Take Care of Your Wetsuit

A how-to for wetsuit maintenance, because rinsing alone just isn't enough

| posted on November 21, 2013
Photo: Burkard

Taking care of your neoprene should always be a priority, especially if you somehow find yourself in Iceland. Photo: Burkard

Wetsuits are so cool. We get to put on a superhero costume every time we paddle out at coldwater spots. Yes, surfing in boardshorts is undeniably better, but breaking in a new pair of boardies is nowhere near as satisfying as pulling on some soft, fresh rubber. At $400 a pop or more, good wetsuits are annoyingly expensive but worth every cent. Keep that new suit new for as long as possible by sacrificing a few minutes of your post-surf burrito time for some crucial wetsuit care. Proper, meticulous, obsessively over-the-top maintenance will not only prolong the useful life of your suit, it keeps it looking and feeling fresh a whole lot longer. Here’s a must-do list:

1) A thorough freshwater rinse. If you do nothing else, rinse your suit inside and out each and every time you use it, even if you’re planning a second session. Salt will destroy your suit faster than everything but direct sunlight. Save time by dousing yourself with a big jug of warm water after you get out of the water, but before you take your suit off, then when you get home rinse out the inside. Take the time to do this, every single time. Seriously.

2) Hang up your wetsuit properly. Not in the sun. Not draped over your car’s side mirror. Not slung over your balcony. And definitely not by the neck or shoulders; this will quickly stretch everything out. Take a plastic hanger, slide the top or bottom of the suit through, and hang it doubled-up, inside-out in the shower or the garage. Or somewhere in the shade if you absolutely must hang it outside.

3) Turn the suit inside out each day until it’s dry. So you’ve rinsed your suit out and hung it up inside-out like a responsible adult. Great. But if you don’t surf for a couple days, only the side of your suit facing outward will dry, leaving the other half marinating in a rubber-destroying moisture farm. Once the outward part of your suit is dry, flip it inside out again to dry the other side. This is a commonly overlooked routine that will greatly lengthen the life of your suit.

4) Use some wetsuit shampoo occasionally. No matter how thoroughly you rinse your suit, you’re going to miss some spots, letting salt collect in crevices where it will happily erode the warm, flexible, but infuriatingly fragile space-age neoprene that we spend all that money on. Fill up your wetsuit changing bucket with cool water and a few capfuls of whatever wetsuit cleaner you like, get it nice and sudsy, drop in your suit, then get your hands in there and knead the cleaner into the neoprene. Pay attention to the zipper too, you’ll want to keep that nice and clean and free of corrosion.

5) Banish the stink. Coffee before dawn patrol is mandatory. So is the automatic peeing that comes from downing all that caffeine. And coffee pee isn’t helping your suit smell any better at all. You can buy products like Mirazyme, specially made to flatten odors from bacteria and mildew in wetsuits, and add that to your wetusit shampoo regimen. Or you can use a little bit of Listerene instead. Works great.

6) Slow down when taking your suit off. Diagonal chest-zip suits are a godsend when it comes to sealing out water and improving comfort. But they are hell to take off. Trying to quicken the process by grabbing at any piece of rubber you can and ripping it from your body like an animal isn’t doing the neoprene any favors. Try not to use your thumbs when you’re pulling the top of the suit off. Don’t stand on one leg of your suit while trying to yank your foot out of the other. Especially not while grinding the suit into oily asphalt. Take it slow, apply pressure across a broad area when slinking out of the suit, and keep those seams happy.

Need a new suit? Find one in our 2013 Wetsuit Buyer’s Guide, online now.

  • nathaliek

    I can’t tell you how much grime a shampoo actually took out of my suit. I don’t use them all the time, but I definitely believe it’s a good practice — Definitely don’t think a bucket of water or a hose down is going to be enough to take out LA county water.

  • Tino

    But what about those old suits. suits that you keep in storage but dont want to get rid off or sell for some reason. I mean is there a special way to store them other than making sure they are hanging on a plastic hanger?

    • Kiteboarder

      Do a search for DIY wetsuit hanger made with one of those pool noodles. 😉 Works great!

  • Grady

    I’ve always found that a bath in water mixed with hair conditioner works wonders to keep the neoprene nice and supple. Any thoughts on this?

    • Derek

      Johnson’s baby shampoo & conditioner works great too, works on wetsuits, lycra, bodyboard fins, etc conditions & softens a lot of stuff. A local surf shop told me to try it, works great

  • Maryannimal

    This is why surfing the Great Lakes is awesome. No salt…but I do have to wear 7mm boots and the such during winter. And those 654s are a pain the ass to dry.

  • andywarr76

    Good tip, if your wetsuit is still wet before going surfing, stick one foot in a plastic bag and see how smoothly your foot goes through your wetsuit when getting changed into!

    • Murph

      keeping your socks on prior to throwing the rubber on can help as well.

      • luke

        using socks as a rubber is good too!

        • jock

          Using a plastic bag is good too!

          • jack

            or using a plastic bag helps as well

    • grifty

      Pantyhose work too…plus o so sexy.

  • Julien Cosson

    After a fresh rinse I throw mine in the dryer by itself for half hour, pull it inside out, then repeat. 30-40 degree heat does the trick every time

    • ScoobyDude

      whaaaaat? you crazy

  • David

    Don’t ever put it in the dryer!!!!!!

  • Esben Tipple

    The number one rule, regardless of what people may or may not tell you, is DO NOT pee in your wetsuit. For goodness’ sake, isn’t it obvious? Take it like a man/woman and either pinch up, or step onto land and find a suitable place to urinate.

    Having said that, I do appreciate the tips provided. Cheers!

    • ScoobyDude

      whhhhaaaaaaaat? you crazy too

    • james

      Yeah, right.

    • luke

      Fu&* not being able to pee in your wettie. This is an institution. In WA Mira shits in his wettie too…it’s called an aqua-turd!

    • Tim

      Yeah… make an 30+ minute round trip paddle to take a leak… Not all of us surf 2 foot shorebreak. Sometimes there’s no other option. As long as you clean it afterwards, pee won’t hurt your suit. It is gross though… I’ll admit that, but necessary if you want to surf longer than an hour on a good day.

    • Sick Cuttys

      “Number one” rule, heh heh, heh heh.

    • bythebayCK

      yo Esben….don’t be lazy. save your bladder. you REALLY don’t think anyone drops out and paddles in just to take a leak, do you? p*ssy.

  • ThxMom

    Fu$& off if u actually do all these things garrenteed you can’t do a proper top turn. It’s science , so either take care of the suit like a baby or do sick cuttys..

    • Urakook


      • Jock

        I also shampoo my wetsuit but advise adding a soft conditioner. That’s the best. I smell so nice in the water too…like a sweet smelling flower.


      when you grow up, leave your mommies house in la jolla and have to pay $400 for your own suit maybe you’ll rinse your gear instead of running down to the beach in your pampers or huggies dreaming of your “sick cuttys” brah!? GO IN.

    • luke

      I’ve shampooed and taken care of my wetsuits for 15 years. (Luke Egan)

  • Tom Wilkinson

    I just throw it on the line and use it the next day, can’t justify doing all that unless it won’t be used for a week or so

  • cleanSooke

    WTF does this mean? “hang it doubled-up, inside-out”. I get the inside out thing, but doubled up?

    • largemichael

      hang it from the waist basically so the arms and legs are at the bottom.

    • lev

      it means not by it’s neck or shouldres just by the thigh line…

    • notionless

      I took it to mean: fold it totally over the hanger … so that the legs and arms each hang down, waist of suit is the folded part touching the hanger

    • jock

      Get a second wetsuit and put it inside the first to create a ‘double up’ mate.
      Works well with cars too, like putting a Nissan Micra into the boot of a BMW 5 series, creates a ‘double up’ car.
      I once built a room in my house with walls made from cardboard. In the centre of that room I placed a cardboard box, a ‘double up’ mate innit.

  • ScoobyDude

    “Or somewhere in the shade if you absolutely must hang it outside.”….unless in the shower (which is often an awkward place to hang/dry it) where can you possibly dry it inside? shaded fence woks great, shaded stairs, shaded anywhere. SHADE.

    • cleanSooke

      For 40 yrs I’ve just hung them in my shower. My uncle uses the garage, although that was in California and here in Canada you’re looking at a frozen suit, not a dry one.

  • Parker

    Are you kidding me? Is this what your magazine has come to? How to take care of a wetsuit. Wow. Very insight full young writer you have on your staff. He’s really digging deep to produce some good content (I just vomited a little in my mouth). Keep catering to the kooks I guess, because that is where the numbers are, huh?

    • NSNY

      I’ve been surfing for four years, call me a newbie. I grew-up spending summers right next to the beach and eventually did a beach house next to one of the “official surf beaches of NJ”. I NEVER saw a woman surfing and since my family is the fishing and not surfing type, no one ever thought to share it with me. I assumed it was extremely difficult. (Hint: I’m a woman.) I’m thankful that my male friends introduced me to snowboarding in the 90’s. My point is that it seems like only jerky guys crack on people who are new to surfing. If anyone had thought to take me out a single time to surf, I would have been surfing my entire life. A lot of you had dads that introduced you to the sport or lived in or moved to a beach town where you saw men everywhere surfing. Lucky you! Have some consideration and be a good person and offer a tip or two to those of us who figured out on our own to discover surfing. Because the chances of most of the naysayers having discovered surfing if it wasn’t for someone you knew directly or repeatedly seeing guys in the water, never would have gone for it. There’s plenty of days that I’m the only female in the water with 10-80 guys. Most are not only unfriendly, they don’t even get out of the way when I catch a wave, they just sit there on their boards looking at the ocean. Talk about lack of etiquette, hypocrites.

    • Sam

      Bro. You’re sick…. You don’t need any helpful tips on how to clean a wetsuit. Remember one thing brah. Watch your lefts and rights. There be kooks in these waters…

  • tioghtiogh

    “Wetsuits are so cool.” You are so lame. I do not believe taking care of a wetsuit should be an article on a websites FOR surfers because surfers should already know how to take care of their suit(s).

    • cee

      Alot of surfers have never worn a wetsuit. Maybe they’re thinking about moving somewhere and are going to need to know.

  • Paolo Consolmagno

    Great…it’s very useful…thanks

  • samosa

    hard to take time taking the suit off when it is -10 and the wind is howling on the side of the highway.

  • luke

    i not sure what do with budgy-smuggler?

  • luke

    Take it slow, apply pressure across a broad area when slinking out of the suit, and keep those seams happy.
    You say do this but my girlfriend say I’m weirdo with protection. She says you not need wash franga with shampoo!

  • cleanSooke

    For the people ragging on having an article on how to take care of your suit…sure they could just read the instructions that came with the suit, and they “should know” how to take care of one, but….

    It used to be you learned to surf within a community, with the older/wiser ones not just hanging you by your leash and being told to go surf “over there” because you’re a kook still. They used to also show you things like the rules, taking care of your board/suits, how not to die/drown and protected you from the outsiders who came to surf your break.

    Times have changed, no longer do they not know that dropping in and shit like that is bad they don’t know anything else either. I don’t mind these articles, I just wish for every one of these, there was another on rules and etiquette.

    • TomHouse
    • NSNY

      Ironically where I surf, it’s the locals who lack etiquette and who don’t follow the rules. Even more fun, they sit there looking at waves instead of taking them and then don’t move when you catch it. So it seems that everyone could use a revisit to the rules.

      • grifty

        I saw that on Sunday when I went out. This woman was just sitting in a prime spot. Not paddling, not riding…just siting there.

  • Douglas Wren

    Try a Hanggoose, I’ve been using it for 2-3 years works awesome;

  • southernether

    “Don’t stand on one leg of your suit while trying to yank your foot out of the other. Especially not while grinding the suit into oily asphalt.” lol

  • flakoman

    i just put my suit into microwave for 1:30 !! et voila..!!

  • Santiago

    wetsuit shampoo? didnt know it existed

  • lisa

    I find it interesting that people would get pissy and offended at a helpful article on taking care of surf gear! Do what you want, but some people like this information..and taking extra care makes a difference. I got 3 winters out of my last 6mm suit, that’s CANADIAN 1C (33F) water winters..because I baby my suits and they last. I can’t afford 400$ every winter for a new suit! Good post, thanks!

  • No smelly suit here

    I always put my suit in my front load washer after every surf. It works great! I put it on a quick wash on cold with a bit of soap. It smells great and is effortless. Then I hang to dry. I know it sounds crazy but it works I used to get a couple seasons out of a suit now I get almost 4.

  • Dan

    I used to just rinse my wetsuit out in the bath tub, but now I also hang it over the electric radiator in my bedroom to really get it nice and dry. My wetsuits last for years these days!

  • Glide

    use a HangPro SlideHanger to hang your wetsuit from the waist

  • Beth Jackson

    Have you tried the moomba wetsuits? They are comfortable to wear, durable, made of high quality material and they are priced reasonably. You may find some choices here

  • grifty

    I’ve gone through a lot of wetsuits in my life..I generally only rinsed them. I usually just buy a new one every fall and sell the old one for 1/4 price.

  • bythebayCK

    i use a few drops of Dawn detergent and a cup of vinegar in a soak to wash away the odors – be sure to rinse it REALLY well and dry thoroughly inside and out. and my wetsuit is like new and my booties smell wonderful!!

  • brendans

    The worst part of the internet: reading snarky KNOW-IT-ALL put-down comments. You bitter little bitches got nuthin’ better to do?