How to wash a wetsuit!

Jörg Matzdorff
Jörg Matzdorff

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You wash your clothes regularly after wearing them to get rid of bacteria, germs, odors, sweat, etc. The same is true for wetsuits. A wetsuit should be properly maintained if you regularly use it for surfing or diving sessions. It is important to clean it after wearing it in the water because skin oils, chemicals, salt and sweat can affect the neoprene and fabric lining. If you don’t pay attention, it can get damaged quickly due to wear and tear.

Follow our detailed guide to learn:

  • why your wetsuit might develop an unpleasant smell
  • how to wash wetsuit and drying it fast
  • what to take in consideration when you wash your wetsuit at home
  • how to prepare damage of your wetsuit

Why you should clean your wetsuit

Although you wear your wetsuit only in the water it is surprising to know that salt is neoprene’s worst enemy. Therefore it is necessary to start including the rinse of your wetsuit with fresh water to remove sand, dirt and salt in your diving routine. This makes your suit look like new and increases its durability. 

It is therefore important to wash your wetsuit each time you come out of the water and the wetsuit is still wet, to make it last longer. Letting the wetsuit drying to wash him afterwards can’t avoid the damage neither bad smell.

Note:

wetsuits will develop an unpleasant smell if not properly cleaned!

Yes, wetsuits will develop an unpleasant smell if not properly cleaned. Possible reasons for that could be odors, body oils, salt water, urine, sweat, etc. Like any other textil your wetsuit will absorb your body’s odors and everything around you. As neoprene is not a natural textile but a form of rubber it gets impregnated easily by the conditions around it.

Another reason for an unwanted smell could be not washing your wetsuit after using it. That’s why we created a detailed guide on how to prevent and thoroughly clean your wetsuit to get rid of the unpleasant odors without damaging it.

How often should I clean my wetsuit and how?

How often your wetsuit should be cleaned depends on the frequencies of your diving trips. Each time, when you step out of the water and peel your wetsuit off, there will be sand and other sea dirt. It is easy to just wash it out each time with water otherwise this are the substances causing bad smell in the long term.

But of course water does not provide a deep cleaning and that means that your wetsuit will with time develop a bad smell and retain dirt, which can not be rinsed out with pure water solely. A good rule is to wash your wetsuit with a specialized soap each second time you use it to make sure that it stays fresh.

Should I wash my wetsuit in a washing machine?

A big NO! This is because washing neoprene in hot water can reduce its flexibility. Like every sensitive tissue you will damage your wetsuit severely if you don’t treat it correctly. However, if you use your wetsuit regularly and you decide to replace it every year, you might consider using a washing machine at a very low temperature and the programm for sensitive tissues. After all, your suits aren’t going to last very long anyway. But if this is not the case avoid the washing machine as much as possible to keep your wetsuit flexible.

Can you use soap to wash the wetsuit?

Also, never use laundry detergent to wash your wetsuit because this soap is far too difficult to rinse off from a wetsuit. They are too strong to be used on neoprene materials. Use a bar of soap or other mild soap like a baby shampoo to clean your wetsuit. This is the most common type of cleaning agent to break down body oils and odors in an non aggressive way.

How do I get stains out of my wetsuits?

Wetsuits can be stained by many chemicals, including sunscreen, oil and gasoline in the water. Neoprene is a very durable material and should be handled with care. Never use bleach or other harsh chemicals to remove these stains. Neoprene should not be scrubbed with a hard brush as this may remove some of the material and make it brittle. If your wetsuit has a stain, apply organic wetsuit cleaners directly to the affected area and gently massage with a soft cloth or brush. 

How to dry your wetsuit fast?

You have washed your wetsuit but your next swimming trip is just a few hours away? Of course you should not put your wetsuit in the dryer. It is recommended that you dry your suit in the fresh air indoors or outdoors in warm, shaded areas.

Of course it can happen that you are already on the road. Please avoid drying your suit in the car, near a heater, with a hair dryer or in direct sunlight. The nitrogen molecules in wetsuits are broken down by sunlight and high temperatures, allowing water to seep through the neoprene and into the suit.

Instead, dry your wetsuit more quickly by following these 3 steps:

1. Hang your wetsuit up

You should thoroughly rinse your wetsuit after each session and hang it inside out on a sturdy hanger somewhere shaded after rinsing overnight. Always place a pillow or cloth between your suit and the hanger to prevent your suit from wrinkling or deforming.

2.  Squeeze 

After the first 15 minutes of drying, tighten your suit around the ankles and wrists to speed up the drying process. This will allow more water to drain out.

Repeat these steps 10 to 15 minutes later so that you wetsuit already starts to feel quite dry in your hand and no water dropping out.

3. Allow hanging for the night

To dry your wetsuit completely, hang it overnight in your garage or shower. If you have another surf session and would need a lot of time to dry your wetsuit, use the following approach:

  • Lay a towel out on the floor in a flat position.
  • Place your wetsuit on the towel and fold the towel’s extra edges under the wetsuit.
  • Roll the towel or wetsuit up securely, much like you would a sleeping bag.
  • Apply pressure as you squeeze water from your wetsuit onto the towel. It will mostly squeeze the water out of your wetsuit.
  • Hang and let air dry your wetsuit.

While drying your wetsuit using the above method, be cautious to avoid damage to your wetsuit. To ensure minimal smell, flip the wetsuit inside out and store it in a well-ventilated space. It is advised to wash your wetsuit every few weeks to maintain a fresh scent.

How to wash a wetsuit at home?

Following is the step-by-step process on how to clean a wetsuit at home when you have time to take care of it properly. This might take more time, but gives you the perfect of a clean and smooth wetsuit.

Rinse your wetsuit with water

Washing it in hot water or saltwater reduces damage to neoprene and shortens the lifespan of the wetsuit. Instead, use cold or lukewarm fresh water to wash your wetsuit. It is easier to remove sand, dirt, and salt when the wetsuit is soaking wet. 

Ensure that you rinse both inside and outside of the wetsuit to lengthen its life. Dunk your wetsuit in the water to remove accumulated dirt and sweat. As you dunk the wetsuit in and out of the water, focus on areas that might need extra care, like armpits.

Use organic cleaners (soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc.)

Hand Wash your wetsuit with shampoo to get rid of sweat, foul smell, body oils, fungus, etc. Apply lather to help the shampoo get inside the neoprene.

You can also try mild liquid soap and conditioner once in a while to remove substances that might destroy the neoprene rubber patches. As long as you treat the wetsuit gently it will cause no long term damage. However, stubborn scrubbing and scraping should always be avoided.

Use your bathtub

Add cool water to your bathtub, then add the necessary amount of shampoo and stir the water. After submerging your suit for 20 minutes, scrape it against itself to remove odors from pungent locations like the armpits. To get rid of all the soapy residue, rinse the wetsuit with cold water inside and out. Rinse your wetsuit to remove any remaining soap or shampoo.

Dry your wetsuit

Leave the wetsuit to dry inside out to get rid of odors to increase its durability. Dry the interior part first before hanging it. It means even if the wetsuit is 100% dry, it is handy for you the next time you want to put it.

If drying your wetsuit indoors: use a plastic heavy hanger or shower rod. Do not hang the top of the wetsuit by the neck or shoulders- instead, slide it through the hanger to fold in half towards the waist. 

If drying outdoors: to prevent the fabric from deteriorating due to sunlight, hang it in a shady spot. Once the wetsuit is a dry form inside, turn it right-side out. Allow it to dry completely to ensure a longer lifespan of the wetsuit.

Store your wetsuit

Keep your wetsuit in a room with a regulated (constant) temperature to preserve the fabric for the long term. Ensure that it is away from direct sunlight. The high temperatures might degrade the quality of the neoprene. Also, do not store it in a garage since car exhaust fumes might ruin the fabric. Carefully store your dry wet suit on a flat surface or hang it on a wide coat hanger in your closet.

Do’s while you are cleaning your wetsuit

  • Use a thick hanger while hanging the wetsuit. Do not swing it like a shirt. Never use a wire hanger because it is too harsh- otherwise, the shoulder area will stretch due to extra weight and could tear the fragile neoprene fabric.
  • For high elastic wetsuits- avoid using a hanger to hang the wetsuit from the shoulders.
  • Dry your wetsuit in a cool, moisture-free, and dark (shady) place having proper ventilation. 
  • Ensure that the wetsuit is dry inside and out. 
  • To preserve the SCS coating on the exterior of the wetsuit, apply a small amount of baby powder while storing it for a prolonged period. 

Don’ts while you are cleaning  your wetsuit

  • If there is excess soap or shampoo in the wetsuit, leave it. Do not scrub it, otherwise, it will corrode the neoprene fabric.
  • Neoprene and hot water are enemies. Always rinse your wetsuit in lukewarm or cold water. Neoprene loses some flexibility when soaked in water having high temperatures.
  • Keep the wetsuit away from direct sunlight. The harmful ultraviolet rays will degrade the quality of the fabric and cause the wetsuit to age faster. Also, they will reduce flexibility, make the wetsuit stiff, and prone to cracking much more quickly. 
  • You can dry them in the sun but ensure you do not leave them out for more than a few hours.
  • Keep your wetsuit out of a heated trunk- Putting your wetsuit in the trunk of your car after it has been parked in a hot spot is not a good idea. Your equipment will cook, producing more odors and microbial growth.
  • Never use the following to clean a wetsuit:
  • Stain remover
  • Olive oil
  • Jet fuel
  • Fabric softener
  • Do not iron your wetsuit neither  putting in the dryer
  • Never wash a wetsuit in a washing machine.
  • Do not fold your wetsuit during storage because that can lead to wrinkles and permanent creases. Also, it might deteriorate the quality of neoprene fabric.
  • Never roll or stuff your wetsuit into tight spaces or draws over long durations.
  • Keep your wetsuit up and out of the dirt or sand if you are performing a shore dive since it is uncomfortable to put on a sand-covered wetsuit. When you take off your wetsuit, stand anywhere other than the middle of the sand beach, like on a rock, the pavement, your changing bag, or the grass.

Cleaning a filthy wetsuit when you just forgot about it…

You forgot about your wetsuit? When you discover it you smell a very bad odor and he feels crusty and stiff? First thing you should do is to fill the ¼th of the bathtub with fresh cold water (not hot water).Then add a couple of tablespoons of mouthwash and laundry detergent (liquid soap) to the water to get bubbly water for soaking. Add warm water to the bucket to make it lukewarm.

Wash your wetsuit, and detergent will break down the odor. Rinse your wetsuit to get all the detergent off. Hang your wetsuit away from direct sunlight. And ready: your nasty wetsuit will be clean like new.  But don’t forget it each time, because over time it will become more difficult to restore it.

Conclusion: wash your wetsuit regularly 

Washing your wetsuit is necessary to remove sand, dirt, and foul smell and increase durability. You should neither clean your wetsuit in a washing machine or iron it nor ever use harsh cleaning agents to clean your wetsuit.

Avoid drying your wetsuit in direct sunlight. Instead hang your wetsuit on a thick plastic hanger to dry your wetsuit faster. The best way to wash your wetsuit will always be fresh lukewarm water and organic soap!

An expensive wetsuit is an investment that can last for years if you take proper care. It takes only an hour or two to maintain its characteristics, quality, and shape. For prolonged use, you need to clean and wash the wetsuit every time you use it

Jörg Matzdorff
Jörg Matzdorff

Outdoor and surfing enthusiast.

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