The wetsuit that did an excellent job of keeping you warm during your water adventures deserves to be washed. It may not seem obvious, but along with the warmth it brought to your body comes sweat that eventually caused some stinky smell.
Rinsing your wetsuit after every use helps keep it fresh, but when it becomes stiff and smelly, you shouldn’t think twice about washing it. This step-by-step guide on how to wash a wetsuit should be able to help you take your wetsuits back to their freshest state. It may not be as fresh as when you first use it, but close enough.
How To Wash Your Wetsuit Properly in 5 Easy Steps
The step-by-step process of thoroughly washing your wetsuit is as follows.
- Prepare the pre and post-cleaning supplies
- Prepare the wetsuit
- Wash the wetsuit
- Rinse and Dry
- Store Your Wetsuit
Step 1. Prepare the pre and post-cleaning supplies
Start with the supplies you’ll need for washing and after washing. For washing, you will need a tub or a large basin. A bathtub is the most ideal, but a large sink or basin will do if you don’t have access to one. Fill it with cool to slightly warm water. Do not put hot water; otherwise, the neoprene can get ruined.
Add the specialized cleaner according to the instructions in its label. Make sure that it is appropriate for neoprene materials. Remember that neoprene has similar properties to most types of rubber. So, if it says it doesn’t work with rubber, it is most likely not applicable for neoprene.
Have a hanger handy.
Step 2. Prepare the wetsuit
Unlock and unzip all the zippers from your wetsuit. Turn it inside out to thoroughly rinse the parts that came in contact with the skin during the water activity. It is usually the inside that develops the greasy feel and stinky odors if unwashed.
Step 3. Wash the wetsuit
Submerge the whole wetsuit in the tub you filled with water and cleaner. Allow soaking for 15 to 20 minutes.
Before kneading the wetsuit with your arms, be sure that your nails are cut, and you are not wearing any jewelry with sharp edges that could potentially damage the neoprene. Knead gently and slowly to avoid tearing the wetsuit. Make sure you cover every inch of the wetsuit. Note that neoprene can be delicate when stretched.
Step 4. Rinse and dry
Once you are satisfied with the results from soaking and kneading, rinse the wetsuit. Start by draining the tub and rinsing it to make sure there aren’t any soap remnants. Fill the tub with clean cold water to rinse the wetsuit.
Rinse and repeat until the soap clears out.
Do not wring your wetsuit. Get the hangers you prepared and hang your suit up to all the water to drip down as it dries. To keep the shoulder part from stretching out, use a thick hanger or multiple hangers taped together.
Do not hang the wetsuit directly under the sun. Dry it up under a shade. As the suit dries up, turn it in opposite ways to give all parts equal drying.
Step 5. Store your wetsuit
Once dry, do not iron the wetsuit. Do not fold it for storage. The only time a wetsuit should be folded is during transportation. It will develop creases and creases if folded for too long, making them less effective in keeping you warm.
Use a hanger and store it in a cool and dry place with enough air circulation.
These steps should let you and your wetsuit fresh and ready for your next water adventure.
Best Wetsuit Cleaners
Aside from rinsing after every use, a good wetsuit cleaner and conditioner every once in a while helps. These keep the wetsuit free from all the substances and particles that might be causing your wetsuit to deteriorate slowly.
Cleaners cleanse, freshen, and get rid of unpleasant smells associated with sweat and pee. Some of the best cleaners are:
A wetsuit shampoo is specially formulated to help remove organic and inorganic residue, salts, chlorine, and other deposits resulting in your wetsuit getting damaged. Some of the best shampoos are O’Neill Wetsuit/Drysuit Cleaner and Conditioner, Rip Curls Piss Off, Gear Aid Revivex Odor Eliminator, Pau Pilau Biological Wetsuit Cleaner, and others.
You can also create your homemade cleaner. You will need distilled white vinegar and essential oils. The vinegar cleans and disinfects, and the essential oils help improve the smell when washed. If this is your cleaner of choice, you can follow the same steps listed above.
Extra Wetsuit Care Tips
- Aside from making sure you cover every inch of the wetsuit that came in contact with the wearer’s skin, you want to turn it inside out to help the neoprene restore its flexibility. Also, this part is the quickest to dry.
- Never dry your neoprene under the sun. Direct sunlight causes the neoprene to age quickly, making it hard and lose flexibility.
- Never leave your wetsuit folded for several months in cold or humid places where mold could grow over the neoprene.
- Lubricate the zip at least once a year, especially if you use it in the seas. Salt residue can leave buildups inside the zip, causing it to become stiff and stop working. Pools’ chlorine also has the potential to damage your wetsuit and its zipper.
- Never wash your wetsuit in hot water, in a washer, and with other garments.
- Surf wax sticks to wetsuit fabric. It can be stubborn to remove, but the most effective way is to use an ice cube to harden the wax and come off when it sets.
What You Need To Know About Washing Your Wetsuit
Wetsuits are no ordinary laundry. They are not like the daily clothes that you can throw in the hamper or toss in the washer when you need it. You can’t put them in the dryer along with the rest of your clothes, nor can you fold them for storage.
They are specially designed and made with fabric far different than ordinary clothes. Therefore, they need extra care. And, if done correctly, not only will the dirt and smell go away, the wetsuit can last a long time, too!
Why Should You Wash A Wetsuit?
When you take off your wetsuit, where does it first go? The ground, right?
Now, look at the ground you would typically leave your wetsuits on and imagine – aside from the stuff you can’t see like access salt, dirt, sand, and other gross bodily mess, what other dirt particles does your wetsuit probably has if you haven’t washed it in a while.
Even if you rinse out your wetsuit every time you use it, dirt and odor may still be present. This is the reason that wetsuits should be washed every once in a while to make sure it stays bacteria and odor-free.
We can’t stress enough just how nice it feels to wear a fresh and newly-cleaned wetsuit. Set aside time to wash your wetsuit regularly. Aside from making you look and feel nice, washing also helps the wetsuit extend its life.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: What is a wetsuit wash made from?
A: Wetsuit wash has gentle cleansers and antibacterial ingredients that help eliminate microorganisms picked up through constant use. While they are known to be mild and free from harmful chemicals, they are strong enough to safely remove salt, chlorine, and bacteria without damaging the neoprene.
Q: How to clean a moldy wetsuit?
A: Prevention is always better than cure. To avoid molds, you should not put a wetsuit away damp as it will surely encourage bacteria and mildew to grow. But, if molds have already taken over your wetsuit, you can clean it with vinegar to kill and wash them away. Vinegar is also an effective cleanser for a bacteria-infected wetsuit.
Q: Can tear be repaired in a wetsuit?
A: Sharp objects and even fingernails can easily cause tears on the surface of the neoprene. But, a tear should not cause you to throw away your wetsuit. If it is but a small cut, it won’t have water seeping through it.
There are repair kits like Aquaseal Urethane Repair Adhesive & Sealant that glues torn sides together. It is easier to fix cuts when they are small, so try to repair them immediately at the first sign of tear or cut.
Q: What do I do with stains?
A: Bleach and strong detergents are damaging to neoprene. You must not use them in an attempt to remove a stain. Nor try to brush or scrub it. Instead, you can directly apply the wetsuit cleaner to the stained spot and gently rub it with a soft cloth. Wash thoroughly and repeat as necessary.
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G’day, my name is Rach Taylor and I’m the proud Founder of Surf Hungry. I am a former Australian Olympic athlete and Australian representative surf sports athlete. I’ve worked in the surf industry and lived at several of Australia’s best surf spots, sparking a life-long love of the ocean and a passion for surf sports which has now well and truly rubbed off on my two young sons, both little Aussie surf-stoked groms!