How to Clean Rope to Increase It’s Longevity

It happened again. As soon as you got your knot tightened, the rope snapped!

The longevity of a rope depends on the kind of rope it is and how it’s used. Some outdoor climbing ropes, for instance, can last anywhere from 1 to 3 years, depending on how often you use it.

One way to increase the longevity of your ropes is to wash them and remove any dirt or grime. 

What? You didn’t know you had to wash your rope?

Don’t worry! We put together a quick and dirty guide to teach you how to clean rope and other basic rope maintenance.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to increase the lifespan of your ropes!

How to Clean Rope Between Uses

Dirt and grime get between the rope fibers, weakening them and cause the rope to become brittle. Knowing how to wash your rope the right way will help keep it in top shape as long as possible.

Before You Begin Washing Your Rope

When you go to wash your rope, use fresh water. Saltwater causes further damage to the rope because of the salt crystals in the water that get washed deep into the core of the rope and tear at the rope fibers.

Also, use mild detergents only! Soaps with a pH of 8-9 (like laundry detergent) are perfect for rope washing. Any strong chemicals will cause damage to the rope fibers.

You will also want a sturdy brush with coarse (but not damaging) bristles. A good brush will help dislodge any dirt or grime without snagging or ripping the fibers of the rope.

Options for Washing the Rope

There are 2 main methods for washing your rope and each method has its own merits and drawbacks, so pick the washing method that works best for you and your rope.

the first method is to lay the rope out flat on a flat, waterproof surface. With a brush, scrub the rope from end to end and all the way around with a mild soap, then rinse with a regular garden hose or any other source of running freshwater. Hang the rope up off the ground to air dry.

The next method is to soak the rope in a tub of water with soap. Let the rope soak for 24 hours, then scrub it with a brush. Hang the rope or use a heatless fan to air dry.

Our third and final rope washing method uses a washing machine! You can see here the most durable washing machines in the market. Be sure to put your rope in a mesh or cloth sack to prevent tangling and only use cool water. Also, choose the slowest wash cycle you can and put the rope through two wash cycles to ensure it gets clean.

Don’t Throw Your Rope in a Drying Machine!

Do not, under any circumstances use a heated dryer to dry your ropes! This is a sure way to make your rope brittle like eggshells.

Yes, drying the rope with some kind of heat source is faster than a regular fan or air dry, but the electric dryer heat causes significant damage to your ropes both inside and out!

Do your ropes a favor and use a heatless fan or air dry methods only.

Other Rope Maintenance Tips

There’s more to caring for your ropes than a scrub down every now and then. Here are some other basic rope maintenance tips to help you make your ropes last longer.

Special Rope Coatings

One way to strengthen your rope is to add a protective coating or covering on it. Some of the most common materials used in professional rope coatings are PVC, polypropylene, nylon, vinyl, urethane, and polyester. 

If your rope did not come with a protective coating, you could use a roll-on rubber coating that seals the rope fibers and retains the rope’s flexibility. These kinds of protective coatings are not hard to apply by yourself, and help strengthen the rope structure so it can stand up to more wear and tear from regular use.

Proper Rope Storage

We’ve all seen the movies where people leave ropes coiled up on the ground and even on the docks themselves! This is the exact opposite of what you should do to store your rope.

To prevent the rope from getting dirty, tripped on and/or unraveled, hang it up in a convenient location. Try to pick a spot to protect your rope from damage caused by the elements. Fluctuating temperatures, sun, and rain always cause damage to your rope over time, even if you don’t use it.

Tying off Any Loose Ends

One of the quickest ways to destroy a rope is by unraveling the ends. If you don’t take time to seal up the ends of your rope, it won’t last you very long.

A process called whipping binds the fibers of the rope together so they don’t unravel. There are several ways to whip the ends of your rope.

After whipping your rope, make sure to seal the ends by melting them. Keep in mind that only ropes made with synthetic or synthetic blend materials will melt. If you have a cotton rope or one made of natural materials, it could burn like a wick! 

Now Use That Rope to Set Sail and Travel the World!

Once you get the hang of practicing proper rope maintenance and you know how to clean rope when necessary, you’ll notice your rope longevity will increase! The better you care for your ropes, the longer they will last. Then also have a look at True North Sailing, as they have some wonderful sailing equipment.

What’s the best thing to do with your well cared for ropes? Traveling the world, of course!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article and that you learned a thing or two about basic rope maintenance and washing methods for cleaning your ropes.