape without ruining it?
- Avoid using water and other solutions on skateboards. The grip tape is too thin.
- When brushing with a soft wire brush, brush firmly but not so vigorously that you strip the grip tape.
- Always be sure to thoroughly dry your longboard after using water to clean it. A damp board can become a waterlogged board: something you don’t want.
Does water ruin grip tape?
Although it usually takes time for this to happen, excessive amounts of water on grip tape can eventually lessen the adhesive properties of the tape, causing it to peel off.
Water can also affect how the board sticks to your shoes.
What’s more, water can damage your board, causing it to become waterlogged. A waterlogged board will often feel and look different compared to a normal board.
Generally, it will look warped or have a dip in the deck. It may show signs of cracked or peeling wood. When popped up with an ollie, it may create a dull sound when landing, rather than a crisp one.
How often should you clean grip tape?
This depends on your preference. If you like your board to look and feel as good as possible, you should clean your board whenever mild to heavy spots of dirt begin accumulating on its grip tape.
It really depends on how much dirt, dust, or mud you have on your feet prior to getting on your board. Take into account where you step before skating to control your cleaning schedules as much as possible.
How often should you change your grip tape?
This depends on your preference. Many skateboarders don’t change their grip tape at all, and instead, get new boards entirely. Others clean and care for their grip tape to avoid having to change it.
The best thing to keep in mind is how the tape feels and looks to you and whether it’s providing the amount of traction you need in order to perform tricks and provide a comfortable riding experience.