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Gear Guy

Is Sno-Seal Harmful to Climbing Ropes?

I was wondering if anyone has looked in to the effect of getting Sno-Seal from gloves on climbing ropes? I always have Snow-seal on my ski- mountaineering and alpine-climbing gloves. I have no doubt that some of it gets on my ropes, although it is probably a very small amount.

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I was wondering if anyone has looked in to the effect of getting Sno-Seal from gloves on climbing ropes? I always have Snow-seal on my ski- mountaineering and alpine-climbing gloves. I have no doubt that some of it gets on my ropes, although it is probably a very small amount.

—Aaron Dahill

Sno-Seal is beeswax, and Sno-Seal notes that people have for 60 years used the product not just to protect boots and gloves,
but as a skin balm, even putting it on chapped lips. The company doesn’t say whether they ever did a follow-up study to see if any of these folks grew
mustaches in unwelcome places, so apply the product to your dermis at your own risk (or switch to Burt’s Bees all natural Lip Balm).

Beeswax is a natural product with a melting point of around 146-degrees, making it too hard to rub into leather. To soften it for application, Sno-Seal
adds a solvent, lowering the melting point to 105 degrees and evaporating as you apply the product.

Solvents, along with battery acid, are rope killers. If you glopped Sno-Seal straight out of the can and onto your rope it might slightly melt the
nylon, but since you apply the treatment to your gloves, then later handle your rope, the solvent has dissipated, leaving only the natural beeswax.
During a hot rappel you could heat your gloves enough to transfer some of the beeswax onto your rope, but as the adage says, if a substance won’t harm
your skin, it won’t harm your rope. Gear Guy has spoken!

This article originally appeared in Rock and Ice issue 237 (October 2016).