Grip tape helps a skater stay firmly planted on their board. When you’re moving at high speeds or hitting banks where you might be leaning, grip tape is especially important.
New skaters should value the skateboard grip tape more than veteran skaters. Although important for both, the skateboard grip tape helps new skaters compensate for their lack of balance.
If you get a little bit of dirt on the skateboard grip tape, it’s not a big deal. However, large amounts of things like mud or other debris can compromise the grittiness of the tape, leading to lower levels of grip.
You can try all you want, but plain soap and water with a rag won’t do the trick. You don’t want to make the skateboard deck even a little bit damp, anyway.
What is the best method to achieve cleaning the surface of your board? In this article, we’ll go into several methods for how to clean skateboard grip tape. With a few simple household items like paper towels and a brush, you’ll have the grip tape looking like new in no time.
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Why Should You Clean Skateboard Grip Tape?
Grip tape has a very gritty surface and helps bond the rubber beneath your shoes to the surface of the board. When you’re leaning back and forth or relying on the grip tape to keep your feet hooked to the board when you ollie, slick items on the surface can impair your skateboarding.
The other alternative is to apply new grip tape every time your current layer gets dirty, and that can get expensive. There’s no reason to buy excessive rolls of grip tape when you can efficiently clean it using a few easy methods.
Belt Sander Cleaner Method
The most effective way to clean grip tape also happens to be the cheapest, assuming you have some belt sander cleaner laying around. Even the thickest, nastiest, most comprehensive soiling issues can be taken care of by using an electric sander to clean your grip tape. Remember, we are using belt sander cleaner here, not the actual belt sander itself. They look like little blocks or bars of soap.
Even if you don’t own a belt sander, if you do some bargain shopping, you can find one online for about $10. This pays for itself over and over throughout the life of your skateboard.
Let’s try it out on your skateboard’s grip tape.
- If it’s hard for you to hold the whole block, cut off a small piece of the cleaner you can manage easier.
- Rub it firmly in a straight line using some elbow grease. If you’re having a hard time getting the dirt to lift at first, rub harder.
- Clean the residue that gets on the block and continue to clean the deck.
- Repeat these steps until you have reached the desired level of cleanliness.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t use soapy water when you clean with this method. Water can compromise the efficiency of the block sander cleaner, and it can damage some types of wood that are used on skateboards.
A Note of Caution
If your skateboard is made from maple wood, you definitely shouldn’t use water. This type of wood is more sensitive, and you don’t want it to warp or become damaged in any other way.
Don’t attempt to clean the sides of the skateboard using this method. It’s nearly impossible to get them clean, and you’ll probably end up ripping the grip tape off.
Soft Wire Brush Method for Cleaning Grip Tape
Using a soft wire brush can also be effective for cleaning skateboard grip tape. You probably have one of these wire brushes sitting outside on our barbecue grill or in your utensil drawer. Sometimes they’re in the garage with the screwdrivers and other tools.
You can pick up a soft wire brush at any local hardware store. Make sure you get one that uses brass wires. It’s also important to be mindful of how hard you’re scrubbing. Using too much pressure can damage the grip tape or the top of the board.
- Gently brush the grip tape using a circular motion with the soft wire brush. Don’t use a back and forth stroke; the circular motion is easier on the grip tape and deck.
- After a few rounds, use a normal brush or old toothbrush to wipe off the extra dirt that surfaces from the dirty grip tape.
- Repeat until you are satisfied with the level of cleanliness on your skateboard’s grip tape.
This method won’t be as efficient as the belt sander cleaner. It won’t be perfectly clean, but it will remove dirt.
Things You Should Avoid When Cleaning Grip Tape
Sometimes people recommend using water-based methods or harmful cleaning solutions. Don’t use a window cleaner or any other cleaning solution. A cleaning solution can be damaging, eventually ruining the tape altogether.
Try using a wire brush with fine hairs instead of longer, hard bristles. The smaller hairs do a better job forcing dirt to the surface. The longer wires tend to just dig and gouge at the tape and deck.
If it’s possible, avoid skating in places where you’re exposed to dirtier conditions. When you do skate in messy areas, you should keep a backup board that you don’t mind messing up. This avoids having to clean your skateboard grip tape all the time.
Related: How to Paint a Skateboard
Additional Tips for Dirty Grip Tape
- Leave the deck out in the sun for a while and let it dry. The sun will dry up some of the mud, allowing it to crumble and brush off. However, don’t leave the board in direct sunlight for too long, as this can damage the surface materials of the deck. You just want it out long enough to let the board dry, and you’ll be in good shape.
- When you regularly clean your board, it leads to a much longer life. Even when it doesn’t seem very dirty, using a microfiber cloth to give it a once-over isn’t a bad idea. Using the microfiber cloth will prevent dust buildup you may not see a lot of stickiness initially. This makes cleaning your grip tape layers easier in the long run.
- Don’t wait to clean the grip tape when you see dirty spots. The longer you wait, the deeper the dirt gets embedded, and the harder it is to remove.
- If you apply new grip tape and it’s too sticky, you can use the old grip tape to rub it down a little. Sometimes if you wear brand new shoes that already grip harder, the tape will make it difficult to move your feet.
- When the grip tape peels away at the edges of your board, cut it off immediately.
Sometimes you have no choice but to apply new grip tape. If the dirt and debris are too overwhelming, or the grip tape has just finally met its match, go ahead and cave and buy a new roll. A standard roll of grip tape is only about $6. This is the best way to apply the new roll.
Applying New Grip Tape
It’s not too difficult to apply new grip tape. If your board is losing grip, you have no choice. However, you’ll need to make sure all the old tape is completely removed from the board first. Most skate shops have different grip tapes available, but they all install the same. These varying grip tapes just have different levels of grip.
Removing the Old Grip Tape Completely
- Use a hairdryer or heat gun to make the old tape hotter. This weakens it and causes it to curl up, releasing it from the surface of the deck. Start at one end and work your way up.
- Use a razor blade to peel the grip tape up. Make sure you get beneath the surface of the tape and work your way up from there. Let the grip tape start losing some adhesive before you peel a new strip away.
- Repeat this process on the next spot once you get a full piece removed.
- Once you get under a large enough piece, you should be able to grasp it with your hand and rip the whole layer off.
Make sure no little pieces rip. If they do, they’ll remain stuck to the board. Use the razor blade to go back and get any remnants left behind.
Installing the New Griptape
- Remove the sheet from the tape and cover your board, but don’t apply it yet.
- Place the end near the tail or the nose of the skateboard. It doesn’t matter which, just start at one end and work your way up or down.
- Keep the tape at an angle, so you don’t get any air bubbles beneath the surface.
- Tap the grip tape down as you work your way forward, but make sure you keep it at an angle.
- Scrape the edges with a screwdriver or flat bar. Make sure you do this firmly so they lay down.
- Make a few small incisions near the bolts. The bolts should not be covered by the tape.
- Sand the edges down with the old grip tape.
- Push the bolt holes through from the bottom of the grip tape, then lay the rest of the tape down.
The process might take a little longer if you’re replacing a longboard’s grip tape.
After an application or two, you should get the hang of it. However, the goal is to eliminate the need to apply new grip tape so often.
Performing routine maintenance on every area of your board will go a long way. A few extra minutes after each session will lead to a much longer life for your skateboard.