Date: 6 August 2019. Clean and Soften
One of my neighbors on the canal
recently bought a trawler. The ropes were older, stiff and some had
mildewed. Basically they were hard to use because of the stiffness.
The proper "money is no object" solution would be to buy brand new
ropes. Here is the $3 version utilized to revitalize the old boat
For the record,
method does damage ropes.
This is not a
panacea. It is a stop-gap measure to extend the life of the lines.
First, we took a large plastic garbage container and dumped all the
dock lines inside of it:
The cleaner ropes were added on top.
Salt can be a Real Issue with lines used on a
cruising boat underway in salt or brackish water. So too is mildew.
Salt crystals get between the strands of the rope and cause damage.
Mildew weakens lines too. Neither are a good thing.
One solution is to clean the ropes that come with
your new boat. The previous owner of the trawler my neighbor
bought is a good guy. That said, the boat sat in a brokerage for
many months. No good comes of line left in the sun. Some of the
ropes may have been salty when stored.
Given these circumstances, the new
owner opted to try rope cleaning ala Seaweed.
Into the barrel I dumped a gallon of no-name unscented bleach
and a cup of Dawn dish soap.
Next I added water until all the lines were soaking in the
The water to fill the barrel was from a hose. I deliberately used a hose
that had been exposed to sun for many hours. The water coming out of
the nozzle was quite hot.
The lid was put atop the trash can
filled with lines.
Then we waited.
The following day the bleach water was drained out
and a thorough rinsing took place. That involved a few complete
water changes. Basically we waited until the water ran clear.
One way to facilitate the whole
clear water thing was that I sorted out each line into its own pile:
Then I blasted each line from end to end with the spray nozzle
hose. That was a tedious chore.
There are some
that try using regular washing machines to clean ropes. This can be
a Very Bad idea. Wet, the lines are extremely heavy. Damage can
occur to the machinery. Belts break when washers are overloaded.
Side Note: Many commercial
laundries have specific rules against adding lines to their machines.
Do NOT do it!
After rinsing the lines thoroughly
they were dumped back into the trash barrel.
A couple bottles of inexpensive fabric softener were
added to the barrel of ropes.
Soaking took another couple days.
The outside temperatures were soaring so the impetus to dump out the
water, sort the ropes, and hang them for drying wasn't really there.
That is why I waited to finish the project.
After emptying the barrel the lines
were separated. All were hung over a chair.
The last step involved thoroughly rinsing the lines
time to remove the fabric softener. I used a hose for that process.
procedure to clean and soften old boat lines:
Find a watertight
container large enough to hold the ropes you wish to clean.
Add the lines to your
barrel. I put the dirtiest at the bottom.
Pour a gallon of bleach
into the barrel.
IF your lines could be contaminated with oil or diesel, add
a cup of Dawn detergent too.
Fill with water until
the lines are underwater. You might want to add something
heavy to hold the ropes down.
Wait until the following day.
Thoroughly rinse off
the bleach water. I dumped the lines out on the ground and
blasted the ropes end to end with a hose.
Place the lines back
into the watertight container.
Add full a container of
fabric softener. Fill the barrel with enough water to cover
thoroughly, then hang to dry.
During normal use rinsing ropes with fresh water is
not considered a necessity. I believe it does extend
the useful life of my lines. That is why I do so aboard Seaweed.
One ratty line did not survive the bleach treatment. It was thrown
away. A second line was the worst of the batch. Even after
treatment, it remained stiff, hard and frankly is junk. The rest of the ropes are a-okay and in
If your lines are in shabby
condition try cleaning and conditioning them. Even if you're
unsuccessful, you are in no worse shape than before the attempt. And
that ladies and gents is the story of my life aboard Seaweed. I try. When things
work I celebrate.
I truly am blessed to be able to enjoy this life.
Celebrate with me.
Happy boating to you and yours.
Do you have a method to revitalize old ropes?
And, how do you do it?
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In the Bilges,
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