Look after the gear that looks after you – Wetsuit Care

Unless you’re lucky enough to be sponsored, your wetsuits are expensive and, therefore, quite precious. And here at Dritek, we are passionate about looking after the equipment that looks after us. There’s loads of advice out there, but wetsuits have recently gone through a bit of an evolution, with the likes of Patagionia’s Yulex suits, and Xcel’s Thermoflex and UltrastretchO’Neill’s SupaSeams and Rip Curl’s Zip Free Wetsuits, and as wetsuits change, so should wetsuit care. So we wanted to give you an update on how to look after your wetsuit from two perspectives; ‘by the book’ and ‘at the very least’. If you can manage to get somewhere in between you’ll be doing yourself, your wetsuits and the environment a favour in the long run.

Taking off your wetsuit

By the book:

Take your suit off slowly and avoid over stretching. New materials are super-stretchy but they have their limits. Work it off your shoulders in small stages, avoiding pulling small areas with your fingers. Use your hand to slide under the fabric and ease it off gradually. Taking it off in a shower is ideal, as you can flush the suit with warm fresh water, which will separate your sticky suit from your clammy skin. Otherwise, just take your time and don’t be rough.

At the very least:

Don’t pull at it like you’re trying to escape from a straight-jacket. Remember how much you need it and how much it cost. Treat it with respect.

Cleaning your wetsuit

By the book:

If you’re using your wetsuit in the sea then strictly speaking you should soak it in warm water, for at least 30 minutes, to completely de-salinate the materials. Not hot water though, that can damage the suit and cold water works much slower. And then rinse it, inside and out, before you hang it up. If you’ve been using it in fresh water then you can probably get away with just rinsing it. Make sure the zips get a good rinse and that any velcro is clean.

At the very least:

Don’t leave it crumpled up in a bucket, still soaked in sea water and covered in sand. Give it a good rinse, inside and out, making sure it’s clean. And hang it somewhere sensible. You’ll be glad you did next time you need it.

Hanging your wetsuit

By the book:

Hang it by folding it over something smooth, somewhere the fresh air can get to it, or use a decent hanger designed to hang wetsuits, like the Dritek Hanger V2 (shameless plug!). Avoid hanging a wet wetsuit from the shoulders, as this will cause unnecessary stress on the fabric around the shoulders, or on anything rough that may cause small abrasions. And, avoid hanging wetsuits in direct sunlight. Sunlight is worse for wetsuits than salt water, and it will lose its elasticity and become more vulnerable to stretching and tearing.

At the very least:

Fold it over the fattest hanger you can find (not from the shoulders), and hang it somewhere it’ll get some fresh air, and you’ll be alright.

Maintaining your wetsuit

By the book:

Every now and then, you could soak or wash your wetsuit with a neoprene friendly detergent. This will kill any harmful bacteria that could damage the fabric and will keep it smelling fresh. We like the O’Neill Wetsuit Cleaner. Also, zips can be cleaned and lubricated with something like Typhoon Care 4 Zips to keep them fresh and running freely. If your velcro is looking a clogged with dirt or sand you should brush it or vacuum it, once it’s  dry.

At the very least:

Keep it clean and hung up in between uses. Wetsuit care shouldn’t be a chore, it should be a pleasure.

Storing your wetsuit

By the book:

If you’re not going to be using your suit for a while, clean it, let it dry completely and then store it somewhere indoors. Ideally in a vacuum storage bag. This will reduce it’s size, making it easier to store and prevent any mould or damp getting in.

At the very least:

Get it clean and dry, and put it somewhere out of the way. Job done.

Repairing your wetsuit

By the book:

Minor damage can be treated quickly and easily with a wetsuit repair kit, like Octogoo from Gul. Anything more serious should be trusted to a professional wetsuit repair shop, like Bodyline. Wetsuit repairs are generally reasonably priced and will keep your suit going for at least another season or two.

At the very least:

Don’t let a little knick or a damaged seam turn into a gapping hole. Once you know it’s there get it fixed as soon as you can.

Disposing of your wetsuit

By the book:

If it’s still usable, give it to a charity specifically asking for used wetsuits, like The Wave Project. If it’s no longer usable then you can send it to manufacturers who use used neoprene as a material, like Suga, in the US. You can drop off wetsuits at collection points or send them by post, and they get turned into yoga and exercise mats. Or Neocombine, in France, who turn old wetsuits into cool accessories. And hopefully, thanks to Finisterre, who are funding a remanufacturing programme, we’ll soon be able to make new wetsuits from old wetsuits.

At the very least:

Don’t just send it to landfill. Chances are it might come in useful for small repair jobs or for making something useful. If you can’t find a use for it then someone you know might be able to.

For more information on wetsuit care check the label on your wetsuit or visit the manufacturers website for maintenance advice. Different materials require different care, so it’s probably worth checking. For more information on any of the products mentioned above please click the links which will take you to the relevant website sites. For more information about the Dritek Hanger V2, click the button below.

Photo by Oleg Mikhaylov.

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