Every sailor, paddler and surfer knows the stench of a damp wetsuit that develops a few days after you forget to hang it out. Ew. Or the zippers that get jammed because we didn’t take the time to properly wash out the salt. We can in fact prolong the life of our neoprene gear by taking the time to look after our wetsuits (no matter how exhausting it is after a big day on the water).
Here are five easy tips on how to care for your wetsuit to avoid rubber degradation, seam damage, and bleaching.
Tip 1. Take your time removing your wetsuit, to prevent stretching
It’s tempting to want to step on your wetsuit leg to get it off your body. For some sailors and paddlers, it is the most draining exercise after an intense session. The best thing you can do is take your time when pulling it off, so you don’t stretch weak areas or create holes around seams located at the armpits and neck.
The best way to prevent wear and tear from removal is by investing in a flexible, low-maintenance wetsuit that is easy to put on and take off. The Vaikobi range of FlexForce wetsuits is designed to work with your body, with targeted flexible and durable material in areas of high mobility. They also have strong flatlock seams with inner reinforcement for extra strength.
The 1.5mm and 3.0mm FlexForce Long Johns are ergonomically designed with stretchy neck openings for easy entry and exit. The best outcome: no more of that wetsuit exit wiggle you have to do while asking a friend to help you out of it.
When caring for your wetsuit, it also helps to be mindful of where you take it off. Don’t stamp it into asphalt in the boat park. Don’t leave it to sweat in a hot trailer or car, either.
Tip 2. Always rinse your wetsuit with fresh water, immediately after use.
This is the most common care tip found on wetsuit manufacturers advice on how to wash a wetsuit is to rinse your wetsuit. If the wetsuit dries before you get the chance to rinse it, salt can build up in seams, zippers and closures. This salt build-up ultimately erodes neoprene products, leaving them more susceptible to further damage and lessened performance.
Can wetsuits go in the washing machine?
To get the most life out of your wetsuit product, it’s best that you do not put your wetsuit in the washing machine, even on a cold water cycle.
Tip 3. Use a pH-neutral soap to avoid chemical damage.
How to clean a wetsuit at home:
If you are going to use any soap at all, make sure it’s pH-neutral to avoid damage to neoprene and to get rid of any funky smells. Specialised wetsuit cleaning solution and shampoo are also widely available. Use a small amount of soap, and gently rub it into the wetsuit material, taking special care to remove salt build up from problem areas like seams and zips.
Tip 4. Dry your wetsuit TWICE and in the shade.
Ever seen a wetsuit with lighter patches or an uneven tone across the body? It’s likely that the wetsuit has been left to dry in direct sunlight. Drying it in the shade is vital. Direct, prolonged exposure to sunlight will degrade rubber and neoprene materials as well as causing colour bleaching.
Once the outer layer of your wetsuit is dry, it is vital to turn it inside out and let that side dry too. Half-drying your wetsuit lets moisture, mould and other nasties, accumulate on the inner layer.
Tip 5. Store your wetsuit in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
When your wetsuit finally is dry, the best way to ensure its longevity is to store it on a hanger. Hang it by the waist, to avoid stretching in weak areas in a cool, dry place.
So there you have it. The top five hacks from a watersports lover, on how to look after your wetsuit.