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How to clean your climbing rope!

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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
 
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jchase121 month ago

Did you have to cut holes in the end of the end caps to allow the rope to slide thru?

gaist3 years ago
Thank you for a very handy and useful instructable.

In return, I offer a 10 second doodle.

I sail a lot, and sometimes it might be impractical to untie the ropes for washing, and some of my ropes have both ends woven into loops or permanently attached to metal rings.

So I made a quick doodle of a possible tweak to allow you to attach the rope washer anywhere along the length.

In addition to the bits in the original instructable, you'd need a hacksaw and another length of tubing, of same or slightly larger diameter. Cut a section off the T-tube. Glue the astroturf. to the tube, and to the inside of the section you cut off. Glue the section to the inside of another tube (For a really snug fit, use the same diameter of tube and just cut it open and bend it outwards, otherwise use a slightly bigger one).

The section you cut should be wide enough that you can insert your ropes in.

To use, slide the tubes apart, put your rope inside and slide the tubes back together. To lock the outer tube in place, you could use the T-section as a bolt by cutting small notches on the outer tube (see image, it's easier than me failing to explain it properly).

The outer part has been drawn from two angles.

Haven't made this yet, and it'll probably take me a while to make one but I'll post some experiences after I've made one for her (boats) spring cleaning.

Sorry for the picture quality, I only had post-it notes and my laptop's web camera at my disposal.
rope washer tweak.jpg
finton gaist1 year ago
Good clear diagram, gaist, and a great idea.
Insomniac, (by the way, it's 4am and I can't sleep ;) )
I love your Ible. It's dreadfully simple for anyone to do and uses simple components and tools!! I think it's great and I don't have a single rope to my name!

Gaist, I love your addition. Also simple, and your drawings are better than some whole Ibles! Thanks for including them!!

My addition: My only suggestion would be to attempt to use this with some sort of water trough to catch as much of the water as you can, and a pump to reuse it. You will lose a good deal of water in the rope itself and drying, but if you are washing 1000 feet of rope at a time, you should be able to reclaim and reuse a good amount of water!

All in all, Nice Ible!!
rhoaste3 years ago
Looks like it would be very wasteful on water.
who cares about wasting water? i dont. it all goes back into the ground to be used again....
Clean drinking water costs money to produce, and waste water costs money to process.

There is a growing world shortage of safe drinking water, and dirty water now kills more people every year than all forms of violence (including war) combined.

Some analysts think there more future wars will be fought over clean water than over oil.

There are more people in Africa without access to clean water than the entire population of the USA.

Dirty water kills five thousand children every day.

Yeh, who cares about wasting water?
kmix Kiteman1 year ago
While you do make a valid point, there is also a real need for those engaging in risky activities such as rock climbing to maintain their equipment properly. When it comes to ropes, washing (with water) is essential or you will do two things, first, you will put yourself and anyone else climbing on your equipment at risk of injuring or killing themselves. Second, you will dramatically decrease the life of your rope, requiring you to throw it out and buy a new one, thus wasting more resources, money, etc. I find this to be a very good solution for maintaining life saving equipment, that utilizes an acceptable amount of water. How would you improve upon this design to make it better?
Kiteman kmix1 year ago
Balance priorities: this technique uses more potable water than many families see in a month.

There's nothing wrong with a bucket of soapy water being used for several ropes. Take it to the extreme, the water you use could be "grey" from your bath or shower, or collected rainwater from your garden butt. Heck, take the rope into the shower with you!

More people need to realise that fresh drinking water is a limited and diminishing resource, even in (so called) developed countries.
ozerob3 years ago
You know, I'd rather USE some water (it is not 'waste', it is performing a useful function) and have properly maintained equipment. A rope failure or shredded skin on your hands due to dirt and grit that can be avoided by using something like this to clean a rope is worth the water required.
Placing a disc of plastic or metal with a small hole in the centre (1/8 inch works well) between the hose end and the hose adapter will not only use less water overall, but will increase the pressure hitting the rope as well - the 1/8 inch 'jet' is more effective at knocking dirt loose.
I also found that putting the hole in the centre of the 'turf square rather than notching the edges also makes the water flow around the rope better without tending to just follow the cut edge right to the ends of the tee.
And using some scotchbrite or similar scrubber pad (NOT FOR ROPES PLEASE!) instead of turf carpet works great for cleaning garden stakes,pipes, etc!
Just a couple of suggestions from another backyard and basement inventor - Cheers!
einnis ozerob2 years ago
Yeah, I agree - a small washer in there is a good idea. - Higher pressure, less water.

It might be better to place it in-between the hose-adapter and your PVC tee.

This way it won't fall out when you unscrew the hose.
pejardine3 years ago
Great idea! I was trying to find a good way to clean my rope. Question: Does the cleaning process damage the rope at all? I have a very expensive rope that I want to take care of. Thanks!
The Insomniac (author)  pejardine3 years ago
Thanks! No, the process doesn't damage the rope at all, whether it's a dynamic or static. NOLS uses this same system quite regularly on their ropes.
ElChick3 years ago
Quick comment on the hose adapter. In the optional part of step 2B, you mentioned glueing it in place with PVC glue to avoid leakage issues, but cited possible chemical issues with the rope. As an "optional optional" solution, why not use a few wraps of the teflon tape that is used in plumbing? It will help seal the threads against leakage, should make it easier to tighten, and shouldn't have any kind of nasty chemicals to leach into your rope. Also, it isn't permanent, so if you wind up breaking the PVC tee somewheres down the road, you can replace part of the rig instead of buying another adapter as well.
:D
The Insomniac (author)  ElChick3 years ago
Sounds great! Excellent idea, I wish I'd had it at the time!
tdobbins13 years ago
Wouldn't wear the rope even more?
CyclicFiend3 years ago
Great Instructable!

For those of us who want to avoid the glue and make the 'turf' replaceable: Cut the turf longer than the tube (so it sticks out both ends), fold the exposed ends back over the tube, and secure with zip ties around each end. Double benefit of holding the turf in place for rigorous scrubbing and making it easy to replace. Just snip the ties and insert new turf.

Thanks, Insomniac.
Highball3 years ago
I have no use for this but read it anyway, very nicely done. I assume it works well.
ilpug Highball3 years ago
ditto.
xBRAZZMATAZZx who gives a damn about your family. Stick to the instructable. If you can't offer helpful suggestions … don't post.
L&R relax dude, he didn't flame or act a fool in his posts. He made a simple comment and that was it. This site is full of people that enjoy this stuff and like reading about it and you seem to be the only one with an issue with this guy. Calm down and enjoy the read.

BTW Insom nice instructable.
my dad owns bluewater ropes anyone know who that is?
My family uses Bluewater ropes and webbing for rock and ice climbing. They get a darn good workout and am hoping to extend their life with this Instructable =)
No, sorry... I don't know your dad...
The Insomniac (author)  xBRAZZMATAZZx3 years ago
Indeed I do! I have a couple of BlueWater ropes in my gear, and in fact, we use nothing but BlueWater rope on my local Scout council's climbing tower (roughly 1000 feet or so of it if we have every climb and rappel rigged at once). That's actually one of the main reasons I built this, as during the summer season they get washed about once a week, which takes a ridiculous amount of time if we're trying to dunk them and lay them out to dry.

P.S.- I didn't know BlueWater had one main owner, I thought it was run by like a board?
well really my grandad own like 51 percent of it and my dad owns the rest but thats really a good idea ill tell him about it!!
Love this Instructable. We climb at Devil's Lake WI where it is very dirty and dusty. This will be a summer project for us, once the snow melts =)
jmascasa3 years ago
Of course you could just put the rope in a front loading washer on cold & gentle with a spot of woollite like the mfrs typically recommend. That is cool because your only cost is soap and your labor is significantly less. Air dry of course...
-chase-3 years ago
Nice! - now if they don't have one commercially available - how soon should we expect to see one of your designs in stores? ie: when are you starting production of your rope cleaner? ;0)

I work with ropes all the time - not rock climbing but i currently use the bucket with soap and water method - hmmm this might work for our ropes as well. i just have to make it bigger for the larger size ropes we use. I'll give it a try... and i could use something like this for our land lines too hmmmm... with a little modification it would work perfectly for those lines.

thanks for the tip and instrucable. I'll give it a try!

- chase - 
Great instructable // stolen idea.
So I usually go on backpacking and climbing trips. Thinking about how to make it more "middle of nowhere friendly":
Instead of a hose fitting, either meld a funnel or tape a funnel to the head and pour water in from a bucket. The soap could just be mixed in the bucket.
Great instructable again!
How about modifying it in a way that a 2L bottle can be screwed to the fitting. Drill a large hole in the cap and glue it into the fitting.

This is why I love this site, it is one big collaberation group.
The Insomniac (author)  thingygoboom3 years ago
Brilliant! Or, perhaps for enhanced portability, rig it to take water from say a 10L dromedary hydration bladder, so you don't have to carry a bucket. Thanks for the compliment!
What if there was a built-in soap hopper
The Insomniac (author)  freakyqwerty3 years ago
I'm currently considering making one. If you read the last section it mentioned the possibility of making one
Maybe use a second "T" pipe in between the hose adapter and the scrubber with a sop bottle attached...

 Dirty Rope in                       Soap in
I               I                          I                I
I        I      I                          I        I       I
I        \/     I___________I        \/       I______
I                           I                                     
I                   < soapy water           < < <         Water in
I                _____I____________________
I               I
I               I
Clean Rope out
would recommend putting a back-flow blocker between the hose and the adapter to prevent any soap or dirty water from backing up the hose and going into your water supply. this is a great idea.
Yeah thats like it was thinking...
Oh right, yeah, I didn't read that...
I'm supprised you hadn't seen these before! You did save some decent money by making one yourself though, here's one for $33.95:
http://www.greatoutdoorsdepot.com/cmi-rope-washer.html
mowdish3 years ago
Nice design. I remember seeing something similar before, but I dismissed it as potentially rope destroying. I might have to build this one.
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