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How to Protect Your Hands Against Rope Burn

by Julie on April 4, 2017

Comments (1)

Call it what you like: rope burn, rug burn, carpet burn or friction burn, it hurts.

These wounds are caused by abrasion to the top layer of skin. It can be mild like grazes and scrapes or severe, removing several layers of skin and causing skin avulsion.

But no matter the severity, anyone who’s ever experienced a rope burn knows how uncomfortable it can be. This blog examines treatments and prevention methods.

worker pulling rope with barehands. Rope burn


How to Treat Rope Burn:

The most common type of rope burn will cover a small area of skin and only cause damage to the surface skin. These types of friction burns will generally heal on their own with time.

Seek medical treatment immediately if the rope burn is deeper than the upper layers of skin and hair or if it’s more than three inches in diameter

More severe abrasion burns can damage the skin deeper, like the sweat glands and hair follicles. Thee types of burns will need more treatment.

Steps for treating rope burn:

  1. Wash your hands: This limits bacterial spread
  2. Clean the burned area: Wash it gently with a clean washcloth using warm water and antibacterial soap
  3. Disinfect the wound: Use iodine, hydrogen peroxide or antiseptic to gaurd against infection
  4. Apply an antibacterial cream to the injured area: Creams like Neosporin will promote healing and prevent infections
  5. Cover with gauze or adhesive bandage: Check the burn after 24 hours. If the surface has begun to scab, the burn will heal best if left uncovered. If it has not, continued to apply cream and redress the wound.


Protecting Against Rope Burn:

The key to avoiding a rope burn is protection between your skin and whatever’s causing the friction. It’s why bikers wear chaps and leather jackets and you should wear the appropriate protection for your application.
three motorcycle bikers riding on the highway
In the world of hand protection, wearing worn out work gloves can be just as dangerous as not wearing gloves at all. But how do you test a work glove for abrasion resistance?


How is Abrasion Tested?

Under the ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 standard, string-knit and palm coated gloves are tested using a Taber machine. This goal of this wear test is to determine a glove’s performance level based on the amount of revolutions it takes to achieve wear through.

abrasion test performance level using a taber machine

How the Taber Test Works:

  1. Place the test material (in this case a glove) on a rotating wheel
  2. Load two grinding wheels onto the machine
  3. Add weight to the grinding wheels*
  4. Place the weighted grinding wheels on top of the test material
  5. Start the machine to begin moving the rotating wheel
  6. Record the number of revolutions it takes for the grinding wheels to wear through the material
  7. Rate the glove between performance level 1 and 6 based on the number of rotations

*There are two options for weight: A 500g weight is used for the first 1000 rotations. A 1000g weight is used up to 20,000 rotations.



Should you choose a coated or leather glove for your application?

Coated Gloves:

Coated gloves provide better grip in wet and dry conditions and let your hand move more freely than a leather glove. But if you’re dealing with high abrasion like pulling ropes, palm coatings may wear down too quickly. The other concern with coated gloves for applications like belaying is that the glove’s coating will stick to the rope and could cause the rope to gum up in the pulleys. However, for lower abrasion applications like using a lug wrench, a coated glove like our TenActiv™ Cut-Resistant Gloves with ZedCoat™ Palms may do the trick. With 13,833 cycles on the Taber machine, this glove knocks out the competition.

Hybrid Gloves:

The best thing about glove innovation is that you can take the best of both worlds. Like our Emerald CX® Kevlar® Composite-knit Gloves which feature a string-knit backing for freedom of movement and split-leather palms for amazing abrasion resistance. The Kevlar® composite knit provides 1675 grams of cut protection (ANSI level A4) and the palm provides level 5 puncture resistance.

Leather Gloves:

Leather gets a bit of a bad wrap because it’s often confused for being cut resistant. But when it comes to abrasion resistance, leather is amazing. It will protect your hands, take a beating and will have a longer lifespan than a coated glove.


(Want to here more about the awesome properties of leather? Click the image below to read The Bad-Ass Guide to Leather Work Gloves)

the bad ass guide to leather work gloves

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Reader Comments'

I have managed to go 47 years without a rope burn, until I started working with my new horse! 3 of the 5 digits on my right hand are never going to be the same. Your info for treating burns is wonderful! I will, also, ALWAYS be wearing gloves now! Thank you for all the information you have on this website!

Reply Tina - June 26, 2017

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