A Google search of “how to wash your rope” will lead you down a winding path of climbing forums with many opinions on the various techniques out there. Fear not, we’ve combed through all of the existing literature on the subject to provide you with a comprehensive yet simple guide to washing your rope.
Not only will a dirty rope make your hands black, rope manufacturers also recommend washing it to extend life. The silt and sand work their way through the sheath into the fibers causing interior abrasions. The grit is also hard on gear, wearing out biners faster over time and clogging up your GriGri (causing faster wear on its metal parts, as well as your rope sheath passing through it with more friction). So, now that you’re totally out of excuses to put off washing your rope, let’s get to it.
The most important thing is to not damage your rope, you know, since your life depends on it. To that end:
- NO hot water
- NO soap*
- Use ONLY the slowest cycle on a washing machine
- Lay flat to dry (so it won’t stretch)
*Note that rope wash or tech wash is specially formulated for safe use on ropes
Method 1: The Bathtub + Rope Brush
For those who are Type A with detail-oriented personalities. This method will enable you to scrub down the entire surface area of your rope by hand to your desired level of perfection. (“It’s going to look just like new!” you tell yourself )
1. Pour yourself a large glass of wine and put on a pair of knee pads, since you’ll be kneeling in the bathroom for a while.
2. Fill the bathtub with cold water and add rope wash or a soap-free tech wash (we used Nikwax Tech Wash).
3. Add rope and agitate.
4. Now the fun begins! Take your rope brush and twist one end of your rope through it. Once it’s through, put the rope back under water and pull the entire length of the rope through the rope brush. We used a Beal rope brush.
6. Ask yourself why you bought that 70m rope instead of a 60m one.
7. Repeat until satisfied. Pour yourself another glass of wine (or two!)
8. Empty the bathtub and refill with clean, cold water and agitate. Repeat until the water is fairly clear.
9. If you feel like you haven’t gotten enough of a forearm workout, pull the rope through the rope brush one more time during rinsing, just for good measure.
10. Lay your rope on a flat surface, away from a heat source and allow it to dry.
11. Realize that your rope will never look like new, but hey, at least you tried.
Method 2: The Washing Machine
For those who are short on time, have sore knees, or just want to wash the rope and be done with it.
Notes on washing machines:
- Front or top-loading machines can all be OK!
- If you have a top-loading machine with a central agitator, test it on the lowest cycle and take a peek if you can. If you are concerned the rope may get caught in the agitator and stretch, put it in a pillowcase.
- If you are at all worried the rope will get tangled in your washing machine, put it in a pillowcase.
1. Run the washing machine empty with a cycle of plain, hot water to clean it of any soap residue. Don’t do this at a Laundromat—who knows what people have put in there before you!
2. Daisy chain that sucker. (See images above, or this video is even better)
3. Put the rope into the washing machine (either in a pillowcase or not). If you’re using a pillowcase, fold down the open end and safety pin it shut in multiple places along the top.
4. Let the machine fill with water using whatever load size will add enough water to cover the rope.
5. Add your rope wash or tech wash and agitate a little bit by hand to distribute it before letting the gentle cycle start.
6. Have a glass of wine anyways.
7. When it’s done, take it out and undo the daisy chain. Simply pull and it will unravel.
8. Lay your rope on a flat surface, away from a heat source and allow it to dry.
What’s your preferred method — bathtub or washing machine? We’d love to hear any tips and tricks you have!
Climb on (with clean hands!)
Emily, Shannon, and Jen F.