How to Clean a Rock Climbing Rope

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How to Clean a Rock Climbing Rope

So you’ve got a dirty climbing rope. It pains you to know that the sharp microcrystals in the dirt are constantly creating tiny amounts of damage to this crucial piece of climbing equipment. Plus your hands get dirty belaying with it. Come on, it’s time to wash that rock climbing rope.

This was pretty much the pep talk I gave myself in preparation for washing my climbing rope this week. But despite my lack of enthusiasm, I have to admit that the whole process was really not that bad.

Some people wash their climbing ropes in washing machines, but this seems scary to me because the agitators in top-loading machines, like the one I have, can be dangerous to the rope – or to the machine – if things don’t go well. So I chose to wash my rope in my bathtub. Read on for tips on how to do this efficiently.

What You’ll Need

You don’t need much to clean your rock climbing rope. Some people like to use a mild soap and/or a rope brush, but you’ll do just fine with only a dirty rope, a bathtub, warm water, and some open space that doesn’t get direct sunlight.

Steps to Clean Your Climbing Rope

1. Give Your Rope A Bath

Flake out your dirty climbing rope into a bathtub full of warm water, and swish it around. Drain the water and refill, repeating rounds of swishing until the water remains clear after a swish. This is the easy and satisfying part where you get to play in the water and watch the dirt come off your rope.

If you choose to use mild soap to clean your climbing rope, you’ll just have to be extra thorough in your rinsing to make sure you don’t end up with slimy soap scum residue on your rope.

2. Lay Out Rope Away from Direct Sunlight

Lay out the rope in a clean, dry place that gets no direct sunlight. The same ultraviolet rays that can damage your skin can also damage the strength of the rope. A bit of sun on a rope while it’s in use is not a big deal, but if the rope gets left out in the sun long enough that the color starts to fade, then you are risking weakening the rope and should consider replacing it.

For faster and more even drying, make sure the rope has no kinks and is not overlapping itself anywhere.

3. Wait

Let your rope dry for a 24 – 48 hours, depending on the weather and the weight of your rope. If you’re impatient, a fan can speed the process. Wait until the rope is fully dry before storing it or using it. Climbing with a damp rope creates a risk of damage due to stretching, and storing a damp rope could result in growing mildew.

When your rope is fully dry, you can flake it neatly into a clean rope bag (I cleaned my bag by wiping it down with a damp sponge), and it’s ready for more great climbing outings!

Cleaning your rock climbing rope is enough of a chore that it’s nice to not have to do it very often. To prolong the cleanliness of your rope, and avoid the need to clean it after every few climbs, use a rope bag to keep it from touching the ground at the crag. Also try to remember to avoid kicking dust onto it when you’re belaying or socializing.

If your rope is just too far gone to reap the benefits of a good cleaning – especially if you notice any spots that are soft, or flat, or the core is showing through the sheath – stop in to White Pine Touring if you’re in Park City (or your local climbing shop if you’re elsewhere). Our rock climbing experts will be glad to hook you up with a new rope that’s fresh and clean, and also strong and safe.

Happy climbing!

Kendall Fischer, Content Writer