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Rope Care and Cleaning

posted Mar 5, 2013, 11:37 PM by Ken Buscho   [ updated Jan 25, 2015, 11:47 PM ]

While the specifics of rope care vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, here are some general guidelines:
  • Inspect every inch of your rope before and after each use. Pay close attention to any nicks, cuts abrasions, or any area where the rope feels "mushy", or has a flat core.
  • Keep your rope as clean as possible, dirt and grit can work its way into the fibers and accelerate wear.  When working with a rope in camp, put it on a tarp to help keep it clean.
  • Sunshine and UV are not your rope's friend. Store them in the shade, out of direct
    sunlight whenever possible.  Bluewater Rope mentions that they incorporate UV inhibitors into their rope, but they degrade with time.
  • Keep your rope away from strong chemicals, such as battery acid and bleach.
  • Only mark your rope using "approved" markers; this usually means normal Sharpies, which are alcohol-based, are bad.  Most vendors seem to be happy with laundry markers, with Rub-A-Dub brand being recommended.  Here's the quote from the Bluewater Rope FAQ:
    • "Marking pens are fine to use on ropes as long as they are water based laundry markers. Years ago solvent based markers were the norm. Some of the solvents used in these old pens could reduce the strength of the sheath strands marked. These days most pens are water based so this is not as much of an issue as in years passed. We recommend a Sharpie "rub a dub" laundry marking pen." 
  • Wash your rope per published guidelines.  Also from Bluewater:
  • "Mild soap and cool to lukewarm water. A bathtub or large pail works well to allow complete submersion. Place rope in soapy water and agitate to remove dirt particles. Rinse well in several baths of clean water. It is extremely important to remove all soap residue. Leftover soap residue will attract dirt like a magnet. After rinsing, loosely coil your rope and air dry in the shade. Never use cleaners with bleach or bleach substitutes. Remember- it a soap is harmful to your skin then it is harmful to your rope!"
  • For really dirty rope, you can get a Dobi Rope Brush,
    pictured above, o
    r similar devices from CMI and other vendors that hook onto a garden hose, or build your own.
  • You can also daisy chain or loosely coil your rope, put in a laundry bag, and put it in your washing machine on a gentle cycle.  Details here.