Chess Care Tips - How Do You Clean Chess Pieces & Boards?

When your shiny new chess set arrives, it’s either waxed, polished or shined. Either way it looks incredible! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of unboxing a new set. However, like everything, it takes care to keep chess sets looking amazing and that’s precisely what we look at here.


By reading this article to the end, you’ll know how to keep your pride and joy clean, regardless of what materials it’s made of. Chess pieces and chess boards made from a wide variety of materials and they all need different considerations to avoid damage.


How to Clean Your Chess Pieces

Chess pieces come in a wide range of materials. Let’s look at each one and how to properly and safely clean them.


Wooden Chess Pieces

The vast majority of wooden chess pieces are coated thinly in shellac, a natural polish to protect the wood underneath from the oils produced by our skin. Cleaning them is pretty simple, involving wiping them down with a soft, damp cloth and then drying them off with another clean cloth.


Some wooden chess pieces, however, come with a thick lacquered coat (usually nitrocellulose or melamine) and so they’re quite robust. Cleaning can be achieved with a lint-free dust cloth or a little mild soapy water if they become soiled.

Metal Chess Pieces


Again, metal chess pieces need to be protected from the oils on our fingers and that’s also usually achieved using a clear, thin coat of lacquer. So, it’s the same procedure as before. Wipe with a lint-free cloth and use weak soapy water if they get sticky or soiled.


That said, they don’t always come with this lacquer, but the good news is that these metal chess pieces are usually manufactured from a metal that’s hard to tarnish. So, a wipe down with dry or damp cloth - depending on how dirty they are - is typically enough.

Plastic Chess Pieces


If you own plastic chess pieces, you’ll be pleased to know that they’re the least likely to need aftercare, so if they get dirty or tarnished, you won’t have to worry too much about damaging them during cleaning. A wipe down with a damp cloth or a clean with mild soapy water will suffice.

Poly Resin Chess Pieces


The last chess pieces we look at are made from poly resin and the good news is that they’re another type that doesn’t require much after care. However, it is recommended that you don’t use any harsh chemicals, polishes or waxes. A damp cloth is usually enough to get the job done.

How to Clean Your Chess Boards

Chess boards are also made from a wide variety of materials. We now look at the correct way to clean them and keep them looking immaculate.

Solid Wood Lacquered Chess Boards

Typically speaking, wooden chess boards have a gloss lacquer (nitrocellulose or melamine) that gives them something of a shiny finish. Whichever type of lacquer is used, dirt can grime can be easily cleaned away with a damp cloth that ‘s been dipped in mild soapy water.


If you find that you get scratches in the lacquer over time, you can polish them out before cleaning again to avoid damaging the wood underneath.


Polished Solid Wood Chess Boards

Wooden chess boards also come with a polished finish which is usually an animal-based wax like beeswax. This provides great protection, however, unlike lacquer, it’s not permanent. This means that you’ll need to reapply wax from time to time to maintain the protective layer.

Generally speaking, it’s recommended to reapply wax every 6-8 months and avoid turpentine-based waxes as they can be quite toxic. Other than that, a regular wipe down with a lint-free cloth is enough to keep them clean.

Glass Chess Boards

If you have a glass chess board, keeping it clean is pretty easy, as it’s just a matter of washing it down - due to the fact that there’s no inner-materials that need protecting. However, you don’t want to leave streaks behind, so it’s recommended that you use a white vinegar and water solution for smear-free finish - just like when cleaning your windows.

Marble Chess Boards

Another material that’s used to create some truly stunning chess sets is marble. Whilst marble is quite hard to damage, it can be tarnished relatively easily. That’s why when cleaning, you shouldn’t scrub at stains for fear of allowing them to seep into the marble.

Instead, you should try and blot any spills up and cleaning should be conducted with gentle chemicals. Absolutely don’t use an acid-based cleaner like lemon or alcohol as it could cause harm.


Leather Chess Boards

You’ll also find chess boards created from leather, which aren’t quite as robust as their wooden, metal and marble counterparts. The top side of the board is able to be cleaned with a damp sponge or cloth both for general maintenance and when dealing with spills.

This type of board also requires you to look after the underside of the board, so you should be sure to keep it away from any substances or liquids that might be absorbed into the leather.


Your Source for the Finest Chess Sets Around

So, as you can see, there are many different varieties of chess boards and chess pieces out there that all call for specific ways of cleaning. Follow the tips we’ve shown you here and there’s no reason why your chess equipment can’t last you a lifetime. And all it takes is a little care.

 At The Official Staunton Chess Company, we offer the finest range of luxury chess sets you will find anywhere online. If you’re looking for a quality set for yourself or a loved one, we have an incredible range of beautiful products to enhance your playing enjoyment.

You can find our complete selection by visiting us online at, where you’ll also discover other blogs like this one to help provide a better understanding of one of the oldest games in existence. Alternatively, give us a call on 01948 880 060 if you have any questions that can’t be answered on our website.

We thank you for taking the time out of your day to read our blog. We’ll be back again with more from the spiritual home of luxury chess sets again next time. We hope that you’ll be able to find time to join us again.