Which natural rope to choose?

06 Nov 2018

Flax, sisal or manila, which one to choose when looking for a firm natural rope? The 3 types of rope are all natural from origin, but they have distinct characteristics that need to be taken into account.

This article discusses the difference for twisted ropes for the 3 base materials. The twisted ropes have a diameter from 4mm and up.

Sisal is a fairly rough and stiff rope. Although its cost has increased sharply in recent years, it is still the lesser expensive from the 3 discussed ropes. As such, it is ideal as a general purpose rope. Because it is fairly rough, sisal is not ideal as a rope for tug-of-war or other sport activities. In contrast, it is the ideal rope for a cat pole. Sisal rope is subject to rot because it absorbs water easily. When used outdoor, one must take into account that the rope should be replaced in good time. Sisal shrinks when wet. It is not subject to degradation by sunlight. In general, sisal is ideal for indoor use or in a dry climate. Sisal has about 80% of the strength of manila.

Flax is a nice soft rope. It is ideal for tug-of-ware, sports or as a handrail rope. Flax ropes are frequently used in theaters. Nowadays it is also very popular for decorative purposes such as finishing of exhibition stands or shop windows. A flax rope is sensitive to rot and as such less suitable for outdoor use. It has a light, pleasant ‘haystack’ smell. Flax rope has 95% of the breaking strength of sisal.  

Manila is very similar to sisal. It is somewhat browner in color and naturally oiled. This makes it much more resistant to moisture and thus ideal for outdoor use. Historically, manila rope was used as a ship’s rope. The oil however gives the rope a characteristic odor, which makes it less suitable for indoor use. Manila is stiff and rough and therefore less appropriate when frequent contact with hands take place. It is ideal as a natural barrier for gardens and ponds or as an ornamental cord outdoor. Manila is stronger than sisal and even a bit rougher.




  • Outdoor barrier
  • Marine – natural and/or historical
  • Cross-country (with gloves!)
  • Outdoor tying or ornamental


  • Cat pole
  • Tying or decoration indoor
  • General purpose DIY


  • Handrail for staircase
  • Tug-of-ware or climbing rope indoor
  • Elegant decoration indoor
  • Theater

Ledent Touw offers these 3 ropes in various diameters and lengths. Besides these natural ropes, there are plenty of synthetic ropes available in our catalog.

Please contact us for more detailed information.

Posted by: corbeo