rope preserving

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Aug 22, 2011
Has anyone got any recommendations for protecting rope (made from natural materials) from the elements.I've been experimenting with candle wax or mineral oil but i was hoping for cheaper options.

What does everyone else do or do you just use paracord.


Maker Plus
Jul 5, 2010
west yorkshire
Traditionally, Stockholm (pine) tar was used to preserve rope. You can obtain it from equestrian suppliers etc. It's easy to make a mess with it.
Hopefully, Toddy will see this thread; she knows all about this sort of thing.
Dec 6, 2013
Silly as it seems I have used 'fence guard' and similar wood preservatives on manila ropes used around my ponds etc. I don't truthfully know how effective it is compared to 'proper' preservatives but I first noticed the difference when I was too lazy to remove the ropes from the posts I was treating and found rope close to the post that had received wood guard looked 'healthier' a year later than the stuff that hadn't received it.....theoretically it's natural fibre similar to wood so it ought to work.



Jan 21, 2005
S. Lanarkshire
The problem with lard is that it's oily/greasy and it taints everything that it touches if it gets at all warm. It also will go rancid, especially if it's kept damp and wet. Grass isn't like hide, and the lard isn't absorbed the same way into the grass as it would be into leather.
Stockholm tar might scent up (the original tarry rope smell :) ) everything, but it really does preserve plant material, from grass to wood, and it lasts without going mouldy or oiling out. Like the paints and varnishes used on the old oil paintings, it can take it's time to 'dry down' though.
Something similar can be made using the resin and fat mix though....Greenland wax sort of thing.

Personally I find that my natural ropes and string survive well so long as they're dry. If they're going to get wet and kept anywhere that might be damp they really do need the tar or resin on them, otherwise they will mildew pdq.



Jul 16, 2004
Gåskrikki North Lincs
If you can wait for it to dry, then Stockholm tar is best....and 3 years is pretty swift.
I have recently learned that the Standing Rigging of Hemp-rigged Warships, right up to the 1850's, was routinely slushed with a mix of ; Stockholm Tar, Coal Tar and water.
Presumably it dried well, or the stuff would have been swilled over everything and everyone and made a right mess..
There is also a watery, tarry, product that Roofers paint atop of newly laid bitumen tarpaulin...I had a roof done with this and it dried to a silvery finish,. pretty much in less than a month.
Personally, I would sooner dry off the rope and store it where well ventilated all round....once it's dry ,give it a good tensioning and then let it relax.
Regards Ceeg
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Feb 10, 2016
Grand Cayman, Norway, Sweden
Fully agree. Clean, dry.
Will last for years.
I have been told that ropes and lines made from natural materials were cleaned with fresh water first, then with ( Cupper Sulfate? Alum?) something, dried, then infused with a light Stockholm tar. Once a fishing season.

After each fishing, if possible, rinsed with fresh water.

I have a coil of thin Manilla rope, such treated, on the 'museum wall' in my fishing equipment room in Norway.

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
McBride, BC
Tar is a really good repellant against critters that want to eat your ropes.
#18 tarred nylon seine cord last for a long time in salt and fresh water applications.
#12(?) tarred side line is about the same but thicker.
I don't know what the finish is or how its applied but it is stuck on but good.

Probably clean and wash with fresh water then dry in the shade.
Don't expect your lines to last forever.
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Tor helge

May 23, 2005
Northern Norway
Earlier The usual treatment for fishing gear/rope (and also sails) made from natural materials was "barking".
The rope or nets was treated in a concotion of tree bark (birch, alder...), sodium carbonate (in earliest times this was not used) and water.
The items soaked in the liquid for 3-4 days, or 4-5 hours (depending on the method; cold or warm bark concotion), and then dried.
Usually the first treatment (new equipment) was cold treatment, and the next was warm treatment. Done once each year.
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Jan 21, 2005
S. Lanarkshire
That tannin and phenol rich soaking water really does help preserve, and it helps discourage both moulds and insects. I think much of the reason that the tar that ended up used on ropes was because it seemed a simpler process. It could be applied anytime it was needed, even at sea. The original tar production is a fouter to do in small batches, but easy enough to scale up and do almost as an industrial process, and in quantity.

My Dad barked the ropes and sails of one of the boats he made. He used the old tin bath, and when he poured it empty the stuff stained the path so badly that it took years to finally return to it's normal colour. Alder bark runs red when cut, with the tannin from the birch bark too, I reckon he dyed the path as well as his sails. Somewhere I have photos of him in that boat, and the sails are the colour known as Indian Red to painters.

and as it faded with the sun and sea, it became a softer version, like this.