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Care and Cleaning of Rope

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Animation: Care and Cleaning of Rope (Rope Care)Animation: Care and Cleaning of Rope
Care and Cleaning of Rope (Rope Care)
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Care and Cleaning of Rope

Rope is all to often left in a tangle on the ground which is far from the safest way to store it and usually makes it hard to use. Rope should be kept neatly coiled, off the ground, and stored appropriately so that it can be used free of tangles without delay.

Care and Cleaning of Rope Details

Safety: The life of a climbing rope depends greatly on use and damage and, to a lesser extent, on care, cleaning, and storage.

Cleaning: Climbing ropes should be washed occasionally by hand in cold water with a mild soap, rinsed free of the soap, and then spread out or hung up to dry in the air. Avoid direct sunlight, do not use a dryer, and do not place the rope above a heat source.

Care: Keep your rope off the ground to protect it from dirt that contains sharp small chips and crystals. Avoid contact with chemicals, acids, alkalis, bleach, oxidizing agents (present in concrete), and embers, sparks or other sources of ignition, e.g., smokers. Avoid treading on your rope as this may work sharp particles into the core. Use climbing rope only for climbing - not for towing a vehicle.

Storage: Climbing rope should be stored, preferably after drying, at room temperature, ideally in a storage bag.

Life Expectancy: Manufacturers recommend a retirement schedules which errs on the side of caution and also, presumably, on the side of profit!  How long you decide to use the rope depends on your own inspection, knowledge of the rope's history, and assessment.

If a rope has not suffered a major fall, i.e., approaching factor 2 (a fall double the rope distance from the belay); if the sheath shows no significant wear or damage; and if the rope has not been exposed to damage from chemicals: it is almost certainly safe to use it within the schedule shown below. However, repeated minor falls, heat from rapid rapelling, and rapelling using small diameter carabiners all tend to weaken rope.

Climbing Rope Replacement Schedule:

  • Occasional use, e.g., alternate weekends: every 4 years
  • Every Weekend: every 2 years
  • Sport climbing involving frequent short falls: every 3 - 6 months
  • Major fall (approaching factor 2): immediately
  • Flat spots, soft spots, becoming stiff, sheath damage: immediately
  • Unsure of condition or history: immediately

Disclaimer: Any activity that involves ropes is potentially hazardous. Lives may be at risk - possibly your own. Considerable attention and effort have been made to ensure that these descriptions are accurate. However, many critical factors cannot be controlled, including: the choice of materials; the age, size, and condition of ropes; and the accuracy with which these descriptions have been followed. No responsibility is accepted for incidents arising from the use of this material.

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Updated August 18, 2014

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