How to wash and look after your wetsuit 

How to wash and look after your wetsuit 

Washing your wetsuit after every session is a great way to extend its lifespan. Leaving your soggy wetsuit to stew, on the other hand, is a sure way to do precisely the opposite.

The salt will corrode the materials, in particular the seams – often the first part of a wetsuit to sustain serious damage. It’s the wetsuit-care equivalent of heavy drinking and 40 cigarettes a day. Your wetsuit will end up in an early grave.

Unfortunately, for some reason, not leaving your wetsuit, boots, gloves, etc. in a heap on the floor between surfs requires superhuman levels of discipline and effort. Get in the habit of it now, reminding yourself that you’re actively contributing to the wellbeing of both your bank balance and the planet.

In this wildly informative article, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide to rinsing your wetsuit thoroughly and try to answer a few commonly asked questions about wetsuit care. First, though, a bit of housekeeping.

Can you put a wetsuit in the washing machine?

First things first: do not put your wetsuit in a washing machine. It won’t end well.

Can you tumble dry a wetsuit?

Again, a categorically bad idea. Never put your wetsuit in a tumble dryer.

How to wash a wetsuit

Rinsing a wetsuit is a fairly straightforward business.

For best results, fill a large tub, bucket, or sink with freshwater, and let your wetsuit soak in it for a few minutes. Get a bit of swirling action going in there, agitate the water, lift the wetsuit up and down, move it about… kind of as though it were a teabag.

Pay particular attention to the zipper, which is liable to jam or corrode if the saltwater isn’t rinsed off.

Just rinsing it through with a hose or shower also works, but isn’t as efficient. Special wetsuit shampoo is even available, and will keep the neoprene nice and supple and fresh-smelling.

surfer takes his wetsuit off on the grass
When it comes to taking off your wetsuit, grass is your friend. Photo: Megan Hemsworth

How to dry your wetsuit

When you leave it to dry, you should never hang your wetsuit by the shoulders. It’s fine to hang it like that when it’s dry, but when it’s soaking wet it’s going to be much much heavier, and you risk stretching the shoulders out of shape.

Instead, hang it doubled over at the waist, thereby greatly reducing the stress on the wetsuit material. Give the sleeves and legs a bit of a squeeze too, which will speed up the drying process.

You can do this using a normal hanger, although it might be a bit of a squeeze. Ideally, a thicker, wider hanger – specifically designed for wetsuit-drying purposes – will dry your suit out even more efficiently and in an even more suit-friendly manner.

The C-Monsta hanger, for instance, is a fine piece of kit. It’s nice and wide, for a start, which encourages airflow and means the wetsuit isn’t folded over on itself.

You can also dry out your boots and gloves using the different prongs, which channel the drips away from your wetsuit below. Genius.

dry your wetsuit with the c-monsta wetsuit hanger
The C-Monsta wetsuit hanger in action. Genius.

How to pee in a wetsuit

Yes, people actually ask this. Maybe you’re one of them.

There is no secret here. If you’re in the surf, wearing a wetsuit, and need a wee, you have just three options:

1.     Hold it in. This can be quite uncomfortable, especially given the constant pressure exerted on the bladder when paddling. 

2.     Let it all out. Obviously this is disgusting, but also weirdly fun. It’s even more disgusting/fun if you’re wearing boots, which prevents drainage. Probably not great for your wetsuit.

3.     Return to shore, go for a wee, paddle back out. This is potentially very annoying, especially if it’s a long paddle, but can sometimes be incorporated into a run-around along the beach (if you’ve drifted away from the peak, say).

Our advice, if you’re going for option 2: wait for a lull in the waves (you don’t want to miss a set), hang off the side of your board, relax your bladder, try to maintain a neutral facial expression. Many a surfer has tried to pee while paddling. Few have succeeded.

If the water temperature allows, try and flush your suit through as best you can. Rinse thoroughly afterwards.

How to store a wetsuit

When you’re storing your wetsuit, and particularly if you’re not going to be using it for a couple of weeks or months – the end of the season, say – it’s essential to make sure it’s dry inside and out.

If you leave it hanging inside-out, it’s liable to remain damp on the other side, and you may find it’s developed its own microclimate next time you go to wear it. Again, not good for a wetsuit’s wellbeing.

Leave it to dry fully on the inside. Once it’s bone dry on the inside, turn it the right way out and leave it to dry on the outside.

How to transport a wet wetsuit

If you’re travelling by car this is simple enough. Many surfers keep a large bucket in the boot, or failing that use a tub of some sort, or make do with a bag-for-life.

When you’re out and about, however, on a bike or on foot or on public transport, you want something that’s both easy to carry and watertight, so your suit doesn’t drip seawater everywhere. A drybag is the ideal solution.

So-called because it will keep everything in it dry even in extremely wet conditions, a drybag will also perform the reverse function. With waterproof heat-sealed seams on the inside and waterproof coating on the outside, it’s a great way to transport a wet wetsuit without it leaking all over the place. You can even put your drybag inside another bag without getting the contents of the other bag wet.

drybags are ideal for transporting wet wetsuits

More wetsuit care advice

Wetsuits are fragile and expensive things, so take care of them. The smoothskin material you get on the chest (and sometimes back) of many wetsuits is especially easy to damage. In particular, try to keep your wetsuit from coming into contact with anything sharp or abrasive.

One major and oft-overlooked cause of wetsuit damage is nails, as in fingernails and toenails. Keeping your nails neatly trimmed and any jagged edges filed smooth is a good way to avoid nicks in the material of your wetsuit, which often occur during the changing process.

Another common mistake: stamping your wetsuit off on a gravelly car park. Wetsuits can be a pain to get off, but using one foot to help liberate the other foot tends to mean trampling your wetsuit into the tarmac or gravel. Sit down if necessary, and use your hands.

changing mats and buckets are a great way to look after your wetsuit
Using a changing mat or bucket is a great way to look after your wetsuit and protect it from damage.

Finally, if your wetsuit does get a nick or a tear, don’t despair and write your wetsuit off. But don’t just forget about it either. If left unattended to, tiny nicks will become stretched and develop into tears and from there into full-blown holes. A stitch in time etc… 

changing mat or changing bucket is a very nifty accessory for this very reason. Forming a barrier between your wetsuit and the ground, it will also your feet nice and warm. Plus once your wetsuit’s off you can use the cinch to transform the changing mat into a wetsuit bag.

You can repair minor wetsuit damage using wetsuit glue and/or a sewing kit. If you want a neat, sturdy, long-lasting repair, however, and/or the damage to the wetsuit is extensive, take it or send it to the professionals. 

Bodyline in Newquay always do a brilliant job at an affordable price, using matching materials from all the major wetsuit brands. Meanwhile brands such as Patagonia often hold wetsuit clinics or run repair services out of their stores.

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