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How To Wash, Clean and Care for Your Wetsuit

how to care for your wetsuit

Adding some TLC to your wetsuit care routine will not only keep it fresh, clean and stink-free for longer, a little diligence will prolong your suit’s lifespan. For proper wetsuit maintenance, follow these easy cleaning and storage tips.

The Basics: How To Care for Your Wetsuit

After every session, follow these instructions on how to change out of, rinse and dry your wetsuit. This will not only give your wetsuit a longer life, but it will also keep it fresher.

  • Use a clean mat, towel or a plastic tub that’s big enough to stand in. When you change out of your suit, stand in the tub or on the mat so your suit doesn’t touch the ground. This keeps debris and harmful chemicals from getting on your wetsuit. The plastic bin will make it easy to get a good rinse.
  • Rinse your suit in cool fresh water as soon as possible, washing it thoroughly – inside and out.
  • With your suit inside out, hang it halfway through the middle of a clothes hanger. Don’t hang it from the neck or shoulders or they will stretch out.
  • Hang your wetsuit in a shady place, ideally with a breeze. Avoid direct sunlight as UV rays break down neoprene.
  • After a few hours – or when the outer side feels dry – flip your suit right side out and continue the drying process in the shade. Don’t leave your wetsuit outside overnight or it’ll be damp in the morning.
  • Once your suit is fully dry, store it on a wide-shoulder hanger until your next surf.

Washing Your Wetsuit

Freshwater rinses aren’t enough to keep the deterioration of saltwater at bay. Every month or so rinse thoroughly and immerse your suit in cold fresh water and add special neoprene soap/shampoo (available at any surf shop). Follow the instructions on the bottle, and do one final rinse to be safe. Gently squeeze out excess water and dry your suit as usual. Enjoy the wetsuit equivalent of fresh laundry.

Washing and Drying Your Wetsuit Booties

Like socks and shoes, wetsuit booties can be disproportionately stinky. The shape alone makes wetsuit booties tough to dry which can contribute to the smell. Smart drying can go a long way in increasing your booties’ lifespan and keeping them fresh. After a rinse, roll the tops of your booties down then hang them upside down so air can circulate. Consider washing your booties twice a month with neoprene soap.

How To Dry Your Wetsuit Quickly

wetsuits drying on clothesline

Skip the damp suit and use these tips to help your wetsuit dry faster:

  1. After rinsing in fresh water, hang your suit halfway through a wide hanger in a ventilated bathroom over a shower or tub.
  2. Gently squeeze the water out, starting in the shoulders, working your way toward the wrist openings.
  3. Repeat on the bottom half of the wetsuit.
  4. Wait 30 minutes then repeat the steps above.
  5. Once the suit feels dry, flip it right side out.
  6. Repeat the squeezing technique every 30 minutes until dry.

In the colder months, hang your suit to dry indoors in a well-ventilated space (a bathroom over a tub or shower is best). Wetsuits don’t dry quickly in cold or poorly ventilated areas like garages or basements. Hanging is the best option for wetsuits, but stands work great for booties and gloves. Squeeze out the water as you would your wetsuit, then place your booties on a mop or broom handle.

Storing Your Wetsuit

After Surfing

Once your suit is dry, always keep it indoors. Storing your suit in a garage can lead to dampness and car fumes can also damage neoprene.

For the Season

If you use different wetsuits for different seasons, some wetsuits will spend part of the year in storage. Make sure your wetsuit is completely dry before storing to avoid a moldy smell and store suits lying flat – without any creases or any weight on them.

The next best option is to hang a suit on a broad-shoulder, plastic hanger. Special wetsuit hangers are available. Never use a wire hanger. If you’re in a pinch, use a normal plastic hanger, cut a pool noodle in half and fit it over the hanger. Do not fold your wetsuit for long periods as the creases will damage the neoprene.

Always keep your wetsuit out of direct sunlight and store it at room temperature – sustained high temperatures can degrade the neoprene.

Following these steps will ensure your wetsuit keeps you warm for many seasons to come.

Don’t Tumble Dry Your Wetsuit (and Other Things To Avoid)

A quick note on what not to do:

  • Never tumble dry a wetsuit.
  • Never put your wetsuit in the washing machine.
  • Never use normal laundry detergent.
  • Do not dry your wetsuit in direct sunlight. This is a quick way to shorten the lifespan of your wetsuit as it will break down the neoprene.
  • Avoid folding your wetsuit, creases lead to cracks.

Finally, keep an eye out for sharp objects and snags, even fingernails can damage neoprene — wetsuits are tough but they aren’t suits of armor!

How Long Should Your Wetsuit Last For?

surfer wearing wetsuit running on the coast

Different factors determine how long a wetsuit will last, including how often you use it, storage, care and the type of neoprene it’s made from. If you follow these basic care steps, your wetsuit should last at least a year. With occasional use and attentive care, wetsuits can last up to five years.

Generally, the more flexible and high performance a suit is, the shorter its lifespan. No matter what type of suit you own, it will have a shelf life. If you use your wetsuit every day then it will wear out faster. And if you buy a wetsuit and leave it in the closet for years and bust it out for a winter session, you may find it’s shrunk. Neoprene that doesn’t see water for a long time can harden and become prone to cracking.

Discover Quiksilver Wetsuits.