In 1952, physicist Hugh Bradner at University of California, Berkeley, invented the first wetsuit out of neoprene, a light-weight synthetic rubber that remains flexible at a variety of temperatures. From insulation to protection against sun damage, the wetsuit is a fantastic garment. You may wear yours to surf, scuba dive, paddle your canoe, windsurf, or just to swim in the ocean.
Wetsuits can last a long time, but they need to be taken care of. That means cleaning them regularly and storing them properly.
Cleaning Your Wetsuit
Whether you’ve been playing in saltwater or freshwater, it’s important to clean your wetsuit after every use. Never wash it in a clothes washer or dry it in a dryer. This job needs to be done by hand.
If you’ve been in freshwater, most of the time you can simply rinse the suit out. If you’ve been in salt water, or chlorinated fresh water, or any water filled with a variety of organisms, wash it. It’s best to use wetsuit shampoo and conditioner, but an equivalent amount of baby shampoo is all right, too. Don’t use any other types of cleaners.
A good place to wash your wetsuit is in a bathtub. Use one cap full of the shampoo to five gallons of warm water. Once the water is in the tub, dunk the wetsuit in and let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Then hand wash every part gently. Be careful, because neoprene is susceptible to tears, either from pulling too hard, or from your fingernails.
Drain the tub and then rinse the wetsuit thoroughly with more fresh water to remove any excess shampoo and suds.
Drying Your Wetsuit
A wetsuit needs to be hung to dry. Whatever you do, do not leave it crumpled up on the ground. Also, don’t hang it on an outdoor clothes line as a drying wetsuit can take damage from the sun. Just because it gets sunlight when you swim, boat, or surf, that doesn’t mean it’s invincible against the sun’s rays. As with any fabric, sunlight can fade and damage neoprene.
Also, always hang the wetsuit inside-out. Use a wetsuit hanger, or at least a thick hanger, and let it dry overnight.
Dealing With Odors
We’re aware that when people are in the water for hours, especially in the ocean, they tend to pee in their wetsuits. Hey, we get it. A little urine’s not going to hurt the ocean. Unfortunately, doing so too much can degrade the neoprene and make your wetsuit smell bad.
Wetsuit shampoo and conditioner should get out most odors, you may still find your wetsuit has a funky smell after washing it. If so, after you’ve washed and rinsed it, fill the tub one more time and add two capfuls of McNett MiraZyme Odor Eliminator. Let it set for a few minutes, then remove the wetsuit without rinsing it and hang it up to dry.
Storing Your Wetsuit
Store your wetsuit in a cool, dry place, out of sunlight. This may be your closet, or it may be in a self storage unit, especially if you need to store it for a few months, like over the winter. If you do keep it in storage, we encourage you to get a unit with climate control. This will ensure the atmosphere will be safe for your wetsuit.
Either lay the wetsuit down flat, or hang it on a thick hanger. If you lay it flat, do not put anything on top of it. Also, do not fold the wetsuit, as this can damage the fabric.
Also, do not store your wetsuit around vehicles, such as in your garage. As fuel fumes can harm it.
You paid a lot for your wetsuit, so take good care of it, and it will continue to protect you.