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Cleaning poison ivy sap off a rope


Original Post
Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,040

I pulled my rope down at the end of the day, and didn’t notice right away that it landed in a patch of poison ivy. To make the matters worse, as I started flaking the rope, it snagged on a rock, and that is when I finally noticed that, as I was pulling the rope through, a lush vine of poison ivy was caught between the rope and the rock tooth, thus crushing the leaves/stems, and getting the resulting mess on the rope.

Ugh! I’m very allergic to it, but I used alcohol wipes, made sure to really scrub hands with soap within 30 min of exposure, and it’s been 48 hrs, so I think I’m clear.

But what do I do with the rope? I’m worried that a mild detergent or a “special rope wash” (I’ve never used one, but I’m aware that they exist) will not get all the poison ivy off, and might even spread it all over the rope. But I’m not sure that washing it in anything harsher is a good idea, either...

It isn’t a new rope, I was probably going to retire it after the fall season. Is this a lost cause, and I should just retire it now, or is there hope? Has anyone successfully washed a poison ivy-covered rope?  

Spencer Ringwood · · Somerville, MA · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0

burn it

Brian Seegers · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 10

Are you familiar with Tecnu? You can use it before or after poison ivy exposure on skin and clothes. It claims to be totally fabric safe so I'd assume it's fine on nylon rope but do whatever poking you like on their website. https://www.teclabsinc.com/questions/product-questions/tecnu-original

Brian Seegers · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 10

Even if you don't end up using it for your rope absolutely try it out for your skin. We'd throw it on like sunscreen before mountain bike races and i had no reaction even after crashing in a poison oak bush. Normally I react much more. 

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,477

Failing to find any Tecnu, just thoroughly launder the rope in detergent and rinse with copious amounts of water, either in a machine or by hand in your bathtub.

NegativeK · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 40
Spencer Ringwood wrote: burn it

in a well ventilated area

Phil McCrotch · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2018 · Points: 0

I would wash it with rope wash a few times. That should get any oils off. 

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

I threw a rope in the wash last year after a trip that included COR. never had a rope get that dirty that fast before..  I Never wash ropes but just did it on a whim..  without even thinking I tossed a Tide pod in the machine. The rope came out nice and supple. Did I ruin it???

m Mobes · · MDI, ME · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 905
Nick Goldsmith wrote: I threw a rope in the wash last year after a trip that included COR. never had a rope get that dirty that fast before..  I Never wash ropes but just did it on a whim..  without even thinking I tossed a Tide pod in the machine. The rope came out nice and supple. Did I ruin it???

Bro ropewash and a ropewasher is the only correct answer. Now lets go shopping!

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,040
Brian Seegers wrote: Are you familiar with Tecnu? You can use it before or after poison ivy exposure on skin and clothes. It claims to be totally fabric safe so I'd assume it's fine on nylon rope but do whatever poking you like on their website. https://www.teclabsinc.com/questions/product-questions/tecnu-original

Yes, I have a Tecnu scrub in my camping bag. That’s what I used to scrub my hands. Though I think any soap works, if you use a washcloth and take time scrubbing. I’ve used a dish soap and washcloth before, too.


Haven’t used the Tecnu original, which is what is recommended for clothing wash... the ingredient label looks innocuous enough. 
deodorized mineral spirits, water, propylene glycol, octylphenoxy-polyethoxyethanol, mixed fatty acid soap, fragrance
Finding the ingredient list for a Sterling rope wash is surprisingly difficult though. 
Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,040
Tim Stich wrote: Failing to find any Tecnu, just thoroughly launder the rope in detergent and rinse with copious amounts of water, either in a machine or by hand in your bathtub.

I don’t think I want to wash this rope in my bathtub! Or by hand!!!

I have a front loader washer, I’m confident I can run it through a cleaning cycle or two after washing the rope, and get all the residue out. I’d rather do that, then scrub the poison ivy-tainted grime off my bathtub. 
Francis QC · · Montreal · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 160

Get rid of it! Even if you wash your rope, you can spread urushiol (the resin in poison ivy) to your equipment like your harness, slings, quickdraws etc... I walked in a field of poison ivy 2 years ago, had a severe rash on my right leg.....cleaned everything you can imagine I wore that day 3-4x times and I still got several episodes of mild rashes the following weeks on my hands, arms and legs. The resin can be active for over a year and is very resilient.

FYI: If I belayed someone with a rope that was in contact with poison ivy without telling me and I had rashes...I'd slap the owner of the rope in the face!!!

Kelley Gilleran · · Sacramento, Ca · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 2,800

Doing tree work I've dealt with ropes and PO (not PI) numerous times. I just washed the rope in a pillow case to avoid twisting with warm (not hot) water. Sometimes I would pour a bucket of soapy water (Dawn) over it first.

The answer to pollution is dilution. 

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,107

a long time ago we had rope pull into a pile of poison ivy and used technu to wash it in a big gub.  worked well.  then about 2 weeks later we pulled the rope into another pile of PI and got to do it all over again...  still worked well and didn't have any problems.

Kyle Elliott · · Everett, WA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 931
Francis QC wrote:

FYI: If I belayed someone with a rope that was in contact with poison ivy without telling me and I had rashes...I'd slap the owner of the rope in the face!!!

That'll be fun to explain to a judge when you're fighting assault charges. "But you're honor! I got a rash on my hand! He didn't even TELL ME!"

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,040
Francis QC wrote: Get rid of it! Even if you wash your rope, you can spread urushiol (the resin in poison ivy) to your equipment like your harness, slings, quickdraws etc... I walked in a field of poison ivy 2 years ago, had a severe rash on my right leg.....cleaned everything you can imagine I wore that day 3-4x times and I still got several episodes of mild rashes the following weeks on my hands, arms and legs. The resin can be active for over a year and is very resilient.

FYI: If I belayed someone with a rope that was in contact with poison ivy without telling me and I had rashes...I'd slap the owner of the rope in the face!!!

I was looking like a burn victim for a month last summer, after getting a little bit of poison ivy on the sliver of exposed skin between the edge of the gardening glove and a long-sleeved shirt, and I had to have systemic steroids, so believe me, I would be the first person to get a reaction to that rope, and I don’t want it. Especially since I do occasionally put the rope in my mouth... 


But I also know that I can potentially wash it off, because I didn't end up disposing of all the clothes that I wore that day, and they do not cause me to break out anymore. 

I think I would be willing to test the rope on myself after washing it 2-3 times. Right now I’m thinking that I would wash it 3 times, and then run the rope over my wrist, or back of the hand, and leave that skin unwashed for a day. If I don’t break out, I think my partners would be also ok.
Adam Ronchetti · · Madison, WI · Joined May 2011 · Points: 25
Brian Seegers wrote: Even if you don't end up using it for your rope absolutely try it out for your skin. We'd throw it on like sunscreen before mountain bike races and i had no reaction even after crashing in a poison oak bush. Normally I react much more. 

I have never tried using it like sunscreen but I'm heading down to the red in 2 weeks and I intend to try this then. Thanks. 

NegativeK · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 40

I don't know if it's horseshit or the real shit, but a quick search yielded https://www.poison-ivy.org/seeleaf-detection-wipes . Might be fun to play with.

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,040
NegativeK wrote: I don't know if it's horseshit or the real shit, but a quick search yielded https://www.poison-ivy.org/seeleaf-detection-wipes . Might be fun to play with.

Thanks! A friend just sent me a link, too... of course, he might have copied it from here. ;)


I’m intrigued enough to try them, though I would still use a skin test, I think. But there is no shortage of poison ivy here, and a few bucks for a science experiment is not too bad a deal. 
NegativeK · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 40
Lena chita wrote:

Thanks! A friend just sent me a link, too... of course, he might have copied it from here. ;)


I’m intrigued enough to try them, though I would still use a skin test, I think. But there is no shortage of poison ivy here, and a few bucks for a science experiment is not too bad a deal. 

Yeah.. I'm super curious to know how well they work on something as non-smooth as a rope.

Good luck, either way. Hopefully the skin test is minimally horrible.
Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

I cleaned a new climb once in early april.  had a bunch of vines on it in the wrong places. I yanked em all out. Being NH there were no leaves on anything yet. I  got a pretty decent break out and for the life of me could not connect the dots as where it came from. Went back in late may to work the climb again and the thing was crawling with PI...… 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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