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How To Clean A Neoprene Wetsuit

   July 16th, 2020   Posted In: Articles, How-To  

How To Clean A Neoprene Wetsuit

Keeping your wetsuit clean and storing it right will add years of life! Here’s how to clean a neoprene wetsuit:

Your Wetsuit is Gross

Even if you rinse it out every time you use it, your wetsuit needs to be cleaned with a wetsuit-specific cleaner just like your clothes. These cleaners will keep it bacteria and odor-free. Even if your suit doesn’t smell and you rinse it every time you use it, cleaner needs to penetrate the pores to help lift out the stuff you can’t see like access salt, dirt, sand, and other gross bodily stuff.

how to clean a neoprene wetsuitWhen you take your suit off, look at the ground you’re on. For most people, it’s a sidewalk or roadway where you trample your suit into the surface trying to peel it off your feet as it rolls around in filth. I may be getting a little extreme but I live in San Francisco, so God knows what is on the ground in our parking lots. I also don’t have a car so my gross, dirty suit goes into my backpack which is also loaded with sand.

Do This!

Put a towel or a mat down on the ground before you take your suit off. Anything will do. It may not seem like it adds all that much protection but it really does. You just don’t know what is on the ground and what bacteria or other creepy organisms will cling to your suit and start growing. For me, my mat gives me some extra peace of mind in the cleanliness department.

I do a good job of rinsing my suit out every time I get back for the beach. But for me, I like to thoroughly clean it every 2 to 3 weeks. That might sound extreme to you, but I am going into the ocean 3 to 4 times per week. I also bodyboard in the shore break and get pounded into the sand so my suit takes more abuse than most.

This picture to the right shows a great indicator of when I think a neoprene wetsuit needs to be cleaned. When you are putting it on and you can see salt and sand come up to the surface from inside the neoprene itself. Mine gets like this every 4 to 5 outings.

It Feels So Good!

You’ll love how your suit feels after you clean it. It feels fresh and almost like new. It goes on easier and fits better which is just one of the perks to cleaning it on a regular basis.

If you ask any surfer how to clean a neoprene wetsuit they all have their different tips and tricks. How to clean a neoprene wetsuit is actually pretty easy and everyone’s process is pretty similar. There are also tons of resources on the web that explain how to clean neoprene or how to clean a neoprene wetsuit which I have watched to develop the method that works for me.

how to clean neoprene wetsuitHow to Clean A Neoprene Wetsuit – Step by Step Instructions

#1: Rinse

Removing access to sand and dirt is the first step in how to clean a neoprene wetsuit. Rinse your suit thoroughly with a hose or in a shower. My only option living in my tiny apartment is my shower which works just fine. I am a fan of rinsing out both sides of the wetsuit to make sure it is as clean as possible before the washing starts.

#2: Get Your Wetsuit Cleaner Ready

Once your suit is rinsed out fill a large container or your bathtub with 6 to 8 inches of cool or lukewarm water. Add wetsuit cleaner to the water. It is best to use a wetsuit shampoo that is made by a reputable surf or outdoor company. I recommend these especially if you are using a very expensive, high-end wetsuit that has special liner materials that need extra special care.

If you are washing your suit very often using one of the professional cleaners every time can get expensive. You can also use a very gentle laundry detergent like Woolite to get the job done which is much cheaper. I have recently switched to Seventh Generation. Anything that uses mostly biobased materials should be good to go.

Don’t Do This!

Don’t use regular laundry soap or anything that is loaded with fragrances and chemicals. This can cause weird reactions with your skin while you are in the water. In extreme cases, they can become mild chemical burns that no one wants to endure. I would stay clear of anything that wasn’t mentioned above.

Finally, you don’t need very much detergent. I usually use a 3rd or a 4th of what you would use in a normal laundry load. Don’t over-do it. A full load of laundry takes 4 cap-fulls of what I use. I only use 3/4ths of one cap and it works fine.

#3: Let The Washing Begin

Turn your suit inside out, throw it into the water, and slosh it around. Kneed the water into the suit. Make sure you are getting water into the arm and leg holes so the outer side of your side gets washed as well.

Do this for 3 to 5 minutes and don’t be easy on it. Make sure the soap is getting fully absorbed and you are working the water into the suit.

#4: Soak

Let the wetsuit soak in the water for 5 to 15 minutes depending on how dirty your suit is. You will notice a lot of very fine sand has worked its way to the bottom of the container or bathtub you are using. All that sand and salt break down your suit little by little so removing it is necessary to make your suit last longer.

#5: Rinse

The final step in how to clean a neoprene wetsuit is to rinse it in cool water to remove excess detergent. Some people don’t like to rinse it off. I do. I don’t think it is a big deal either way but when I look at the water that my suit has been soaking in it is usually pretty brown. So I prefer to rinse that away before I hang it up.

how to clean neoprene wetsuitHang It The Right Way

When you hang your suit it is best not to hang the way you would traditionally hang something with a wetsuit hanger. As you can see it can pull on the shoulders. The weight of the soaking wetsuit pulls down very hard which can eventually warp and stretch the shape of your suit making it not fit as well.

You can buy a specialized wetsuit hanger that prevents pulling on the shoulders. I have also seen people tape several regular hangers together to increase the width to lessen the burden on the edges. Even then I feel like the suit is subject to some stretching.

Don’t Just Fold it Over

Some people choose to use a regular hanger and put their wetsuit through it at the waist so it is folded down the middle. This is a better option than a hanger because it allows your suit to dry faster but beware, that fold can also become a crease. It can create an unwanted bulge or pocket in your midsection that can fill up with water. Let’s avoid that.

Here’s What To Do

Use that same technique but with a towel on the hanger as well. This creates a nice rounded edge that will prevent any damage. This is actually a more efficient way for your suit to dry because the towel soaks up water as well. I usually just use the towel I dry off with at the beach because it isn’t soaking wet and I am going to wash it later anyway.

Another Thing Not To Do

It is not a good idea to put your suit in direct sunlight when you dry it out. Let it dry in a shady area that gets plenty of airflows. Direct sun can make the neoprene brittle which will make it deteriorate much faster.

After you let the inside portion dry flip it back to the correct position so that side can dry as well. If not, there is a chance that bacteria and mildew can build up especially if it is hanging up in a cool area. It is difficult for the area that is not exposed to dry out. Hang it up the same way, folded over with a new dry towel, and store it that way if you can as well.

I hope this gave you everything you need to know on the topic of how to clean your neoprene wetsuit safely and properly. If you do this every 4 to 6 uses your wetsuit should last 3 to 5 years if you use it as much as I do (3 to 4 times a week).

It is also great because when you get a new wetsuit yours is still in good enough shape that you can hand yours down to someone who needs one or even sell it for a little bit money toward your new suit.

And I can’t stress enough how nice it feels to put on a fresh, just-washed suit. Every time I put mine on after I wash it I am always glad I took the time to clean it out.

I hope this helped, keep shredding!

Wes Severson is a fitness enthusiast and bodyboarder from San Francisco, CA who is always at Ocean Beach hitting the waves. He is also an Emmy Award-winning broadcast news writer and producer and a recording artist who goes by the name Wes Magic.

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