Sailboat Rope Cleaning

From constant exposure to dust and dirt, the halyards, sheets and other control lines aboard a sailboat frequently become soiled. Left in that condition, these tiny dirt particles act like knives, damaging the fibers of the line, which weakens it and shortens its useful life. Fortunately, cleaning sailboat lines is a simple task to perform using only a few basic supplies you can acquire virtually anywhere.

  1. Fill the tub with water. A large tub will allow you to soak multiple shots of line at the same time.

  2. Dump about 1/2 box of baking soda into the water.

  3. Pour the amount of liquid laundry detergent needed to wash a small load of clothes into the tub. The inside of the cap will be graduated, so measure out just enough to reach the lowest line.

  4. Add one or two cap-fulls of household chlorine bleach to the water.

  5. Stir the water gently until the baking soda dissolves.

  6. Place the lines in the tub and let them soak. Check the condition and color of the water after three or four hours. If is discolored or cloudy, or if dirt has fallen to the bottom of the tub, dump the tub, refill, add fresh ingredients, and continue soaking the lines.

  7. Continue checking, and if necessary, replacing the water and ingredients until the lines no longer release any trapped dirt.

  8. Rinse the lines in clean water to remove any traces of detergent or bleach.

  9. Dry the lines in a warm shady place with good air circulation. After they have dried completely, reinstall them on your vessel.


  • When adding bleach, less is better than more. The bleach will help restore the original color of the lines, but too much will damage the fibers. Repeated soakings with small amounts of bleach is preferable to replacing expensive halyards or sheets.
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