How To: Clean Your Climbing Rope

We put our climbing ropes through their paces, and you can extend their life with a good cleaning. Or, repurpose a retired rope to celebrate it in a new way. Whether you’re crafting with a retired rope or your hands are black with dirt after each belay session, follow these tips to give new life to your climbing rope.
Trevor Dickie Trevor Dickie
Content Associate
June 28, 2020

Climbing ropes get dirty. Are your hands black with dirt after a few climbs? Is your rope bag perpetually filled with dust? Does your neck get dirty when you coil your rope? If you answered yes to any of the above, it may be time for cleaning. All you need mild laundry detergent (often labeled for "delicates"), a bathtub, and your rope!

Laying them on the ground, running them through belay devices, and stuffing them into your climbing bag all add grit. No need to worry! Cleaning your rope is an easy process, and it only takes a day or so before your rope is dry and ready to use.

Here are the easy steps to add new life to your dirty climbing rope:

Washing instructions

Bathtub

Once you’ve decided that your rope is in need of a cleaning, grab your rope, detergent, and head to the bathtub. 

Fill the tub with warm water and add a small amount of detergent. You want it to be mildly bubbly, but not bubble-bath level. 

Slowly flake your rope into the tub. Swish it around in the tub and let it soak for up to a few hours. Agitate the the water and the rope a bit with your hands and most of the dirt should rinse right off! Slowly run the length of rope through your hands to get most of the dirt off the sheath. If you find areas that are a little dirtier, or perhaps a sap spot, gently scrub with a sponge.

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If you're rubbing your hands across the rope like the photo above, be careful and be gentle. The rope sheath is rough, and the skin on your hands will take a beating. It doesn't take much to squeeze the dirt out of the rope, but go slow and take your time. 

Front load washing machine

Another option, if available to you, is to use a front load washer. Wrap you rope with a daisy chain or in loose coil, or better yet coil it loosely and put into a mesh bag, to keep the rope from tangling in the wash. Run the washer on warm with no spin cycle, again using a small amount of mild detergent. Pull the rope from the washer as soon as the cycle is over.

Drying the rope

Drying your rope properly is arguably the most important step in this process. You have two two main methods depending on your resources and location:

Outside

The ideal place to dry your rope is outside, but not in direct sunlight. It's best to dry your rope on  a deck, porch, patio, or some other outdoor location where you can string up or spread out your rope for up to a day or two.

Inside

If you don’t have access to outdoor space, or if you live in the PNW where multiple days of dry weather are a rarity, spread a couple towels out on the floor (probably best if it's not a wood floor). Flake the wet rope onto the towel, being mindful to spread out your rope as much as as possible. It may take up to a couple days to dry the rope completely. 

You can also flake your rope over your shower curtain, if it's burly, or use a heavy-duty drying rack if available. Metal gear shelves can be another good option for flaking and drying. 

Go Climb!

Now that your rope is nice and clean again, it’s time to get out there and put it to work. Maybe try to remember your rope bag/tarp this time.


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