Introduction: How to Clean Your Climbing Rope!
This is a project I made to clean my ever-growing number of climbing ropes, as well as the many ropes I use at my local Scout camp's climbing tower.Previously I had only ever used the "big bucket of soapy water" method, until I was introduced to this one this fall. Cleaning a climbing rope regularly will significantly increase it's lifespan and safety.The scrubber is based on a design used by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), specifically the Southwest Branch out of Tucson, Arizona. This design works with both Static and Dynamic ropes of pretty much all designs and sizes from cordelette to rescue lines. It consists of relatively few components and is powered by a garden hose. More on that later, but the whole thing costs under about ten bucks and can be assembled in under half an hour.
Note: I actually built three different versions of the same apparatus over the course of the project. Their only real difference is in the diameter of the PVC pipe used to make them. I used a 1" diameter tee, a 1 1/4" one, and a 1 1/2" one. I had the best success with the 1" model, though you could even go down to a 3/4" diameter one for better pressure at the cost of slightly more friction against the rope, though that might also be mitigated by aforementioned higher water pressure
Step 1: Materials!
So the first step is to gather your materials and tools(what few there are)
The materials can be had for around $10 bucks at your local Home Depot. I already had a glue gun, PVC cement, and a boxcutter handy. I didn't care to look up the average cost of those three, but chances are you can find them or borrow them.
1. (1) Watts 3/4" FH x 3/4" MIP x Tapped 1/2" FIP (also known as Model A-679 Hose Adapter)
-This attaches the hose to the PVC Tee. Costs less than $4.00 normally, depending on what kind of metal you get
2. (1)1" Diameter threaded PVC Tee(or also called a DWV Hub I think) (I lost the receipt, so I apologize for not having a more detailed name as I did for the hose adapter. See the photos for a better idea of what it is.) This is the main component of the scrubber. It costs less that $3.00 normally
3. (1) 4" x 4" Astroturf sample. This serves as the abrasive/scrubbing component in the system. This can be found in the flooring section, normally for free. Otherwise the smallest section you can buy from them (at least at my Home Depot) is a 12' x 1' section, which is rather impractical though pretty cheap at about $8. I chose astroturf because (A) It is what was used in the original design, and (B) it is a fairly simple, cheap material than say cheap carpet, which is likely to contain a smorgasborg of chemicals that would damage your rope, as well as being more likely to get rocks and junk stuck in it (the carpet I mean)
Hot Glue Gun
Not pictured: Long Screwdriver
Note: The project can be completed without the use of the Hot Glue gun or PVC Cement, and I actually suggest not using them, as it ended up complicating things (like getting the astroturf in just right)
Step 2: Phase 1: Prepare the Astroturf!!
Note: These instructions may vary a bit depending on what diameter PVC tee you use,and what diameter rope you're using, so just take ths with a grain of salt. I included pictures from all three of the incarnations of the scrubber to help better document the process. Just pay attention to which model is which.
Let me also stress that before you start gluing and cementing everything together, please do a dry run and make sure everything fits correctly and is the right size/threading/etc, otherwise you'll end up wasting parts.
1. First off, you should start by taking the tape off of the Astroturf sample.
Remove the sticker on the back that marks its model number and information. Otherwise this will become wet and get all gooey, and you don't want that seeping into your rope. It should be fairly easy to remove with your fingernails. If that fails, try bending the astroturf to break the glues grip, or perhaps using the steam function off of a laundry iron.
2. Next, fold the Astroturf piece like a taco (or 'Hot Dog Style" ) and try slipping it into the PVC Tee. It should preferably fit fairly snugly, not so tight that you can't push a sharpie through from one of the other, but not so loose as to not provide contact with the full circumference of the rope. Remember that the astroturf will mat down once it becomes saturated, so you can make it moderately tight. I recommend building the scrubber without cutting the astroturf first and testing it before you decide to increase the interior diameter. Also, you can now call this "The 'Turf Tube"
3. If you must cut the astroturf down to size, do so in small increments down the entire length of one side, so as not to over do it. Remember, measure twice, cut once.
4. Once you are fully satisfied with the interior diameter the rope will pass through, cut two small triangles on opposite sides of the 'turf square. Cut them right in the middle if you can. See the photo for details. These triangles open up a hole once the 'turf is in the PVC tee so that the water will come through more quickly, increasing the amount of water that is contacting the rope and reducing the amount just spilling out the sides
Step 3: Optional:Phase 1B Glue the Astroturf in Place
This part is really quite optional, and I might actually advise against it depending on the situation and environment you might be using the scrubber in, as well as how often it will be used. If I could do it again, I would have built the scrubber without cement or glue before I committed to using them, mostly due to potential for screwing up the project (and injuries).
-The benefit to not using glue or cement is that if one part breaks later on or if you accidentally miscut the 'turf, you can simply disassemble the scrubber and reassemble it with a new part, rather than building an entirely new one from scratch. In my case, it was that I did not insert the 'turf fast enough after putting the hot glue in, causing me to scrunch it and twist it quite a bit to get it in as the glue was already solidifying. I also sustained some minor glue burns in the process.
-The benfit to the hot glue is that it insures that the astroturf cannot slide out when the scrubber is being used and lubricated with gratuitous amounts of water. However, in practice, I didn't really find that much difference in slippage between the non-hot glue version and the glue version(remember I made 3 models, with slightly differing construction methods). The downward action of the rope, pressure of the water, and spring-like uncoiling action of the 'turf piece in the tee provided sufficient friction to prevent it from sliding out.
That being said:
Using a well-heated (and full of glue, don't you hate it when you run out half-way through making a line of glue?) glue gun, make a single ring of glue just inside the tee on one end. Quickly push the 'turf through from the opposite side. You should push the 'turf piece past the end with the glue in it so that the end is sticking out about a half inch. Then, put another ring of glue on the inside of the currently un-glued end, and push the 'turf piece back into position. This will reduce the amount of time needed and also makes for a more even hold. Unfortunately, I tried to put glue on one end, push the 'turf through from the same end, and then glue it again on the opposite end. It ended up smearing the glue into a thin film on the inside, which caused it to cool and solidify very quickly, jamming the 'turf in halfway, and I had to pretty much muscle the thing into the correct position with my thumbs and the aid of a screwdriver. Nonetheless, it works quite well.
Step 4: Phase 2: Attach Hose Adapter
Yey! Already halfway done!!
The final step of construction is to attach the hose Adapter.
Now basically, it goes like this: The female end is 3/4" diameter, and the male end of the adapter is 1/2" diameter. Fairly hard to mess up.
1. The male end goes into the threaded section of the tee, and the female is left on the outside to attach to a standard garden hose. Remember, righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. Then again, if you don't understand that, you probably sure as hell shouldn't have access to climbing equipment.
2. You may want to tighten the adapter in fairly well by using a pipe wrench to grip the adapter and a long screwdriver to twist the tee. Don't get too overenthusiastic, otherwise you may shatter the pvc
Optional (Phase 2B):
You may choose to use PVC cement to further secure the adapter into the tee and prevent leakage. At the pressure I used it at, I had no leakage with or without the cement. If you do choose to use cement, I would recommend attaching the hose adapter before you put in the astroturf, and letting it dry for at least two hours to prevent any wet cement from migrating into the 'turf and possibly contaminating your climbing rope upon first scrubbing. However, I feel that risk is fairly minimal if not entirely hypothetical.
Step 5: Clean Your Ropes!
Now to get to the fun part!
Let your newfangled gadget dry for at least an hour or two if you used glue or cement. if not, feel free to use it immediately.
-I found that hanging the scrubber had the best overall scrubbiness because the rope was not rubbing between the two folded edges of the Astroturf, but rather on the main section of it. Note from the earlier pictures that the two sides of the 'turf which close together to form the tube of the scrubber should do so right next to the hose adapter. To improve the scrubbers stability, you can try zipties or duct tape to lash it in place against a fencepost or similar object
-By running the rope through the 'turf tube, it scrubs the exterior and rinses it at the same time with the ever replenishing supply of water. You can get mad at me and say this wastes water. I actually used water from my rainwater cistern that was collected off my roof. Personally , I found that this system uses less water than filling up a garbage barrel with water and then sloshing the rope around in it, a method used by some climbers to wash their ropes.
Methods of cleaning:
Some people aim for speed, and simply pull the rope through in one go while the water is going. I opted for a more thorough approach, pulling the rope back and forth through the 'turf tube about a foot at a time. I feel that this makes for the most effective, if time-intensive cleaning, especially if you have an 80-meter rope.
Step 6: Final Notes/Disclaimer
So there you have it, your very own super-cheap, super-portable, super easy rope washing machine. Here's some variations I might suggest:
-Rig a garden-sprayer type bottle(The kind that attaches into a tee-piece in a hose) into the hose just before the scrubber. Fill it up with a very mild detergent such as woollite or possibly even campsuds. The detergent will even more thoroughly clean the rope, and it will rinse out quite easily.
-Use a thicker or thinner astroturf, depending on the type of rope
-Or any other stuff you can think of! Feel free to try it out on your own, or just post some suggestions on this page!
Also, I did not invent the rope scrubber, and did not intend to infringe upon anyones patent's or intellectual property rights if it is already registered to someone.