A clean surfboard with a fresh coat of wax.

How To Clean A Surfboard And Remove Surf Wax Properly

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It is important to clean the old surf wax off your surfboards from time to time. This guide will help you clean a surfboard and keep it in tip-top shape so it lasts a long time. A magic board is worth taking care of. 

There are a lot of reasons to take good care of your surfboards. A buildup of too much old wax on a board can hide dings that are taking on water. Surfboard wax can easily transfer to the bottom of another surfboard in the quiver greatly reducing its speed and performance. Old wax is heavy and isn’t as sticky as new wax.

If you are looking to sell a surfboard, a dirty board is valued lower than a clean board.

Surfers who live in a varied climate and use different types of surf wax depending on the water temperature risk the dirty wax melting off the surface of the board if left in direct sunlight. This is particularly dangerous if the surfboard is left in a car during the hot summer months.

Melted surf wax residue can ruin the upholstery of a vehicle. I lost a $100 Portuguese language textbook to melted wax in the back of my truck on a summer day. 

I always recommend changing the surf wax before or after a big surf trip to somewhere tropical. Mixing cold water wax and tropical wax usually ends up with a bunch of melted wax on the rails. Plus, you need to fix your dings before you plan on spending a ton of time in the water. 

Real repair shops tend to get all salty if you don’t take the wax off your board before dropping it off for repairs. Surf wax gums up the repair tools and they may charge you an extra fee to remove the wax.

Fixing a surfboard usually requires a good deal of sanding and you don’t want polyester resin dust mixing into the dirty old wax especially if you will be surfing without a wetsuit. That stuff can be itchy.

I have been surfing for a long time and I am trying to take better care of my surfboards. A clean surfboard motivates me to get in the water more. A dirty board with dings and water damage doesn’t catch as many waves.  

A quiver of clean surfboards

An Overview Of How To Clean A Surfboard

You are going to need some basic tools to clean a surfboard. 

It is best to have all the equipment on hand before getting started. When I was in high school I scraped all the wax off my surfboard before I went to the surf shop to get new wax.

Turns out the shop was closed by the time I got there and you can not put the wax back on your board after scraping it off. I missed out on a  glassy sunset session because I didn’t have the materials on hand.

Today, I like to have an extra bar or two of basecoat lying around, just in case. 

1. Remove the Old Surf Wax

The first step is to soften up the old surf wax so it is easier to remove. As you probably know, surf wax is highly susceptible to changes in temperature. It is much easier to remove warm surf wax than it is to remove cold surf wax. Sitting in the sun for a few minutes is the easiest way to soften up the old surf wax so it is easily removed. 

If you are in Canada, it might be a cloudy day or a little cold to use the sun to soften up the wax. I have seen people use a hairdryer or even a little hot water. You just need enough heat to soften the wax rather than melt the wax. Melted wax just makes a mess and is hard to form into a ball when cleaning up. 

All the big wax companies sell a plastic scraper called a wax comb. Make sure to get one that has a rounded edge to push with. The tiny wax scraper that comes free on a pair of board shorts is not the best tool for the job. 

If you don’t have a wax comb, you can use something made of plastic like a credit card or a waiter’s table crumber. If you work in a restaurant it is important to clean the crumber before returning to work because surf wax stains tablecloths.

Do not use anything made out of metal to remove surf wax because it will damage both epoxy and polyester resin surfboards and paddle boards. A metal tool can easily go right through the glassing and damage the polyurethane foam. 

You can get a lot of wax off with a wax comb but there will be spots where the scraper doesn’t fit perfectly. To get all the old wax off the board, you can use a wipe.

I use a solvent like the Sticky Bumps Wax Remover and a paper towel to get the last of the wax off. I have used the scrubbing side of a sponge before but it usually requires a little more effort. 

The Pickle Wax Remover is another very popular tool for removing the remaining wax. It is essentially a sock filled with some material that melts away the old wax. You never have to clean it and the dirtier it gets the better it works. They work for years and usually, only stop working when you lose them.

It is important to remove all residual wax from a surfboard, no matter what method yuo choose. Taking care of your surfboard also means repairing any dings on it. The best time to find and repair these dings is when you are cleaning the board.

2. Check For And Repair Dings

The best time to search for small dings and cracks in the glassing is when we are cleaning our boards. It is amazing what you can hide underneath a thick layer of black surf wax.

Dings and cracks take on water making the board heavy and rotting the polyeurethane foam. A damaged surfboard does not catch as many waves as a board that floats.  

I don’t do major repairs myself. Anything related to the rails or the tail I prefer to take into a surfboard repair shop.

Little dings and cracks on the surface of the board are easy to fix. Repair kits are cheap and will pay for themselves after one use. I don’t think you can get out of a real repair shop for less than $50 these days. 

Make sure to fix your dings before they ruin your board. 

3. Apply A New Coat Of Surf Wax

Sex Wax brand base coat and cold water surf wax

I love the way a new coat of wax looks and smells on a surfboard. Go ahead. Close your eyes. You can smell it, can’t you?

Depending on where you live and what the average water temperature is, you may need one or two different waxes for your surfboard. Surfers in warm water climates like Hawaii only use one surf wax. Surfers in Southern California will use two different surf waxes for much of the year. 

Warm water surf wax is hard while cold water surf wax is soft. 

A base coat of tropical water surf wax makes it easier to apply the soft and goopy cold water wax. I like to apply a heavy layer of base coat to my surfboard after cleaning it. That way, when I go surfing, I only apply a minimal amount of cold water wax before hitting the water. The cold water wax melts away easily but the tropical water (base coat) is a little more temperature-resistant. 

A clean surfboard with a fresh coat of wax.

Applying surf wax to a clean deck is an art form. There are dozens of different philosophies. I prescribe to the ‘little circles, big circles’ school of thought. Apply the base coat to the surface of your board in a circular motion first with little circles and later with big circles. 

You have to take your time. The base wax (tropical wax) does not go on quickly. It will take 10-15 minutes to apply surfboard wax to a shortboard and more for a longboard. 

Final Thoughts On How To Clean A Surfboard

Big beautiful wave in Mexico

Beginner surfers can take some simple steps to care for their equipment over the long run. Fixing dings and cleaning a surfboard go hand in hand. You are not going to notice the little dings until they become a problem if you have a thick coat of dirty and half-melted surf wax on your board. Keeping the deck clean is a great way to identify small problems before they become big problems. 

As I grow older, I tend to invest more money in high-quality surfboards, and I always try to keep them in top-notch condition. For me, a surfboard is not just a piece of sports equipment; it is a work of art. That’s why I couldn’t bear to see a brand-new, expensive surfboard covered with dirty wax and full of dings. Taking care of your surfboard is crucial if you want it to last a long time.

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