Published on: 03/01/2023
Of all the various bits and pieces of your climbing kit, your rope might be one of the most important. Your climbing rope is also one of the facets of your climbing gear that gets the most use. This is especially true if you use one rope all season long.
Therefore, properly caring for your most used climbing tool is essential to prolong its lifespan before eventually retiring the rope. Learning to clean your dirty climbing rope is one aspect of caring for one of the most vital pieces of equipment–it is your lifeline, after all.
In this article, we will discuss some do’s and dont’s for how to clean and dry a climbing rope and then share some tips to get the maximum life out of a new rope.
Important Things to Consider When Washing and Drying Your Rope
1. There Are More Ways Than One
If you’ve been researching this topic for five minutes, you already know there is a wealth of opinions about how to clean a climbing rope. Ultimately you will find out what works best for you. Just make sure to head all the obvious and nonnegotiable do’s and don’ts.
2. The Simpler, the Better
Despite all the different ideas out there about how to clean and dry a climbing rope, we tend to err on the side of simplicity. Warm water, a bathtub, and a rope brush are all we need. But more on that later.
3. Listen to the Manufacturer of Your Rope
When in doubt, listen to the guidelines set forth by the manufacturer of your rope. They will know the exact process that is safest and most effective for their products.
Washing Your Climbing Rope
Despite the various “correct” ways to clean a rope, there are some recommended guidelines to follow. We will share some of these ideas and then explain step-by-step our preferred method for washing a rope properly.
- Use lukewarm water or hot water. Cold water won’t wash your dirty rope as effectively.
- Use specialty rope detergents or mild soap.
- Daisy chain your rope and place it in a mesh bag if you choose to use a washing machine (it must be front-loading). To learn how to create a daisy-chained rope, watch this tutorial.
- Avoid using a top-loading washing machine; front loading only.
- Use soap or cleaning products with bleach or other harsh chemicals.
Drying Your Climbing Rope
After you’ve washed your dirty rope, it’s time to let it dry completely before using it again or putting it into storage.
- Leave your rope to air dry in a cool place.
- Lay your rope out in a single layer on a tarp, or hang it up to completely dry.
- Avoid direct sunlight.
- Use a fan to speed up the drying process.
- Use artificial heat to dry your rope.
- Use your drying machine. If you must, use the dry tumble or gentle cycle mode.
- Leave your wet rope in your rope bag.
Our Preferred Method to Clean Your Climbing Rope
As you’ve learned, there are many methods for washing dirty ropes (1, 2). Compared to some alternative methods that incorporate a washer machine, we like to keep it simple. The following six steps describe our preferred method from beginning to end. No washing machine is necessary.
- Fill your bathtub or a large plastic tote with warm, clean water. If you’d like, you can add a specialty rope cleaner to the tub.
- Starting from one end, loosely flake your rope into the tub until you reach the other end.
- Let your rope soak for a few minutes, and watch the dirt fill the tub.
- Using a rag or rope brush, run the entire length of the rope through your hand and onto a towel on the bathroom floor.
- Drain the water and clean the tub. If you want, you can refill and rinse your climbing rope again. Repeating the process may be necessary for filthy ropes.
- Lay your rope out on the floor inside to completely dry or in a shaded area outside. You can also hang it up to dry in loose coils.
Tips for Extending the Life of Your Climbing Rope
Washing your rope is just one way to extend its life. Here are some more tips to keep your rope as long as possible.
Open your rope correctly
To prevent an infinite amount of tangling and twisting when you open a brand-new rope, don’t just chuck the rope on the ground and begin to flake it into a pile like normal.
Brand-new climbing ropes are machine-coiled and then packaged. Therefore, you must unwind the whole rope the first time you open it and then flake it into a pile. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for how to do this properly.
Use a rope bag
A bag, or rope tarp, is a piece of equipment that helps you transport and protect your rope. Instead of dumping your rope in the dirt at the bottom of a climb, you can flake your rope onto a tarp. Prolonging how exposed your rope is to dirt, sand, grime, and other debris will extend not only its lifespan but the lifespans of your belay device, also.
Inspect your rope
Inspecting your rope on a regular basis is critical. It’s best to do this the first time you flake out your rope during climbing days. You can also perform an inspection when you wash your rope. As you inspect, you look for flat spots, soft spots, sheath damage and slippage, fraying, and fuzziness.
Store your rope properly
When you are finished with your rope, coil it and hang it up, or leave it uncoiled in a rope bag. Ideal storage locations are cool, dry, and protected from direct sunlight. Avoid storing your rope in multi-use areas like garages or hallways closets where they might be exposed to chemicals. Even a small amount of chemical contamination is one of the surefire ways to cause catastrophic damage to your rope.
This article talked about multiple ways to clean your climbing rope (3). Ultimately, how you wash your rope comes down to personal preference. If you’re a big fan of the daisy chain and washing machine combo, that’s great. Just be careful not to break your washer.
If you’re like us and prefer a simpler strategy, get ready for a more hands-on experience. You’ll probably end up covered in dirt and mud, but that’s okay.
Whatever the method–enjoy it! You’ll love the end product because it will look better and handle better.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Have more questions? Want to review some of the major takeaways from the article? Fantastic– keep reading.
Refrain from using conventional dish soap. If you want to use a cleaning product, choose one that is specifically designed to wash ropes safely.
You sure can. One of the best ways to clean your rope is to let it soak for a few minutes in warm water. Then, get after it with your hands, an old rag, or a rope brush.
In a residential setting, cleaning your rope in the bathtub is the most convenient. If you don’t have a bathtub, or don’t want to use your bathtub, you can wash your rope in a large plastic container. An alternative method is a washing machine.
In reality, warm water is all you need to clean a climbing rope. However, if you need to incorporate a cleaning product, only use specialty cleaners designed to clean your rope.
This will depend on how well you can hang your rope, its diameter, and whether you’re using a fan. We did the test with a 9.5 mm Mammut Crag Classic (without a fan to help), and it took about 48 hours for the rope to be completely dry.
How to Wash Your Rope (retrieved on 03/01/2023)
Care instructions for ropes (retrieved on 03/01/2023)
How should my rope be cleaned? (retrieved on 03/01/2023)