How Do You Remove Tree Sap from Rope?
How to remove tree sap from a climbing rope

Any form of climbing requires a good rope. Obviously, you can’t go without one. And, above all, safety always comes first. A lot of time, effort, and care goes into choosing the right climbing rope, no matter the setting that we’re talking about. However, there’s one issue that a lot of climbers face – how do you remove tree sap from a rope?

Yeah, this question is actually way more common than one might think. And, additionally, it’s one of the issues that not many people talk about. So we end up with so many folks, whether they’re rock climbers or tree climbers, complaining about the issue and not finding proper solutions.

If you’re one of those climbers looking for a solution to this problem, you’ve come to the right place. Once and for all, we’re finally going to tackle the issue and explain how you should go about this problem.

It’s not a hard task. You can submerge the rope in warm water previously mixed with a stronger detergent, and keep it like that for about 20 minutes. If tree sap and dirt don’t come off by themselves, use a harder sponge to wash the rope.  In certain cases, it’s also possible to put the washing machine into action.

First Things First: Rock Climbing Ropes vs. Tree Climbing Ropes

But, before we begin, we need to set the record straight. If we’re talking about tree sap and ropes, we first need to differentiate between rock climbing and tree climbing ropes. One would think that you could use the same type of ropes. However, these are two completely different things that we have on our hands. Let’s get into it.

Tree Climbing Ropes

Arborists, or so-called “tree surgeons” or “tree doctors,” will need specialized ropes for climbing. The same goes for anyone who’s climbing trees, be it professionally or as a sport. Nonetheless, it’s the arborists who use these ropes the most.

Anyhow, a tree climbing rope should not be dynamic. This means that they shouldn’t stretch. The last thing that you want on a tree is to bounce around. Rock climbing ropes are too stretchy for tree climbing. And caving ropes are usually too stiff and you wouldn’t be able to make proper arborist knots.

Climbing rope and equipment

Although it may seem like a very unimportant issue, a tree climbing rope should also be of certain colors. In particular, these should be bright-colored. The brighter the better. You want them to be as noticeable as possible due to safety precautions.

Tree ropes are usually somewhere between 10 and 13 millimeters in diameter. This makes them thick enough to grip, but light enough to make them easy to climb up a large tree.

Arborist ropes also feature specific construction. The weaves can either be braided or kernmantle. Most importantly, tree ropes shouldn’t have a twisted construction, as that would literally make you spin when hanging down.

As mentioned, you should always go with specialized tree-climbing ropes. This is not just about comfort, but about your safety above everything.

Tree Sap Removal

Tree-climbing ropes, obviously, can have issues with tree sap that gets stuck in the weaves. This can also happen with rock-climbing or caving ropes as well. However, it’s obviously far less common, not just because of the settings where these ropes are used but also due to their construction and other traits.

Nonetheless, whatever type of rope that you have, the process of tree sap removal is pretty much the same. In case you have tree sap stuck in your rock-climbing rope, you can use this guide as well.

What Is Tree Sap?

To those who are not completely familiar, let’s first explain what tree sap actually is. Some would refer to it as the “blood” of the tree. In some ways, we could say that this is true. An average tree is actually way more complex than you might think. The inside has transport tissues called xylem and phloem.

What is tree sap?

Yeah, sounds like some sci-fi alien names, but it’s true. Don’t worry, we’re not getting too geeky here. Tree sap is something that comes from both the xylem and phloem tissue. Xylem has an important function to take water and soluble mineral nutrients from the root and all the way up to the tiniest branches. Meanwhile, the phloem tissue transports the products of photosynthesis to all parts of the plant.

The tree sap can be noticed on the outside of the tree. It usually appears as a sticky substance that’s neither liquid nor hard. In some cases, it’s edible. But, from the perspective of tree climbers, it’s just annoying and can cause all sorts of more or less important issues. Generally speaking, you want to avoid it.

The sap that leaks from the tree and that you can see on the outside is a sign of potential stress. Pests, disease, or physical damage can be an issue. Therefore, an arborist or any sort of tree climber will definitely stumble upon it sooner or later.

Rock climbers may also dal with tree sap, although it’s very rare. This can potentially happen in some settings where there’s specific vegetation growing from rocks and if the ropes go over it.

If you want to learn more about tree sap, here’s an interesting brief guide about it.

How to Remove Tree Sap from a Rope?

Knowing that you’ll have to deal with tree sap, you also need to know how to remove it. The process may not be the easiest, but it’s still far from an impossible task.

In a lot of cases, you can simply wash the ropes in warm water and use a stronger detergent. There are also some rope-specific detergents that could help. But compared to regular cleaning, it’s best that you use something just a bit stronger than regular soaps and detergents if you’re dealing with tree sap.

Firstly, you should fill your tub or any water container where you’ll wash the rope. Make sure to fill it with warm and not hot water. This way, you can get deeper into the weaves and fibers without actually damaging the rope in the longer run.

After submerging it in water, let it stay like that for a while. It should soak up in warm water. Then add the detergent just enough to see that it’s foaming and doing its thing. Keep the rope submerged in water for about 10 to 15 more minutes.

If you have a severe case of persistent tree sap, then drain the water and submerge it again. If you notice that sap and dirt are already getting off the rope, then you can proceed to wash it.

Now, long ropes may be a bit tedious to wash by hand. But this is the best way to get rid of that persistent tree sap. For this purpose, you can use a slightly harder sponge, squeeze it over the rope’s surface, and clean it all throughout its length.

Certain parts of the rope will require you to go back and clean them again. Or, what you can do is to go 2 or 3 times over its entire surface.

After you’re done, drain the water from the tub or the container and inspect the rope. It should most likely be clean. But if you notice significant patches of tree sap, then let it dry for a while and repeat the process.

However, this most likely won’t be the case. In almost all cases, you should be able to clean things up with just the process described above. What’s more, you probably won’t even have to repeat any of the steps. Nonetheless, closely inspect the rope just in case so that you won’t have to deal with any annoying patches of tree sap when you go climbing again.

Either way, rope washing is something that you should do anyway. Here’s a more thorough guide on general washing that you should check out as well.

Can You Wash a Climbing Rope in a Washing Machine?

In case you’re wondering, you can actually wash it in the washing machine as well. This is not only a great way to save time, but you can also put it in the washer in case the hand-washing method didn’t do its trick.

However, in order to make this method work, you should put your rope in the mesh bag first. That’s, of course, pretty obvious as you’d get things tangled up and you may even potentially damage your washing machine without the mesh bag.

Next up, you should look for milder and shorter washing programs. Keep the rotation levels low and keep the water temperature at lower levels as well. Honestly, there’s no need to go higher than 30 degrees Celsius. Even the most severe cases of tree sap on your rope can be solved with temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius.

With that said, you should use a regular amount of washing detergent and keep the washing program up to 30 minutes. Once you’re done, make sure to dry up the rope as much as possible. You can even use a dryer machine, just make sure to keep the rope in the mesh bag.

Alcohol: Yes or No?

In case you’re wondering, you can also use some alcohol to remove the tree sap. However, you shouldn’t rely completely on this method. This is something that can help you while you’re out climbing and you want to get rid of it there on the spot.

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