If you climb outdoors, then you probably know that keeping your rope in pristine condition is a key safety concern. Most climbers know how to check their ropes for wear. There are four general causes of rope deterioration:This article was originally published in blog:
3. UV light
4. Dirt and aluminum particles (from gear, such as belay devices)
The effects of only one of these—elongation—is out of your control. The good news is that friction and UV deterioration are preventable with proper care, and microscopic particles can be removed through washing. However, it's important to know how to properly wash a climbing rope.
When to Clean Your Rope
How do you know if your climbing rope needs to be washed? One telltale sign is to look at your hands after you use it. If you can't see the design in your rope's sheath and your hands are black or grey after belaying, it's likely that your rope has become pretty embedded with dirt and aluminum particles, which could potentially compromise the interior core.
The climbing rope's core is where its strength lies, and keeping your rope clean is important for maintaining its integrity.
To wash your rope, you'll need:
1. Mesh bag or pillowcase (or your sleeping bag's storage bag will work)
2. Mild detergent (Tide or Dr. Bronner's castile soap)
3. Washing machine (no need for a dryer)
4. Time (allow two to five days for the rope to dry)
Get all that together and then get ready to wash your climbing rope.
Washing Your Climbing Rope
Here are the steps:
1. Daisy chain your rope to prevent knots during washing. (This is a good time to inspect it for wear and tear, and determine if it's time to retire your rope.)
2. Put the rope in the bag or pillowcase and put it in the washing machine, using a normal amount of detergent for a load that size. (I've never washed my rope with Dr. Bronner’s, but I have heard that you should use about 2 tablespoons.) If you have a rope bag throw it in, too.
3. After the washing cycle is done, pull out the rope and take a look. You can put it through a second time with soap if the rope is still dirty, or you may want to run it through another rinse cycle if it still feels soapy. If it looks and feels clean, it's time to dry it.
4. To start drying your rope, wrap it in a towel and squeeze out as much excess water as you can. DO NOT PUT IT IN THE DRYER! Hang the rope on a rack or lay it on a clean surface. To expedite drying, spread out the rope as much as you can, allowing air to circulate around it. You might be tempted to dry your rope outside. Don't. Prolonged exposure to sunlight and UV rays can damage it. It will take longer to dry inside, but that extra time protects your investment, and your safety!
Tip: Set up a small fan to help speed the drying process.
5. Wait. Depending on the length, diameter and weave of your rope, as well as the temperature of your house, the amount of light and airflow, drying can take two to five days. That's right — days. Remember, the outside of the rope might be dry, but the inside may not be. (One way to check if the core of the rope is dry is to give the rope a squeeze. If you don't feel any moisture, it's dry.) When the rope is completely dry, butterfly it and store it in your rope bag in a cool, dry and dark place.
Stephen Campbell is a guest blogger and a student with The WEST Institute, an outdoor seminary program based in Laramie, Wyo. He is an active member of the outdoor community, and passionate about climbing.