How To Wash A Wetsuit. Wetsuit Care and Questions.
I remember opening the trunk of my car, phew what is that funky smell? I thought I must have left a fish in the car from spearfishing yesterday.
I moved some tubs around in the trunk and had a good look. No forgotten fish, so what was the smell? Then I started to comprehend it wasn’t rotten sushi, it was my prized expensive wetsuit.
Wow, it smelt pretty bad and I felt awful I left it in the trunk on a hot day, still soaking wet.
It was then I realized, I better start taking care of my wetsuits and learn how to wash a wetsuit properly.
Wetsuit care is not just an afterthought, but I now take a bit more time.
I know it’s hard after a long day of scuba diving, spearfishing or snorkelling. You feel so relaxed, but worn out and the last thing you want to do is wash it.
But it will be worth it for a little bit of time. Make it part of your routine.
So how do we take care of it? Here are some tips on how to look after your wetsuit.
How to wash a wetsuit and take care of it. The big picture.
Here are the big steps on how to wash and look after your wetsuit:
- The pre- rinse. If you can’t wash it properly at the dive site or location, give it a wipe and pre-rinse first. Don’t’ forget about it and leave it in the wet bucket or tub.
- The proper wash. Back at home, a good soak in clean fresh water. Check the zips.
- The wetsuit shampoo. Every so often, give the wetsuit a good wetsuit shampoo and wash in a plastic tub or bathtub.
- Dry it out. Make sure it is dry both inside and out, before putting it away. Hang it over a smooth rail. Or fold it in half on a proper wetsuit hanger to drip dry.
- Storage. Use a proper wide hanger to store it, so it doesn’t crease or damage it. Don’t squash it up in the cupboard.
- Inspection. Check it now and then to make sure it is not damp and it is fresh.
Here is how to wash a wetsuit with a bit more detail.
Here is some finer points and steps to take care of your wetsuit.
The first thing I do when I exit the water is give the wetsuit a quick wipe with my hand.
A gently karate chop style and brush. I try and get rid of the excess sand, fish scales, sea weed and other weird items that shouldn’t be clinging on my suit. (You might even have a soft half brush in the car to wipe the sand of it.)
If I have access to a beach shower, or hose, I will quickly get under it and give myself and the suit a rinse. I take the wetsuit off under it and wash the wetsuit inside and out.
(On a big dive boat, if they have water. Ask what are the procedures and rules about rinsing the dive equipment and wetsuit off. Be mindful of water use.)
Also some of these showers don’t use freshwater, but might pump the sea water. But this is okay for a quick pre-rinse to get the excess stuff off.
If there are no hoses, showers on the beach or place, I normally have some water jugs in the car. I pour a bit over myself and get out of the wetsuit at the same time.
Tip – Having a few water containers in the vehicle is a good idea any way. As you are normally dehydrated after a long dive or free diving. So if it is clean water, it can double up for drinking water.
Still at the dive site, if the wetsuit is a bit dirty, I will pour some water in a plastic tub and give it more of a wash and a quick scrub with my hand. I pour the water out of the tub and then place the wetsuit back in it for the trip home.
I make sure I don’t put a heavy weight belt or the scuba tank on the wetsuit. Or put the tip of the speargun, dive knife or sharp fish spines near the wetsuit.
When I get back home, I hose it down with a gentle spray, both inside and out. Or rinse it well in the plastic tub. I double check the zippers and check they zip and down smoothly with no grit in them. (I also wash the scuba gear, or spearfishing equipment at the same time.)
After the wetsuit is washed and clean, I hang it in half on a wide hanger. Or place it over a wide round rail and dry it. Don’t place the wetsuit in the full sun, but in a shady spot.
Turn the wetsuit inside and out and make sure it is dry on both sides.
I then hang it up on a wide wetsuit hangar. I will take extra care the Velcro flaps are or closed over. Also making sure that it isn’t squashed up in the cupboard.
Now and then, depending how often I am free diving, spearfishing or scuba diving, I will give the wetsuit some love and wash it with some proper wetsuit shampoo. This really helps, giving it a fresh smell and feel.
There you have it, how to wash your wetsuit!
It sounds a lot of effort, but really only adds a few minutes to unpacking the wet gear, looking after it and storing it. In return the wetsuit should last a long time and perform better and it won’t smell like pee.
How to take care of your wetsuit.
Wetsuit care when diving.
Have an entry and exit plan when getting in and out of the water. Try to avoid rough areas and stay clear of the sharp rocks. It is easy to get pushed and pulled around in rough conditions and go onto the rocks and reefs.
When diving, try to avoid the sharp rocks and coral. I know, easier said than done. (Don’t you love sea urchins? I would love a dollar every time one has stuck it’s spine into me knee when diving and spearfishing in choppy waters.)
If spearfishing, avoid hanging fish with sharp spines of your weight belt. As they can easily puncture your suit. This is also a big safety concern as well in sharky waters. (I don’t think sharky, is a proper word, but fitted the occasion.) Hang your catch on the safety float, well away from you.
Be aware of sharp spines on lobsters and crayfish when handling them close to your wetsuit. These sea bugs are super strong and have sharp shells when thrashing about.
Be careful getting in and out of the boat. It is easy to get snagged on fishing gear and sharp edges on the boat.
When foraging for shellfish like; mussels, abalone, oysters, clams, etc., be careful with the sharp shellfish edges in your catch bag, near your wetsuit. It can tear your suit easily.
Especially walking back to the car after a tiring dive with all the dive equipment. It is easy to hold the catch bag close to you, or sling it over your back and the shellfish can rub your suit.
How to clean a smelly wetsuit?
Use dedicated neoprene wetsuit shampoo or cleaner to get rid of the smell.
Hang it out to dry. If it is still smelly, you might have to give it a few goes.
Try not to pee in your wetsuit as it isn’t good for the neoprene material.
Wetsuit shampoo alternatives?
I must admit I have used all sorts of non wetsuit shampoos and soap on my early wetsuits. In my defence this was a time before wetsuit shampoos and detergents were widely used or common place.
So the question is can I use a wetsuit shampoo alternative? Ideally, no…..maybe.
Normal soaps, shampoos etc., can be too harsh for your wetsuit to wash it in.
I have heard of surfers using mild baby type shampoos and they say it works fine. So maybe you can use a gentle type one, but I can’t say for sure if is best practice or not.
O’Neil, Rip Curl and the leading wetsuit brands all have some type of wetsuit cleaners, shampoos and detergents. Some scuba diving shops sell some good formulas that will help keep you wetsuit fresh.
Rip Curl even have a wetsuit neoprene detergent called PissOff! Don’t you love that name?
Because you don’t have to use a wetsuit shampoo every time you dip you toes in the water and you only use it now and then, it is probably a good idea to get a dedicated wetsuit detergent.
How to take care of the zip on the wetsuit?
Before storing it, check the zippers work smoothly.
Some people use a zip lube or beeswax formula. This not only helps the zipper open and close easily, but helps prevent the zippers from corroding.
Avoid common aerosol lubricants that might stain or damage your wetsuit.
What is the quickest way to wash a wetsuit?
The quickest way to wash the wetsuit is to it is to wash it while the wetsuit is still on you. If you have access to some water on a dive boat or beach, have a quick wash.
Rotate under the shower washing the excess salt off. If you have a zip or two piece, take it off under the water and give it a quick pre wash inside and out while you are taking it off.
Not great on a cold day, but at least your wetsuit is done.
I know of some divers who take stock photos of marine wildlife and fish. They have a water container in the back of the pick-up. The have a spray wand and little electric pump that they can use to hose of their gear after each dive.
This is great for them as it saves time. One partner will hose the other off, while they get out of the wetsuit.
Not only do they use the spray hose and pump to wash off their scuba diving gear and wetsuit, but also to rinse off their expensive camera gear.
Why should I wash my wetsuit?
It washes the salt of and keeps it cleaner.
This will help preserve the wetsuit longer and insulate better. Also it won’t feel like sandpaper on your skin and smell like a shaggy dog.
Storing the wetsuit.
Use a proper wide wetsuit hangar for storage, don’t use a coat hanger.
The thin wire, with a heavy wetsuit can cut into and damage it. At the very least it will leave a mark in the wetsuit.
Make sure the wetsuit is dry, inside and out before you put it away. Store it were it isn’t damp and can get mildew.
Keep an eye that the wetsuit is not stretching around the neck and shoulder area when hanging.
Beware of the little things when storing your wetsuit.
I stored one of my wetsuits in a tub in the garage for little while. Later on I got it out to use it and found a mouse had been using it for a home. Yuk, luckily he wasn’t in it too long and didn’t do much damage. But he did nibble on a bit of it. I would hate to think if I didn’t check it for a while. A proper wash and the wetsuit was good to go, luckily though.
The morale of the story is to be aware of creatures like rodents, spiders, and funny looking insects might make your suit home. Make sure the storage area is clean and check it often.
Can I leave my wetsuit in the sun?
UV sunlight can damage the wetsuit, so it is best to keep it out of the sun.
If you are snorkelling, scuba diving or spearfishing, you haven’t got much of a choice in the open. But deliberately leaving the wetsuit in the direct sun too dry will just damage it and make it feel like sandpaper.
How to wash a wetsuit in a washing machine???
No, it’s best not to use a washing machine for the wetsuit. The wetsuit material can be damaged easily.
A gently soak in the bathtub or a plastic tub with some wetsuit shampoo will normally do the trick.
If you do use a washing machine to wash the wetsuit in, make sure the setting is on gentle or low. I would check the cycle and make sure it isn’t too rough.
Hot water can damage the rubber, so it is best to use cold or luke warm water.
Don’t use normal washing powder as the chemicals can be harsh.
Never put the wetsuit in a dryer. It is too easy to overheat it, or forget about it and keep it in too long.
Should I wash my wetsuit, if I have only been diving in freshwater?
Yes, give it some TLC.
I know some of the freshwater places look pretty clear and clean, but some of them have very hard water. By that I mean lots of minerals and salts, from the rocks and earth in the water course.
Sometimes I have gotten out of the water and think the wetsuit isn’t dirty. Later on when it dries, it is caked on with mud. So still rinse it.
For diving in murky freshwater were the visibility sucks, it can really muddy up your suit. So wash the wetsuit thoroughly, regardless of freshwater or saltwater.
Conclusion – How to wash a wetsuit.
It doesn’t matter if you are scuba diving, spearfishing or snorkeling, wetsuit care and learning how to wash a wetsuit should be part of your routine.
Remember to not leave the soaking wet wetsuit in the trunk of the car. Wash it as soon as you can. Dry it in shade, not full sun and dry it on the inside and out.
Shampoo it now and then. Hang it on a wide hangar in a dry place.
For a few extra minutes and a bit of thought, taking care of your wetsuit should be second nature when packing up and putting your diving gear away.