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Wetsuit Care: How to Clean, When to Replace, and More



Proper care can extend your wetsuits lifespan, giving you many years of surfing in comfort and style. See how to clean and store your wetsuit, when to replace it, and more!


Your wetsuit helps protect you from the elements, so it’s up to you to protect it from the elements as well. Proper wetsuit care will help you extend your suit’s lifespan, giving you years of catching waves in comfort and style. A high-quality wetsuit is an investment that requires some extra attention to detail to reduce the effects of UV rays, salt water, sand, dirty parking lots, big waves and more.

Not sure how to clean or store a wetsuit? Read on to find all the wetsuit care tips you need.

General Wetsuit Care

Your wetsuit care starts as soon as you put it on. Put your wetsuit on with care, don’t rush it and risk the chance of snagging or poking the fabric, breaking the zipper, or tearing a seam. Keep in mind the special materials on your suit and where they are placed.

Once you’re in the water, though it might be hard to avoid during those long, cold sessions, the less you pee in your suit the better! It’ll keep your wetsuit fabric fresh for longer, and you won’t have to try to wash out the scent as often. After you’re done hitting the waves, take off your wetsuit as soon as possible. It’ll be easier before it dries, and the sooner you take it off, the less sand you’ll get stuck on it, which means less mess to clean off later. 

The main things to keep in mind for wetsuit care are:

  • Put on and take off carefully
  • Avoid contact with sand and ground
  • Wash with cold, fresh water after every surf
  • Dry in the shade, starting inside-out
  • Store in a cool, dry place on a wide hanger or lay flat


How to Clean a Wetsuit

Out of the salt water into the fresh. When it comes to cleaning your wetsuit, you want to rinse with simple, cold fresh water. The sooner you wash your wetsuit after getting out of the water, the better. No washing machine, no hot water, no laundry detergent, no fabric softener, and no bleach. You can hose down your wetsuit, or you can fill a tub with fresh water and give your suit a few dunks.

After every surf, you want to do a through rinse both inside and out to remove any sand, salt water, sweat, or anything else your wetsuit might have grabbed on to during your session. Any leftover grime can cause smells or damage the material over time. If there is surf wax on your wetsuit (there probably is), don’t try to remove it. There’s no real way to remove it effectively without damaging your suit in the process.

Is there a smell that lingers on your wetsuit? Even with proper cleaning care after every session, your wetsuit will still hold on to some smells over time. You don’t have to use it every time you clean your wetsuit, but using a wetsuit cleaning product like Piss Off from time to time can help your wetsuit odor-free. Be sure to thoroughly wash off any product after use to maintain your wetsuit’s health.


How to Dry a Wetsuit

After your wetsuit it nice and clean, it’s time to dry. One of the biggest things to remember is to NOT put your wetsuit in the dryer, and do not dry it in direct sunlight. While the heat from the dryer or sun might make for a quicker job, extreme heat and UV exposure will cause damage and start to deteriorate the neoprene, which will make the fabric lose its stretch and shorten your suit’s lifespan. Along the same lines, don’t try to iron your wetsuit. Ever.

Instead, it’s best to hang your wetsuit to dry in the shade. Start by drying it inside-out to help prevent mildew, then turn it right-side-in to finish drying. This will also help if you have another session coming up quickly, you can at least step into the dry side instead of struggling to put on a wet, cold suit! You can direct a fan toward your suit to help speed up the process. When drying, hang your wetsuit over a smooth, round surface, such as a balcony railing, shower rod, or the bar on a wide hanger. Hang it at the waist with an equal balance on each side.

How to Store a Wetsuit

Before you store your wetsuit, it is important to make sure your suit is totally dry. If there’s any moisture, you run the risk of mold and mildew, which will both smell pretty bad and ruin the material. A little patience goes a long way! Once your wetsuit is dry, have a cool and dry space to store it. Choose a spot that doesn’t get exposed to direct sunlight. Avoiding the garage might also be a good call, as car fumes and high heat can damage the fabric.

You can store it hanging by folding it over the bar of a wide hanger while equally balanced or by using a thick hanger with wide, rounded shoulders that will prevent indents forming in the shoulders. Large hangers also allow airflow while your suit is hanging. Storing your wetsuit by laying it flat is also an option if you have the space! This wetsuit storage option is great for avoiding creases or fabric stretching that can occasionally happen when hanging.

 

When to Get a New Wetsuit

After some time, even with great care, your trusty wetsuit will start to show some wear after you’ve enjoyed plenty of sessions together. Wetsuits can last up to 10 years, depending on how heavily you use it. While you’re cleaning and storing your wetsuit, keep an eye out for signs of wear that might require attention.

Some holes, busted seams, and stuck zippers can be easily fixed with the right products and help extend your wetsuit’s life, but it’s best to check your wetsuit warranty first before making any repairs yourself. At Rip Curl, your wetsuit warranty includes 3 years on all stitching, 12 months on materials and constructions, and 12 months on Aquaban liquid tape if damage is caused by defects in materials or workmanship - it doesn’t apply to normal wear and tear, improper storage, failure to follow instructions, and fin cuts.

It might be time to get a new wetsuit if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • Too many holes, or holes that are too big to patch
  • Large sections of weak or busted seams
  • Jammed or broken zippers
  • Stretched, thinning, dried, or cracking neoprene
  • Fabric no longer providing proper temperature control
  • Unwanted scent that won’t go away
  • Wetsuit is getting too small or large


With the proper wetsuit care, your suit is sure to last. Take the extra time to learn how to clean and store your wetsuit to protect your surfing investment, and enjoy catching waves for years to come.

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