By: Frank Lanier
Why do my boat ropes get very hard and stiff when they are dry?
New rope contains thread coatings and lubricants from the factory that give it an easy hand (feel) while also offering some protection from UV radiation, abrasion and water absorption. After several seasons, these lubricants have pretty much been worn off and washed away. When that happens, UV damage, weather exposure and age lead to the hard, stiff lines you mention.
Old, worn lines should be replaced; however, you may be able to return some suppleness to lines in otherwise good condition by cleaning them with a mild laundry detergent and a small amount of fabric softener. I prefer to do this by hand, but you can also use a washing machine (front-loading ones work best) — just make sure to place the rope in a mesh bag or a pillowcase, to avoid tangling. Once they’re clean, rinse the lines thoroughly and hang them to dry in indirect sunlight.