Should we handwash, wash the rope in the machine, or just get a new climbing rope? Various people have differing opinions on when, how, and whether to wash climbing rope. And always remember, climbing rope is the lifeline of a climber.
But finally, here’s the ultimate guide to washing ropes (if you prefer).
When used outside, ropes become dirty easily. They may become covered in salt when used for seaside climbing. When you’re in the desert, sand is a problem, and that’s just the beginning.
It might be easier just to buy a new rope instead of washing it, but, really, it is worth taking some time on a Sunday to do that. To know How to take care of the Rope, check out this article.
How often to clean your climbing rope
After every belay, when your hands are covered in black grime, it’s time for a bath. This goes for not only you but also the ropes.
Having a clean rope makes it easier to handle, smoother, and passes through your belay device more easily. In addition to chafing and cutting the fibers from the inside, sand and grit can also cause damage to the rope from the inside.
Thus, cleaning your rope not only increases the safety and comfort of your climbing trip but also increases the life of your rope!
As part of routine gear maintenance and inspections, you should clean your rope periodically so you can inspect the entire length for signs of abrasions, wear and tear, or possible core damage.
Depending on how often and where you climb, you need to wash it more often. When you’re out and about, it’s important to keep the rope as clean as possible by using a rope tarp or by placing it on a clean surface.
Make sure you don’t step on it, and, well, just be nice to that lifesaving piece of gear.
Cleaning a Climbing Rope
There are many ways to clean rope. The web is full of opinions about how to do it.
Some swear by handwashing, while others toss their clothes in the washing machine and move on.
Below are some simple step-by-step guides that outline all the different methods.
With a washing machine
Others swear by it, some condemn it: washing your rope with a washing machine! Please make sure your washing machine is free of any previously used detergents or bleach that could damage your rope if you decide to use a washing machine.
If you are worried about tangling, either tie your rope in a daisy chain or use a mesh-washing bag or an old pillowcase.
Humans have always invented things to make life easier. This applies to washing ropes as well!
Use one of those clever little brushes to remove every last bit of dirt from your rope. The alternative is to brush and squeeze the dirt out with your hands, but those brushes will make the job more thoroughly and faster.
It is recommended to use a rope-specific detergent for cleaning ropes.
You could even use an old pillowcase to keep your rope from tangling up too much. However, the general rule is that you can only use items that are made to be in contact with your skin, such as shampoo or mild detergent.
Cleaning your Climbing Rope By Hand
Here’s what you need
You can handwash your rope quite easily. Simply you need water, a tub, and your rope. If you can’t find rope-cleaning detergent, you should use some lukewarm water. If you can’t get hold of any, you can use plain soap and water.
How to hand wash rope step-by-step
1. Make sure the tub is clean
The water should be free of residue from previous detergents and chemicals, as they can harm your rope.
2. Add lukewarm or cold water to the tub and detergent (optional).
Be sure to use hot water that doesn’t exceed 30 degrees Celsius and to add detergent as directed on the packaging.
3. Soak your dirty rope in water and let it soak for a few minutes
You can use this opportunity to inspect the rope for any damages, eliminate twists and determine whether you need to cut the ends.
Let it soak for at least 30 minutes to loosen any dirt within the rope.
4. We need some TLC
Using the rope, swish the dirt around. Make sure the rope is free of dirt and water by using a rope brush or your hands.
5. Once the water is clear, drain the tub and fill it with clean water again
The process of soaking and swishing around must be repeated until the water is clean enough to see the bottom of the tub.
Once your rope is out, you will need to dry it.
Cleaning a Climbing Rope in the Washing Machine
The things you need
Washing machines, ropes, and detergent. Just that.
When washing, some recommend stuffing your rope into a mesh bag or old pillow case so that it doesn’t get tangled up too much. As the rope is less likely to knot up in a front-loading machine than in a top-loading one, a front-loading washing machine is better.
1. Make sure the washing machine is clean
Run it on empty to remove any residue or leftover detergents or chemicals that may damage your rope.
2. Prepare your rope
If you want to keep your rope from getting tangled, you can shorten it into a daisy chain or place it in a mesh bag or similar.
As you loop the rope around the center of a top-loading washing machine, make sure you reverse the direction every time you make a loop so the rope does not wrap around the centerpiece.
3. Make sure you choose the right cycle and temperature
Use the slowest possible cycle and do not let the water reach a temperature higher than 30 degrees Celsius. It is often a “delicate” or “wool” wash.
You can add rope detergent following the specific instructions of the product if you own it.
It’s not a good idea to spin the rope.
4. Let the rope dry out
If you want to dry your rope, do not use a dryer or any artificial heat.
Keeping Wet Climbing Ropes Dry after They’re Washed
Your rope may need to dry for a few days, depending on your climate.
It should be stored loosely in a cool, dry place that is well ventilated and out of direct sunlight. Avoid using artificial heat during the drying process.
It is essential to rotate or move the rope pile so that it dries evenly. The rope should not be stacked when dried.
To prevent mildew, store the rope only once it is completely dry!
The best way to clean dry ropes
Dry-treated ropes are coated with a special coating to prevent them from absorbing water.
Dry ropes are used for climbing in extreme environments, such as ice climbing and alpine climbing, where they are more exposed to the elements than in standard sports climbing crags.
The coating wears off over time, whether you wash it or not. But when you wash it, the coating will come off faster.
Dry treated ropes can be washed, but be careful not to wash them “a lot” so the coating lasts as long as possible.
A good way to delay a proper wash is to give it a dry brush after use, especially in the first few meters that usually accumulate the most dirt or chalk.
If you need to wash it, wash it by hand in lukewarm water or in the washing machine on a wool program using a special detergent for ropes or synthetics available at outdoor retailers.
Washing tree climbing rope
Tree climbing ropes should also be cleaned on a regular basis to maintain their cleanliness and extend their life.
Unlike climbing rope, this rope contains resin and tree sap that makes it sticky and difficult to handle.
In order to remove these substances from ropes, experts recommend using a specific solvent that removes sap without damaging the rope.
As with a climbing rope, there is no set life span for a tree climbing rope and it depends a lot on how you use it and take care of it.
Keep it clean
Making sure your rope stays clean is the first step in caring for your gear since sap and tree resin can clog up ropes and other gear.
There are up to 24 strands of fiber bundles in a modern tree climbing rope, so dirt and grit can get caught between the bundles. In the same way as a climbing rope, tree climbing ropes need to be cleaned every once in a while, as these can act like tiny knives, causing damage from within.
As with a climbing rope, wash it by hand or in the washing machine with cold water. If you are storing the rope, use special rope soap to clean it and allow it to dry completely.
There are products that are supposed to help you clean ropes without damaging them if you have difficulty getting rid of sap or resin.