Your Bondage Rope is Delicious, But You Don’t Want That

If you’ve spent much time tying up your partners, you’ve probably invested in some nice jute or hemp rope and you’ve probably dropped a reasonable amount of money on this.

Depending on where you purchased your rope, it may have been stored in a low-humidity environment and then come to you vacuum sealed. The reason for this is that natural fibres are hygroscopic, meaning that they absorb water. Not just a little bit either. Jute, for example, can absorb up to 34% of its mass in water without feeling wet.

There’s a number of reasons why this is a problem, and if you did better in your science classes than me you can read about them in The Hygroscopic Behaviour of Plant Fibers: A Review. Long term problems include:

  • compromise to the strength of the rope
  • the rope going out of shape
  • a shorter lifespan

But the immediate problem you will want to avoid is dry rot (which is somewhat misnamed because it actually requires water to occur). Natural fibres are rich in yummy cellulose, and dry rot is caused by fungi that live in an environment that may seem dry to you but has enough moisture for them to thrive and consume your rope for food.

PREVENTION IS THE ONLY CURE

Spores of the fungi that causes dry rot are present from plant through to processing through to finished rope, so it is almost certainly in your rope when you get it. It’s benign and not a health risk, and it won’t do any damage to your rope while it is dry and dormant. But, with enough moisture the spores grow fine white strands (hyphae) and then will release new spores into the air. Soon you have a spreading rot, eating away at the fibres of your rope.

Dry rot begins at 65% relative humidity, but once it gets hold it needs only 20% relative humidity to continue.

Natural ropes are fibrous, so spraying or wiping on a treatment won’t work. Complete immersion in an anti-fungal treatment might, but you’d be soaking your rope in harmful chemicals. The only solution is to prevent it in the first place.

WHEN YOU GET YOUR ROPE

My preferred rope supplier sends them to me vacuum sealed with silica gel desiccant packages inside the bags. It arrives quite dry, and that’s something you also don’t want because the small fibres that make up the strands will be more brittle and liable to break.

So, the first thing I do is to bring the ropes to ambient humidity by leaving them out uncoiled for a few days.

SAFE STORAGE OF YOUR ROPE

You can buy electronic dry boxes, or humidity controlled cabinets from camera stores and appliance retailers, and that’s an excellent solution if you have the space and the budget.

If not, then pills, pet food, some types of snacks and new electronic components are your new best friend because they’re a source of free silica gel desiccant packages.

Seal your ropes in a snap-lock bag with some silica gel packets and store them in a cool dark place. Change the silica gel periodically.

whiteropes

THAT TIME YOU DID BONDAGE IN THE SHOWER

If your rope gets a bit wet, then you can leave it out in the sun for a day, or you can use mechanical means to dry it such as a clothes drier, hair drier or oven. Note that natural fibre ropes are VERY combustible, so use the lowest heat settings you can.

If your rope gets very wet, or you want to wash it, then you should dry it under tension to prevent it from becoming shorter and thicker.

Either way, make sure it is completely dry, on and below the surface, before you store it.

A WORD ABOUT HYGIENE

The best strategy with rope is to avoid getting it dirty. It’s porous and can’t be cleaned easily. But, you can wash it, either by hand or inside a pillowcase in your washing machine or dishwasher.

If you’re worried about transfer of body fluids, then it’s best to use individual ropes for your partners. Disinfection greatly reduces, but doesn’t eliminate, risks. There’s no definitive answer about what the risks are with rope,  so choose the level of hygiene you are comfortable with:

  • Viruses and bacteria are vulnerable to UV light, so leaving your rope in direct sunlight may destroy them
  • Some viruses and bacteria are vulnerable to freezing, so putting your ropes in the freezer may destroy these
  • Cold water and mild detergent will remove much of the surface fluid and is probably the best strategy for disinfection

FURTHER READING

• Rope Connections – Pete’s Notes on Rope Cleaning
• Rhapsody in Rope – Rope and STIs
• Epicrope.com – Beginner’s Guide to Buying Rope

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