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Rope washing, how clean is clean enough?

Original Post
Buck Rio · · MN · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 10

Hello:

So I am back from a road trip where we only used one of my ropes for 100% of the pitches climbed (RRG we each climbed about 20 pitches in 2.5 days, so 40 pitches).

It was really bad at the end, lots of dirt and aluminum oxide. Hand was BLACK from belaying.

So I washed it when I got home.  I just used the laundry tub and some Sterling rope wash, not a machine...wife vetoed that idea.

I followed the instructions, soaped it up, agitated it for a good 15 minutes, and ran it through a rope brush device, then rinsed it twice.

It still looks dirty in spots, and it feels like there is some soap residue on it, even though I rinsed it thoroughly twice. The feeling of the rope has changed, it seems less supple.

What are other peoples experience washing ropes?  Do you think another rinsing would help, or should I just climb with it. I have 4 other ropes, but this one is my favorite (Sterling Ion R 9.4)

 

You Really Are The Greatest · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2019 · Points: 0

After washing ropes a few times I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a complete waste of time, just get a pair of gloves.

Doug Chism · · Arlington VA · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 5

I think some ropes stain, so they are clean but the material has picked up color that can’t be removed even after washing.

Wilburn · · Boise, ID · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 350

Rope washing is partly cosmetic and partly maintenance. You were thorough in washing that rope, which should remove a lot of crap from the rope and help to maintain it in the long run, so overall you did a good thing. You can never truly clean a rope to "good as new" appearance since you're trying to remove crud from the fibers of a woven item; similarly even with two rinses you aren't likely to get all the soap out from the fibers.

In my experience you'd be fine just climbing on the rope. The suppleness ought to return and the feeling of residue will subside over time. And definitely buy some belay gloves too. 

curt86iroc · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 125

in my experience, washing a rope in a front loading machine with NO SOAP will get the rope much cleaner than you ever will by hand in a bathtub...

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 1,280

I washed mind recently in a new top load washer that has no agitator. Daisy chained it, used rope wash, and did lots of rinses. It did a good job washing it, and spun it rather well too. Washing in the bathtub made for a shopping wet rope.

Mine is also stiff now, and I don't know why. Do they soften back up, or is this how it is now? A recent partner thought I had a much fatter rope, because it's now harder to stuff in an ATC, and  heavy. But, he was also used to a much lighter rope, 60 vs my 70. Is it possible for washing to make ropes stiffer, or fatter?

Best, Helen

rockklimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 0
You Really Are The Greatest wrote: After washing ropes a few times I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a complete waste of time, just get a pair of gloves.

Dirty ropes are like fine grit sandpaper which shortens the lifespan of alumunum belay devices and carabiners.  Definitely not a waste of time washing them unless you have a lot of money to frequently buy new gear (or you dont climb much outside)

The black you see on your brake hand (and sometimes on the rope) is aluminum and anodize that was sanded off by the dirty rope.  
rockklimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 0
Old lady H wrote: I washed mind recently in a new top load washer that has no agitator. Daisy chained it, used rope wash, and did lots of rinses. It did a good job washing it, and spun it rather well too. Washing in the bathtub made for a shopping wet rope.

Mine is also stiff now, and I don't know why. Do they soften back up, or is this how it is now? A recent partner thought I had a much fatter rope, because it's now harder to stuff in an ATC, and  heavy. But, he was also used to a much lighter rope, 60 vs my 70. Is it possible for washing to make ropes stiffer, or fatter?

Best, Helen

I’ve never noticed any if my washed ropes get stiffer or fatter.  I double the rope, daisy chain it, put it in a front loader with minimal rope wash and wash it on high temp with only one rinse.  Always seems to come out fine.  

Buck Rio · · MN · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 10
Old lady H wrote: I washed mind recently in a new top load washer that has no agitator. Daisy chained it, used rope wash, and did lots of rinses. It did a good job washing it, and spun it rather well too. Washing in the bathtub made for a shopping wet rope.

Mine is also stiff now, and I don't know why. Do they soften back up, or is this how it is now? A recent partner thought I had a much fatter rope, because it's now harder to stuff in an ATC, and  heavy. But, he was also used to a much lighter rope, 60 vs my 70. Is it possible for washing to make ropes stiffer, or fatter?

Best, Helen

I didn't notice any change in diameter, but mine is a 9.4, and still feels pretty skinny compared to my Mammut, Beal and Black Diamond ropes. 

I've washed ropes previously, but it was in an old front loader that I just hooked up to a garden hose in the back yard and discharged into a ravine.  Those ropes I would just put in a touch of ivory flakes, and do a double rinse cycle.  None of those ropes had a "feel" to them afterwards, like a residue.
Artem Vasilyev · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 130
rockklimber wrote:

Dirty ropes are like fine grit sandpaper which shortens the lifespan of alumunum belay devices and carabiners.  Definiteky not a waste of time washing them i less you have a lot of money to frequently but new gear (or you dont climb much outside)

The black you see on your brake hand (and sometimes on the rope) is aluminum and anodize that was sanded off by the dirty rope.  

I've personally never washed my ropes (and I don't use a rope bag) and have also never replaced any of my biners - after 7 years of use there still aren't any significant groove marks despite constant hangdogging and climbing outside. I suppose washing your rope could be nice, but only if your rope is truly fucked, as in you completely bury it in sand each day you climb. However, I'm sure my rope wears fixed gear a little more than a fresh rope. That being said, I have heard and have noticed that washed ropes are much stiffer and coarse feeling than ones that haven't been washed.

rockklimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 0
Artem Vasilyev wrote:

I've personally never washed my rope (and I don't use a rope bag) and have also never replaced any of my biners - after 7 years of use there still aren't any significant groove marks despite constant hangdogging and climbing outside. I suppose washing your rope could be nice, but only if your rope is truly fucked, as in you completely bury it in sand each day you climb. However, I'm sure my rope wears fixed gear a little more than a fresh rope. 

Well I wash my ropes fairly frequently and dont throw my rope down in the dirt and flake it on my rope tether when climbing multipitch (which is what I mostly climb).  I have had to retire about 10 belay devices from grooving and sharp edges and maybe 5 or 6 belay lockers over 18years of 35+ climbing weekends a year.  Most of the wear tends to be from climbing in Red Rocks (and other sandstone crags, my local crags are sandstone too) though with many rap descents.  Yosemite, Tollhouse etc granite doesnt tend to wear my gear.

So maybe the rock you climb on isnt as abrasive as sandstone.  
Buck Rio · · MN · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 10
Artem Vasilyev wrote:

I've personally never washed my rope (and I don't used a rope bag) and have also never replaced any of my biners - after 7 years of use there still aren't any significant groove marks despite constant hangdogging and climbing outside. I suppose washing your rope could be nice, but only if your rope is truly fucked, as in you completely bury it in sand each day you climb. 

Climbed at Red River Gorge, before, during and after heavy rain. So yeah, it got pretty fucking dirty/muddy.  I don't like the feeling of holding a fall with grit travelling through and slicing up my hands. (I know, wear gloves).

For cragging, why NOT use a tarp?  Easier to just throw it down and move it and the rope from climb to climb instead of having to re-flake the rope every time. We try and get maximum vertical when it is dry, and messing around slows us down.

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
Buck Rio wrote: 
What are other peoples experience washing ropes?  Do you think another rinsing would help, or should I just climb with it. I have 4 other ropes, but this one is my favorite (Sterling Ion R 9.4)

Do a loose daisy chain, go to coin operated laundromat, find front loader, delicate cycle, with extra rinse if available. Perhaps not even use soap.

All the dirt is, usually, on the sheaf, that's why rope brush is usually the best. I think next time I wash my rope, I'll put one of these pvc pipe thingies together-
How to Clean Your Climbing Rope!
Buck Rio · · MN · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 10
amarius wrote:

Do a loose daisy chain, go to coin operated laundromat, find front loader, delicate cycle, with extra rinse if available. Perhaps not even use soap.

All the dirt is, usually, on the sheaf, that's why rope brush is usually the best. I think next time I wash my rope, I'll put one of these pvc pipe thingies together-
How to Clean Your Climbing Rope!

I did run the rope through a Beal spiral rope brush, twice, while rinsing.  I don't think it really worked.

Billcoe · · Portland · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 881
Buck Rio wrote: 
So I washed it when I got home.  I just used the laundry tub and some Sterling rope wash, not a machine...wife vetoed that idea.

What are other peoples experience washing ropes?  Do you think another rinsing would help, or should I just climb with it. I have 4 other ropes, but this one is my favorite (Sterling Ion R 9.4)

1st) Need a new wife or work on your negotiation skillz with Missus Rio. 

2nd) Then machine wash it with plain water and see how that goes. The old saw that it's better to ask forgiveness than permission may apply if #1 is out. There has to be a time she's out of the home and you're there staring at your lonely and unused washing machine? If so and you get caught, "I forgot" is a good fallback.

3rd) If that all fails just use it, probably fine. Good luck.

Billcoe · · Portland · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 881
rockklimber wrote:

I’ve never noticed any if my washed ropes get stiffer or fatter.  I double the rope, daisy chain it, put it in a front loader with minimal rope wash and wash it on high temp with only one rinse.  Always seems to come out fine.  

Uhhh, BIG CAUTION: getting ropes wet will cause them to shrink when they dry. What mfg recommends using high temperature to wash a rope? I'd like to see who that is. I once had one shrink @30 feet in one year (it was a Maxim) mostly from getting it wet outside while climbing, not from washing (live in a wet area).  Wonder if high temp water will speed that process up so that you wind up with a 50m rope.

rockklimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 0
amarius wrote:

Do a loose daisy chain, go to coin operated laundromat, find front loader, delicate cycle, with extra rinse if available. Perhaps not even use soap.

All the dirt is, usually, on the sheaf, that's why rope brush is usually the best. I think next time I wash my rope, I'll put one of these pvc pipe thingies together-
How to Clean Your Climbing Rope!

Why gentle cycle?   It’s made of nylon, not silk.  

F Loyd · · Kennewick, WA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 632

I've washed my Edelrid at least 9 times, fat Mammut 3 times or more, skinny Mammut 2 times, and others ropes and even slings without issue. I've not seen one get stiffer or give me any problems, but I just use plain water in the washing machine.
The thing to remember with any washing machine is it has a ton of residual soap and softener and potentially heavy cleaners left inside of it after use. You would have to run a ton of empty cycles to get it out, which no one does. So running the cycle without soap will usually clean it since the thing is full of soap as is.
A dirty rope does increase wear, and I have noticed much less wear after being more anal about a clean rope (here especially where sand/dust is everywhere). 

rockklimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 0
Billcoe wrote:

Uhhh, BIG CAUTION: getting ropes wet will cause them to shrink when they dry. What mfg recommends using high temperature to wash a rope? I'd like to see who that is. I once had one shrink @30 feet in one year (it was a Maxim) mostly from getting it wet outside while climbing, not from washing (live in a wet area).  Wonder if high temp water will speed that process up so that you wind up with a 50m rope.

High temp is perfectly fine and recommended by the manufacturer.  Look it up.  I once thought the same as you until someone proved me wrong


Found this with a quick search:
Buck Rio · · MN · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 10
Billcoe wrote:

1st) Need a new wife or work on your negotiation skillz with Missus Rio. 

2nd) Then machine wash it with plain water and see how that goes. The old saw that it's better to ask forgiveness than permission may apply if #1 is out. There has to be a time she's out of the home and you're there staring at your lonely and unused washing machine? If so and you get caught, "I forgot" is a good fallback.

3rd) If that all fails just use it, probably fine. Good luck.

You clearly aren't married to a German...

Seriously the rope was uber dirty, with a lot of that fine powdery white rock dust they have at RRG, along with smears of aluminum oxide (we fell - a lot) so I did not really want to soil our washer with stuff I couldn't be sure was going to come out.
amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
Buck Rio wrote:

I did run the rope through a Beal spiral rope brush, twice, while rinsing.  I don't think it really worked.

I also used spiral rope brush. Holding it under running water/in the tub was PITA, that's why I am going to play with PVC contraption next time.  
I prewashed my rope with brush/tub, then threw it  into own front loader - it was much cleaner after prewash, I was not afraid to dirty washing machine. And, my wife was travelling, I think.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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