You pay a lot of money for your wetsuit, so you want to be able to enjoy it for a long time. How long it lasts will depend on the care you take when using and washing it.
Wetsuits became popular in the 1950s when Hollywood became fascinated with surfers and their lifestyles. Today, wetsuits are worn by triathletes, divers, surfers, and many other water athletes. Wetsuits are made of neoprene, which is a rubbery-like synthetic material that uses cell-membrane construction which allows some water to penetrate the suit, but most to stay out. The water in the suit helps warm your skin and make you slightly more buoyant. Suits range in thickness and can be short or long and some are complemented with boots, gloves or a cap.
Taking care of your wetsuit will help keep it looking and feeling fresh a lot longer. All it takes is a few minutes of appropriate cleaning and care after your swim or race time. Here’s how to take care of your wetsuit:
- After wearing, immediately rinse your wetsuit with fresh water. If you do nothing else, rinse it inside and out each and every time you use it. Salt and sunlight are the two things that will destroy your wetsuit. Do not use hot water to rinse your suit. Neoprene loses some of its flexibility in hot water. If you are changing in a shower, use cool water to rinse the suit and then soak/wash yourself in hot water.
- Wash your wetsuit by hand. Never wash your wetsuit in a washer, dry it in the dryer, use bleach, or laundry detergent, and never iron your wetsuit! You’ll have to use soap to wash it occasionally. Use soap made especially for wetsuits, or a mild, liquid soap like baby shampoo.
- Hang your wetsuit to drip dry away from direct heat and sunlight. Ultraviolet rays cause the neoprene to age much faster. It will get hard and lose its flexibility from the UV rays. Turn the suit inside out after washing or rinsing until it’s dry. Once the outside of the suit is dry, flip it inside out again to dry the inside side. Even better, hang the suit to dry inside out. The outer surface will be protected and the inside will dry first making it easier to put the suit back on.
- To store and hang your wetsuit, use a hanger designed for a wetsuit or a heavy, padded hanger – never a flimsy wire hanger. Take the hanger and slide the top or bottom of the suit through, and hang it doubled-up, inside-out in the shower or the garage. If you must hang it outside, hang it in the shade. Just be sure to hang it properly – not in the sun, not draped over a chair, and not by the neck or shoulders – this will quickly stretch the suit out. And don’t fold your suit or cram it into a drawer – this only weakens the fabric. You can also lay it flat (inside out) and store it underneath your bed.
- Salt and chlorine can weaken and corrode the zipper, so be sure to use a zipper lubricant to keep it working smoothly.
- Does your suit smell bad? Use an odor remover – like Mirazyme – in a bucket with cool water to wash your suit. Then rinse the soap out and be sure to dry it properly.
How to Repair a Wetsuit
Inspect your suit often for tears and damage. Sharp objects or even your fingernails can easily tear the neoprene of a wetsuit. You can easily fix small cuts in your wetsuit yourself with a few products. It’s important to fix any cuts as soon as you identify them otherwise they will likely get bigger with every use.
There are many products you can use to repair your wetsuit. In addition to the several different brands of wetsuit cement or wetsuit glue, you can use rubber cement. One of our favorite solutions is below:
The easiest thing to do is to buy a puncture repair kit from any bike store – the sealant used to fix bike tire inner tubes will fix your wetsuit. First, be sure the area is clean by applying alcohol around the area and specifically on the parts of the suit you will be gluing back together. Hold the tear open as much as possible so that the glue can get deep inside the tear. Put some glue inside the tear, over both edges. Be careful not to put too much excess. Let the glue sit inside the tear for a few minutes. After the glue has bonded, press down with your finer to match the two sides of the tear up. You’ll be left with just a minor scar from the tear. It is best to wait four to six hours to use the suit. Voila! Instant repair and you have saved your wetsuit.
If you have more questions about how to care for your wetsuit or triathlon training in general, please feel free to contact me.
Train Right, Tri Right!