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How Long Do Triathlon Wetsuits Last?

   August 23rd, 2018   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

Getting down to the Nitty-Gritty: How Long Do Triathlon Wetsuits Last?

Are you a fiscally responsible adult who also happens to be a swimmer? Are you trying to justify a wetsuit purchase? You may be trying to convince yourself “this is a good, responsible purchase”.  Amidst this convincing, you have questions looming (either originating from yourself AND/OR your significant other). Is it worth it? Will I use it? Will this help further my training? The simple answer to all of these questions is “yes.”  An investment in a wetsuit is well worth the “splurge” as it will not only advance your training (being able to swim in lower temperatures, adding buoyancy to your swim, increasing your speed while swimming) it will also prove to be a long-lasting investment (pending you taking proper care of it). There are few “rules” that I like to abide by, to assist with prolonging the life of the wetsuit (thus, increasing the chance of my wife giving me the “go-ahead” look when I begin listing the pros of purchasing a new wetsuit). I’m going to help you out by giving you a list of these “rules.” You’re welcome, by the way.

How long do triathlon wetsuits last? Follow these simple steps and you’ll find that it’ll last you a long time.

  1. After EACH AND EVERY use (whether it be a quick dip in the lake or an Ironman distance swim) –  rinse. the. suit. Regardless of water you just swam in (fresh, salt, brackish), rinse it out. I always use the simplest of waters, the easiest to come by: cold tap water from the hose in the backyard of my house. Why not hot water? While some may argue that hot water cleans better, but for your wetsuit it will do more harm than good. Hot water will affect the elasticity that makes up the neoprene. That will eventually damage bonding/sealing agents at the seams. And that will lead to the wetsuit material becoming brittle. You don’t want a brittle wetsuit. So, rinse with cold water.

    how long do triathlon wetsuits last

    Photo courtesy of blueseventy.

  2. Once the suit is wet (whether it is due to swimming in it or you cleaning it), allow your wetsuit to DRY COMPLETELY. Always! I find it’s best to dry the suit inside out. By being inside out, it will allow the permeable material on the inside to dry thoroughly before storing the suit until the next use. Do not leave the suit out in the sun; the sun’s rays can damage the suit by drying it “hard.” If this happens, the suit will lose its flexibility. You’re thinking now “well, I was planning on draping the suit over the tailgate of my truck.” Don’t. That is not a good idea. Now you’re thinking “But Adam, I’m registered for a 70.3 tri and there’s a 100% chance that my suit will be out in the sun/exposed to these harmful rays for hours. What do you expect me to do then?” What would Adam do? Adam would say “Life happens.  And having prolonged sun exposure every now and then isn’t going to break it. Just don’t make a habit of it when caring for the wetsuit.”
  3. When storing your suit between uses, hang it up. Not with one of those cheap metal wire hangers (that will also potentially lead to damage). Raid your closet or your significant other’s closet or your kid’s closet, and find yourself a nice and thick plastic hanger (you know, just throw your wife’s heavy winter coat on the floor of the closet and take that hanger and use it for your wetsuit. She won’t mind). Someone once mentioned to me in conversation that they use a nice plush/padded/lingerie hanger, as that adds a little extra layer of padding. Eh, I guess that’s a pretty neat idea, but, for me, I’m not a lingerie kind of guy so, my wife’s nice winter coat hanger it is! Just, whatever you do, DO NOT toss your wetsuit into the trunk of your vehicle and leave it there for safe keeping. That is not a good idea. There’s also this post on how to store a wetsuit.
  4. Folding your wetsuit. I have read that folding your wetsuit should be reserved for when traveling. Why not store it folded? That will lead to permanent wrinkles/indentations. The last thing you want is a wrinkly suit when showing up for a tri. Plus, it’s just not comfortable.
  5. Specific wetsuit detergent/cleaner like Easy Wetsuit Cleaner. Depending on how often you are actively using your wetsuit, it’s recommended to clean it with a wetsuit specific cleaner. With this being said, if you are using your suit multiple times a week, common sense says that you may want to clean your suit more than the person who swims in theirs just once a month. These specific cleaners prevent funky stuff from accumulating and your suit smelling funky. For those who pee while swimming/wearing their suit (you know who you are), you may want to clean your suit after each time this happens. I don’t think I need to explain why. DO NOT use bleach or similar harsh cleaners. Again, I don’t think I need to explain why – just stick to the specific wetsuit cleaners.
  6. Chlorine and your wetsuit are NOT friends. The chlorine, like bleach and other harsh chemicals, is simply not good for wetsuits. If you must jump into that chlorinated pool with your wetsuit, make sure you immediately rinse and dry it properly.
  7. Lube. Yep, I said “lube.” My friend that I’ve introduced to you before, Body Glide, is a wetsuit safe lubricant that is used to prevent chaffing. I’ve used it and see it used frequently to help with the process of getting the suit on and back off again. There are plenty of other lubricants and anti-chaffing lotions/gels/tonics; there are a lot out there, just make sure it is wetsuit safe. Generally speaking, a NON-petroleum based solution is normally a safe route to take. Me? I’ve just always stuck with Body Glide, since I always have it on-hand.
  8. Throwing your suit in the washing machine. I don’t care how “gentle” the cycle may be, but using a household appliance to clean your wetsuit will always be a BAD IDEA. Don’t throw it in the washer and DO NOT throw it in the dryer. I don’t care how much time you think it will save or how gentle you think it could be, but until your see a “wetsuit” setting on your washer and dryer, DO NOT assume it will safely clean it. Even if washers and dryers do eventually create such a setting, you will still find me hand cleaning mine.

And, that’s it. Following these simple guidelines will help prolong the longevity of your wetsuit. I currently have an Xterra Volt suit and it is currently ending its ninth year. I have strictly followed these rules and the suit looks just as good as it did when it was purchased. Like any other time-consuming routines, these guidelines can be a P.I.T.A. on days when your time is limited or when you’re too tired from a long day followed by a long workout. However, I promise you that the benefit (and peace of mind) of knowing that your wetsuit will be clean and swim-ready the next time you need it will far outweigh realizing that your wetsuit is smelly and potentially damaged. No one wants to invest in a wetsuit only to have to throw it away and invest in another well before you should need to.

Adam Himmelwright is a swimmer that started competing in triathlons as a way to get back into shape. In the 2009 Nations Triathlon, Adam swam the swim portion in a relay triathlon. That propelled him to competing solo. Eight years and numerous tri's later, he is living the triathlete lifestyle.

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