How to Wash and Care for a Wetsuit

Surf's Up

Wetsuit care
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A wetsuit isn't typical daily laundry. You can't just throw it in the hamper, toss it in the washer and dryer and find it clean in a drawer. While a wetsuit needs some cleaning and care, it must be done appropriately to make your investment last longer.

What are Wetsuits?

At the peak of the Hollywood fascination with surfers and their lifestyles, wetsuits hit the mainstream market in the 1950s. A wetsuit is a garment, usually made of foamed neoprene, which is today worn by surfers, divers, windsurfers and anyone engaged in water sports. The suit provides thermal insulation, abrasion resistance and buoyancy. There are many different types of wetsuits for specific uses and temperatures. Suits range from a thin - 2mm thick or less - to a full 8 mm of neoprene. Suits can be short, long, vests or jackets and can be complemented by neoprene boots, gloves or hood.

Your First Wet Suit

It is important to pay attention to sizing when purchasing a wetsuit. It should fit snugly but not be stretched too tightly. If the garment is too tight, the seams will pull and cause longevity and wear problems.

It is also important to learn how to put on wetsuits. While the neoprene fabric is durable, it can easily be punctured by any sharp object like a fingernail or toenail. Always handle the fabric with your fingertips - not fingernails. Since the garments are snug, put them on in slow steps.

For long-legged pants, pull the first over your feet and ankles. Then work up the legs in sections, pulling gently until you reach the hips. Continue with the arms, inserting your arms into the sleeves or arm holes then carefully pulling up to your neck. Close the collar then pull up the zipper with your shoulders back. Ensure the collar flap is flat and the Velcro tab cannot rub your back.

Work in reverse when removing the suit. Do not pull too hard. Remove the gear slowly and carefully.

Try to put on your wetsuit in a clean, dry place away from sand, trees and rocks that can snag the fabric. For full wetsuits, wearing a rash guard under the suit will make putting it on and off easier.

Wetsuit Care

  • After wearing, immediately rinse your gear with fresh water.
  • Do not use hot water, use cool or tepid water. In hot water neoprene looses some of the flexibility, so if you are changing in a shower, use cool water to rinse the suit and then soak yourself in warmth.
  • Never wash your wetsuit in a washer or with other garments.
  • Use a special wetsuit cleaner that will help remove salt, chlorine and organic residues. Never use bleach or any harsh cleaner.
  • Hang to drip dry away from direct heat and sun. UV rays cause the neoprene to age much quicker, it gets hard and looses its flexibility.
  • Hang to dry inside out. The outer surface will be protected and the inside will dry first to make putting the suit back on much easier.
  • Use a hanger designed for a wetsuit or a heavy, padded hanger - never a flimsy wire hanger - to store and hang.
  • Store on a hanger or flat - do not fold or cram into a drawer because it can weaken fabric.
  • To keep the zipper working smoothly - salt and chlorine can corrode the teeth - use a zipper lubricant like Zip Tech often.
  • To remove strong odors, fill a sink or bucket with cool water and Mirazyme Odor Remover. Dip the suit in and out of the water, then rinse with cool water and dry in a breezy spot.
  • Never iron wetsuits - high heat should always be avoided.
  • Stay away from oil, gasoline, chemical solvents and aerosols because the stains are impossible to remove and will weaken the fabric.

By far, the most important care tip is to never wad up your wetsuit and throw it in the trunk to bake. Rinse it immediately even if you never get around to washing the gear. Sun, salt and chlorine will take a toll on the fabric so get it out as soon as possible! Salt water can cause neoprene to lose its flexibility.

Repairing a Wetsuit

Neoprene can be easily cut by fingernails or sharp objects. A small tear does not mean that you must throw it out or enjoy the water with the water seeping into your suit! Inspect your suit often for damage. It is easier to fix cuts when they are small. You can repair the suit yourself with a few products and a bit of instruction.

You will need Aquaseal Urethane Repair Adhesive & Sealant. Or, you can buy a puncture repair kit from any bike store - the sealant used to fix bike tire inner tube is basically the same.

Fold the wetsuit over at the point of the cut so that the cut opens up to reveal the two surfaces that need to be glued back together. Apply a thin, even layer of sealant to both surfaces. Continue to hold the cut open while the glue dries. Do not rejoin the surfaces while the glue is still wet or tacky. The glue will only take a couple of minutes to dry. Once it appears dry, it will feel only slightly tacky and will not stick to your finger.

Flatten out the suit so that the two cut edges come together. The bond is instant. Pinch the two edges firmly together. It is best to wait four to six hours to use the suit. But, it can be used right away.