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Wetsuit Care: It Isn’t All About Washing Neoprene

Every time I talked to my teenage kids about wetsuit care or how to wash the neoprene, I could see their expressions change. “Here he goes again,” they thought.

“Don’t dig your nails into the suit to take it off, girl, it will tear!” I would say to Maria. But she couldn’t hear well back then, poor thing!

I gave Aaron instructions on how to wash the wetsuit, and he heard, “Just leave it there, someone will pick it up.”

When I warned them, “Don’t leave the neoprene in the sun, it will get damaged,” they responded with, “Oh, then we’ll put it in the dryer.”

“No, that’s even worse.”

And so on. You know how teenagers are at that age. They have to contradict you in everything.

So, their wetsuit got ruined faster than you could say Jack Robinson, while mine is still in perfect condition.

What a disappointment!

But no matter how much they begged me to buy them a new one, it was they who, with their part-time jobs, saved up the money to buy another one.

And hey, now they even ask me for advice on proper wetsuit care.

So, here are all my tips about caring for a wetsuit for you.

wetsuit care - 2 - Cómo lavar neopreno y otros cuidados para tu traje húmedo

1. How to Take Off a Wetsuit?

Take off your wetsuit gently and extend its life!

Your wetsuit is your aquatic adventure companion, so taking good care of it is essential for it to last a long time. The first key to good care starts with taking it off gently, not by yanking!


Why is it important to take off your wetsuit carefully?

  • Avoid tears: If you rip it off like an angry octopus, you can tear it, especially in delicate areas like the shoulders, zippers, or seams.
  • Extend its life: Gentle handling keeps it in good condition for longer, meaning more adventures together!
  • Less effort: Taking it off calmly saves you energy and prevents possible injuries, especially if you’re tired after a dive.


How to take off your wetsuit gently:

Look for a comfortable, well-lit area where you can move freely.

Slowly and carefully unzip it all the way down.

Gently peel the suit off your skin, like removing a band-aid. This helps it loosen up and makes it easier to remove.

Slide one arm out of the sleeve. Use your free hand to grab the sleeve near the shoulder and gently pull outward. Don’t force it; the suit isn’t elastic!

Do the same with the other arm. Grab the sleeve on the other side with your free hand and gently pull outward.

With both arms out, slide the suit down your body. Lean forward slightly and gently push it down to your waist. No sudden jerks; we don’t want to tear it!

Once at the waist, take your feet out one by one. Lift one foot and carefully slide it out through the leg opening. Repeat with the other foot.

wetsuit care - 3 - Cómo lavar neopreno y otros cuidados para tu traje húmedo

2. How Do You Clean Neoprene?

Why Clean Your Wetsuit?

Taking good care of your wetsuit extends its lifespan significantly, and cleaning your wetsuit is a crucial part of that care!

Sweat, salt, and bacteria can accumulate in your suit, degrading the material.

A clean, dry suit prevents corrosion and wear, ready for many more dives!

How to Clean Your Wetsuit Step by Step?

Freshwater Rinse to Clean Wetsuit. After taking off the wet suit, rinse it with fresh water. This removes salt, chlorine, oils, and any dirt that could damage it.

Never use hot water to clean neoprene. It can be fatal for the fibers of your suit! Wash your neoprene with cold water.

Add a specific neoprene cleaner or a mild soap to the water. Forget about chlorine and harsh chemicals! They are enemies of the material.

Scrub gently. Take a soft toothbrush or sponge, dip it in the soapy mixture, and gently scrub the suit, especially the areas with stains or dirt. Be gentle, we don’t want to scratch it!

Rinse, rinse, and rinse. If you only have one container to wash your suit, empty the soapy water and refill it with clean water. Rinse your suit until no cleaner remains.

Drying Instructions Coming Up…

We’ll explain the proper drying process next!


2.1. Neoprene Odor: How Do You Remove Smell?

Just finished your dive and your wetsuit smells…well, let’s just say the ocean isn’t the only biological liquid your wetsuit encountered down there! Don’t worry, this “happens” to the best of us. Here’s how to tackle that “wetsuit smell” and get back to smelling like the fresh sea breeze.

Neoprene Odor Removal:

Several methods can effectively remove that stubborn neoprene odor. Here are a few options:

Vinegar Soak (Neutralizes Outer Odor): Fill a bucket with water and add 1/2 cup of vinegar. Soak your wetsuit for 1 hour, then air dry it. Vinegar helps neutralize the exterior neoprene smell.

Homemade Cleaning Solution (For Strong Odors): Mix 2 tablespoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and 1 tablespoon black soap in 2 liters of water. Soak your wetsuit for a few hours, then rinse with clean water. Great for tackling strong odors! (Optional) Add a few drops of lavender or tea tree oil to the vinegar solution to mask its smell and add a fresh scent (use sparingly!).

Wetsuit Deodorizer (Proven Effectiveness): Consider using a specialized wetsuit deodorizer. While it might cost a bit more, it’s highly effective at leaving your wetsuit clean and fresh.

Air Drying (Double-Sided): Hang your wetsuit inside out in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. Once the inside is dry, turn it right-side out to dry the exterior.

Storage (Cool, Dry, and Fresh): Store your wetsuit in a cool, dry place to prevent mold and new odors. To maintain a pleasant smell, place cedar chips or blocks near your stored wetsuit. Cedar has natural deodorizing properties.

We’ve covered the essential steps for cleaning wetsuit. Stay tuned for the next section on proper drying techniques!


2.2. Can You Wash a Wetsuit in a Washing Machine? 


Hold On! Ditch the Washing Machine for Wetsuit Washing

After a long dive, you might be tempted to toss your wetsuit in the washing machine for an easy clean. But resist the urge! Big mistake!  Here’s why washing wetsuits in a washing machine is a bad idea:

The washing machine is too rough for your neoprene: The spinning and agitation of the washing machine can be too strong for this material. This could stretch it out, tear it, or cause the seams to break.

Your wetsuit would lose some of its adaptability. The hot water in the washing machine could cause the air cells inside the wetsuit to expand, reducing the flexibility of the neoprene, and that’s definitely not cool! Your wetsuit would lose some of its ability to adapt to movement.

It could also do the exact opposite, because the heat weakens the polymer molecular bonds. It can become misshapen and no longer fit you like a glove.

The detergents used in washing machines are a big no-no: They are strong detergents with abrasive chemicals that are forbidden for your neoprene.

Cómo lavar neopreno -wetsuit washing- wetsuit care -how to wash neoprene

3. How to Dry a Wetsuit Properly?

Now that your wetsuit is squeaky clean, it’s time to focus on drying your wetsuit properly. The drying process is crucial for making your wetsuit last through countless dives. Here’s how to do it like a pro:

Hang your wetsuit inside out:

Place your wetsuit on a thick hanger, always inside out! Find a cool, well-ventilated place, like a garage or shower. Remember, keep it away from direct sunlight and heat sources like radiators (we don’t want to dry a wetsuit by turning it into a wetsuit crisp!).

Squeeze, but don’t wring:

Beware! Don’t wring out your wetsuit – this can damage the delicate neoprene material. Here’s a better approach: After letting it hang for about 15 minutes, gently squeeze the cuffs and ankles to release any trapped water. Repeat this process every 15 minutes to dry your wetsuit faster.

Be patient, drying a wetsuit can take hours. Leave it hanging overnight in a place with good air circulation.

How to dry your wetsuit faster:

Bonus tips for speeding up the drying process:

Use a towel to gently blot excess water off the surface of your wetsuit.

Place a fan, like the one you use in summer, near the wetsuit to improve air circulation and dry your wetsuit even quicker.


3.1. Can You Put a Wetsuit in the Dryer?

No, No, No and a thousand times NO.

Never dry a wetsuit in the dryer. The high heat from the machine can damage your wetsuit in several ways:

Degraded Neoprene: Neoprene, the main material in wetsuits, can become brittle and crack when exposed to high temperatures. This can significantly shorten the lifespan of your suit.

Weakened Seams: The glue holding the seams of your wetsuit together can melt or weaken under high heat, leading to leaks and tears.

Zipper Damage: The heat can warp or damage the zipper on your wetsuit, making it difficult or impossible to use.


3.2. How to Hang a Wetsuit?

Okay, you know the dryer is out, but what should you hang your wetsuit on? The hanger matters too! Here are some tips to keep your wetsuit happy and dry:

Never hang your wetsuit on thin hangers:

Forget about thin or wire hangers. They can deform the neoprene and damage the shoulder rubber. It’s better to use a thick and sturdy hanger!

Avoid metal (just in case):

Metal hangers can rust and stain your suit. Better safe than sorry, right?

Wide plastic hangers:

For hanging your wet suit, wide plastic hangers are the way to go! They distribute the suit’s weight better and prevent shoulder deformation.

Specialized wetsuit hangers (ideal):

If you can afford it, invest in a special hanger designed for wetsuits. These are designed to maintain the suit’s shape and avoid material damage.

Fold and hang with care:

If all else fails, you can fold the suit at the waist and hang it over a regular hanger. The important thing is to distribute the weight evenly and not concentrate it on the shoulders.

care of wetsuits - how to hang a wetsuit- Cómo lavar neopreno

4. How to Long-Term Storage a Wetsuit?

Your wetsuit has had a rest after drying, but now it’s time to store it for the next adventure. Here’s how to take care of it so it lasts through many dives:

  • 100% dry inside and out: Make sure your wetsuit is completely dry on both sides before storing it! Moisture is neoprene’s enemy.
  • Store it in a cool place, protected from the elements: Choose a dry, shaded, and humidity-free place to store your wetsuit. Moisture encourages mold growth, which is harmful to neoprene. If possible, opt for a climate-controlled space. A closet is a good spot. If you have one specifically for storing your diving gear, even better!
  • Better hung than folded: Folding your wetsuit for storage can create permanent creases. It’s better to hang it on a wide hanger to maintain its shape and prevent stretching. If you don’t have a special wetsuit hanger, you can fold it in half over a regular hanger, making sure it’s sturdy enough to support the weight.
  • Check it occasionally: Even while stored, check on your wetsuit from time to time to ensure there’s no mold. Better safe than sorry!


5. How to Fix a Wetsuit Tear?

If you have taken good care of your wetsuit, it will be a long time before you need to tackle this task; but sometimes wear and snags can leave their mark. Don’t worry, with proper wetsuit care you can fix small tears and continue enjoying your dives! Here’s how to fix a wetsuit tear:

  1. a) Analyze the damage: First, take a good look at the tear. If it’s small (about 3-5 cm), you can fix it yourself at home. For larger tears, it’s better to consult a professional. a) Thorough cleaning: Before you begin, clean the tear area with fresh water to remove any dirt or sand that might spoil the repair.
  2. b) Needle and thread to the rescue (for small tears): If the tear is small, you can use the technique to fix a wetsuit by sewing the edges with strong thread and a needle. Make tight, close stitches, ensuring you catch enough material so it doesn’t reopen. A bit of sewing will help keep the tear under control!
  3. c) Reinforcement with glue (essential!): To ensure the tear is well-sealed and waterproof, apply one or two layers of special neoprene glue (there are different brands) over the sewn area. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure to cover the entire area to be repaired. This extra step will help you fix a wetsuit tear effectively!
  4. d) Reinforcement with a patch (optional, for larger tears): If the tear is large or in a high-movement area, it’s best to use a neoprene patch. Apply glue to both the patch and the tear, then press the patch firmly over the damaged area. The patch will give you extra strength and durability!


5.1. What Should Your Neoprene Repair Kit Include?

Prepare a wetsuit care kit so that you have everything you need to easily repair it wherever you go. This way, you can continue enjoying your dives to the fullest.

You can also buy a pre-made kit, but the specific items in a repair kit can vary depending on the brand and manufacturer. It’s always a good idea to read the product description or consult the instructions to ensure you have everything you need.

  • Special neoprene glue: Essential for strong and durable bonds. Forget about regular glue! Look for an adhesive or contact cement specifically for neoprene repairs.
  • Neoprene patches: Your allies for covering large damages. They come in kits so you can cut them to the size you need and reinforce the affected areas.
  • Patch glue or cement: Some kits include specific glue to attach the patches to the suit. It activates with heat and creates a secure bond.
  • Additional tools: Depending on the kit, it may include extras such as brushes for applying the glue, sandpaper for surface preparation, or spatulas for spreading the adhesive.
wetsuit care

6. Never Do That if You Want to Care Your Wetsuit

Nailing it. Be careful with your nails when putting on and taking off the suit, as they can easily tear the neoprene!

Leaving your wet suit in a damp heap on the floor or in the back of the car. Take it out, wash it, and hang it up to dry to prevent mold and unpleasant odors. Neoprene hates moisture!

Exposing it to heat: hot water, direct sunlight for long periods, dryers, radiators, irons… All of these are on the wet suit care blacklist!

Using bleach, gels, soaps, shampoos, or conditioners as lubricants to put on the suit. These substances can damage the neoprene and are not biodegradable. Your suit and the planet will thank you!

Storing a wet suit. This leads to mold and mildew. Make sure it is completely dry before storing it.

Forgetting it. Periodically check your suit for any wear or damage, such as holes, tears, or frayed seams. Repair any small damage immediately to prevent it from getting worse.

To prolong the neoprene lifespan, it is crucial to follow the expert wetsuit care advice we’ve given you. A neoprene suit is estimated to last between 4-10 years, but with proper neoprene care, your wet suit can accompany you on many, many, many adventures more.