How to Take Care of Your Wetsuit
So you’ve bought a pricey wetsuit and want to know how to make your investment last. How can I keep it clean? What do I do with it after a session? How can I make sure it doesn’t get holes? Let’s explore those questions below
Summary: How do you keep your wetsuit like new?
After long nights of research, going to store after store, and trying on multiple suits that make you feel like you just wiggled into a straight jacket, you’ve finally found it: your perfect wetsuit. You invested the money and you’re ready to go out and face the cold waters of whatever break is closest to you. Before you paddle out, here are 3 essential things you can do to make sure you take care of your newly minted wetsuit.
1) Rinse your wetsuit with freshwater - every session.
I know. Sometimes it’s a hassle. Maybe you’re exhausted from shredding waves for hours on end and you’ve got the post surf munchies. All you want to do is get the locals’ favorite burrito and forget about your wetsuit. Or maybe you’ve been at the beach all day and took your suit off hours ago and have been chilling in a comfy surf poncho all day - the idea of having to unload the car is daunting enough, let alone rinsing your suit after all that’s taken care of.
We’ve all been there, but if you want to make your wetsuit last, it takes just one extra minute or two to give it a quick rinse and keep it from turning into a stinky pile of itchy rubber (especially if you pee in your suit, which let’s be honest, most of us do).
At the very least, just give your suit a quick rinse with fresh water when you get home. Your surf session just puts your new neoprene investment through a saltwater and sand enema, the least you can do is wash it off.
Saltwater is extremely corrosive, so if you skip this step not only will the salt water wear your suit thinner much quicker, it will also make the suit feel stiff, stale, and overall just much less comfortable to wear. Plus, this will cause your suit to tear much easier.
I like to bring my wetsuit in the shower with me after my session for a daily rinsing. I try to wash out both the interior and exterior with warm water.
- Pro tip: use surf grass or some water to clean the sand off your feet before you take off your suit at the beach, this ensures your shower drain doesn’t get clogged with sand if you’re a regular surfer. A changing mat or surf grass will also protect your suit from getting scuffed or torn on the loose asphalt that is common in beach parking lots.
2) Don’t dry it in the Sun.
We can’t say it enough: do NOT hang the suit in direct sunlight to dry. Find a shady place on your front porch, or my go-to, hang it over the shower head in the shower.
Sun will hurt your wetsuit just as bad, if not worse than leaving it salty. Be advised, if you have one of the pricey, and incredibly comfortable Rip Curl Flash Bomb wetsuits that have the “flash dry” lining (the orangish-pink lining which feels like a bunch of smurfs hugging you with cotton towels), you can kiss the comfort goodbye if you leave the wetsuit in the sun - that soft uniform lining will shrivel up a create a bunch of little balls that don’t feel the same and don’t dry nearly as quick. Seriously, it’s not worth it.
Pro tip: wherever you put your suit to dry, don’t hang your suit by the shoulders on a hanger-- this will stretch out the suit permanently as the retained water weight pulls the suit down towards the ground
3) Repair holes as quickly as possible
Holes are inevitable. If you’re surfing and ripping as hard as we hope, your wetsuit will get pushed to its limits, and holes and tears are just a symptom of great surfing over a long time.
That being said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and it's very important to cure any problems as quickly as possible.
Once you notice your wetsuit getting tears or holes, use a urethane adhesive to patch up any small holes before they get any bigger. Waiting too long can lead to that hole growing larger, so try to fix up your wetsuit as soon as you notice any signs of damage. If you have time to let your wetsuit property dry, patching up any holes in your wetsuit is a relatively simple and painless process.
All you need to do is brush the adhesive over any smaller holes and let it cure overnight (there are accelerators you mix the formula with that can have you back in the water in around 2 hours if you need to get back in the water the same day).
If the hole is really bad, say from a fin cutting your suit (ouch!), you’ll have to make a more “surgical” repair. While it's best to use a professional wetsuit repair person for this, (we love swell stuff in leucadia if you’re in the San Diego Area!), we’ve included some DIY instructions that we’ve got from various van-life surfers and have implemented ourselves with some moderate success.
Note: Attempt this next part at your own peril, as it won’t look that professional, but if you’re tight on cash and don’t have any other options, it is at least a functional repair most of the time.
You’ll need the urethane adhesive/aquaseal, a sewing needle, and dental floss. We recommend the teflon / easy glide style of dental floss vs. the normal waxed version (Note: normal sewing thread will not work, the salt water will make it disintegrate and break quicker than you’d think). Thread the needle with the floss, and then sew the cut tight just as you would repair a tear in your favorite clothing. When you’re done sewing the cut shut, sew over the end of the floss a few times and tie it off, Lastly, apply the adhesive over the entire sewing area to seal it in and give the repair extra strength.
Skipped a few of these and your suit is starting to smell?
We’ve got you covered: our specially formulated wetsuit cleaner and conditioner will get the stink off your suit and will also make a more than decent attempt at making it feel as soft and flexible as it was when you first bought it (this conditioning part is really nice for older suits that are starting to feel crispy, the difference is comfort is quite noticeable).
To clean your suit, all you need to do is mix 2 ounces (a generous pour) of cleaner with 2-3 gallons of water in a large container or bucket, put wetsuit in the bucket & wash/massage by hand for a few minutes, then let soak for 30 minutes and rinse thoroughly when done and let dry away from direct sunlight, and voila, just like that, your wetsuit should have the sweet, sweet smell of freshly washed neoprene (with a hint of citrus). Here’s a quick video, with a cameo from our dog stache, to walk you through the simple process of washing your suit.
While there’s a few different shampoos or cleaners out there on the market, these tend to be environmentally harmful when you dump them out. We developed our wetsuit cleaner to be all-natural, and 100% biodegradable and environmentally safe so it won’t hurt your buddies downstream.
As long as you follow those three simple guidelines, taking care of your wetsuit should be a breeze and you’ll be able to make your investment stretch on for a good bit of time. We hope you learned a bit more about how to take care of your new wetsuit so you can stay stoked for longer in the water.
- West Path
P.S. If you’re looking for a way to change out of your wetsuit without giving the entire parking lot a display of your wares, check out our surf changing ponchos, where every purchase will help save the lives of ten baby sea turtles.