While chalkboards and chalkboard walls are erased frequently, it's also important to regularly deep clean a chalkboard to prevent lingering residue from building up. There are commercial chalkboard cleaner sprays available, but it's also quite simple to make a DIY chalkboard cleaner. One of the easiest ways to clean a chalkboard is with vinegar. Here's what you need to know about how to clean a chalkboard.
How Often to Clean a Chalkboard
There's no hard-and-fast rule on how often to clean a chalkboard; it depends on use. However, a weekly (or more frequent) deep cleaning is likely too often and might damage the finish, especially on chalkboard walls that are only a thin coat of paint.
Still, keep in mind that it's typically easier to clean off fresh chalk versus chalk that has been on the board for a while. This is especially true in areas of the home where grease, smoke, or hairspray can land on the board and set the chalk.
Before You Begin
One of the best things to clean a chalkboard with is vinegar plus water, detailed in the steps below. You can even get old chalk off a chalkboard with vinegar.
But if you don't have vinegar on hand, you can substitute it with a cola soda (used straight, not diluted in water). You also can add a few drops of dish soap into warm water, and wipe down the chalkboard with that DIY chalkboard cleaner. Plus, a cloth with lemon oil can get a chalkboard shining like new again. And nonabrasive commercial cleaner sprays, such as Windex, can be effective on chalkboards.
Equipment / Tools
- Chalkboard eraser (optional)
- Soft cotton cloths
- Measuring cups
- Distilled white vinegar
- Warm water
How to Clean a Chalkboard or Chalkboard Wall
Erase the Chalk
Use a chalkboard eraser or soft cotton cloth to erase any remaining chalk. Start at one side and work your way across from the top down using long strokes. Do not work in circles because that will redeposit chalk on the surface.
Frequently clean the eraser or cloth—or replace it with a clean one—as you work. This is particularly important for boards that have an excessive amount of chalk on the surface.
Prepare the DIY Chalkboard Cleaner
Pour 1 gallon of warm water into a clean bucket. Add 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar. If you are using stronger cleaning vinegar, only add 1/4 cup.
Never use harsh cleaners on chalkboards; they can ruin the finish. If you use the same cleaning bucket for other household chores, rinse it well so that no residue is left that might damage the chalkboard.
Wipe Down the Chalkboard
Dip a clean cloth in the water and vinegar solution, and wring it out until it's just damp, not dripping. Start at the top of the chalkboard, and wipe down the board in long, smooth strokes. By starting at the top, you will catch any drips that form. Rinse out the cloth frequently as you move across the board.
Squeegee Excess Cleaning Solution
Use a window squeegee (like one from Libman) to remove excess cleaning solution. Starting at the top of the board, move sideways from one edge to the other in long horizontal strokes. At the opposite edge, use a soft, dry cloth to wipe the blade of the squeegee. Then, go back to the starting point, and make another horizontal stoke just beneath the first one.
Repeat the steps until you have used the squeegee on the entire board surface. Use a dry cloth to capture any drips or excess moisture as you work.
Allow the Chalkboard to Air-Dry
Wait for the chalkboard to air-dry thoroughly before writing or drawing on it. Chalk marks added to a wet board can be nearly impossible to remove.
How to Remove Stains From Chalkboards
If crayon marks or food stains appear on the chalkboard, they will need to be removed as soon as possible.
- Crayon: To remove crayon marks, make a paste of baking soda and a few drops of water. Dip a sponge or soft cloth in the paste, and gently scrub the section of the chalkboard with the marks. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the crayon is transferred off the board. Finish by wiping the area with plain water, and allow it to air dry well before using.
- Food and grease: Remove food splatters with a clean, damp cloth. If the food left a grease spot, allow the damp board to dry. Then, cover the grease stain with a thick layer of chalk. Allow it to sit overnight, and then erase it. Repeat until the chalk has absorbed all of the oil.
Tips to Keep a Chalkboard Looking Its Best Longer
Season the Chalkboard
Seasoning a chalkboard with a coating of chalk will help to prevent ghosting—i.e., bits of chalk being left behind after you erase. The chalk coating will settle into minute grooves on the surface, preventing future writing and drawing from lingering in those same grooves. Ghosting is especially common with chalk pens because the liquid chalk can more easily seep into tiny crevices.
To season your chalkboard, use the side of a piece of chalk to completely cover the board from side to side, top to bottom. Then, wipe away the chalk with an eraser or soft cloth.
Seasoning should be done before the chalkboard is used for the first time, as well as after every deep cleaning. Be sure the board is completely dry before seasoning. If you created a wall with chalkboard paint, allow the paint to cure for at least one week before seasoning.
Avoid Vigorous Scrubbing
Stay away from gritty or harsh cleaners that can damage the chalkboard surface. Likewise, only use soft cloths and erasers, never abrasive sponges or brushes.