Chalkboard FAQ

Chalkboard FAQ

Having a quality chalkboard at hand is one of the best ways to stay on top of your to-do list, create captivating artwork for your business, or even just to spend a little time doodling. Chalkboards can also be a little bit confusing, with a few different surfaces to choose from and a variety of writing utensils available. So, let’s go over some of the most common, frequently asked questions that come up when looking for a suitable chalkboard.

What makes a good chalkboard?

Not every chalkboard is equal, and your personal preference could differ from what someone else may enjoy – but there are a few key attributes that all good chalkboards share. The main thing you’ll want to be on the lookout for is a chalkboard that’s satisfying to write on, but easy to erase if you make a mistake.

With that in mind, you’re going to want to learn a bit about the materials used in chalkboard manufacturing. The main difference between chalkboard materials is the smoothness of their surface, an important aspect that could make or break your chalk art project.

What are chalkboards made of?

Chalkboards can be made from a variety of materials – and the specific ones used will determine if the chalkboard has a porous or non-porous surface. A porous chalkboard will have tiny microscopic pores all about its surface, invisible to the human eye. Made from cheaper materials like plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF), porous chalkboards allow small amounts of moisture and air to pass through their surface.

Non-porous chalkboards, on the other hand, are made from higher-quality materials like slate, porcelain, acrylic, or vinyl. These kinds of chalkboards are able to provide you with a surface free from pores or defects, allowing artists to continually erase and repaint new designs on the surface without any hassle.

At Loddie Doddie, our chalkboard surfaces are made from steel with a baked chalk finish, set within a frame of solid pine wood.

Are chalkboards magnetic?

Not all chalkboards are magnetic, but magnetism is a sought after feature for many of us who enjoy working with them. In order to be magnetic, a chalkboard has to include a certain amount of iron – the most common way to achieve this is by using a layer of high-quality steel when constructing a board.

By using steel, Loddie Doddie chalkboards are able to hold your favorite magnets, perfect for keeping grocery lists and other important notes at the center of your attention – be sure to check out our magnetic chalkboard calendars as well.

How do you clean a chalkboard?

The best way to clean a chalkboard depends on what the surface is constructed from, as porous boards will be more difficult to clean than non-porous boards. A lower quality porous board may need extra care when cleaning, as the pores can trap small amounts of chalk or chalk marker within crevices.

Non-porous boards generally have a smooth, easy to clean surface free from pores or defects that make cleaning more difficult. One of these chalkboards usually only requires a bit of water and elbow grease to clean, making them the ideal choice for those who prefer not to deep-clean very often.

Here’s the best way to clean off a non-porous chalkboard:

  • Dry chalk: wipe away with a dry cloth

  • Chalk markers: dampen a clean cloth with a bit of water, and wipe

  • Stubborn stains: try scrubbing using a magic eraser with a small amount of water

  • Avoid: don't use harsh cleaning products, as even a little windex can harm some boards

While porous boards are more difficult to clean, they’ll usually require the same supplies as a non-porous board when dealing with traditional dry chalk. If you’ve dirtied up your porous chalkboard with chalk markers, you may even see a bit of “ghosting” – outlines left behind by chalk markers within the pores of a board. In this case, you’re going to want to either scrub off the stains with a foaming eraser or simply refinish the porous surface using chalkboard paint.

Do chalk markers erase off chalkboard?

Like mentioned above – if your chalkboard is non-porous, chalk markers will clean off easily. On a smooth surface free of textured pores, chalk markers are able to put down clean and vibrant lines of ink without staining, allowing you to erase and rewrite with ease.

If you’re someone who loves to craft or draw with chalk, these kinds of markers may be the best choice available.

Can I clean a chalkboard with water?

If your chalkboard is non-porous, a cloth dampened with a bit of water will be your best method of cleaning. However, you’re going to want to be careful when cleaning a textured porous chalkboard with water – use as little as possible in order to avoid leaving behind stains.

What can you use instead of chalk on a chalkboard?

Classic dry chalk may be what most people think of when they see a beautiful design drawn on a restaurant menu, but that isn’t the only option available. A number of chalk writing instruments exist, although chalk markers are likely the most popular kind:

  • Chalk markers: liquid chalk markers with bold and vibrant lettering

  • Chalk pencils: pencils usually used for sewing, but can work on chalkboards too

  • Mechanical chalk pencils: a thinner, refillable version of a chalk pencil

  • Regular dry chalk: sticks of chalk which produce a classic rough appearance

Can you use sidewalk chalk on a chalkboard?

Regular chalk is usually made from calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate and gypsum, or plaster of paris. If you want to use a thick stick of chalk on your chalkboard, you’re going to want to avoid any brands made from plaster of paris.

Honestly, it's a good idea to just avoid using chalk meant for sidewalks in general on your board, but plaster of paris is the main ingredient to keep an eye out for.

Compared to other kinds of chalk, those made from plaster of paris often come with a particularly gritty texture – which has the potential to scratch or stain the surface of your chalkboard. You may not ruin your board entirely, but plaster of paris is also known for leaving faint chalk lines that are harder to clean off.

Can you use dry erase markers on a chalkboard?

Dry erase markers are usually designed for use on whiteboards, not chalkboards. It’s generally not a good idea to use a dry erase marker on a chalkboard – these markers contain dyes and other chemicals that could permanently damage the surface of your chalkboard, depending on the brand.

Not every brand will leave behind permanent marks, but you’ll need to do a bit of research if you want to avoid replacing or refinishing your chalkboard. If you’ve primed your chalkboard with dry erase paint, you may be able to use dry erase markers on top of that.

Do you really need to "season" or "prime" chalkboards?

Not every brand of chalkboard requires seasoning or priming, but some do. Again, this is going to come down to whether your choice of chalkboard is porous or non-porous – as porous boards will require seasoning.

Essentially, the main reason you want to season a porous chalkboard is to avoid writing on a bumpy, textured surface caused by tiny unfilled pores. If you’ve decided on one of our chalkboards, you won’t ever have to worry about seasoning or priming it.

How do you season or prime a chalkboard?

Priming or seasoning a chalkboard sounds quite strange, but it’s actually similar to seasoning something like a cast iron pan. The overall goal of seasoning a board is to fill in pores, leaving behind a smooth, non-textured surface to write on. Interestingly, all you really need to do this is a stick of regular old white chalk.

Here’s what to do:

  • Clean your chalkboard: wipe any dirt or debris off your board, and make sure it’s dry

  • Prime with dry chalk: using the side of stick of chalk, rub gently all over the surface both horizontally and vertically

  • Buff out your chalkboard: with a clean and dry cloth, rub the chalk into the board in order to fill in any pores present

  • Erase your chalkboard: using a normal chalk eraser or damp cloth, erase any remaining chalk from the surface of your chalkboard

Once you’ve completed these steps, you should be left with a smooth chalkboard, primed and ready to be drawn on whenever inspiration strikes.

Can you prime a chalkboard with liquid chalk markers?

Priming a chalkboard with a liquid marker is possible, and the process of doing so will generally be the same as using dry chalk. The problem with this is that liquid chalk markers shouldn’t be used on porous chalkboards – making the use of liquid markers for priming largely pointless.

In fact, it’s best to avoid using chalk markers to prime your boards. The main issue is that liquid chalk markers stain porous chalkboards made from materials like slate or vinyl, which means seasoning them with markers may just ruin the board entirely. However, if you’ve already primed your chalkboard with dry chalk or chalk paint, liquid markers can sometimes be used on top.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a chalkboard?

Chalkboards have a few advantages and disadvantages compared to something like a whiteboard, and much of it comes down to simple personal preference. Here are a few of the main things to think about when using a chalkboard over a whiteboard – keep in mind, using liquid chalk markers largely eliminates most of these disadvantages:

  • Chalk dust is a thing, which does tend to buildup in classroom environments

  • Chalkboards may need to be seasoned or primed, depending on how porous they are

  • Can produce an incredibly irritating sound if used incorrectly

Here are a handful of chalkboard advantages:

  • Dry chalk is easy to care for, compared to dry erase markers which need to be capped

  • Chalk has nearly no scent, while whiteboard markers often smell of chemicals

  • Traditional dry chalk is very cheap, making it a budget friendly option

  • Chalk comes in a huge range of colors, allowing for better artistic expression

Can chalkboards be used outside?

Some chalkboards work flawlessly outside, depending on the materials used and how porous the surface is. You may have seen a chalk menu outside of a local brewery or café – and while this can be a great way to attract a bit of foot traffic, generally these chalkboards won’t last as long as one kept indoors away from the elements.

When it comes to our chalkboards, you should avoid using them outside if you want them to last a lifetime, due to the nature of the materials used.

Should I use nails or screws to mount a chalkboard?

Chalkboards can be hung vertically or horizontally using nails or screws, depending on what’s included in your order. Our chalkboards ship with mounting hardware included, which works perfectly for those with a drill and screws.

With that being said, you can easily mount a Loddie Doddie chalkboard using nails as well – but make sure to nail into wall studs for maximum support.

Do you make custom sized chalkboards?

We currently don’t offer any custom-sized chalkboards – however, you can shop for a wide range of sizes with different height and width dimensions.

Final thoughts

Finding yourself stuck with a cheap chalkboard that’s impossible to take care of stinks, but maintaining your board doesn’t have to be hard if you know what’s going on behind the scenes. By learning how to properly clean a chalkboard, season different types of chalkboards, and which writing utensils to use on a board – you’re setting up for success when it comes to using these unique canvases.