Proper Wetsuit Care
Author: Tim Lofthouse and Taylah Danaë Baggs Date Posted:4 July 2018
Follow these handy tips to prolong the life of your wetsuit.
Just like the rest of your triathlon kit, your wetsuit is certainly a purchase substantial enough to warrant proper care. Wetsuit life can be significantly lengthened (or shortened) based on its care. Wetsuits predominantly consist of Neoprene, an artificial rubber compound that’s tougher, more resistant to chemicals, and more elastic than standard rubber. That said, Neoprene membranes are incredibly susceptible to high temperatures, UV rays and sharp objects. If you abide by the following tips, then you’re likely to prolong the lifespan of your wetsuit by 2-3 seasons.
Avoid leaving in hot places
Heat will encourage Neoprene to lose elasticity and shape, leaving your wetsuit fragile and deformed. Don’t leave your wetsuit in your car or in direct sunlight, and never hot- or warm-wash it. Instead, use cold or tepid water to rinse or hand-wash your wetsuit (never machine-wash).
Avoid unnecessary UV exposure
There’s another reason to steer clear of direct sunlight when drying and storing your wetsuit. Ultra-Violet (UV) rays present in sunlight will eventually destroy the molecular bonds in your Neoprene wetsuit. This makes the material hard and brittle, leading to cracks, tears and deformity, which results in a loss of flexibility and insulation value. One day in the sun can cut whole seasons off your wetsuit’s lifespan.
Clean and dry your suit ASAP
Once you’re out of the water, cleaning your wetsuit should be at the top of your to-do list – especially if you’ve been in the ocean. Saltwater contents such as salt (obviously), sand, seafoam and microscopic matter are all harmful to wetsuits. Salt is particularly damaging, as when it dries into crystalline form it eats away at your wetsuit’s Neoprene membrane. Even if you’re swimming solely in freshwater, the potent mixture of sweat, body oils and flaking skin that forms inside the wetsuit during exercise can quickly become gag-inducing. Rinse your wetsuit out with cool, clean water as soon as possible after getting out of the water to avoid this unpleasantness.
Store your wetsuit in the same way you would wear it
We don’t mean putting it on a mannequin… Storing your wetsuit on a wide, thick hanger (some wetsuits come with one) is the best way to store your wetsuit. Don’t fold the wetsuit over the hanger: this will cause the Neoprene to stretch and crease, deteriorating the material. If you absolutely cannot hang it up, then fold your wetsuit loosely on a flat surface. If you ordered a wetsuit online, your wetsuit will probably arrive in a box in this shape. Try to mimic the layout when storing. Whatever you do, don’t stuff it tightly into your tri-bag or a drawer. The weight of the Neoprene will cause the wetsuit to quickly deform if it’s left in one position for too long.
Some final tips
A few final remarks we mention to customers who are buying a wetsuit include:
- Be careful when donning your wetsuit: fingernails and toenails can snag and cut the Neoprene, which can eventually result in small tears.
- Dry your wetsuit inside-out. If you don’t have time to dry your wetsuit completely before wearing it again, this will leave the inside dryer, making it a LOT easier to put on. In addition, you will protect the far more sensitive outer membrane from UV rays.
- Don’t use harsh chemicals on your wetsuit. Laundry detergents and bleach are not made to be used on Neoprene. A thorough rinse should be enough, but you can buy speciality cleaning agents for wetsuits too. For example, Orca Wetsuit Cleaner is an environmentally friendly option designed specifically for Neoprene.
- Be careful what you put on your zippers. Use beeswax for lubrication when you need: it’s harmless and will stay on when wet. Steer clear of petroleum jelly and WD-40.
- Avoid surf wax and sand. Both stick to Neoprene all too well. If you’re a surfer, though, you’ll have to live with the unfortunate reality that your suit is going to have surf wax stuck to it in all sorts of places.
- If you have minor cracks and tears but don’t want to retire your wetsuit just yet, you have a couple of repair options. Try McNett Seal Cement for quick in-field repairs, or Gear Aid Aquaseal Repair Adhesive for maximum strength repair.
Most of these rules are easy to follow. In essence, make sure to wash your wetsuit after every use, hang it up properly, and don’t leave it in direct sunlight or other hot places. If you keep these points in mind, you can look forward to enjoying many seasons more from your wetsuit.