Wetsuits are a great investment if you plan on being in the water, whatever your sport. They are long-lasting and can withstand the sun, the water, the pressure, and the cold. If you look after your wetsuit, it’ll be as good as new even in 20 years! But you will need to know how to clean a wetsuit at home and store it properly to reduce the general wear and tear of a wetsuit. We will also look at how to repair your wetsuit at home so that you can keep using it year after year.
Read More: How to Clean and Disinfect Your Dive Gear
How to Clean a Wetsuit At Home
- After your dive, try to rinse it with fresh water. This means using the shower on the boat if they have one, or hosing it down at the dive shop or beach shower. This removes salt from the neoprene material, and the zips from the wetsuit.
- Air-dry the wetsuit as best as possible. Try not to leave it too long in the sun as this can cause the wetsuit to discolor and also for the neoprene to harden over time. But making the suit as dry as possible before traveling will stop it from stinking too much! Even leaving it out in the wind will help.
- Do not wash your wetsuit in hot water, this will cause the neoprene material to lose its flexibility and wear down quicker.
- When you get home, fill a bathtub or large bucket with cold or lukewarm water. Add some baking soda, wetsuit shampoo, or antibacterial Dettol into the water. Let the wetsuit soak for 20 minutes or longer, then turn the wetsuit inside out and let it soak again for 20 minutes or longer. Swish the wetsuit around so that the solution gets into all parts of the wetsuit.
- You can use an old toothbrush to brush the zippers and velcro patches. This will loosen any dirt or sand that is stuck.
- After soaking, you can rinse the wetsuit in cold water to remove any cleaning solution and residue.
- When hanging the wetsuit, use a thick wetsuit hanger. Thin hangers will cause the shoulders of the wetsuit to misshapen. If you do not have a wetsuit holder then fold the wetsuit down in the middle over the normal hanger with the arms and legs hanging down.
- Hang it inside out to dry the inside of the suit first. Some wetsuits have a nice thermal, fleece patch inside the chest. If this takes too long to dry, it can start to smell.
- Let it drip dry over the shower or bathtub. Try to ventilate the room as much as possible, so use a fan or open a window. Or better yet, let your wetsuit dry outside away from the sunlight.
Storing your Wetsuit at Home
Once your wetsuit is completely dry, you should store it somewhere well-ventilated and ideally hanging.
Never fold the wetsuit or crumple it in a tight ball. Even when it is cleaned. This will weaken the fabric and can also leave indents when you next use it.
Never iron a wetsuit either!
Use a thick hanger to hang your wetsuit. If you do not have a thick hanger, you can tape several thin hangers together to create a wider hanger.
Spaces to hang your wetsuit could be an open closet, in the garage, or a large storeroom.
If you do not have space to hang your wetsuit, then you can pack it away. However, never pack it too tightly. If you do not plan on using the wetsuit for a while, then you can fold it loosely in an empty suitcase. Do not put anything heavy on the wetsuit as this will crease the fabric.
Rips and Tears in a Wetsuit
Neoprene and the rubber of a wetsuit can rip over time. A nick of a dive knife, getting caught on a nail at the pier, getting snagged on a rock, or just general wear and tear can cause the wetsuit to rip or cause a slight tear. Depending on what you are wearing under your wetsuit can also impact your wetsuit; knots, zips, or metal decorations. The most common areas will be around the neck and wrist seals.
This doesn’t mean you need to throw away your wetsuit. It is good, however, to always inspect your wetsuit after cleaning it at home, as small rips and tears are much easier to fix than large holes!
You can get a wetsuit repair kit, neoprene cement, or a puncture tire repair kit from a bicycle store. The glue is very similar.
Repairing a Wetsuit at Home
- Find the two edges of the neoprene that need to meet up
- Place some glue onto both edges, use a matchstick to spread the glue around
- Wait for the glue to dry a little bit
- When the glue is close to drying and sticky (rather than ‘wet’) then push the two edges together
- Hold it in place for a few minutes
- Lay it on a flat area
- Let it dry overnight
You can also use heavy polyester thread or dental floss and sew the rip up. Be aware that if you push the needle through the whole fabric then this will create tiny holes that will impact the efficiency of your wetsuit. The best way to sew is using ‘blind stitch’ which should only penetrate slightly into the fabric.
Knowing how to clean a wetsuit at home is important to keep it in good condition. Wetsuits can withstand a lot of rough and tumble, but general wear and tear will slowly weaken the fabric. This is why you will need to always rinse your wetsuit in freshwater, and keep it stored properly to stop the stink! Just doing a few small things to protect your wetsuit will go a long way in preserving the fabric, long after the fashion of your wetsuit has changed!