What’s one of the best feelings ever? Stepping onto sticky, sturdy, fresh skateboard grip tape.
What lasts maybe two seconds? Sticky, sturdy, fresh skateboard grip tape.
You know the feeling—you step in sand or mud, your grip tape gets slick, and your tricks are doomed. But instead of straight-up peeling off and replacing your grip tape (a fussy and costly process), why not just clean it?
These simple steps will help you get your skateboard or longboard back in shape, and ready for skating within the same day.
What You’ll Need
New grip tape costs about $5 to $10 per board, but removing the old tape and applying new tape can be tedious.
Instead, if your grip tape has gotten a little slippery, start by purchasing:
- A piece of natural rubber
- A soft wire brush
- A microfiber cloth.
In my opinion, these three inexpensive items should be kept in every rider's board bag. They’ll cost about the same as fully replacing the grip tape, and will help extend the life of your skateboard—and your sweet tricks.
What to Expect
This isn’t a magic process—cleaning your grip tape with these methods won’t make it look brand-new. But it WILL:
- Make your grip tape feel sticky again
- Keep your grip tape and skateboard (or longboard) intact without causing any harm
- Save you from the task of replacing the grip tape entirely
- Make your grip tape last longer
If you do want your board to look brand-new again, consider replacing your grip tape if it's peeling, worn through or very slippery in some areas.
How To Clean Traditional Skateboard Grip Tape (Shortboards)
Step 1. Use Rubber to Remove Surface Crud
Most skate shops sell a piece of rubber known as "Grip Gum," which is an effective way to get surface grime off your grip tape.
Little-known secret--you can get this same type of rubber, but cheaper, at an art supply store. It’s a similar product, usually used to remove rubber cement. Go into a store like Blick Art Materials, ask for "rubber cement pickup," and a store attendant should be able to help you find what you need for no more than a few dollars.
If you need a visual, this is what you're looking for:
(Image from Blick Art Materials)
Once you’ve got the piece of rubber in hand, firmly wipe it across all of your grip tape. It should do its job and get rid of dust, dirt, and other unwanted grip tape invaders.
Step 2. Clean Deeper with a Soft Wire Brush
On some websites, you’ll see bad “cleaning advice” where people will tell you to clean your grip tape with window cleaning solution and a toothbrush. DON’T DO THIS. It’s a bad idea for two reasons:
Reason #1: The window cleaning solution will soak through the tape and into your board, making it soft and eventually ruining it.
Reason #2: Most toothbrushes aren’t actually coarse enough to remove deep grime, so the method isn’t even effective.
Instead, what you’ll want to do is hit up your local hardware store and get a soft wire brush—again, for not much more than a few bucks.
Scrub the grip tape in sections with the wire brush (and no cleaning solution!) to bring deeper, below-the-surface grime to the top. Then, get out your trusty piece of rubber again, use it to remove the surface grime, and you're ready to ride.
How To Clean Coarse Longboard Grip Tape
Longboard skateboards are usually outfitted with a thicker, coarse grip tape that is not permeable. This means you can use a window cleaning substance or water to remove the grime—no problem.
Step 1. Scrub the Grip Tape
Start by filling a measuring cup with ½ cup of window cleaner or water. Dip your soft wire brush (from the last section) into the solution, and begin scrubbing the grip tape. Start at one end of the board and work your way to the other end, brushing in small sections to make sure you get rid of all the dirt.
Step 2. Thoroughly Dry The Surface
Use a large microfiber cloth (or several smaller microfiber cloths) to dry the grip tape thoroughly before continuing.
For best drying results, lay the cloth on top of the deck and pat it until it sticks to the grip tape. Don’t try to wipe the cloth along the tape to dry it. Let the cloth sit on the grip tape for three to four hours, or until the tape feels completely, absolutely, 100% dry.
Step 3. Wipe it Clean with Rubber
Really really make sure your board is dry before you give it a once-over with your rubber piece--your Grip Gum or rubber cement remover won't work properly if the grip tape is even a little bit damp. Wait until the grip is entirely dry, and wipe the piece of rubber over the whole thing until all of the grime is cleared away.
Have you successfully restored your grip tape’s solid grip with household cleverness? Let us know in the comments!
Carmen Fiordirosa works as the marketing director for CleanTools, a manufacturer of household drying and cleaning products. CleanTools’ highly acclaimed drying cloth, “The Absorber,” has been used to dry a variety of home items, along with autos and boats. To date, The Absorber has garnered over 700 5-star reviews on Amazon.
Photo credit: RACINGMIX