Every rope becomes old and worn out at some point; however there are a few things can prolong the life of your rope:
- Uncoil the rope according to manufactures instructions - this avoids memory kinking. This may sound like a gimmick, but uncoiling the rope correctly the first time makes a real difference not only for rope life but also its general handling.
- Keep the rope free of dirt, dust and sand; an ideal way to do this is to buy a rope bag or use a tarp to keep the rope off the ground.
- Clean the rope if it becomes very dirty. To wash a rope, either immerse in clean cold water and brush with a synthetic brush or a specific rope brush; or machine wash it. To machine wash, slip the rope into a pillowcase or similar fabric bag and wash at less than 30°C on 'delicate wash'. Never use pressure cleaners which could force dirt (e.g. sand grains) into the rope and cut the fibres. To dry the rope leave it loose (not coiled) in a well ventilated room out of direct sunlight.
- Store your rope loose (not coiled), away from moisture, heat sources and sunlight.
- Avoid running the rope over sharp edges, and general abrasion.
- Avoid contact with aggressive chemical substances; you should retire your rope if you think it may have come into contact with aggressive chemicals.
Basically how long a rope last depends on how much you use it, as a general guide:
- A rope that you use several times a week, take regular falls on or do lots of lower off on will probably wear out in 1-2 years.
- A rope will last about 3-5 years if you only use it once a week or only intensively for a couple of months a year, and don't take big falls on it and don't lower off much on it.
- It is not advised to use ropes any older than 5 years, even if they have just been kept in storage, this is because nylon degrades with time.
It is a good idea to check your rope every time you use it, if you suspect the rope is excessively worn then it is best to err on the side of caution and retire the rope. However if the sheath is just a bit fluffy that is quite usual.
You should retire your rope if:
- It has held a really big fall (nearing factor 2)
- You can see the core anywhere along its length
- It has come into contact with aggressive chemicals
- The rope bulges in places
- The rope is mushy and soft underneath the sheath