Just Say NO! to Wax Remover
- By Mike Muha
Using wax remover on your skis is generally not the optimal method for cleaning your skis. It's not that waxing solvents are necessarily bad for the base material, it really has to do with how it impacts your ski's performance.
Over time, your ski absorbs more wax the more times it's waxed. This is frequently given as one of the main reasons that older skis are faster than new skis - wax impregnation is higher. The wax "conditions" the base, making the base harder or softer and more or less hydrophobic (water repelling). Some skiers have specialized a pair of skis for cold conditions, for example, by repeated waxings with colder, harder waxes. This conditions the base to be harder and resist sharp snow crystals.
So what happens with you use wax remover? You remove all that wax and thus all the base conditioning. To recover requires repeated re-application of wax. Why go through all that extra work?
Cleaning Glide Wax
So how to you clean the glide wax areas of your skis without using wax remover?
- Scrape the ski. (Rule: don't push down hard - a Plexiglas scraper is harder than your ski base).
- Brush the ski with a soft metal brush if you have one, or use your Nylon. Toko recommends their copper brush; Swix, their bronze medium-course brush.
- Do a "surface" hot wax with a cheap, soft wax. Heat the wax just enough so it's melted on top of ski. Don't heat up the ski enough to have the wax absorbed by the ski - the ski will simply absorb the dirt as well!
- While the wax is still soft, remove as much as possible with a plastic scraper.
- Let the ski cool. As it cools, more wax will come to the surface. Scrape again.
- Brush again.
Cleaning Kick Wax
Removing kick wax - particularly klister - is more problematic. You can't use brushes on kick wax. But the issue of maintaining layers of wax in the base is not important - using wax remover is OK if you assume it's not doing damage to the base.
There are a couple reasons when you really need to clean yor kick zones:
- When it's dirt or gritty, so new wax won't adhere well and glide will be impacted.
- When the kick zone covered in a warm kick wax, but you need a cold wax. (Although you can use of soft wax under a hard wax when you know conditions are warming, using a soft wax as a base for a hard wax is not recommended).
So here's a couple different methods or removing kick wax:
The Wax Remover Method
- Scrape as much kick wax off the ski as possible using a plastic scraper. I use the scrapers that come with klister - I run these soft scrapers down one side of the groove, then the other. I do NOT use my glide wax scrapers! I worry both about gouging the base with the hard plastic and about contaminating by glide wax with kick wax still on the scraper. Yes, you can clean them before using them on glide was, but using klister scrapers is simply safer and easier.
- For klister, pressing a layer of toilet paper into the klister will make it easier to remove with a scraper.
- Dampen a paper towel or Fiberlene with wax remover and run it along the kick zone to remove the remaining wax and dirt.
- For klister, you may find that a dampening a piece of Fibertex (a Scotch BritePad - type material) with ski wax remover works better than Fiberlene to get klister gobs off the base and sidewalls.
- Let the ski dry completely.
- Lightly sand the kick zone with 120 to 180 grit sandpaper before rewaxing.
The Absorbent Paper Towel Method
- Scrape as much kick wax off the ski as possible using a plastic scraper. I use the scrapers that come with klister - I run these soft scrapers down one side of the groove, then the other. (See the warning about using glide wax scrapers above).
- Lay absorbent paper (toilet paper, paper towels, blue paper shop towels, Fiberlene, etc.) over the kick zone. Lint-free is better.
- Iron over the paper. The paper will absorb the wax and dirt. (A little more risky: Warm the kick wax or klister with a hair dryer or heat gun and wipe clean).
- Repeat as necessary.
- Lightly sand the kick zone with 150 or 180 grit sandpaper before rewaxing.
The disadvantage of using an iron is that you need to clean the iron before using it on glide waxes.
If the ski is really dirty, you may still have to use wax solvent. Follow the steps above, the dampen a paper towel or Fiberlene with wax remover and run it along the kick zone to remove the remaining dirt. No need to soak your ski in wax remover first. Make sure to let the ski dry completely before trying to rewax!
With klister, you may find that dampening a piece of Fibertex (a Scotch BritePad - type material) works better than Fiberlene.