The UIAA – International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation – regularly receives questions related to safety topics. The UIAA Safety Commission, with support of other UIAA Commissions and experts, has published a series of articles answering common questions with the objective of making them available to the wider climbing community.
This month’s question is:
Is there is a recognised procedure to disinfect/clean climbing equipment (such as harnesses, helmets, ropes) other than the usual cleaning process of using mild soap and water? My question is based on the current Covid-19 situation where equipment needs to be disinfected after use in case another climber then uses the same equipment.
UIAA Safety Commission:
This is a difficult topic to give a general answer and the best advise would be to rely on the World Health Organisation’s advise or the manufacturers’ instructions.
Many rope manufacturers offer advice on how to disinfect their ropes, and this advice may differ from one manufacturer to the next. It is therefore very important to always follow the particular method of cleaning recommended by manufacturer.
Below are some links to UIAA accredited manufacturers (Safety Label Holders). Please always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Method 1 – 72hr quarantine. Method 2 – Use Beal Rope Cleaner at 60°C (normally 30°C, so max 10 times!). Method 3 – Submerge the product in Isopropyl or Isopropanol for 30-60 seconds (max 10 times!)
Blue Water Ropes
Three options out of quarantine: Dispose or Time (quarantine for at least 72 hours) or Wash (30°C clean domestic grade water with liquid soap in the pH range 5.5 to 8.5 for 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Dry naturally – away from direct heat).
Disinfect in hot water – At least 30 minutes at a temperature of 58-60°C, then air dry avoiding exposure to the sun or heat sources; or Soap wash – 15 minutes in lukewarm water at a temperature of 30-32°C with soap (pH 5.5-8.5) then air dry as above; or quarantine in a well-ventilated area, avoiding exposure to the sun or heat sources, for at leat 7 days.
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Step 1 – 72 hour quarantine.
Step 2 – For Polyester and Polyamide products: Wash in a washing machine with natural soap (pH range 5.5-8.5) at 60°C for a minimum of 15 minutes. Place the items inside a protective fabric cover to reduce the risk of abrasion damage, and ensure the washing machine is free from other washing liquid / tablet and softener residues.
– For Dyneema – As above BUT at 30°C.
– For Metallic products can be cleaned using clinical disinfectant wipes or disinfectant. Be aware that Chlorine based chemicals can cause corrosion / cracking of some stainless steel components. Check the ingredients with the manufacturer.
Step 3 – Dry the product following the information provided in the General User instructions.
Protocol 1 – 72 hour quarantine
Protocol 2 – Hand wash with soap and water at a max temperature of 65°C (Warning: these are exceptional measures during the Covid-19 crisis. Otherwise, under normal circumstances, please wash your equipment at 30°C)
Cleaning products developed by ECOLAB, when applied as instructed, are also compatible with all Petzl helmets and can be used (although Petzl do not know to what extent, if at all, ECOLAB’s products are effective in killing or preventing the spreading of the Covid-19 virus).
Pigeon Mountain Industries Inc.
– Ethanol with the following contents (83% of denatured 95% ethanol, 11.3% of distilled water, 4.2% of 3% hydrogen peroxide and 1.5% of glycerol) BUT not recommended to apply more than 3 times.
– Isopropanol or Isopropyl BUT not recommended to apply more than 3 times.
– Hot water (55°C) For a non-destructive disinfection of your polyamide or polyester gear or metal components. NOT applicable for gear made of HMPE (Dyneema, Spectra, Dynex or similar).
– Hand soap with a pH range 5.5 – 8.5 for at least 15 minutes in 30°C water.
– Air dry in a well-ventilated place away from all sources of heat for at least 1 week.
Ropes can be disinfected by being submerged in a solution of 70% Isopropanol and 30% Distilled water for three (3) minutes maximum. Air dry naturally away from heat sources or direct sunlight. Disinfection should be done when needed and not daily. A qualified inspection of the rope is mandatory.
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To submit a question to be addressed by the UIAA Safety Commission please click here.
Main Photo: Courtesy of Remy Duding