Safety question regarding DEET spill on slings..


Original Post
Matthew Massey · · Beckley, WV · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 5

Hey guys,

My "yer-ganna-die" question of the day:

So I recently had a bottle of 40% DEET bug spray spilled in my climbing bag. Most of my gear was untouched (it was a minimal spill), however a few slings and webbing on quickdraws were hit. The bottle of DEET doesn't have any ingredients listed on it, and since i've heard in the past bug spray is hard on certain materials, I thought i'd ask if anyone else has any experience with this. I'm likely just going to replace the two slings and two quickdraws that got hit (i'm paranoid about safety) but now i'm curious. 

Thanks dudes!

Vaughn · · Colorado · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 25

Sometimes if you email the equipment manufacturer they will respond to this type of query although I'd guess the answer would be if in doubt replace it. I would personally replace the equipment and wash out the bag as well. 

Personal anecdote: I once had a bottle of DEET leak onto my plastic fly box and it melted a hole in the box. Of course that plastic is probably a different material than your slings, but it still says something about DEET.

Kat M · · San Diego, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

While deet will melt plastic (which my watch can personally attest to) and put holes in synthetic clothing, it actually has basically no effect on nylon.  It's debatable whether the other solvents in bug spray can damage it though.  If your slings and dogbones were 100% nylon, they are probably fine.  I have no idea how deet affects spectra or other blends though.  Your slings are probably fine, but as with most climbing gear, if it makes you nervous just replace it.  Slings only have a 2-5 year lifetime anyway. 

jmmlol · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

My quick google search tells me it shouldn't harm spectra/dyneema (polyethylene) since it is sometimes sold in polyethylene bottles.

Chuck Parks · · Atlanta, GA · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 1,976

Here's some useful info from a previous post on the subject. Short answer is that any of the load-bearing stuff on your gear should be ok.

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,500

It's fine. After everyone freaked out about DEET a decade ago, someone (can't remember who at the moment) soaked a bunch of ropes and slings in buckets of the stuff and then tested everything. No effect was found. 

But rumors persist, and every 6 months or so (or at least every May) someone posts this question. 

20 kN · · Hawaii · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,128

DEET does not damage nylon.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

This is exactly how every thread about this goes.  There's literally a million threads out there with the same plastic melting anecdotes and soaking ropes in DEET references.  You're fine.

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 0

If I kneel in a puddle of DEET while I'm belaying, will that damage my knees? What about affecting silent belay signals? Is this only a concern at Tahquitz & Suicide?

Eric Laursen · · Roseville, CA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 10

Although, if you want to clean up your car's foggy headlight lenses, spray some DEET on a rag and buff the headlights until clear.  Works like a charm, just don't spray directly on the headlight.

Vaughn · · Colorado · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 25

Since it's an interesting topic, I spent a few minutes searching the web for studies done on this topic but was unable to find anything reliable. As others have said, there are many forum threads on the topic but few with any links to studies, and all the links are broken. Mostly I'm finding references to a sterling rope study but I can't find it on their website. The best I could find is this quote from the UKClimbing forums:

EZ Said:

Here is the detail from the old Sterling Ropes page:

"Summary of Nylon, PET and Spectra Chemical Resistance to DEET

Many climbers have in the past worried about the effects of accidentally spilling bug repellent on their climbing ropes. The following is the result of preliminary testing of deet and other bug repellent chemicals.

Samples of nylon, polyester, and spectra were submitted for chemical resistance testing for DEET (N,dimethyl-m-toluamide). The three samples were immersed separately in "CUTTER" and "OFF" brand insect repellent for a period of twenty-four hours at room temperature. "OFF" contains 95% Deet (N-dimethyl-m-toluamide) while "CUTTER" contains only 7% Deet and probably some oil based solvents as well. The results of the testing indicate no loss of strength as measured by tensile strength retention in any of the three samples.

There was one interesting anomaly that occurred only in the case of Nylon and the "CUTTER" brand insect repellent. As mentioned before there was no loss of strength for any of the samples but here there was a 25% increase in the elongation and a decrease in modulus. This basically means that a rope made entirely or mostly out of Nylon may become "rubbery" with a significant amount of exposure to "CUTTER" or other insect repellents with large amounts of oil based solvents.

However, with regard to the chemical in question, DEET, there appears to be no effect on any of the physical properties of the three samples. Hence as "CUTTER" contains only 7% DEET the change in the Nylon elongation and modulus must come from the other solvents in the product. It is suggested that if a rope has significant amounts of Nylon to use insect repellents with 95-100% Deet instead of ones with some Deet and large amounts of other oil based solvents.

Best regards,

Carlos Williams
Honeywell Performance Fibers

Postscript:

Please keep a major factor in mind in regards to this study/testing. The only two brands tested were OFF and Cutter and were specific formulas of those brands. So we can't necessarily say that all bug repellent products with DEET will not harm the stated materials. Other brands and other formulas could contain a substance other than what was in the two formulas tested. In other words, it is probably safe to say DEET itself has no effect but there can be other chemicals in other repellents that may.

I would certainly be interested if anyone else has links to other tests that have been performed.

jmmlol · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0
Vaughn wrote:

Since it's an interesting topic, I spent a few minutes searching the web for studies done on this topic but was unable to find anything reliable. As others have said, there are many forum threads on the topic but few with any links to studies, and all the links are broken. Mostly I'm finding references to a sterling rope study but I can't find it on their website. The best I could find is this quote from the UKClimbing forums:

I would certainly be interested if anyone else has links to other tests that have been performed.

I wonder if they tested individual fibers or slings. There could be some weird absorbtion/bonding/lubrication effect with the nylon affecting a test with a sling.

Brassmonkey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 0
Kat M wrote:Slings only have a 2-5 year lifetime anyway. 

Lol

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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