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Rope Types and Strength - Choosing the Right Rope for Your Job

Date: 17-Dec-2018

Does selecting the right rope types and strength for the right job have your brain in knots? With such a wide-range of materials, strengths, sizes and styles available, it can sometimes be difficult to determine which type of rope fits your needs. The material used in the rope is mainly responsible for determining the rope’s strength, durability, resistance to abrasion, and general ease of use. Here’s a simple rope types and strength comparison guide to help you select the right rope for your situation.

Ropes can be divided into two categories based on the material used: Natural and Synthetic. Natural ropes are usually softer than synthetic ropes, absorbent, and great for when the rope is being handled directly, by humans and even pets or livestock - hammocks, awnings, flag poles, climbing, pet toys, etc. Natural ropes are also commonly used in landscaping or decorating, but are generally not recommended for any heavy load bearing.

When looking at natural rope types and strength, cotton and manila are two common natural materials used.

Cotton Rope

100% cotton ropes are biodegradable and safe for use with pets or livestock. They are often widely used in crafts, decorative projects, horse halters and as toys in bird cages. As the name implies, cotton rope is by no means the strongest rope type available, but they knot well and easily, have very low stretch, and are soft to the touch.

Manila Rope

Manila rope, often referred to as “hemp rope,” is created with the strongest natural fibers available. Manila hemp isn’t actually hemp, rather a fiber found in abacá plants grown in the Philippines. Manilla rope is also 100% biodegradable, durable, has low stretch and is also widely used in decoration, landscaping, climbing and tug-o-war battles. Manila is not resistant to water or direct UV rays, but has impressive moisture-absorbing properties. It’s a good idea to soak your manila rope in water before using it or tying any knots. Manila is prone to shrinking, which can make untying knots difficult.

In general, natural ropes are heavier in weight than synthetic ropes, have low resistance and durability, and are affected by environmental stresses like UV rays, humidity, hardening and even rotting.

Synthetic Ropes

If you’re after rope types and strengths suitable for load bearing, that also have higher durability, synthetic ropes are a better option.

Synthetic ropes have at least a 30% longer lifespan than natural ropes, are stronger, more durable, and more resistant to UV rays, water, mildew and abrasions. Because they last longer than natural ropes, synthetic rope types are usually more cost-effective. Lightweight and powerful, they’re perfect for heavy load bearing such as towing and rigging, useful in safety lines or nets, and great in water.

When looking at synthetic rope types and strength, polypropylene, polyethylene polyester, and nylon are common materials used.

Polypropylene and Polyethylene Rope

Polypropylene rope and polyethylene rope types are suitable in almost any application, such as manufacturing, construction, transportation and more. Strong, lightweight and waterproof, these synthetic fiber floats in water, making either ideal for an array of marine applications such as swimming lane barriers, various fishermen activities and more. Silver Rope, a type of polyethylene rope, is great for truck ties and anchor lines. It’s also soft and easy to use.


Polyester is another tough, heavy duty general purpose rope type. Polyester does well in the outdoors and is often used to tie down boats or other water vessels. UV and rot resistant, polyester maintains strength dry or wet. One disadvantage of polyester is the bright white colour of the rope can become a rather unpleasant, murky brown or green colour in marine applications.


Nylon is stronger than polypropylene and manila rope types and is usually found bearing the most weight and pulling the heaviest loads. Nylon is perfect for sailors and is commonly found in mooring lines, anchor lines, pulleys, tie-downs and more. UV and abrasion resistant, nylon is also very smooth to the touch and stretchy. Though when nylon absorbs water, it weakens slightly but is still a great choice for overall durability.

When selecting different rope types and strengths, it’s important to match the correct rope type with the job. Check out our great range of rope, twine and lashing today or contact us for assistance.