Get More Out of Your Wetsuit

How to protect your rubber

| posted on February 27, 2012

Although its the quickest way to dry your suit for the next session, hanging it up in direct sunlight means a shorter life for your neoprene. Photo: Ellis

Next to buying a new board, investing in a fresh wetsuit is one of the most expensive purchases a surfer will make in a given year. With most new suits retailing above $300, you want your investment to last. We rang up Joanne Huebner of Froghouse Surfshop in Newport Beach for advice on extending the life of your rubber. With more than 20 years of experience repairing neoprene, she knows how to get your suit through another winter.

Fit Matters: Having a comfortable suit that fits will not only make for a better session, but can also extend the life of your suit. “If your wetsuit doesn’t fit properly, you’re not only going to be uncomfortable, but you’re going to be slowly ruining your suit as well,” says Joanne. “If your suit is too small, you’re constantly stretching it out further than it should, putting tension on the seams and rubber that will lead to holes and tears.”

Dry it in the Shade: One of the absolute worst things you can do for your suit is to leave it in the sun. “It’ll dry out all of the rubber and shrink it up, which means you’re gonna start creating some holes and tears. Dry your suit out in the garage or in your shower, but never leave it to dry out in the sun.”

Don’t let it Rot: One of the quickest ways to shorten the life-expectancy of your suit is to wad it up and throw it in your trunk. Not only will your car smell like a gas station urinal the next time you get in, but if left soaking wet for too long, the rubber in the suit will begin to deteriorate. When you do hang your suit, don’t hang it wet over a hanger. “If your suit is soaking wet and you hang it on a regular small hanger, you’re actually stretching it out. The weight of the wet rubber will pull at the legs and stretch out the suit, creating tension at the shoulders that can lead to tears and holes. Drape your suit over something wide so there’s no tension pulling at any part of the suit.”

Desalinate: The salt from the ocean can be one of the biggest factors in killing your suit. After each session, wash it off in fresh water, inside and out. “I’ve seen a lot of people bring in their suits and you can tell that they’re not washing it all the way off and only doing it halfway. You’ll see that the ankles and other places that they didn’t clean will start to tear.”

Kill the smell: If your suit’s grown a bit ripe and no amount of freshwater rinsing seems to do the trick, there’s still hope. Fill up your bathtub with warm water and add a splash of Woolite. “That seems to help out a lot if your suit gets too stinky,” adds Joanne. “But keep in mind one of the worst things you can do is to throw it in the washing machine. If you just soak it in the tub with Woolite, that’ll do the trick.”

Utilize The Warranty: Shit happens. Zippers break, seams tear, holes abound. Despite taking the utmost care for your suit, problems will inevitably arise. Fortunately, most good suits come with a warranty. Use it. “Most people that come to me for repairs come in with problems that could have been fixed with their warranty, but they waited too long,” says Joanne. “When you get a new wetsuit, take note of the seems, zippers, knee patches and leg holes. Most of the problems can be replaced by the company. Just save the warranty card and your receipt.”

  • aaron

    great post, thanks!

  • Dave

    What is woolite???

  • Skippy-K

    How do I take care of my wetsuit…?
    I absolutely positively never ever urinate in my wetsuit. Nope, not me….No way, dude, never, ever….oh, heavens no. Not in a gazillion years.

  • Andy

    wow. im bookmarking this page. thanks for the great info!

  • Mark

    Over the years wetsuits have got better and better and of course the prices have reflected this so a great artical. The sun is also one of the biggest killers it will kill the seems and crack the rubber..
    I have always just used fresh water and rinse my wetsuit well.. I have a few suits and in constant use they rarely get dry here in the UK!

  • Ryan

    @Skippy K how can you not pee in your suit? It’s the most natural thing ever…No harm at all.

  • JK

    I’m calling BS on the washing machine comment. Put your suit in the empty machine on cold water, delicate, NO DETERGENT. Keeps it clean and the light spin will help it dry faster. My suit still feels new and it’s 3 years old.

  • Hagop

    I was told by an O’Neill sales rep to be careful when taking your suit off not to dig your nails into the rubber…this can cause tears and rips, meaning that in the future when you take it on and off it could tear.

  • zeno malan

    Keep some talc handy for easy entry. Works best when the suit is dry. If you use an empty bread plastic bag your hand/arm slides right thru then pull off the plastic bag. Use it on your foot too, your foot/leg slides right in your wetsuit with ease.

  • Booty stank

    Get the oneil wetsuit cleaner. It works great. Removes any stink and keeps the suit soft

  • a man named beverly

    i talked to a couple reps from an underground surf company, they suggested to use a hairdryer on your wetsuit or put it next to a fire… seems to warm up the rubber fast. they told me that their team riders just open the hood and stretch the wetsuit around the engine when they drive home. better yet, i was told by a pro that wanted to remain anonymous that he just drops it in the dryer at home so he can” froth quicker for his next sesh bro…”

    word on the street is that rasta stretches his wetsuit over his kitchen range burners and leaves them all on low while he cooks “raw veggies on top of the wettie…..after a sesh on goldie…”

  • Judge #3

    What? You mean hanging my suit over my balcony in the sun so everyone can see it is bad? Who would of thought, you kooks

  • Mike H

    Rinse in the shower, a tub or bucket and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Castile Soap…Worked since the 70’s. It is 100% organic, biodegradable, vegetable based liquid soap. It has no detergents so it wont harm the oils that keep your suit from drying out. That is what makes them wear out, tear and take on water faster. Plus the Tea Tree because of its antimicrobial properties and the Peppermint get rid of that funky smell on YOU and your suit!

  • stu

    if you can’t figure out a wetsuit, quit surfing.

  • Wyatt

    HOLD THE PHONE – I should utilize the warranty?!???!!
    Next you’re gonna tell me I should wear it in cold water.

  • jeff

    any thoughts on best methods to dry out booties? The woolite soak works well for me.

  • Jason

    A good way to get that smell out of your wetsuit is to throw it away and move to the equator.

  • Don Serafano

    When I get home, I rinse my suit in the swimming pool – inside and out, hang it over a wood bench and let it dry in the shade. No smell and lasts

  • Lombowski

    when your wetsuit is dry on the outside turn it inside out and dry the other side.

  • c5

    For booties and hard to put on wetsuits, try some armour all. Helps preserve the rubber too!

  • rob weekes

    if you take a shit in your wetsuit you should rinse it out or it may start to smell,,i find washing it in a mild detergent best,but you can bleach it if you like.

  • CT

    Try using Biokleen Bac-Out while rinsing with fresh water. Uses natural enzymes and citrus extracts to get rid of odors. Plus it won’t make your eyes melt and kill off your fish dinner after it washes down the drain into your local break.

  • oli

    wetsuits have gotten more comfy and pricey over the years—–and they are also way less durable. I baby my “modern” expensive wetsuit doing all the things advised above and I am lucky if they last a year, many barely make it through a season (and i don’t even use it half the year in the warmer months). I cannot utilize warranties as I live on an island with no dealers and paying to ship it both ways is costly when there is no guarantee the company will repair it (i did this once, and by the time it arrived the warranty had expired and they said too bad). By contrast, my old wetsuits (from over ten years ago) lasted me years. In fact I still have a ten year old suit that I use everytime my new suits fail–the 10 yr old has lots of patches but it still keeps me warm, the new ones just fall apart and disinegrate.

    If you start with a bad quality product it ain’t gonna last long no matter what you do. All the big companies are peddling low quality, short lasting suits that are bad for your wallet and the environment.

    The new suits feel great for a month. But I’d prefer to something that keeps me warm for years instead of having to shell out dough for crap every season.

  • Friend of The $642 dollar man

    I pee freely in my wetsuit. Everyone does this. Just pull on the collar, let some ocean water in and “FLUSH” it out. No probs brah! Now shitting in my wetsuit… can you actually do that and be civilized? I don’t even want to know.

  • Chas

    I have not tried this yet but would imagine it would help, when soaking your wetsuit throw some Baking Soda in the water to get out smells. Anyone who says they don’t pee in there wetsuit is full of you know what! I have been surfing since 1963 and have never seen anyone paddle to the beach take off there wetsuit pee in the dunes and paddle back, out especially when the waves are cranking, so what does that tell you?

  • mike spangler

    I have invented The Slippy, a low resistance sock that helps you get into a wetsuit. The Slippy keeps the integrity of the ankles & wrists as it eliminates tugging, pulling and those frustrating and exhausting pre-surf rituals.

  • Devon Gary

    Great tips! As a newbie these will help me avoid damaging my new wetsuit . Thanks.

  • Luis Antero

    Helpful tips.

  • ravit


  • Martin ‘Flea’ Phillips

    hi I have a lot of salt on my suit , I have washed it several times inside and out with fresh water using a big container . after giving a good kneed I then leave it for an hour to let the sand and salt settle to the bottom of the container .then I let suit dry , each time there is sand and salt at the bottom of the container , but the suit is still covered with deposits of salt . I need it to be almost perfect for repair . Is there a way of desolving the salt ?

    • SDsurfer

      Vinegar is pretty good as dissolving hard water minerals and salt.

      • Martin ‘Flea’ Phillips

        Vinegar is good at dissolving , but would the acidity damage the neoprene ?

  • Grego

    all true…add disinfectent mouthwash to the woolite for better smell results…rinse well my friends…and warranty works well-go thru the surf shop of purchase if possible as they usually will have a free loaner for you.

  • polck

    I do all does things but my wetsuits keep getting fucked and I have to buy a new one each winter

  • Igor Goni

    Mouthwash diluted in water will kiss the stench on your booties!!!!

  • Torney