The more often you hit the slopes, the more important it is for you to know how to wax your own snowboard.
Even if you go snowboarding infrequently, you should still wax regularly. But you don’t need to pay for a professional to do the job, and you don’t need much equipment to do it right. Even if you have one of the best mountain snowboards on the market, waxing is easy and takes only a bit of manual labor. You can do it in your garage or driveway—anywhere that’s well-ventilated. It’s also a great way to get to know your equipment
If you own one, you should know how to wax your snowboard. It should be considered a basic ownership requirement, but so few people know how to wax a snowboard themselves. Instead, they rack up a bill paying someone at the snowsports store to do a task that only takes a few minutes with only a few tools. If you’re ready to become a fully realized snowboarder, then here is everything you need to know about how to wax snowboards.
Why Should You Wax Your Snowboard?
Waxing your snowboard is crucial for a few reasons. Here’s why you should wax your board:
According to science, your board glides by applying pressure and heat to the snow, which melts it and creates a fine film of water. Most snowboard bases are made from polyethylene, which is highly porous. Waxing lubricates the base by filling in the pores, so a good wax job helps you glide better, which boosts your speed and maneuverability.
Over the course of its life, your snowboard will endure unpleasant encounters with ice crystals, dirt, rocks, and other bits of debris. These wear down the material of the base over time. Not only does wax reduce the harm these objects can do to your board, but it gets absorbed into the porous polyethylene material, preventing it from scratching, cracking, or flaking. Regular waxing keeps your base hydrated and shielded so it’ll last longer.
A dehydrated board tends to flake, crack, and whiten. Waxing deepens the colors of your base and brings out that lovely glossy shine. Your board is a work of art—so treat it like one!
Shops and sports centers can charge up to $30 to do a single waxing treatment for a snowboard. Over time, that adds up. But you don’t need a professional to wax your snowboard. As we hope to show you, waxing is a simple task. It takes only a few minutes of manual labor. Finally, it’s a good way to get to know your own equipment.
How Often to Wax a Snowboard
This is a point of controversy. The truth is, much depends on the conditions in which you snowboard and how aggressively you ride. Depending on the conditions, here’s a good rule of thumb: wax your snowboard once for every three to eight days you spend on the slopes. For the average recreational snowboarder, this will mean waxing at least a few times a year. For others, it could be as often as once a week.
In any event, excessive waxing can’t hurt your board. It’s more important to keep up a regular habit of waxing.
If you wax your snowboard regularly, you will never have any problems. But if you neglect waxing, your board has ways of letting you know. There are a few signs to look out for. A “dry” base (that is, a base that has not been recently waxed) may look flaky. The colors will soften and whiten. The base will lose its sheen. Hopefully, you never reach this point.
An extreme sign that your board needs to be waxed immediately is when white “hairs” appear in the P-Tex (the polyethylene material used on the base). Interpret those hairs as your board’s screams that it really needs a wax. Don’t take it out again until you give it the proper care it deserves.
What You Need to Wax a Snowboard
Before rolling up your sleeves and getting down to business, review this complete checklist of what you need to wax your snowboard.
A snowboard vise fits right at home in your garage or studio. The more expensive models can take the form of a pair of vises that clamp onto the edges of your working surface (like a bench or table). The advantage of these models is they can secure your board in any position. You can work on your board in a vertical or horizontal position, right-side-up, on its side, or upside-down, depending on your needs. This makes it super easy to wax, tune, or detune your snowboard.
Don’t reach for your average garage rag or kitchen towels. There’s one word to remember: lint-free! These will be used for the initial cleaning and drying phase. So you’ll want them to be freshly cleaned, and without any bits of string, fiber, or lint.
We highly recommend using rubbing alcohol to clean your snowboard. Obviously, you could use water as well. Just make sure your base is bone-dry before you start drizzling wax. Alcohol cleans thoroughly but evaporates quickly, so you can start the treatment right away.
Your favorite wax
This is a no-brainer. You need wax… for the waxing. A single block of wax should last for several treatments, but make sure you have enough to finish the job. The last thing you want is to start waxing and then realize you can’t finish. If you’re waxing a brand-new snowboard, we recommend starting with a red wax (to review the different types of waxes, scroll down).
Despite its simplicity and cheapness, you can’t substitute anything for a plastic scraper. You will use this in the final stages of the treatment to scrape off the cooled excess wax. Make sure the scraper has keen, sharp angles. You may need to sharpen it first, and you can buy a sharpener separately. You can also use fine sandpaper.
Set of brushes
Can we agree that snowboarding is an art form? Every artist needs a set of brushes.
You will use brushes in the final stage of the treatment, after the scraping, to brush away the last bits of excess wax. We recommend collecting all three brushes. Each one has a different level of softness. During the brushing phase of the treatment, you will work through each brush in succession. The final and softest brush will really bring out the polish.
Wire brushes have the firmest bristles. You can use the wire brush to sweep away excess dirt and grime at the start, as well as for the final brushing. Pass over your thoroughly scraped base with this bad boy before moving to the nylon brush.
The bristles on this brush are made from a synthetic polymer. You probably brush your hair with a brush like this. It is slightly softer than the wire brush.
If you’re going to buy just one brush, we recommend you pick the horsehair instead of the wire or nylon. It has the softest bristles, so you might need to make a few extra passes over the base, but you will eventually get the same result.
This is both the most expensive and the most specialized piece of equipment you will need to wax your snowboard.
For this reason, many snowboard owners try to substitute the waxing iron with a household clothing iron. This is possible… but it’s not a great idea. The temperature can fluctuate, which can potentially burn your wax or damage your snowboard. Plus, many clothing irons have a “steaming” feature to help your cotton shirt relax, which means the face of the iron has holes. These could fill with wax and ruin your iron. The face of a waxing iron is flat and featureless—perfect for the job it was designed for.
Different Kinds of Snowboard Wax
For the most part, each wax is fundamentally the same. Every wax is made with a hydrocarbon base. But you can find a few options on the market that add extra stuff, like graphite or fluorocarbon. These additives enhance the performance of the wax. But unless you’re a pro racer, you don’t need to worry about additives. Even obsessive snowboarders tend to stick with standard waxes.
When deciding on a wax, the only real factor to consider is the temperature of your wax. Some waxes work better in colder climates, others in warmer climates. You choose your wax based on the average temperature of the area where you will be snowboarding. You might be surprised to learn that some of the best ski towns in America have very different climates. A low-temperature waxing treatment in a warmer resort will not stand up well.
The temperatures are organized by color, which makes selection easy:
Warm (red or yellow)
Red and yellow waxes are intended for warmer temperatures (25 degrees Fahrenheit or higher). Warm wax works best in slushy snow and ice. If you are waxing a brand-new snowboard for the first time, it’s best practice to use red for the first coat. Red is also a broad-use wax that is good for almost any environment, but it tends to be more expensive than white.
Cold (green or blue)
Green and blue waxes are “hard wax” designed for colder climates (below 25 degrees Fahrenheit). This makes them the best choices for dry and powdery snow. If you snowboard in more extreme conditions, you should consider supplementing your green or blue wax with the Swix CH3 powder. It’s easy to apply: Just sprinkle some over the wax drizzle and iron the two together.
Not sure what temperature you should use? Then go with white. White is a safe choice, and it’s the most commonly used wax. While racers and alpine snowboarders will favor green or blue waxes, white is the perfect choice for recreational snowboarders. While no wax is truly universal in all climates, white is effective in a range of temperatures.
Before You Start to Wax Your Snowboard
By the time you’re ready to wax, you should have all the equipment you need, and you should have decided on the proper wax to use. Now there are just a few items to work through before we go over how to wax a snowboard.
Especially for snowboards fresh from the factory, detuning is an occasional piece of maintenance. A new snowboard will have sharp edges all around. Detuning is when you dull the edges around the ends of your board—the tip and the tail—with a file. You don’t need to do this every time you wax, but if you do, make sure you do it before you wax. The edges of the tip and tail should be rounded to the touch, which makes them less grabby and reduces twitchy-ness.
Just as the extremities of the board should be rounded, the edges of the narrower middle section of the board should be sharpened occasionally. This helps the board grab snow and ice, which gives you more control while carving. Sharpening requires a special edging tool, which is easy to use. Do not sharpen the tip and the tail—these should stay detuned.
Again, you will need to wax your board more often than you need to sharpen it. But if the edges seem dull, burred, or rounded to the touch, make sure you sharpen before you wax.
You should determine whether your board needs sharpening solely by touch. The more days you spend on the slope, the sooner your edges will dull, and the more frequently you will need to sharpen your board.
How to Wax a Snowboard
Waxing a snowboard is not difficult or complex. Once you get the hang of it, the whole process should take less than 15 minutes. Here’s how to wax your snowboard:
Step 1. Remove or loosen bindings
Even if you have a snowboard vise, you will still have binding screws protruding near the surface of the base. These could become very hot during the waxing, which could cause permanent damage either to the board or the bindings themselves.
To remove the bindings, use a screwdriver to open the hatch at the sole of your binding and then unscrew each screw (there are usually four). Once all the screws are out, simply remove the binding. This is also a good opportunity to clean the area under the bindings.
While it’s best practice to remove your bindings entirely, this can be tedious. If you don’t want to remove the binding entirely, then at a minimum, unscrew the bindings until the tips of the screws are at least halfway through the board. They will still get warm, but this lowers the risk of damage.
Step 2. Secure your snowboard on a snowboard vise or similar apparatus
A snowboard vise is a convenient piece of equipment. You can buy a pair for cheap or make your own with some 2x4s, if you’re into carpentry. Or use two stacks of books. Whatever you decide, make sure your board is evenly balanced at a convenient height, about flush with your belly button.
Whatever you use, make sure your board’s tail and tip are at the same height and that the board won’t wobble while you work. There is no need to secure your snowboard with bands, cords, or straps.
Step 3. Clean the base
Before waxing, you want the base of your board squeaky-clean and free of dust. Every particle of dust caught between the base and the wax will aggravate their bond. To get the most out of your waxing treatment, a thorough clean is essential.
First, look at your board. Is there any visible dirt, grit, or grime? If so, use a wire brush and scrape every square inch of the surface from tip to tail.
Pro tip: Whether cleaning, brushing, waxing, or scraping, always start work at the tip and finish at the tail. Never go tail to tip or back and forth.
Once you have scraped away any excess dirt, grab a clean towel and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Do not pour the alcohol onto the base and then wipe with a dry towel. Instead, apply the alcohol to the towel until it’s slightly damp, then wipe your base vigorously. Make sure you are using a lint-free towel. If your wipes leave behind bits of lint or fiber, they will create the same problem as dust particles.
We highly recommend rubbing alcohol for this treatment. Water will do, but it dries much less quickly. And your board must be perfectly dry before you start dripping wax. Even if your base looks dirt-free, clean it anyway. There may be dust particles you didn’t see, and it is better to be safe than sorry. Wait until your board is bone-dry before moving to the next step.
Step 4. Drizzle the wax
Heat up your waxing iron until it is just warm enough to melt the wax (140 degrees Fahrenheit will be sufficient). You want it warm enough to render the wax block into a running liquid when it comes into contact with the iron. If the wax smokes on contact, the iron is too hot. If this happens, let your iron cool down before starting again.
Once the iron is at the right temperature, pick up the wax iron in one hand and the wax block in the other. Bring them together over the base. Run the dripping wax all the way down the length of the board. The width of the drip line should be about 1 cm.
There are many ways to apply the wax. You can let the wax drizzle fall in a zig-zag pattern all the way down the base, like you’re “pinballing” back and forth between the long edges of the board. For good measure, you can apply one last drizzle of wax in a straight line down the center of the board.
You can also drizzle straight columns, each only a few inches apart (three columns will usually do). Whatever your method, you want to drizzle enough wax that you’ll be able to spread it out over the entire surface area. When in doubt, it’s better to have too much wax than too little.
Step 5. Spread the wax
By now, you have at least one line of wax drips all the way down the surface of your board. It’s okay if the wax is beginning to whiten as it cools. You’re not racing the clock.
Now imagine your waxing iron is a butter knife and your board base is a piece of toast. Starting at the tip, put your wax iron face-down on the end of the drip line. Now run the iron down the entire length of the base. Keep the iron moving at a steady speed. Don’t stop or linger too long on a single spot, or else you could burn or blister the base (which can’t be fixed!).
Apply as much pressure you want. Don’t be afraid to move the iron in circular patterns to really rub in the wax. Short back-and-forth motions are also fine, so long as you keep the iron moving. By the end, you want a nice, even coat of wax down the entire board.
The iron should melt and distribute the dripped wax across the entire face of the base, right up to the edges. If you see this is not the case, apply more wax drips.
If you move too slowly, you could burn the wax. If you move too fast, the wax won’t have enough time to heat up and adhere to the base. You know you’re moving at a good speed if you leave a trail of molten wax about three to five inches behind the path of the iron. But this is more art than science.
Pass your iron over the base three or four times. During this process, the heat will have passed all the way through the board. The top should feel warm to the touch (if it seems too hot, let your iron cool before resuming). The surface of the base should be glassy and the color tones should appear darker.
Wait at least an hour before moving to the next step. Ideally, let the board sit overnight to give the wax the opportunity to cool and seep into the base material.
Step 6. Scrape, scrape, scrape
Is your board cool? Feel free to move it outside, if you live in a cooler climate. The colder the board, the easier it will be to scrape off the wax.
Once the waxed board is thoroughly cool, pick up the plastic scraper. The sharper the scraper, the better. A dull scraper will require you to use more pressure when scraping. This increases the risk of slipping and hurting yourself. Plus, a sharper scraper gets the job done sooner.
So make sure your scraper is sharp. Remember, you can buy a sharpener for your scraper. You can also use sandpaper to give your scraper a keener edge.
Holding it at a 45-degree angle (relative to the base), scrape off the excess wax. Push the scraper away from your body in long, overlapping strokes. Do not go back and forth, but scrape in one direction. Again, start at the tip and end at the tail.
Move down the length of your board as you scrape. You don’t need to apply much pressure to a sharp scraper, but you do need to apply even pressure. To avoid uneven pressure, use both hands to scrape.
As you scrape, you will peel away paper-thin shavings of wax. Continue scraping until the shavings stop. The goal is to remove as much wax as possible. The more excess wax on your board, the faster you will undo the waxing treatment. It works this way: You want the wax in the pores of your base. If there is excess wax, snow crystals will grab at it and pull it away along with the wax in the pores while you are snowboarding.
Not long ago, your wax was in liquid form. And liquid has a tendency to ooze all over the place. So don’t stop when you’re done scraping just the base. Using the small sides of the plastic scraper, remove the wax from the sidewalls and edges of your board. Feel free to use only one hand for this last bit.
Step 7. Brush, brush, brush
When no more shavings are coming off from scraping, you are in the final phase of your waxing treatment.
Brushing is essentially cleaning. You can also think of it as the second, more refined phase of scraping. The goal is to get those loose wax particles out of the pores in the base of your board.
Start with the wire brush. Apply pressure with both hands. Start at the tip and push the brush away from your body in long strokes across the surface of the base. Repeat this motion with overlapping strokes, working your way to the tail. You can also work in circular motions, using curved, overlapping strokes. Don’t be afraid of getting energetic. The time for delicacy is past. Apply as much pressure as you want.
As you work, you will see small flakes or particles of wax flying away. After a few passes with the wire brush, repeat the same process with the nylon brush, and then again with the horsehair brush. The last one will really bring out the polish.
You can brush as much as you want. There is no limit. You can’t brush too much. The more you brush, the more polished your base, the smoother you will glide across the snow and ice.
If this seems excessive to you, then you can get by with just one brush. We recommend the horsehair. But for the best results, you should use all three brushes.
Other Ways to Wax a Snowboard
There’s more than one way to wax a snowboard. The best waxing methods are the most effective and lasting, like a hot wax (which we just described). But there are a couple of other options too.
The hot wax method is the fastest and most effective way to wax your snowboard. It’s called “hot” because the wax is in a molten state when it comes into contact with the base. This method distributes the wax nicely, gives you complete control of how much wax you wish to apply, and soaks into the base material beautifully. This should be how you wax your snowboard most often.
There are at least two ways to apply cold wax to your base. The first is simply to scrub the wax block against the base in a circular motion until you get a nice film residue. Then run the waxin iron over the base. This can only be done with softer waxes, like white.
For harder waxes—like green—you can zest the block into a powder. Sprinkle this zest over the base like you’re powdering a donut. Make sure the entire surface of the base is covered with powder. Then run the iron over it.
As you might have figured out by now, cold waxes can be extremely time-consuming. You also have less control over how much wax you apply, and you’ll probably distribute it less evenly. But to be clear: Whatever your method, you will still need to use the iron to spread the wax. “Cold” and “hot” don’t refer to how you spread the wax. They refer to how you apply the wax to the base: as a drizzle (hot), or as a powder/rub (cold).
So you’re standing in the parking lot of the ski resort and you need a quick wax. In your backpack, you have a tube of rub-on Wax, which you can apply with a sponge to your base like chapstick. To be clear, this is not the same kind of wax you use when treating your board to a hot or cold wax. It’s the same stuff you put on your car after a wash. It’s a creamy and extremely temporary solution. It’s a quick fix—not a substitute for a regular waxing treatment.
How to Wax a Snowboard: Best Practices
Your snowboard will need several waxing treatments over the course of its life. Depending on how actively you use it, you might have to wax your snowboard every few weeks, or even days. However, there are a few things you can do to stretch out the length between waxings. Here’s how to get the most out of each time you wax your snowboard.
1. Keep your snowboard clean and free from dirt
Your snowboard’s job is to glide around on the ground. Inevitably, it gets dirty, even if it spends most of its life on a resort. Particles of dirt and ice irritate the surface of the snowboard—especially the base—which wears it down over time. To give your board (and your waxing treatment) as long a life as possible, remove all excess grime immediately at the end of the day. A wire brush is a good investment for this task, and a hand rag or hose will also do in a pinch.
2. Keep your snowboard away from open flames and heaters
Let’s say you’re carving slopes overnight out in the alpine. After a long hike, you build a campfire and plop your gear near or (heaven forbid) over the open flame. No matter how high-quality your wax might be, close proximity to a heat source will melt away any waxing treatment, or at least wear it down rapidly. It’s better to keep your snowboard out of the line of heat.
3. Store your snowboard in a dry, warm place
Have a designated storing place for your snowboard. Ideally, this is indoors where temperatures are better regulated. Even the garage is better than the porch, car, shed, or exterior of the house. Exposure to the elements and dramatic temperatures will greatly shorten the lifespan of your board—to say nothing of any wax treatment. Save the battle with the elements for the slopes.
4. Commit to one brand of wax
There are lots of choices for wax. Toko, Holmenkol, and Swix are popular brands, but (unless they include additives) the differences are nominal. But brands may not mix well with each other, so it’s probably a bad idea to use Holmenkol one week and Swix the next. Pick a brand you like and stick with it.
You own a snowboard to carve the slopes. You’ve got a need for speed. You might be thinking to yourself: “I didn’t buy a snowboard to get bogged down in the tedium of upkeep!”
While waxing might seem like a chore, it’s a basic skill for a snowboard owner. And the more you hit the slopes (or the more you want to do so), the more important it is to learn how to wax your own snowboard. You will save money while familiarizing yourself with your equipment. You will prolong its lifespan, increase its performance, boost its speed, and keep it looking good. So take it from us: Wax well and regularly. And who knows? You might even find it fun, eventually.