Taking proper care of your wetsuit makes a difference in its performance and lifespan. Washing and drying your wetsuit regularly helps avoid things like premature wear and tear, mildew and less than pleasant body odors. Sweat and body oils get stuck in the neoprene and become a breeding ground for bacteria that in turn produce the bad smells. Gross! You should probably keep reading.
Avoid Punctures and Nicks
When putting on your wetsuit, avoid standing over hard or rough surfaces like sharp rocks as they can damage the neoprene (and your feet for that matter). To avoid this place a towel or board bag over the rough surface. While putting on or taking off you wetsuit be careful with rings, fingernails and watches as they can easily damage the neoprene.
Cleaning Your Wetsuit
- Directly after use always clean and dry your suit as soon as possible.
- Rinse your wetsuit with fresh water.
- Hand wash with mild non-detergent soap as needed. Special wetsuit shampoos and conditioners are available, such as PISS OFF Wetsuit Cleaner or Muc-Off. Baby shampoo can also work to clean wetsuits.
Drying Your Wetsuit
- After washing and rinsing your wetsuit, turn it inside-out to help retain the flexibility on the outside of the wetsuit. As an added bonus if the wetsuit is dried inside out then you will always crawl into the drier side.
- Hang to dry on a special wetsuit hanger/padded clothes hanger. NEVER hang on a wire hanger as the metal will cause the neoprene to stiffen, crack, and degrade along the shoulders.
- Do NOT dry in the sun. UV rays can damage the neoprene, shortening the overall lifespan of the wetsuit.
- Tip: You can dry your wetsuit overnight in a shower.
Storing Your Wetsuit
- Store your wetsuit on a flat surface or a special wetsuit hanger. (Regular hangers will cause the neoprene to stretch over the shoulders.)
- Avoid folding whenever possible to avoid creases and loss of insulating effectiveness.
- Leaving your suit it in a bag/trunk/mashed-up pile will create bad odors and will reduce its lifespan.
Elements that Can Damage Your Wetsuit
- Hot water can ruin neoprene, causing it to lose some of its flexibility.
- Sun and UV Rays cause neoprene wetsuits to age quickly. Dry your wetsuit in a shaded area when possible. Wetsuits in use are constantly being cooled by the water surrounding them, minimizing sun damage to the neoprene.
- Aerosol spray or car exhaust will cause the neoprene to degrade.
- Chlorinated water or salt water will break down the neoprene. This is why it is important to rinse your wetsuit with fresh water after use in chlorine or salt water.
Things to Avoid
- Do not use bleach.
- NEVER USE A WASHING MACHINE, DRYER, OR DRY CLEANER!
- Do not iron your wetsuit.
- Do not store in a hot car.
- Do not put on or take off your wetsuit with your fingernails or with rings or watches on.
- Avoid putting petroleum jelly on your suit; it merely makes it slippery and the jelly is hard to remove.
- Do not pee in your suit. Urine is a particularly hard smell to remove.
- Lending your suit - It is fine to lend your suit to another rider for a day or two, but most experts discourage lending for longer periods of time. Wetsuits will stretch to fit the wearer, and your friend's body is most likely not exactly the same as yours.
- Prolonging the life of your wetsuit’s zipper - Use beeswax or a zipper lubricant to keep them from snagging and tearing your suit. This will also lengthen the life of your zipper.
- Surf wax on your neoprene wetsuit - Don’t worry about it. Surf wax will inevitably stick to your wetsuit; there is no simple way to remove it and more will just get stuck in its place.
Repairing Tears and Rips
Inspect your wetsuit for rips and tears after each use. The rips and tears are much easier to fix when they are small, and will grow if they go unnoticed. Wetsuits can easily tear from things like fingernails and small rocks. Small tears (around 1-2 inches long) can be easily repaired at home. Tears bigger than a few inches may require professional repair services. If the stitches or seams are torn it may also be a good idea to take your suit to a professional for repairs.
- Repair Adhesive/Sealant/Neoprene Cement: there are brands of adhesive and sealant made specifically for wetsuit repairs, such as Black Witch. You can also buy a “puncture repair kit” from any bike store (the glue used to fix a bike tire inner tube is basically the same).
- Small brush (bristle or small artist’s brush)
- Weighted object
- There are also wetsuit repair kits available that contain everything you will need.
- Before repairing your wetsuit make sure that it is clean and dry.
- Turn your wetsuit inside out.
- Clean the area around the rip with alcohol. Allow the alcohol to evaporate. Make sure there is no dirt, sand or wax around the ripped area. If the area is not cleaned properly the repair might not take correctly.
- Open up the rip to reveal both sides of the tear.
- Apply a first coat of an adhesive to both surfaces. The glue can be applied with a short bristle brush or painter’s brush. Do not press the sides together.
- Let the glue dry for about 1 to 3 minutes (depending on room temperature and humidity), keeping the two sides apart. The glue normally looks glossy when it is wet and will appear matte when it is dry; it should feel slightly tacky and not stick to your finger.
- Once the first coat of glue is dry, apply a second coat of adhesive to both sides of the rip. Allow the second coat to dry for about 10 minutes.
- Firmly bring the two sides of the rip together, doing your best to keep the seam in a straight line.
- Use a weighted object to keep pressure on the tear while it dries and seals.
- The seal dries within 2 to 3 minutes, but the seal will form more fully if you allow it to dry for at least 6 hours. The best option would be to allow it to dry overnight to allow the strongest seal possible to form.
- Optional strengtheners: An optional addition to your seal would be to use your brush to paint a coat of adhesive over the ripped seam once it has been pressed back together. Coating both sides of the newly repaired rip with the adhesive will strengthen your bond. You can also glue a piece of neoprene or neoprene tape over your repaired seal. Coat the piece of neoprene/neoprene tape and coat the repair with adhesive; join the two together and let dry. You may also want to add a stitch of thread to the tear before gluing.
- If your wetsuit has a gouge, there are liquid fillers available for repair. These fillers are normally called liquid silicon or liquid rubber. Fill up the gouge with the liquid filler and let it dry.