A rope is a lined collection of strands, natural or synthetic, which are twisted or braided together to combine them into a longer and durable piece. 

Commonly, ropes are characterized as either natural or synthetic. However, each of them has aspects that make them preferable in distinct situations.  

The most common types of natural and synthetic ropes include; 

  1. Natural fiber ropes 

Natural fiber ropes are made from eco-friendly materials such as sisal, manila, cotton, flax, and coir. Manila is extracted from the abaca plant, cotton from the cotton plant, and sisal from the leaves of the sisal plant.  

Types of natural fiber ropes comprise the following; 

  • Manila ropes 

Manila ropes are known for their strength and durability. Manila ropes provide smooth handling, are eco-friendly, non-conductive, low stretch, and hardwearing. 

They are ideal for application in various marine areas such as rigging, lifting, and cargo nets. Though it is expensive, a seafarer (sailor) prefers manila ropes.  

  • Sisal ropes 

Sisal ropes are coarse and rough. They are resistant to external wear, non-conductive, and biodegradable. They are not as flexible nor as strong as manila fiber ropes. Sisal ropes swell up more when wet and absorbs water quickly. 

Due to its hard texture, sisal ropes can cause the hands to become sore and uncomfortable while handling.  

Utilized in the marine industry for mooring and other general duties aboard. The cost is cheaper and its supply is more reliable than manila fiber ropes. 

A water repellent coating, often tar-based, is used on sisal ropes to prevent rotting. 

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  • Coir  

Coir fiber ropes are made from coconut husks. It has a coarse and hairy texture but they not very strong. A coir rope is lightweight, possessing buoyant and elastic features. Thus often used as a towing warp or mooring spring. They are not popular with seafarers.  

  • Hemp ropes 

The hemp fiber rope was recognized as the best rope in the maritime industry. Their fine texture, strength and flexibility make them ideal for use in various areas.  

Hemp fiber ropes are water-resistant and do not shrink or swell when wet. That’s why it was used for rigging sailing vessels and roping sails. Hemp ropes tend to freeze in cold climates.  

  • Cotton ropes 

Cotton ropes are often used with camping, toys, and art. They are durable and can be used in warm environments as they will not stretch or slip. However, cotton ropes are not as durable as synthetic ones. 

Cotton ropes are biodegradable, have a softer texture – they are gentle on the skin. Additionally, cotton is lightweight – it is easily portable. Do not use cotton ropes in wet or damp settings because they will knot and get molds and rot. 

  1. Synthetic fiber ropes 

Synthetic ropes are made from manufactured materials that include nylon, polypropylene, and polyester. Synthetic ropes can be made from one or a combination of these materials. Before use, synthetic ropes should be inspected on the inside and outward for any sign of corrosion, unexpected wear, or damage. 

  • Nylon ropes 

The strongest and most durable of all the man-made fiber ropes. It has high elasticity, low water absorption, soft and easy to use, coils and knots extremely well. 

Nylon ropes do not float. They harden in cold weathers becoming difficult to use. They should not be exposed to high temperatures.  

Nylon ropes are suitable for general and industrial applications. 

  • Polyester ropes  

The second strongest synthetic fiber ropes. It is resistant to water, acids, oils, and organic solvents. It is has low elasticity and buoyancy. Polyester ropes are used as mooring tails and mooring ropes.  

Joints must have four full tucks and pull more easily than a natural fiber rope when under stress. Polyester ropes should not be exposed to heat but are a better option for use in wet settings such as boats. 

  • Polypropylene ropes 

Polypropylene fiber material makes all-purpose ropes. These types of ropes are lightweight and float in water, making them suitable for rescue or short mooring lines.  

Polypropylene ropes have a low resistance to abrasion and sunlight. It is also inexpensive but very vulnerable to friction: you do need to be careful when using it. 

Polypropylene ropes do not conduct electricity. This is important for electricians working with electric wires because using a polypropylene rope will ensure that they do not get electrocuted. 

It is resistant to damage by acids, alkalis, and oils, but solvents and bleaching agents may cause wear. It neither absorbs nor retains water thus it is lately used for the inner core of wire ropes, eliminating corrosion inside wires.  


What kind of rope would you want to use? Natural or synthetic? Why and for what purposes? 

Natural fiber ropes are relatively strong. Since they are woven from ecological resources, natural ropes are not harmful to the environment. These are ideal for high temperatures unless directly exposed to fire. Unfortunately, natural ropes are not ideal for wet locations because they can rot and lose their strength. This type of rope is ideal for packaging.  

Synthetic ropes are more durable than natural ropes. Synthetic ropes also are less likely to get damaged by water and UV rays. Unfortunately, synthetic ropes are made using material that is harmful to the environment. In that case, natural ropes are a better selection for persons keen on maintaining the environment. 

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