Rope Material Selection [Level 0]

Notes and Resources:

Comparison of Materials

There are many good options for bondage rope; a lot of it comes down to personal preference, but each variety has its own pros and cons.

Things that are underlined in the below table have additional notes; hover over to see them (the hover text will take about a second to appear).

Material
Popularity (0 - lowest; 4 - highest)
Roughness (1 - softest; 5 - roughest)
Suppleness (1 - stiffest; 5 - most supple)
Knot Holding (1 - slippy; 5 - jammy)
Friction (1 - slippery; 4 - high friction)
Burn Tendency (1 - low; 3 - burns easily)
Breaking Strength (6mm or 1/4") lb
Weight (6mm or 1/4") lb/ft
Cost, Raw (6mm or 1/4") USD/ft
Ease of Cleaning (1 - hard; 4 - easy)
Maintenance Required (0 - none; 2 - much)
Service Life (years)
Compatible with Water Bondage
Compatible with Dye
Nylon 3 1 4 2 2 2 1200-1500 0.016 0.06-0.22 3 - Holds up to gentle machine washing; hang dry 0 0-5+ - There's a lot of variation in the quality of nylon rope you may find; some starts high-stranding after one use, some will survive years of abuse Yes Yes - Rit works but acid dyes are best Notes - Watch out for cheap hardware store "nylon" with polypropylene or polyester blended in, which will create a flecked appearance since the non-nylon parts won't dye.
MFP 3 1 4 2 2 2 1100-1300 3 - Holds up to gentle machine washing; hang dry 0 5+ Yes No Notes - MFP is essentially the same to tie with as Nylon; it comes in a wider range of colors, but can't be dyed at home.
Spun Polyester 2 2 3 2 3 2 1200 0.60 0 5+ Yes No - It's possible, but very difficult and toxic Notes - POSH is one example of a spun polyester, and is available in hemp-color; most people prefer over Hempex for a natural-looking strong synthetic
Hemp 4 2-3 - Sometimes starts rough but with sufficient use becomes very soft, similar to the texture of old jeans 3 3 3 1 400-500 0.017-0.019 0.21 2 - Holds up very well to machine washing, but should be dried under tension 1 - Some people like to oil occasionally to restore moisture; I've never found this necessary 2-5+ - High-quality 8mm seems to last forever; 6mm will likely eventually want to be retired to light-duty use No - Shrinks and jams when wet Yes - Rit works but fiber reactive dyes are best Notes - The biggest disadvantage of hemp is that the most commonly-available Romanian hemp rope is constructed in a way that makes it look chunky in photos/videos; you don't get a visually smooth spiral twist. It can also become kind of sticky in humid weather, making it behave poorly.
Jute 4 3-4 4 4 3 1 200-300 0.012-0.014 - The actual range is probably wider than this, these are the only numbers I have so far 0.18-0.58 1 - Easily damaged when wet, machine washing not generally recommended (dishwasher works though); may want to dry under tension 2 - Requires oiling/waxing fairly regularly, and definitely after washing 0.5-2 Yes/No - Can be used wet, but easily damaged; must not be left wet Yes - But doesn't seem to produce as good colors as hemp Notes - The biggest advantage of jute is that it is very light and supple, making it easy to tie quickly and smoothly with it.
Cotton 2 2 3 3-5 - Very jammy; but this is partly due to the construction and quality of commonly available cotton line. Tight-laid high-quality cotton is less jammy than loose-laid jute. 3 1 200-600 0.10 Yes Notes - Watch out for cheap cotton rope that has a core; only 3-strand twisted cotton is likely to be of a quality suitable for bondage
Flax / Linen 2 3 - Moderate; varies but similar to hemp or cotton 3 3 3 1 Yes Notes - Flax is increasing in popularity; the flax rope I've seen seems to combine the physical properties of hemp with the visual qualities of jute.
Coconut 2 5 2 4 4 Notes - So rough that it is more of a torture implement than a bondage one, but good at that. Can be just stuffed under harness for fun effect. May want gloves if you're going to actually tie with it.
Silk 1 1-2 3-4 3 3 1
Rayon ("Bamboo") 1 1 5 1
Alpaca 1 1 4 3 3 0.60 1 - Difficult to clean without unraveling 0 0-1 - Very delicate No Notes - Apparently this is a thing that exists. Based on review by Jeff-The-Bear. He comments: Exceptionally supple and sensual rope. Fiber is very similar to wool yarn, only softer.
Filament Polyester 1 2 3 1 1 3 2000 0.02 4 - Holds up well to machine washing; hang dry 0 5+ Yes No Notes - This stuff is insanely strong, and has an interestingly different feel than most synthetics because it is so hard. It holds knots very poorly, so you need to be careful when using it. I personally find it a fun rope to use for bondage in 3/16" diameter, but it's not for everyone. It's good for outdoor use because it's very rugged and doesn't pick up dirt easily.
Filament Polypropylene 0 - Not suitable for bondage 5 1 1000-1200 0 No Notes - This is the yellow rope attached to the front of your canoe. It floats. That is its only good property.
Sisal 1 5 2 3 3 500 Notes - Slightly less harsh than coconut, but also mostly useful for creating pain rather than restraint.
Manilla 0 - Not suitable for bondage (see notes) 5 2 4 500 0.02 Notes - Common wisdom is that manilla is full of harsh chemicals and may get splinters under your skin, thus unsuitable for bondage. I've never actually tried it.
Hempex 1 3 3 3 3 1 1100 4 - Holds up well to machine washing; hang dry 0 5+ Yes Notes - I don't like Hempex because it comes with fuzzies for an authentic hemp-like look, and you can't burn them off because it's synthetic and they just melt.

A Note on Scale

The quantities given arbitrary number values aren't meant to be on any type of exact linear scale -- I've assigned different rankings where there seem to be meaningful differences, but many of the measures are sufficiently variable and subjective that it's hard to be more exact than statements like "jute tends to be rougher than hemp" or "mfp holds knots the same as nylon". That's the type of data I'm trying to loosely quantify for easy skimming.

What about stretch?

I didn't include stretch in the table, because it's so hard to make general statements about -- measurements of stretch are confounded by differences in construction, interaction of elastic and inelastic stretching, differences in strength and load regime, etc. For instance, MFP is a stretchier material than jute, but a jute rope might stretch more than a similar diameter MFP one under the same load because of its construction and lower strength.

Not All Rope Is Created Equal

Always check the manufacturer's specs, and get a small sample of any rope before purchasing it in quantity; I tried to represent in the above table the common range of properties you're likely to encounter, but there's tremendous variety in both the quality of raw materials and the construction of rope from different suppliers. For instance, cheap hemp rope from China bears almost no resemblance to the hemp rope commonly used for bondage, due to the fibers being cut shorter during processing.

Retail Bondage Rope Suppliers

For an insanely comprehensive list of rope vendors, see this post.

Sources for Bulk Rope

Below are a few sources of wholesale rope I've personally had good experiences with.

Cotton

This 3-strand cotton is a great beginner option at a price of $0.10/ft. It's soft and ready to use out of the box. The 1/4" will feel a bit thick to anyone used to 6mm hemp/jute but is quite suitable. Note that I've always wound up with about 10-20% less rope than I ordered; I don't know if they're measuring it under tension off the spool, or what.

Hemp

I've always gotten my raw hemp at Rawganique. Their rope has been of consistently high quality for many years, but sometimes comes stinking to high heaven; smelly batches really just need to be aired out in a warm dry place for a couple months, I've never found anything else that works. When broken in, this rope is very supple and soft, and will last for years. It does not photograph well, however.

Jute

MyNawashi has raw 5-6mm jute for as little as $0.20/ft. It takes a little more breaking in than most jute I've used, but comes out reasonably well with some effort.

Coconut

I got my most recent batch of coconut rope off Amazon. Normally 1/8" is really thin for bondage rope, but I've found it perfectly delightful in the applications at which coconut rope excels.

Miscellaneous

R&W Rope is a good source for a variety of rope, especially harder-to-find special purpose synthetics.

Comments

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    Dhyana | Jan 1st, 2015 8:27pm PST #

    Personal preference: hemp or jute fiber

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      77MadalaISThOldUn | Jan 30th, 2015 5:44am PST #

      Hemp

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      MicroGecko | Feb 2nd, 2015 12:26pm PST #

      Jute and coconut rope are my preference :)

      Reply to this comment

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        masterwitch | Mar 2nd, 2015 5:27am PST #

        I like Hempex for public play. The wash factor is a plus when playing with multiple people. My first rope and love however is still hemp.

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          UberDomSwitchsubmissive | Mar 2nd, 2015 7:22pm PST #

          Hemp for suspension, for its feel, its tooth, and its strength. MFP for crotch ropes for playing with people I'm not intimate with, for its wash-ability.

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            Cronch | Apr 7th, 2015 2:04am PDT #

            Turkey foot traders are my go to hemp supplier

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              Technomage | Oct 17th, 2015 9:15am PDT #

              Hemp or Jute is also what I prefer. I've gotten great photo results from nylon though.

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                sugaryhines | Oct 25th, 2015 6:32pm PDT #

                Bamboo is softer than Hemp. Can it be used and or is it available? My very first time here and totally new interest for me. Please excuse my ignorance if I missed something obvious.

                Reply to this comment

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                  Topologist | Oct 26th, 2015 12:32pm PDT #

                  Most "bamboo" rope is actually just rayon derived from bamboo cellulose, and it has less desirable properties than other, more widely available synthetics such as nylon or MFP. For a soft beginner rope, I'd recommend high-quality 3-strand cotton.

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                  Mal | Jan 28th, 2016 6:07am PST #

                  I love hemp, like jute. I am waiting on some knot_head Nylon and very excited to try it out

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                    fidddle | Feb 6th, 2016 9:03am PST #

                    No mention of nettle rope. Am amazed the rope scene has expanded so much yet supliers of this seem to have died out :(

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                      Arthur4040 | Aug 7th, 2016 3:12pm PDT #

                      So far my preference is Jute

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                        laivinia | Aug 26th, 2017 2:02pm PDT #

                        I'm curious about suspensions - if the weight should be able to take x10 of the expected load, so for an average woman around 130 pounds it should be 1300 pounds? But often you can see people doing suspensions with jute/hemp, while according to this table it's 200-500.. anyone can advise? :/

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                          Topologist | Sep 5th, 2017 7:55pm PDT #

                          While calculating the required breaking strength is a little more complicated than you propose, in spirit, you're right -- jute is generally too weak to be used for suspension support lines without there being a risk of it breaking. There have in fact been numerous reports of jute rope breaking during use for suspension, just as the math would suggest you should expect.

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                          WhiskeyPriest | Nov 30th, 2017 8:09am PST #

                          I am a fan of jute. Most of my rope is from Mynawashi and I have had no issues. It does take some time and effort to condition.

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