Cleaning climbing gear

Cleaning climbing gear

Some of you are concerned about decontaminating your gear due to COVID, and others would like to make use of downtime for long overdue gear cleaning. No matter the reason, we are here to help!


IBEX Climbing gym recommends that you look for directions from your specific manufacturer on proper cleaning and assumes no responsibility for any damage resulting from the following directions. That said, most climbing gear can be cleaned in similar manners. While some cleaning can be done in a clothing washer, it can be quite harsh on the machine. Hand washing generally provides better results.

Rope: We sell and love Sterling’s Wicked Good rope wash, however we have verified that it will NOT eliminate COVID. Start by loosely coiling your rope in the bathtub and fill with room temp water. Stir it up a bit, and then drain. Repeat until the water isn’t cloudy any more. Now that the majority of dirt and chalk is gone, fill the tub again with warm but not hot water, and add a small amount of mild dish soap such as Dawn. NEVER use a detergent. Stir it up again. Pull then entire length of the rope through your hand to help with cleaning. Drain again, and start repeating room temp rinses until water runs clean. To dry the rope, flake it over a towel or curtain rod. Do NOT dry the rope in direct sunlight. Make sure the rope is completely dry before coiling and storing, it may take a few days to dry completely. Give it a minimum of 48 hours to dry.

Harness: Almost identical procedure to rope cleaning, but on a smaller scale, your kitchen sink should suffice. Avoid bunching or squeezing the padding in the harness to prevent damage.

Shoes: Find out if your shoes are synthetic or leather. Synthetic shoes can be washed in the manner above or sprayed with Lysol. Leather shoes are problematic. If COVID is your concern, putting them away for 9 to 14 days is your best bet. To clean leather shoes you can wet a rag in warm water with a small amount of mild soap and use the rag to gently wipe them down. Avoid getting the leather any more wet than needed. Pat them dry with a rag or towel. Allow them to air dry avoiding direct sunlight. The rubber bottoms of all climbing shoes can be wiped down with 70% or higher isopropyl alcohol for both disinfection and an amazingly quick clean.

Hard gear: Hard gear like carabiners, GriGris, ATC, etc. are a lot easier to sanitize. Wipe down all surfaces with Lysol or Clorox wipes. Let the surface remain wet for 5 to 10 min (see directions on your wipes) and then re-wipe all surfaces with a damp rag. Dry with a clean rag. For sticking carabiners or gunk filled GriGris, soak in a sink filled with warm water and a mild soap. Use a tooth brush or Q-tips to scrub away any caked-on gunk. Rinse repeatedly, and dry with a towel. If lubrication of moving parts is needed do NOT use WD-40. Instead use a graphite lubricant.

Chalk bags: Chalk bags are easy! Empty any current chalk into a disposable bag. Toss in the washing machine on a delicate cycle and wash just like clothing. Use a delicate or better yet air-dry cycle on your dryer.

Further reading for general cleaning: