How to Clean a Chalkboard That's Stubbornly Cloudy and Dusty

By Sharon Brandwein

As schools far and wide have switched over to whiteboards, you might think that would signal the demise of chalkboards. But thanks to art stores everywhere and clever inventions like chalkboard paint, chalkboards are still alive and well in homes across the country, no doubt to the delight of children everywhere. This tried-and-true childhood staple is a great way to keep the kids busy when you need a moment, and they can also be a decorative element in the home.

Those of us who are familiar with chalkboards know the downsides all too well. With regular use, chalkboards can become dusty, cloudy, and maybe not so great to look at. Fortunately, chalkboards are pretty easy to bring back to life.

You might be surprised to learn that there is no singular best way to clean a blackboard; there are plenty of options. Even better, you can easily clean a chalkboard with a few inexpensive pantry staples.

Ahead, this guide shares a few great ways to clean a chalkboard using materials you already have around the house. As a little bonus, we even cover what you need to use to clean a chalkboard with marker stains, and we offer up a few best practices to keep your chalkboard in tip-top shape.

chalkboard with white molded frame

Photo via Stacy Ling | Bricks 'n Blooms

How to Clean a Chalkboard with Vinegar

To properly clean a chalkboard, you may need to go beyond the standard-issue felt erasers. Pantry and kitchen staples like vinegar, soda, and glass cleaner are great for getting your chalkboard back to black (or green).

Vinegar is a household icon, and rightly so, considering it's used in everything from cake to powerful household cleaners. The best part is, this method of cleaning a chalkboard is easy and inexpensive. Here's what you need to know. 

Tools and Materials Needed: 

  • Chalkboard eraser
  • 1-gallon water
  • Bucket
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • Long-handled spoon for stirring
  • Clean cloth 

Step 1: Erase

Erase the chalkboard. 

Step 2: Fill Bucket

Fill the bucket with one gallon of warm water.

Step 3: Add Vinegar

Add a half cup of vinegar to the water and mix well.

Step 4: Wipe Board

Dip a clean cloth into the water-vinegar solution, ring out the excess water, and wipe the board clean. Re-wet the cloth with more vinegar solution as needed.

Step 5: Let Dry

Leave the board to air dry. 

How to Clean a Chalkboard with Cola  

It may be weird to think that sticky soda can be an effective cleaner for chalkboards, but it works surprisingly well. The acidity from the soda will pick up any lingering chalk dust. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re team Pepsi or team Coke; any dark soda will do.

Tools and Materials Needed: 

  • Chalkboard eraser
  • Cola
  • Large bowl
  • Clean cloth(s) 

Step 1: Erase

Erase the chalkboard. 

Step 2: Add Soda to Bowl

Pour one cup of soda into the bowl. 

Step 3: Dip Cloth in Soda

Wet a clean cloth with water, wring it out, and dip it into the soda. Be sure to only add a little bit of cola to the cloth. Ideally, you just want the cloth to look a little brown; you do not want the soda dripping from the cloth. 

Step 4: Wipe Board

Use the cola-dipped cloth to wipe the board down. Re-wet the cloth with more soda as needed.

Step 5: Wipe with Water (optional)

If you’re worried about leaving behind a sticky residue, you could take a clean cloth, dampened only with water, and give the board a final wipe down. 

chalkboard and liquid chalk markers

Photo via Nancy @ ArtsyChicksRule

How to Clean a Chalkboard with Glass Cleaner

Unlike the previous methods, you won’t use glass cleaner to aid in daily or weekly chalkboard cleaning and maintenance to get rid of clouds and residual chalk dust. You’ll only need to resort to glass cleaner if you use liquid chalk markers on your chalkboard and need to take the ink off.

Heard of Liquid Chalk?

Colorful liquid chalk markers are a popular way for bars and restaurants to display their daily specials.

Tools and Materials Needed: 

  • Chalkboard eraser
  • Glass cleaner
  • Clean microfiber cloth

Step 1: Spray the Board

Generously spray the entire board with glass cleaner, focusing specifically on the areas where liquid chalk was applied. 

Step 2: Let Sit

Give the glass cleaner time to cut through the liquid chalk and let it sit for about five minutes. 

Step 3: Wipe Down

Wipe the board down with a clean microfiber cloth. If the liquid chalk isn’t completely gone, you can repeat the process as needed.

How to Clean Marker Stains Off a Chalkboard

Chalkboards are made for chalk, but accidents happen. If marker finds its way to your chalkboard, don't worry; there is a way to get it off! Here's how. 

Tools and Materials Needed: 

  • Chalkboard eraser
  • Clean cloth 
  • ½ cup rubbing alcohol 
  • 1 cup water

Step 1: Erase 

Erase the chalkboard. 

Step 2: Dampen Cloth in Alcohol

Dampen a clean cloth with a little bit of rubbing alcohol.

Step 3: Wipe Down

Wipe the marker-stained area of the chalkboard with the cloth. The alcohol should lift the stain right up.

Step 4: Rinse with Water

Dampen a clean cloth with water and give the board a final wipe down.

chalkboard next to a bottle of wine

Photo via Paige @ southerncurated

Tips for Keeping a Chalkboard Clean

Yes, a chalkboard will inevitably get used and dusty between washes. But there are still a few tips and tricks to keeping a chalkboard clean for longer.

Clean it Regularly

There are no hard-and-fast rules for how often you should clean a chalkboard. However, a good rule of thumb to keep it in good condition is that if you use the board daily, you may want to clean it at least two to three times a week.

Don't Let Chalk Sit for too Long 

Keep in mind that if chalked writing is left on the board for more than two days, you may have to put a little more effort into cleaning it. If you know you'll be away from the board for a while, do your best to erase the chalk before you leave.

Use a Squeegee

Plain old water is one of the best ways to clean a blackboard. The only problem with this (as many of us may remember from our elementary school days) is that water tends to leave streaks across the board, which can be distracting. An easy way to avoid that is to wipe the chalkboard with a squeegee after cleaning it with water. This will efficiently remove any excess moisture and prevent unsightly streaks. 

Use High-Quality Erasers

Like anything else in life, using high-quality iterations of whatever product you're talking about is always a good idea. For chalkboard erasers, those made with high-quality felt will not only clean your board better, but they can go a long way toward keeping the dust to a minimum.

Season the Chalkboard

Just as you would season a cast iron pan, there is a way to season a chalkboard. To be clear, though, in this case, you are not using oil; you are using chalk. Seasoning a chalkboard is as easy as applying a thin coating of chalk across your board before you ever use it. Doing so allows for a thin layer of chalk to settle into the microscopic grooves of your board and prevents ghosting and helps the chalk erase easily in subsequent uses.

To season your chalkboard, place a piece of chalk flat against your chalkboard and rub it on the board from side to side. Be sure to cover the entire board with your layer of chalk. When you're done, simply wipe away the chalk with an eraser or a soft cloth. 

Do you have any tips for cleaning a chalkboard? Tell us in the comments—we'd love to hear them!

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