How to Wash a Climbing Rope: Do’s and Don’ts

Updated Sep 5, 2023
How to Wash a Climbing Rope Dos and Donts

Cleaning your climbing rope is key to keep it in top condition. Here’s what to do step by step:

  1. Gather what you need: a bathtub or a large tub, a mild detergent (for delicate fabrics) or specialized climbing rope cleaner, lukewarm water, and a mesh bag or tarp.
  2. Fill the tub with enough lukewarm water to submerge the entire rope. Add a small amount of detergent or rope cleaner.
  3. Gently coil the rope and place it into the tub. Agitate the water gently so that all parts get cleaned. Pay attention to any dirty spots.
  4. Drain the soapy water and refill with fresh lukewarm water. Agitate again to rinse off the detergent. Repeat until all soap residue is gone.
  5. Carefully remove the rope, shake off any excess water, and lay it on a clean surface to air dry. Avoid direct sunlight.
  6. Once dry, inspect it for any signs of wear and tear. If you find any, consider retiring the rope or consult a professional.

Importance of Washing a Climbing Rope

Washing a climbing rope is not to be overlooked. Cleaning it removes dirt, grime, and other contaminants and helps keep the rope performing well and lasting longer. Not cleaning your rope can lead to wear and tear and make it unreliable. Therefore, it’s crucial to wash your rope to ensure optimal function and safety.

Do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

  1. Hand wash the rope, not in a machine.
  2. Fill a bathtub or basin with lukewarm water and mild detergent designed for ropes or climbing gear.
  3. Gently place rope in tub, avoiding tangling.
  4. Agitate water with hands and use a soft brush/sponge if needed.
  5. Rinse with clean water until all detergent gone.
  6. No bleach or harsh chemicals.
  7. Squeeze out excess water without wringing/twisting too tightly.
  8. Dry in cool, well-ventilated area.
  9. Avoid direct sunlight, flake rope onto tarp to evenly distribute weight.

To emphasize the importance of washing a rope, here’s a story. My friend and I recently went on a climb with a dirty rope. While belaying, we noticed soft spots from accumulated dirt and grime. We felt uneasy about the reliability of the equipment. Thankfully, nothing serious happened, but it was a wake-up call for my friend to prioritize rope maintenance. Maintaining a clean rope is vital for safety and peace of mind.

Preparing for the Wash

Get your climbing rope ready for a wash! Here’s a guide to help.

  1. Inspect it first for signs of wear and tear.
  2. Shaking or brushing off dirt and debris is also key.
  3. Coil the rope loosely – not tightly – in a dry area.
  4. When it’s time to wash, lukewarm water is best. Use a mild detergent made for outdoor gear.
  5. If using a washing machine, put the rope in a mesh bag.

Follow these steps to ensure your rope’s longevity and performance. Give it some TLC by hand washing. It deserves some pampering after all its dirty adventures!

Hand Washing Method

Clean your climbing rope the right way with the hand washing method. It may take more time than the machine washing method, but it is reliable and effective. Here are five simple steps for optimal results:

  1. Fill a bathtub or large tub with lukewarm water – enough to fully submerge the rope.
  2. Add a mild detergent made for outdoor gear or climbing ropes – not bleach or harsh chemicals.
  3. Coil the rope in the tub and agitate it to get rid of dirt and grime.
  4. Soak the rope for about 30 minutes, then drain and rinse with clean, lukewarm water.
  5. Take out the rope and flake it onto a tarp or clean surface. Let it air dry completely and away from sunlight before you store or use it.

Remember to inspect your rope before cleaning and address any soft spots or signs of wear and tear. Also, invest in good climbing-specific soap, like Wicked Good Rope Wash.

The hand washing method has been used for ages by climbers to clean their ropes without wear and tear or tangles. Don’t hesitate – grab some soap and give your rope the care it deserves!

Machine Washing Method

Cleaning your climbing rope doesn’t have to be a chore. Machine washing can be a convenient option – here’s how!

  1. Inspect and prepare: Check for any signs of damage or wear. Secure one end of the rope to a daisy chain or use a rope bag to stop it from tangling.
  2. Set up the machine: Select a front-loading washing machine on the lowest cycle. Put the rope in a cool mesh bag or tarp to protect it.
  3. Fill the tub: Fill a bathtub or sink with lukewarm water and add an appropriate amount of mild detergent for ropes. The water level should be enough to submerge the rope.
  4. Soak and agitate: Gently submerge the rope and let it soak for 30 minutes. Agitate and stir the water to remove dirt, grime, and other contaminants.
  5. Rinse and dry: Drain the soapy water, ensuring you don’t let go of one end of the rope. Rinse thoroughly with clean water until there’s no trace of detergent. Hang the rope in a shaded area or lay it flat on a clean surface away from direct sunlight until it’s dry.

Be aware that while machine washing is effective, excessive use could cause wear and tear. Alternate between hand washing and machine washing periodically to extend the rope’s lifespan.

Alternative Methods for Cleaning a Climbing Rope

It’s essential to clean your climbing rope for safety and longevity. Traditional techniques like washing in a tub or using a washing machine are still effective, but there are alternative methods you can try. Here are some:

  • Use a rope washing device: Specialized devices with built-in brushes in a container. Fill it with water and rope cleaner. Put your rope in, close it, and agitate it to remove dirt.
  • Hand wash with a brush: Fill a tub or basin with lukewarm water and mild detergent or specialized rope cleaner. Submerge the rope and use a brush to scrub away dirt or stains. Rinse.
  • Spot clean: For small areas, dampen a cloth or sponge with water and mild detergent or specialized rope cleaner. Gently clean the spots. Rinse off residue.
  • Cold soak: Fill a bathtub or large container with cold water and add detergent or specialized rope cleaner. Submerge the rope and let it soak for hours. Rinse.
  • Rope wipe-down: Don’t need a full wash? Wipe down your climbing rope with a damp cloth or sponge to remove surface dirt and sweat. No rinsing needed.
  • Petroleum jelly method: If there’s sticky stuff like sap on your rope, spread petroleum jelly onto the affected areas. Wait a few minutes, then wipe off the residue.

These methods give you flexibility. But keep in mind that each has its own advantages and limitations. Plus, dry your rope properly afterwards. Hang it in a cool, well-ventilated area away from sunlight or heat.

Pro Tip: Consider the specific needs of your rope and any manufacturer recommendations when choosing an alternative method for cleaning.

Tips and Precautions

  1. Regularly inspect your climbing rope for signs of wear and tear. Look for frayed areas, soft spots, or any other damage. Replace the rope if necessary.
  2. Don’t use a washing machine or bleach.
  3. Fill a bathtub with lukewarm water and mild detergent designed for ropes.
  4. Agitate the water to dislodge dirt and grime.
  5. Use a brush to scrub stubborn stains.
  6. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  7. Hang to dry in cool, shaded area away from sunlight.
  8. Flake loosely in a coil or daisy chain for storage.
  9. Alternatively, wet the rope completely and lay it on a tarp.
  10. Apply a high-quality cleaner solution and work in using hands.
  11. Rinse thoroughly and let dry before storing.
  12. It’s ultimately up to personal preference as to which cleaning method to use – either soap or just water.

Washing your rope regularly will extend its lifespan and remove dirt and grime that can cause wear and tear. Follow these tips and precautions to keep your rope clean, safe, and ready for adventure. Plus, you’ll get fewer dirty looks from your belay partner!


Choosing the right way to wash and care for your climbing rope is vital for its performance and longevity. Follow the right steps and you can make sure your rope stays clean, secure and reliable for many climbs.

Inspect your rope often. Look at the sheath for soft spots or fraying. If you find any, it’s time to replace the rope.

To clean, fill a bathtub with lukewarm water. Put your rope in and use a mild detergent made for rope cleaning. Gently stir the water to help loosen dirt.

Consider using a mesh bag or daisy chain the rope before putting it in the water. This will keep it organized.

Soak for 15-20 minutes, then rinse with fresh water. To remove excess moisture, coil the rope loosely in a dry place away from direct sunlight.

Note: Using a washing machine on the lowest cycle can damage your rope.

Pro Tip: Before washing, shake or run your rope through your hands while submerged in lukewarm water. This will reduce grime in the tub.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ 1:
How do I wash a climbing rope?

Answer: To wash a climbing rope, you can either do it by hand or use a washing machine. If you choose to wash it by hand, fill a tub with lukewarm water and add a rope cleaner or a mild detergent. Gently agitate the rope in the water, making sure to flake it properly to remove any dirt or grime. Rinse the rope thoroughly and let it dry completely. If using a washing machine, place the rope in a mesh bag, use a rope-specific detergent, and set the machine on the lowest cycle with cold water.

FAQ 2:
Can I use bleach to clean my climbing rope?

Answer: No, it is not recommended to use bleach to clean a climbing rope. Bleach can weaken the rope’s fibers, making it less safe to use. Stick to using a rope cleaner or a mild detergent specifically made for climbing ropes.

FAQ 3:
How often should I wash my climbing rope?

Answer: The frequency of washing your climbing rope depends on how frequently you use it and the conditions it is exposed to. As a general guideline, if your rope is visibly dirty, has come into contact with chemicals, or has a noticeable odor, it’s time for a bath. Otherwise, inspect your rope regularly and give it a wash when necessary.

FAQ 4:
What’s the best way to dry the rope after washing?

Answer: After washing, it’s important to let the rope dry completely before using it again. To dry your climbing rope, flake it loosely in a cool, shaded area away from direct sunlight. Avoid hanging it tightly or coiling it, as this can lead to moisture retention and mold growth. Using a rope tarp or hanging the rope onto a drying rack are also effective methods.

FAQ 5:
Can I use a washing machine to wash my climbing rope?

Answer: Yes, you can use a washing machine to wash your climbing rope. However, it is important to place the rope in a mesh bag to prevent tangling and use a rope-specific detergent. Set the machine on the lowest cycle with cold water to minimize unnecessary wear and tear on the rope.

FAQ 6:
How long does a climbing rope usually last?

Answer: The lifespan of a climbing rope varies depending on various factors such as frequency of use, type of climbing, and care. On average, a well-maintained climbing rope can last between 3 to 5 years. However, it is important to regularly inspect your rope for signs of wear and tear, such as soft spots, fraying, or significant dirt buildup, and retire it if necessary.

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About the Author

Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, climbing, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while.

Safe Travels,

Derek and Ashley


Know Nothing Nomads

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