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Wetsuit Care

Scuba Diving Wetsuit

Wetsuit Materials

There are several different types of materials used in wetsuits to achieve specific functions. It is helpful to better understand each of these materials in order to properly care for them.

  • Neoprene — Neoprene is the base material that virtually all wetsuits are made of. Neoprene is a type of rubber foam and is typically laminated with other materials depending on the desired function of the material.
  • Standard Nylon — A standard nylon outer lining is very durable against normal wear and tear. Normal care must be taken to prevent snagging, abrasion, and cuts.
  • Skin material — "skin" material may be used either inside our outside of your wetsuit and often around the wrists, ankles, and neck area. This material has a rubber like appearance either being smooth or textured, and is commonly referred to as "skin-in" or "skin-out". "Skin" neoprene material is typically used in areas where a water tight seal is desired or a benefit can be derived from it's water shedding properties. Some additional care is needed to prevent cutting, or abrasion of this material. Sharp fingernails may cut this material if care is not taken.
  • Thermo-skin — This material may be used inside of your wetsuit. Thermo-skin material has a silver-colored smooth skin type surface. This material has beneficial heat reflective properties and also provides a sealing surface similar to standard "skin" materials. Some additional care is needed to prevent cutting, or abrasion of this material. Sharp fingernails may cut this material if care is not taken.
  • X-Flex or Iso-Flex Neoprene — X-Flex and Iso-Flex neoprene are special materials designed specifically to have a much higher rate of stretch than conventional materials. Due primarily to the looser nit needed to achieve this high degree of stretch; these materials may be more prone to snagging. Velcro may also cause some light snagging and pilling of the material. Some additional care is needed to prevent excessive abrasion or snagging.

How To Prepare Your Wetsuit Before Use

With any of the skin surfaces including Thermo-skin, care should be taken when donning the wetsuit to not snag the interior skin surfaces with a fingernail or toenail as this material can be cut. Avoid placing your wetsuit on or near any hot surfaces.

If you're diving or snorkelling from a beach or the shore, keep your wetsuit up and away from the mud/sand. It's not so comfortable to pull on a sandy wetsuit!

See also, Wetsuit Donning Guide.

How To Care For Your Wetsuit During Use

The exterior surface of your wetsuit is designed to withstand the normal wear and tear you might encounter during a normal dive. Abrasion against sharp rocks or other sharp objects can cut or puncture the exterior nylon surface so reasonable care should be taken to avoid these situations. Small cuts or tears can be easily repaired with wetsuit glue. Ask your dive professional for assistance.

Wetsuit Care After the Dive

When removing your wetsuit, first unzip all the zippers completely. Then remove one section at a time taking care to avoid puncturing any of skin surface panels with a fingernail. Also, when you take off your wetsuit, stand on pavement, a rock, your changing bag, grass or anything besides the middle of the sandy beach.

How To Clean Your Wetsuit

  1. Salt water and especially chlorine can "dry out" the neoprene material. When neoprene material "dries out" it looses its flexibility. To ensure the wetsuit material retains its flexibility for a extended period of time, it's important to thoroughly soak and rinse the wetsuit.
  2. Soak the wetsuit in a tub of warm fresh water, not over 49°C (120°F), for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. After soaking, thoroughly hose off the wetsuit with fresh water
  4. Place the suit on a thick hanger with all the zippers open to ensure maximum air circulation and complete drying.

Do not use strong washing agents, such as bleach, when soaking your wetsuit. They are way too harsh for your neoprene wetsuit (not to mention the discoloration that will occur). There are some mild cleansing agents, such as Adrenalin Wetsuit and Gear Wash Concentrate, Gear Aid Revivex Wetsuit and Drysuit Shampoo, and Gear Aid Revivex Odour Eliminator, that you can purchase from . If these specialist products are not available, you can use a mild dish washing detergent.

Adrenalin Wetsuit and Gear Wash Concentrate - 250ml Adrenalin Wetsuit and Gear Wash Concentrate - 250ml
Our Price: $11
Removes mould, kills germs, deodorises and conditions wetsuit fabric. Regular use will prolong the life of your wetsuit.

How To Store Your Wetsuit

  1. Wetsuit material can develop a permanent crease if left folded for a extended period of time. It is best to store your wetsuit laying flat. If that is not possible, you can store your suit on a hanger. Use as thick a hanger as possible to better support the weight of the wetsuit. The thicker the suit, the heavier, and therefore the thicker your hanger should be. There are several after-market hangers available designed specifically for this purpose. We especially like the Underwater Kinetics Exposure Suit Hanger, but the Underwater Kinetics Super Wetsuit Hanger and the Apollo BCD/Scuba Gear Multi Hanger, are also popular choices.
  2. Store your wetsuit in a cool, dry and protected place out of direct sunlight.
  3. Do not store your wetsuit in garage if the garage is used to park a vehicle. The exhaust emissions from the vehicle can over time deteriorate the neoprene.

Underwater Kinetics Exposure Suit Hanger 5.0 Underwater Kinetics Exposure Suit Hanger 5.0
RRP: $63.50, Our Price: $57, You Save $6.50 (10%).
Huge Shoulder areas allow for natural air convection to flow throughout wetsuit and wick away moisture inside and out. Store your wetsuit as long as you like with NO harm from pressure points.

Wetsuit Zipper Care and Maintenance

Zippers are designed to be pulled closed or open in a straight line. Try to avoid pulling on the zipper pulls at an excessive angle to their intended path of travel. It is best to ask your dive buddy for zipper assistance in either opening or closing the back-zipper of a one piece back-zipped jumpsuit.

Gear Aid Zipper Cleaner and Lubricant (59ml) Gear Aid Zipper Cleaner and Lubricant (59ml)
Our Price: $15
Push-pull brush top enables the cleaner to be delivered between the teeth and physically removes harmful dirt, sand, and salt deposits that can damage sensitive zipper components.

Wetsuits And Chemicals/Solvents

  1. Avoid any contact with oil, gasoline, aerosols, or chemical solvents.
  2. Do not expose any part to aerosol spray, as some aerosol propellants attack or degrade rubber and plastic materials.
  3. Do not use any type of alcohol, solvent or petroleum based substances to clean or lubricate any part.
  4. Do not store your equipment near any oil, gasoline, chemicals, or solvents.

How to Get Rid of Wetsuit Smells and Odours

As we mentioned above, there are special cleaning soaps and solutions for getting rid of wetsuit odours. Our favourite is:
Gear Aid Revivex Odour Eliminator.
Other choices include:
Gear Aid Revivex Wetsuit and Drysuit Shampoo, and
Adrenalin Wetsuit and Gear Wash Concentrate.

Gear Aid Revivex Odour Eliminator (296ml) Gear Aid Revivex Odour Eliminator (296ml)
Our Price: $26
A powerful blend of microbes that quickly and easily eliminate odours, so your wetsuit smells fresh and clean again. Instead of covering up odours, naturally occurring microbes remove the bacteria that cause them.

If these products are not available to you for some reason, then here is our recipe for washing smelly wetsuits:

  • 1st: Fill the tub up a quarter of the way with fresh, warm (not hot) water.
  • 2nd: Add a couple tablespoons of dish washing detergent, just enough to get a dilute bubbly water bath for soaking.
    Note: Some people will use laundry detergent, but we think even that is too harsh for neoprene (and tougher to rinse off).
  • 3rd: Wash your wetsuit in the tub of soap and the detergent will break down the body oils and odours. In addition, it will help wash away the bacteria that caused the smell in the first place.
  • 4th: Rinse your wetsuit in fresh water in order to get all the detergent off. Then hang your wetsuit up to dry in the fresh air (away from direct sunlight).
  • 5th: Every few weeks, repeat this process to keep your wetsuit completely odour-free!

Repairing Open Cell Neoprene Wetsuits

An open cell wetsuit does not have an inner lining which means the rubbery neoprene goes right up against the skin. The porous nature of neoprene creates millions of tiny suction cups that stick to the skin making it impossible for water to get in. With gentle handling and lots of lubrication when doning, spearfishing and freediving open-cell neoprene suits can be a valued and lasting piece of equipment.

Since it is filled with air bubbles, neoprene is weak and tears very easily. Without an inner lining to give it added strength, the neoprene alone becomes very vulnerable to damage. Also, because of the suction-like properties on the inside of the wetsuit, an open cell wetsuit is much harder to put on compared to a closed cell suit which just slides on. Open cell suits require a lubricant to be put on before you slide it on your body. Without plenty of appropriate lubricant, you will not be able to put the wetsuit on without tearing it.

Divers inexperienced with open-cell neoprene suits often rip and tear the open-cell neoprene, usually with fingernails and toenails, when it is being donned and doffed. Even highly experienced divers can tear open-cell neoprene from time to time. Every time you pull the wetsuit on and off, any cut or tear that it may already have has an increased chance to expand and get worse. Avoid using the wetsuit once you notice any cut or tear.

Because it is so easy to cut the open-cell neoprene of your suit, you should always have some neoprene contact cement in your save-a-dive kit. Purchase some neoprene contact cement, and always follow the repair instructions exactly. There are no shortcuts.

Gear Aid Aquaseal + NEO Neoprene Contact Cement (44ml) Gear Aid Aquaseal + NEO Neoprene Contact Cement (44ml)
Our Price: $24
This is simply the best contact cement/glue designed for repairing open-cell neoprene suits. Wetsuit repair is simple and quick with Aquaseal NEO, previously known as McNett Seal Cement. This black flexible liquid adhesive is formulated to permanently bond with neoprene and other coated materials.

This no-mix open cell neoprene wetsuit glue creates a bond between the neoprene edges so strong that if pulled apart hard enough the neoprene will tear in a different place than the repaired area. This great glue really takes the worry out of tearing your open-cell wetsuit. Being black it matches the colour of open cell neoprene.

The dried glue is flexible so the joint remains flexible. Excess glue is easily rubbed off, and the joint can't be felt against the skin. The tube is convenient working size, and doesn't dry out. The fine nozzle allows direct precise application without a brush.

It's important to follow the repair instructions printed on the package exactly. One tube is good for many repairs over the course of years.

In general, the best open-cell wetsuit repair is to keep it from getting damaged in the first place. So, put your wetsuit on correctly, handle it with care, and never leave it in unsafe areas. As long as threats are surrounding it, such as nails, rocks, and reefs, your wetsuit may at one point get damaged.

If you have any specific enquiry about how to care for your dive gear, please feel free to contact The Scuba Doctor by email to diveshop@scubadoctor.com.au or by a telephone call to 03 5985 1700.

Need a new wetsuit? Take a look at the new wetsuits we have available in our dive shop.

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