Rope Care – a guide for arborists

May 30, 2022

Apart from the maximum lifespan as stipulated by the manufacturer there is no set expiration date for your climbing or rigging rope, as this depends on usage, storage, shock-loading, as well as dirt, grit, chemicals, and so on. However, arborist rope needs regular inspection, in order to know when a replacement is needed.

There are a number of measures that can be taken in order to prolong the lifespan of your climbing or rigging rope. This blog has been written with rope care and maintenance in mind. We hope that you find it both informative and useful.

How to extend your rope’s longevity

Ropes used by arborists must endure heavy use, and there are many other external factors that affect the overall wear and tear, such as shock-loading, dirt and grit, weather, abrasive working conditions, chemicals etc. There are many things which can lead to early retirement of an arborist rope, but luckily there are some simple steps that you can take to make sure your investment lasts as long as possible.

  1. Selecting a good quality rope
  2. Being mindful of the ‘Working Load Limit’ (WLL)
  3. Keeping the rope clean
  4. Storing the rope in a good quality rope bag
  5. Regular inspection

1.  Selecting a good quality rope

There are many aspects to bear in mind when choosing a rope. Factors such as colour, texture, and flexibility will have influence, but generally speaking, the tougher the rope, the more durable and long lasting it will be. For climbing ropes, you may also want to pay close attention to the type of spliced eye, as the slimmer the splice the easier the rope will be to install on devices such as the Petzl Zigzag, with some good quality ropes having the ability to install on such devices from both ends.

Factors to consider when looking at ropes:

  • Strength
  • Construction
  • Elongation
  • Firmness
  • Flexibility
  • Water repellency

Here are a selection of both Harkie ‘HeftyFlex’ rigging ropes and climbing ropes.

2.  Being mindful of the ‘Working Load Limit’ (WLL)

What is working load limit for rope?

‘Work Load Limits’ is the maximum load that a brand new rope with appropriate splices in non-critical applications can be subjected to during normal activity, taking shock loading into account. This shock loading is usually calculated by using a ratio between 1:5 and 1:10 depending on the manufacturer. It must be remembered that knots can significantly reduce this strength, as can other factors such as exposure to UV, moisture, dirt, chemicals, etc.

3. Keep the rope clean

Arborist climbing and rigging ropes are often made up of 12, 16, or even 24 strands of fibre bundles. Dirt and grit can work their way in between the strands. As the rope flexes, the dirt and grit can act like tiny knives, cutting away at the strands of the rope from inside.

Therefore, it is of paramount importance to keep your ropes as clean as possible, especially if you are working in an area containing lots of dirt. Storing your rope in a good quality, durable arborist rope bag is recommended. This ensures that the rope stays as clean as possible, and also helps prevent tangles and snags.

It is also recommended that ropes are washed fairly regularly. This can either be done by hand, or by placing it in a mesh rope-washing bag and placing it in a washing machine with gentle detergent in line with manufacturer’s instructions –abrasive and chemical-based cleaning products should never be used on arborist rope. Always make sure that your rope is allowed to properly dry out before storing, to prevent mould and mildew.

4. Storing the rope in a good quality rope bag

Rope bags are a must for the arborist – they keep the rope from external damage both when in use, and also in between uses, and for storage purposes. The rope bag also enables the rope to be transported with ease. Harkie Global have a comprehensive range of high quality, durable rope bags, which are perfect for the job!

5. Regular inspection

Regular inspection is important as it can alert you to problems and wear on the rope. This will include both daily pre-climb inspections, and regular inspections by your ‘LOLER’ inspector.