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How to Clean Carabiners

Caring for Climbing Equipment


How to Clean Carabiners

If the gates on the carabiners on your quickdraws get sticky, then you need to clean them for quick clipping action.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

You’re at your local sport crag and a couple of the gates on your carabiners are sticky. They creak open and don’t snap shut like they should. It makes you a bit worried because if you fall, your rope could pop out of that barely closed carabiner gate. What’s the best way to clean the gate?

Carabiners are Essential for Safety

Carabiners are one of our essential pieces of climbing equipment. We use carabiners every time we go climbing. We carry racks of quickdraws, two carabiners attached at either end of a short sewn sling, attached to the gear loops on our harness. We use them clip into bolts and belay anchors. Carabiners are one of the important parts of our climbing chain of safety. We want them to work properly.

Don’t Boil Carabiners

There are lots of ideas floating around about how to clean your sticky gates. One is to boil the carabiners, which theoretically should work. The problem, however, is that carabiners are heavy and sink to the bottom of the pot where they conduct heat from the burner beneath the pot. Not a good idea.

Start With Compressed Air

The first step is to give a couple sprays of compressed air and see if it blows any particles away. But if the gate is sticking, a few air gusts aren’t going to fix your problem.

Wash in Soapy Water

The best way to clean carabiners is to fill a basin with warm soapy water. Regular dish soap works fine. Remove the carabiners from any sling material on quickdraws and put them in the water. Soak for half an hour. Scrub in and around the gate with a toothbrush. Rinse well and dry.

Dry Then Lubricate

After the carabiners are completely dry, use dry graphite or lubricant to lubricate the gate. I prefer Dry-Flow lubricant since its deep penetrating and doesn’t seem to collect bits of sand and grit like WD-40. Remember to wipe any excess lubricant away. Test the gate, if it snaps shut then your wash has done its job. If it’s still sticky or the gate doesn’t close properly then it’s probably time to retire the carabiner.

Clean Often at the Seaside

If you live or climb often in seashore environments like Thailand, Cornwall in England, or Acadia National Park in Maine, then you should regularly wash and lubricate your carabiners. The corrosive sea air quickly corrodes carabiners.

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