Different types of rope have been used throughout the world for centuries. As far back as prehistoric times, ropes featuring twisted vines were considered an essential tool for several purposes like hunting, climbing, carrying, and lifting. In 4000 B.C., the Egyptians made types of rope using animal hair, grass, leather, and water reeds. The Chinese were the ones who introduced hemp fibers to rope making, and it spread across Europe and Asia. By the time the 1700s came around, people used machines to make types of rope, and the 1950s saw ropes being created using synthetic materials.
Over the past years, companies have produced dozens of varieties of rope that are suited for specific projects, and each type of rope comes with weaknesses and strengths. Some types of rope work well for lightweight projects, some are very versatile. We’re going to outline the top types of rope you want to consider having in your home below.
18 Sturdy Types of Rope
If you have no idea which type of rope you need for your project, we’re going to break down 18 popular types and outline the various uses to ensure you get the correct type for your needs.
The most popular type of rope in this category is Kevlar rope, but you can also purchase Technora and Vectran. Kevlar is the most durable out of the three types that you can buy, and the durability makes it a nice choice for a range of applications, like holding retaining wall materials. When you compare it pound for pound to steel, this rope is surprisingly stronger, and it won’t ruse or stretch.
When you want a rope that is 100% stable and that won’t move when you tie it, this is a great option. This type of rope isn’t totally immune to damage, but it is stretch, cut, chemical, water flame, freeze, and UV-resistant. So, it can come in very handy in extreme situations, and you can use it both indoors and outdoors without fearing about it breaking down or getting damaged.
Cotton rope is a type of rope that is extremely popular for use in pet toys, backyard toys, and kid’s toys. It’s also very common for craft projects and camping adventures, but it has a few drawbacks and benefits associated with it. Cotton isn’t nearly as durable as synthetic ropes are, and it will eventually decompose and break down with repeated use. Water and humidity can easily damage it, and it can mildew and start to rot in wet environments relatively quickly. However, cotton won’t slip or stretch.
One big reason people use this type of rope for outdoor toys is that it’s disposable, and this means that it’ll break down in the soil. The fibers with this rope are ventilated and softer than other choices, and this makes them much less harsh on your skin. Also, the lighter weight of this rope makes it easy to carry with you. If you do use cotton rope in damp or wet environments, you should be prepared to get knots that are also impossible to release and mildew or mold growth.
You make this type of rope by securely and carefully braiding your rope around an inner fiber core. This ensures that the finished product is extremely durable and strong. Diamond-braid types of rope usually come with a very tight weave, and this results in a rope that is round, firm, and able to withstand a high amount of stress without breaking or sustaining damage. This makes it popular for construction projects.
This rope tends to be slightly more expensive than others on the list due to the construction. Additionally, how well it can stand up to stress makes it more expensive as it’ll last longer. One big benefit of this rope is that you can easily splice it, and this makes it easier to work with than other options on the list.
If you’re after a type of rope that is going to be very durable and strong, you’ll get a lot of use out of the double-braid option. Thai rope has a tightly braided core to it with a braided rope wrapped around the core. The end result gives you an extremely durable tool that comes with additional strength due to the braided core. This also gives the rope much more stability.
As a result, this means that this type of rope will do a good job at holding shape, and it resists abrasion very well. It won’t kink easily in the way that a twisted rope would, and it’ll offer very little stretch. It’s a good idea to pick out this type of rope if you need it for marine use. If you plan on using it in a manufacturing situation, you want to avoid this rope as it can be too stiff to easily work with.
Hollow rope, as the name suggests, comes with an empty center. This hollow center allows you to easily splice this type of rope. It’s a nice option for ski tows and anchor lines. Due to the hollow core, this is a very lightweight option that is very easy to work with, especially if you pick out a synthetic version that resists water damage.
This is a natural fiber type of rope that is very similar to hemp rope but it comes with a few marked differences. Jute is a very light rope that will start out slightly stiff and firm. As you work with it, it’ll get much softer and more relaxed. You can make decorative knots look wonderful with this rope because it comes with a natural sheen. Jute also stays in place well because the rope has a nice exterior grip. It’s slightly more slippery than any rope made out of hemp. To ensure that your rope doesn’t shrink, you’ll want to stretch them out when you dry them and keep tension up or they’ll drastically shrink.
A lot of people mistakenly call this type of rope a hemp rope, but you get it by using fibers from the Abaca plant. It’s a nice general-use rope for anyone who is looking for a durable and strong rope that you can use for outdoor things like landscaping, farm work, exercise, or fishing nets or decor. If you think that the rope could get wet or you’re worried about bad weather, you’ll want to pick out a different type of rope as this one can get damaged very easily if it gets wet.
It’s an extremely flexible rope that is very soft on your hands, and this is a good thing if you’re worried about using or holding the rope and having it rub the skin of your hands raw. Once it gets wet, this rope will unfortunately shrink. So, any knots in it will be almost impossible to remove without cutting them out. You can minimize this risk by wetting and drying the rope before you tie knots and make sure that the area that you choose to store your rope in like the garden shed is protected from bad weather to prevent rot or mold.
Natural rope comes made out of environmentally-friendly products, and it also doesn’t produce any chemical byproducts during the manufacturing process. So, this type of rope is a lot better if you’re someone who is worried about the impact your rope can have on the environment. However, there are several benefits and drawbacks you’ll want to consider when you pick a natural rope made out of sisal, hemp, cotton, or another natural fiber or fiber mix.
By picking a natural rope that features several different fiber types, you can get the benefits of each fiber, and this will give you a much more durable and stronger length of rope. Natural rope is also very strong, but it’s not nearly as strong as a synthetic rope and it easily gets damaged by mildew, water, UV rays, and mold. The natural fibers won’t sustain any damage from high heat exposure, and it’ll only catch fire if you expose it to open flames.
Natural rope will shrink when you get it wet, and it can also be very challenging to work with once it gets wet and dries out again. This rope is great if you’re trying to package items or if you want a rope that has a great grip to it. It’s much less prone to slip when you tie knots, and this makes it a lot more secure than other types of rope on the list. Also, natural rope is biodegradable, and it’ll decompose without any help from you. This makes it easy to get rid of without hurting the environment.
Nylon rope is an extremely strong choice, but it does stretch a lot when you use it. It’s actually a lot stronger than manila and polypropylene rope, and it’s a nice choice if you’re trying to lift something heavy or pull heavy loads without it snapping. However, even though there is a high strength rating on this rope, it has a very smooth surface that resists abrasion. In turn, this makes it great to use with a pulley or winch.
Along with being extremely durable, this type of rope resists UV rays, and this allows the rope to last longer when you use it outside. However, nylon will quickly absorb water, and the water can weaken it with prolonged exposure. This allows the rope to snap. Knowing this, it’s essential that you avoid using nylon around water or when you’re expecting rain in the forecast.
Nylon rope is very slick, but it’s also very durable. So, it’s nice to have if you’re going to use it in an area where abrasion would normally be a problem. Nylon Rope Knot by ☼☼Jo Zimny Photos☼☼ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
When you have a plaited braid type of rope, you get four different strands that get intertwined and woven with each other to wrap around the rope’s core. You’ll hear this type of rope referred to as a square braid, and it’s a lot more rough to the touch. It’s also not as round as a twisted rope. This makes it less prone to developing kinks, and it can be very flexible.
The flexibility of this type of rope makes it very easy to handle without issues and knots. The issue with this rope is that the fibers will all get exposed due to the they all wrap around a central core. This design leaves them exposed to damage. It can cause a huge amount of problems if you’re not careful when you use it. But, it works well for lightweight garden tasks.
11. Pro Manila
If you’re after the classic feel and look of a manila rope without the bad points that come with using natural rope, this type of rope is a nice synthetic alternative that you’ll want to consider using. It can easily look very nice for years at a time, and it won’t shrink with use, even in damp or wet weather.
So, you won’t have to keep an eye out for ugly mildew or mold growing on your rope. Also, this type of rope is very resistant to a host of different chemicals to make it more durable, and it feels a lot smoother in your hands. You can enjoy the natural and nautical look of this rope without having to worry about the drawbacks that natural rope offers when you pick this option.
12. Poly Combo
This is a very unique type of rope that has polyester on the outer strands of the rope but polypropylene on the inner strands near the core. This rope is very lightweight and easy to handle, and it has a very smooth and silky feel. There are a huge range of applications for this rope, and it’s common to use it outside. The ability to survive different weather conditions with durability allows it to resist damage nicely.
This rope is a very nice option if you need a rope for exercise, landscaping, creating rope rails around your deck or property, or for hanging up a swing. It’s a solid choice if you don’t want to worry about how the rope looks when you expose it to the elements for years at a time.
Polyester is usually considered one of the best all-purpose types of rope you can purchase, and it’s an incredibly popular pick if you need a durable rope for different projects. In particular, this rope works well for rigging and smaller-scale projects. You can use it inside or outside, and it’ll withstand both sun and water damage without fading, molding, or rotting.
Since it’s a highly durable pick, it’s very popular in marine applications. You do need to know that this type of rope tends to get discolored when you use it in water for longer periods of time. A lot of people mistakenly believe that polyester and nylon rope are the same things, but there are many differences. The chemical resistance is a big one. Polyester rope also tends to be stretch and torque free while keeping the strength in virtually any situation. This makes it a great pick for those situations where you need the rope to keep the length without it stretching out.
Polyester is a popular rope material that gets confused with nylon. However, it’s a durable choice that is excellent for indoor and outdoor applications. The Mooring Rope by Bernard Spragg, NZ / CC0 1.0
Polypropylene is a great type of rope to pick if you’re going to use it around water since it can easily stand up to rot, damage, and mildew. Since you can buy this rope in a range of colors, it’s a solid choice to put outside barriers or to help designate safe areas in a lake or pool for swimming purposes. The rope will float when you put it into water, and it’s a very inexpensive and lightweight option. You do need to be careful when you use it though as it is prone to stretching and having issues with friction.
One of the best features of this type of rope is that it’s dielectric, so it won’t conduct any electricity. This is very important for electricians or tree workers who get close to power lines or electrical wires because this rope will ensure that they can’t accidentally shock themselves.
You may hear this type of rope referred to as a solid braid, and it’s a nice pick if you need a durable rope that is capable of withstanding the heavy weight and pressure of getting used with pulleys and blocks. The rope doesn’t come with a core, and you create them by braiding instead of twisting the strands to get the final rope. You can pick from a whole range of sizes when you choose this type of rope, including 8 or 12 strand and 9-plait ropes. Also, you’ll get a lock-stitch construction on this rope that ensures that it’s less likely to fray and more durable to use overall.
Synthetic ropes typically use materials like polyester, nylon and polypropylene in the makeup, but there are also other materials you can use to create this type of rope. They usually last much longer than natural ropes do, and this is one of the main reasons why they are so popular. They have a lifespan that can stretch up to 30% longer than natural rope, and they stay much stronger as they age or get wet. They’re much less likely to get damaged by water, mildew, and UV rays, and this makes them an excellent thing to use outside.
Also, synthetic ropes are much less prone to shrinking when they get wet. However, if you expose them to high enough heat levels, the rope can lose strength and melt. They’re a lot more resistant to shocks and more elastic, and this makes them much better for lifting or towing applications. It can be challenging to keep any knots in the rope from slipping though.
One big downside to this type of rope is that the production of them tends to leave dangerous byproducts, and the final rope isn’t reusable or renewable. So, it’s not a very sustainable or environmentally-friendly option.
If you want to easily splice your type of rope, the twisted style is a solid option. You may hear it referred to as a laid rope, and it’s an extremely common choice that you see used for tow and dock lines in ponds and lakes. You form these ropes by coiling strands together and making sure they run in the same direction.
The fibers in each of the three strands have to twist in opposite directions from each other to force the rope to stay together. This is usually an inexpensive type of rope that has a lot more stretch than a braided rope. It’s also stiffer and less flexible than a braided rope, and it tends to kink.
18. Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE)
The final type of rope on the list is usually very strong, and it can easily withstand water exposure. So, not only will it not get damaged from water, but it can actually resist water altogether. This makes it a solid choice to use in outdoor applications, especially fishing out on a boat. Dyneema and Spectra are two popular types of rope in this category. They resist UV damage, abrasion, and chemicals. However, the rope is lightweight enough to float easily.
There are a few drawbacks that come with using this type of rope. First, it can be difficult to knot and very slippery. Once you do get the knots tied, they usually slip out of place. Also, this rope comes with a very low melting point, so you can easily cause damage by exposing it to extreme heat. It’s also a very expensive choice. Unless your rope comes with a coating on it, it distorts when you put it under a lot of strain.
Now that you know about the popular different types of ropes available, you can pick out the correct one that will suit your upcoming project or job. Each of these ropes got made with a specific intention, and the durability, flexibility, and affordability all comes down to the intent. The amount of load they can take also factors in. Also, the material the rope is made out of will determine where and when you can use them.
You should carefully weigh your options and see which type of rope will work best for your needs. Doing so will help you get a long-lasting and durable rope that will last for years.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.