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Posted on 27. Jun, 2011 by in News

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who has preordered their copies of Bouldering RMNP and Mt. Evans. The free eBook offer is still available. I will be moving the guidebook post up top and to the sidebar below the Buy Now button so that all of the info remains, and I will continue to update B3 on where and when the physical copies will be available. Again, feel free to ask any questions about the book by sending me an email at Thanks again everyone, your support was tremendous and I am very thankful to be surrounded by so many like-minded climbers.

Recently I made a climbing purchase myself, and it provides the subject matter for today’s post.

A good toothbrush is essential for properly cleaning holds. In the early 2000s the standard was the black, nylon-bristled plastic brush pictured below. Every serious boulderer carried one and with it the impression they were getting the holds clean.


In America, that all changed around 2003, or perhaps earlier. In 2003 I went to the Poudre Canyon with Herman Fiessner. For those of you who don’t know Herm, he is a nearly iconic figure of Front Range bouldering. He has been a committed boulderer in Colorado for over 15 years, and is someone whos (to put it mildly) interest lies in details. Herm had just returned from the fabled forest near Fontainbleau. As the story goes, a Bleausard was so impressed with Herm’s attention to properly preparing a problem and meticulous nature that he bequeathed to Herm a “horse hair brush”. Herm shared the story with us as he held out the fabled brush to dangle in front of our glowing eyes. My fascination was quickly replaced with a desire to use the brush for its intended purpose, and in my haste I promptly dropped into an unending pit of talus. Herm’s reverence for the cleaning object quickly turned to muted anger as the diminishing sound of the brush turned to silence, never to be found again.
This amusing story is interesting, because it eludes to the popularity and near fetish-like interest these natural hair brushes now have in the bouldering world. Every good boulderer I know has one tucked neatly into their Organic chalk bag, and debates about which colors are best have been known to occur. A few years after the horse hair brush gained a small following here in Colorado (with local climbers raiding beauty salons looking for the best brushes), boar’s hair became the rage. Lapis seems to make the best, although a number of American climbing companies have also thrown their hats into the ring.
B3bouldering, never satisfied, decided to do some research into finding a better brush. After hours of thoughtful internet searching, I discovered potentially the next level of bouldering brushes:


I paid $12.99 from the British company Kent for this implement. The first problem I tried the badger hair brush on was actually The Honey Badger at Lincoln Lake. It worked beautifully, so much so that I may have this secret weapon on guard for those desperate times when every factor counts. The bristles are slightly softer than the boar’s hair, and while this appears to clean the hold better, I’m guessing the brush will wear down faster. Perhaps the Lapis may win out with cost and durability after all, but when cleaning the chalk and grease off a problem is one of the most important things you can do to help get the send, I will now carry this brush, for special occasions, and the Lapis will be demoted to everyday use. Any thoughts on the Lapis? Or other natural, (or non-natural) hair brushes that people have found effective?

35 Responses to “Toothbrushes”

  1. Pat

    27. Jun, 2011

    I nearly ordered this from the same manufacturer a while back:

    I ended up deciding against it, but it could have been interesting.

  2. DaveH

    27. Jun, 2011

    I once purchased a Revolution Brush Kit. It was > $10 and contained maybe 5 brushes. Most of them were completely useless.

    It did however contain a really great hair brush. I don’t know what kind of hair but the brush was double sided and the handle was made of black plastic. Each side of the brush had a different density. While a bit bulkier, I found it better than the Lapis while it lasted.

    Have you ever tried the brush I’m speaking of Jamie?

  3. Gaby

    27. Jun, 2011

    I do know the best brush : ZeBrush! Well, it is not really better than Lapis, but it is less expensive and more organic.
    The handle is waxed beech and the bristles are 100% natural sterilized pigs bristle.
    If some of you want to try it overseas, I’ll have to check the price to send it from France…

    An image here :



  4. Brian

    27. Jun, 2011

    After I wore out the old Cordless brush I found (which was nice but they’re expensive) I started using leftover toothbrushes. I had no idea climbers were spending so much time obsessing over the hair type of their brushes. I have never heard of this.

    I thought this was going to be a post about the increased use of steel brushes and others that damage the rock.

  5. mervo

    27. Jun, 2011

    Lapis brushes for outside, nylon for inside, simple as that. (unless cleaning new boulders)

  6. Dan

    27. Jun, 2011

    I’ve found that a brass or stainless brush gets the holds clean down to the rock, leaving no signs of chalk or finger grease

  7. Joe

    27. Jun, 2011

    On flash attempts and projects I use muriatic acid for chalk and a propane torch for grease and a cheap make up brush to dust the grips

  8. Larbot

    27. Jun, 2011

    I am currently using the above mention double sided brush from Revolution. It is by far the best brush I have used. It is also fairly cheap (5 bucks?). I highly recommend it.

  9. big poppa chosscrush

    27. Jun, 2011

    few quick bits: hilarious intro with the herm story. i can totally see him silent and without expression, but BOILING inside…. before letting the steam out a release valve and carrying on calmly and without murder.

    my understanding is that natural hair brushes are better because natural hair has more scaling on a microscopic level than a relatively uniform synthetic filament.

    so, it’s not just the hair tip that brushes, but the friction along the entire length of the hair.

    i suspect the best brush would be the kind of hair that has the most aggressive scaling, but also with the greatest durability.

    re: nylon brushes. i’ve heard that out east people get all bent out of shape if folks use nylon brushes on holds. i’m curious why. is it believed that the nylon will polish the stone? i understand how steel brushes will polish stone. that’s waht they were made for, in part.

    but nylon? which is clearly softer than any stone? weird.

  10. B3

    27. Jun, 2011

    @Joe I think it is very poor form to use a propane torch to dry off holds. The extreme heat can have a dramatic effect on small holds. Capps and I, with a little effort kept many boulders climbable in New England on our brutally cold road trip with out the use of propane. Take care not to damage the rock!

  11. DaveH

    27. Jun, 2011

    @Larbot – Can you buy those double sided revolution brushes individually?

    The one I am talking about is the double sided one in this package:

    Jamie, ever used it? That’s two people who suggest it’s better than the Lapis.

  12. TJ

    27. Jun, 2011

    I think the best type of brush really depends on the type of rock. IMO, for granite, there’s really nothing better than moosehair. Stiff as wire, but doesn’t wreck the rock. Super scaled, so you can really get those holds scrubbed down., it’ll even clean off the shoe rubber without wrecking the rock.

  13. Michael

    27. Jun, 2011

    Is it true that the nylon M-16 brushes damage / make holds better? Or is that only the case on softer stone like that found in moab?

  14. Kaelen W

    27. Jun, 2011

    Nice picture!

  15. Ricky Newman

    28. Jun, 2011

    As always, thanks for the history lesson, Jamie. I had no idea that I should be thanking Flip Flop Feissner for his contribution to Colorado and, more broadly, American climbing (brushes that is). See you tonight; stoked!

  16. pootytaang

    28. Jun, 2011

    Out in Cali everyone uses Touchstone brushes – at least that’s what we call them (Touchstone prints their logo on the side), best brush I’ve seen.

    One Touchstone brush for wide grips. One Lapis brush for small grips. One shitty brush to let your chuffer friends practice their brushing technique with.

  17. Gomez

    28. Jun, 2011

    Here in New Zealand there is a black market trade amongst boulderers in kiwi hair bristles, far better than the lapis brush. I have also heard a rumour that the silver hairs from a silverback gorilla are the secret weapon of a certain Castle Hill afficionado…

  18. joeyjoejoe

    28. Jun, 2011

    As a vegan, nylon brushes have to suffice for me. I have used friends’ animal hair brushes, however, and they do seem to work better than nylon – my impression is that the hair is absorbent to a degree (whereas nylon is not at all), and sucks up some of the oil from holds as well as brushing chalk off, making for a much more grippable surface.

  19. Michael Rathke

    28. Jun, 2011

    Yes the M-16 brushes damage the rock because the plastic polishes the holds, thats why climbers should use natural animal hair brushes and not cheap tooth brushes.
    This is true for all rock. On some holds they make the holds better on sandstone, but in other cases they can make the holds worse..It really depends, overall the m-16 brush makes the holds worse because the plastic handle and plastic bristles polish the holds.

    animal hair with a WOODEN HANDLE sets the standards for a bouldering brush.

  20. Michael Rathke

    28. Jun, 2011

    The M-16 brushes damage the rock because the plastic bristles and plastic handles polish/change holds.

    any brush that has animal hair and a WOODEN HANDLE sets the standards for a bouldering brush

  21. Ian

    28. Jun, 2011

    This is hilarious… I use a Kent BK4 shaving brush. That’s what the company is known for.

    The traditional shaving forums and blogs debate endlessly on the relative merits of boar, badger, and nylon shaving brushes.

    Wonder what’s next… Using old-school British aftershave as liquid chalk??

  22. cp

    28. Jun, 2011

    yet another reason why wolverineland should be renamed badgerland…

  23. cardboard_dog

    28. Jun, 2011

    I’ve had a 3 or 4 inch wide natural hair brush since I started bouldering at Haycok back in ’02 or ’03. Its amazing on slopers. Cleans an amazing amoun of chalk. My other favorite brush is one of these puppies. Literally. It’s a longer brush than the picture eludes to and the two sizes are perfect for every size hold.. The secret is out.

  24. cardboard_dog

    28. Jun, 2011

  25. Hueco Girl

    28. Jun, 2011

    Touchstone Brushes are the best!!! our friend designed them. Lapis for smaller grips.

  26. Mike B

    28. Jun, 2011

    I use a Bosch Annihilator. I find it cleans the holds, and makes them better at the same time!

    Just kidding Jamie, Braxon Lake should be good round mid to late July…still about 15 feet of snow up there. Will keep you posted

  27. Larbot

    29. Jun, 2011

    I am not sure.. I got mine from Johnny at Revolution (helps to have friends sometimes.. haha) I’m sure if you sent them an email they would be glad to sell it to you individually! Clark and the guys at Revolution are great.

  28. Silven

    29. Jun, 2011

    Everyone knows Gabor Hair brushes are actually the best.

  29. big poppa chosscrush

    29. Jun, 2011

    GABOR HAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    29. Jun, 2011

    i just look at the chalky hold and say: “LEAVE. NOW.” and the chalk removes itself quickly and quietly or i grind it off with my dogs.

  31. cardboard_dog

    30. Jun, 2011

    If you need a “lapis” brush to send your projects then you aren’t training hard enough.

  32. Michael

    30. Jun, 2011

    That does not work

  33. TK

    30. Jun, 2011

    I dig placebo hair brushes…only way to go

  34. eric

    05. Jul, 2011

    Heard there was a brush made from Chuck Norris’ beard hair. Probably would do irreparable damage to any hold it touched.

  35. Ryan

    04. Aug, 2011

    This solves the mystery of the aggressively cleaning holds!

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