To the uninitiated, “rope” is a fairly generic term, and one type of rope is as good as the next. However, some ropes are better than others for certain uses. Determining what specific type of rope is best suited to a particular use rests on understanding the needs of the task at hand and the properties of different types of rope. The guide below will help you decide which type of rope is best for your intended purpose. Look for the rope characteristic or property you need for the job, then see which type(s) of rope can provide what you’re seeking.
A dielectric material has the ability to transmit electric force without conducting it. In other words, they don’t allow current to flow, which makes them good insulators. When searching for rope that can be used safely where it could possibly be exposed to electric current or static electricity, polypropylene rope is an ideal choice. Polypropylene is a type of plastic first synthesized in the 1950s. It is the second most widely used plastic in the world.
Because polypropylene rope does not conduct electricity, it is ideally suited for use by electricians, people who work in trees, and other locations near power lines where a rope could come into contact with a live wire.
When the need is for a rope that floats, you can’t go wrong with polypropylene. It resists mildew and rot from exposure to water. Polypropylene rope is used for a wide range of marine and aquatic purposes, such as dividing the lanes in swimming pools, deploying commercial fishing nets and crab or lobster pots, for buoy and boat moorings lines, and in aquaculture.
In addition to floating, polypropylene rope is also light in weight, which is another highly desirable property for rope used in marine applications. Polypropylene’s light weight also makes it an excellent choice for use in exercise (jumping rope comes to mind) and outdoor activities, such as pitching camping tents and tying down tarps.
Nylon rope is naturally water-resistant and will not rot or mildew. It is also strong and durable, making it a good choice for a variety of applications, including marine applications. Polyester rope is also naturally water-resistant and will not rot or mildew, this rope has the added bonus of UV radiation and abrasion protection. However, Polypropylene rope is the most water-resistant rope available. It will float on water and will not absorb water. It is also lightweight and durable.
Why spend more on rope than you have to? Manila rope is a good choice when cost is an important factor in selecting a type of rope for general use. It’s made from a renewable resource—a plant fiber grown in the Philippines. It has both decorative and practical applications, as landscaping elements, deck railings, swings, climbing ropes in gyms, and a host of farm tasks, for example.
If you need a rope that stands up well to outdoor use, resistance to damage from ultraviolet light is highly desirable. Nylon, polyester, and Kevlar™ ropes all share this property and won’t rot due to UV exposure. While nylon and polyester fibers are naturally UV resistant, Kevlar™ has a UV-resistant coating. All three of these ropes are good for use in situations that subject ropes to the elements. Key examples include use as tie-down and rigging lines for securing truck loads, as towing lines, with winches and pulleys, in dock rigging, and in a wide variety of marine applications.
A rope that snaps under a heavy load can cause bodily injury and/or property damage. Manila rope’s strength and snap resistance make this unlikely. Instead of snapping like synthetic ropes, a manila rope will fray. Because of its resistance to snapping, manila rope is used in applications that would put people at risk of injury if a rope prone to snapping were used. Swings and children’s play spaces come to mind, as do military training and various types of rigging.
Two ropes made of synthetic fibers top the list in terms of natural strength—nylon and polyester. Both are smart choices for applications requiring a tough, heavy-duty rope that can handle very heavy loads. Both are commonly used in rigging for theatrical productions and special events.
Smoothness refers to the way a rope feels on the hands. This is particularly important in applications that involve pulling a line by hand, which is common in a marine environment or when using a manually operated winch or pulley system. Synthetic fibers tend to be smoother than most natural fibers, and nylon rope is known for being particularly easy on the hands.
Abrasion occurs when a rope rubs or scrapes against a rough surface, which creates friction and damages the fibers. Nylon rope, along with polyester rope, comes to mind when resistance to abrasion is needed. Nylon and polyester ropes both provide abrasion resistance, making them ideal for use with pulley systems or winches. Both typically outlast ropes made from natural fibers.
Ropes that rot may appear to be serviceable but can lose strength and integrity over time and with prolonged exposure to a damp or corrosive environment. Made from synthetic fiber, polyester rope has a high degree of resistance to rot, making it a common choice for use in marine applications. It’s also commonly employed in factory and other industrial applications that could expose rope to chemicals that cause rot, as well as outdoor uses that expose rope to the elements.
Many types of rope become brittle and lose strength with prolonged exposure to temperatures below the freezing point. Dyneema is a good choice for freeze resistance because it has a low melting point and a high glass transition temperature. This means that it will not become brittle or crack in cold weather. It also has good resistance to UV radiation and chemicals.
It goes without saying that fire resistance is an important quality in ropes used in applications and environments that pose a danger of fire. If you need a rope that can withstand extreme heat and flame, then you will need Aramid fire retardant rope, which is a synthetic fiber that is extremely resilient to mechanical stress and can resist extreme heat without burning. It is held together by hydrogen bonds.
Exposure to chemicals can rot and weaken ropes of all kinds of ropes. Nylon, Polyester, Polypropylene, and Dyneema rope are good choices for use in chemical plants and other facilities that use caustic chemicals in their manufacturing or cleaning processes. All of these ropes are resistant to acids, alkalis, and solvents.
Many ropes, both natural and synthetic, will stretch to some degree under prolonged tension or a heavy load. And in many cases, stretching is not a good thing where rope is concerned. This is especially true in rigging for theatrical productions and special events. Even a relatively small amount of stretch in theatrical rigging ropes used to fly in scenery, props, or even people could affect accuracy and cause accidents. The entertainment industry has used our Multistrand rope for many years, in fact, some of New York’s most venerable theaters and the city’s elite utilize it.
And finally, a rope that can be cut accidentally is a potential safety hazard. Dyneema rope resists cutting. That makes it good for use in environments where a rope could have an unfortunate close encounter with sharp edges or cutting implements, in a factory or repair shop, for instance.
Most rope purchasers have more than one important property in mind when looking for the right rope. You might be seeking a type of rope characterized by strength, UV resistance, and stretch resistance. Or flotation, lightweight and low cost. Doing a little homework and being an informed consumer is always the best approach. We at SEACO offer a broad selection of high-quality rope, twine, and cordage products. We offer a large assortment of products, including sash cord, HMPE ropes, nylon, manila, mason line, and safety rope, with same-day shipment from carefully chosen warehouses across the United States and Canada. Or you can buy from one of the many establishments that sell our products.
Visit our sizable online inventory and get in touch with us immediately for more details or to place an order. Both directly from us and through our dealer network, you can order in bulk.