My wetsuit is a key part of my open water swim and triathlon training and I absolutely love it. It keeps me warm and helps me feel faster and more buoyant in the water. Wetsuits are investment pieces and prolonging their life is essential to ensure continued enjoyment and value for money.
Here are my top tips for giving your wetsuit the TLC it deserves:
Choosing the right wetsuit fit
The right fit when purchasing your wetsuit will help increase the longevity as it reduces the strain on the seams and will feel ‘easier’ to get on too (but lets be realistic it is always a bit of a struggle getting a wetsuit on!) If your sizing is too snug, feels uncomfortably tight or is extremely difficult to get on- resulting in lots of pulling and squeezing- then it might not quite be the right fit.
Putting on your wetsuit
Nail puncture marks are one of the main forms of neoprene damage I’ve seen (and sadly experienced myself too). Even if your nails don’t feel long or sharp they can still be quite destructive. Always handle your wetsuit with the fleshy part of your finger tips and avoid the temptation to dig your nails in and wrench it on. I always wear a pair of white cotton gloves, some wetsuits do come with them, or alternatively you can buy a pair off the internet, they are similar to the ones worn for handling jewellery and give a good level of protection and grip. In theory any glove with a good level of dexterity should help, but avoid the slippery lycra style ones as they tend to not grip as well. And remember just because you’re wearing gloves doesn’t mean you can dig your nails in- still handle the wetsuit with your finger tips.
When easing the wetsuit on use a gentle/small pinching motion and take it small steps at a time. Avoid sudden harsh pulling of the wetsuit and work away from the cuffs on your ankles/wrists slowly moving the neoprene up each leg and arm. I also remove my Garmin to avoid catching this on the cuffs when pulling the wetsuit over my wrist.
Taking your wetsuit off
Luckily getting out of your wetsuit is much easier! Slide out of it and let it go inside out (don’t panic about putting it back the correct way). Lots of people step on theirs to get out of the legs- don’t be afraid to do this just be mindful on gravel as it can be sharp or sand as it gets everywhere!
Post swim care for your wetsuit
Always double check any caring instructions for your wetsuit. These are usually printed inside the wetsuit.
Ideally after use you want to rinse your wetsuit off as soon as possible, especially if you have been in the sea, however this isn’t always possible. My top tip is take a large sports bottle of water and give your wetsuit a quick ‘hose’ down. You can also invest in a net bag to transport your damp wetsuit home as this ensures the neoprene isn’t sat in water that might cause damage.
When rinsing your wetsuit open all zippers and ensure the wetsuit is inside out with the neoprene outer now on the inside of the wetsuit. Use cool or tepid fresh water, do not use hot water as this can cause the neoprene to lose some of it’s flexibility. I actually prefer to do a quick splash with some water from a sports bottle or hosepipe then rinse my wetsuit more thoroughly at home as I know the water is freshwater- some open water swim centres use water from their lakes or docks in their hosepipes which can sometimes be slightly brackish. Rinsing it at home means you can hang to dry immediately too.
Rinse both the inside and outside- focusing on flushing water down the arms and legs and targeting grime hotspots such as the neck, arm pits and crotch area. Do not use everyday cleaners, washing up liquids or detergents. If you frequently swim in saltwater, or you have used the wetsuit in an open air chlorine pool then I’d recommend investing in an everyday wetsuit cleaner.
To dry the wetsuit you can hang it on a THICK coat hanger (you may need to tape a few hangers together if you don’t have one thick enough) or I prefer to gently lay it across a clothes airer. Dry the wetsuit inside out first as this means you are less likely to put on a damp wetsuit the next time you swim. Once the inside has dried, turn the wetsuit the correct way and let the outer dry. Don’t leave the wetsuit to dry in the sun as this can damage the neoprene, instead dry in a cool/ breezy location or failing that I find hanging an airer in my bath works just fine. Just don’t scrunch the wetsuit up as this won’t dry.
When you rinse your wetsuit, also rinse everything that has been in the water including your goggles, swim hat and tow float (especially focus on the mouthpiece to inflate the tow float). This helps remove bacteria- let these dry before you put them away.
Never ever use a washing machine to clean your wetsuit!
Do I need to use wetsuit cleaner?
Whilst you need to rinse your wetsuit after every use, you don’t need to wash it with cleaner every time you wear it unless you wee in it! Wetsuits can become fairly grimy and stinky after a lot of use so washing them is recommended. Invest in a good quality wetsuit cleaner, for example P*ss off wetsuit cleaner or coco loco cleaner. Always follow the instructions on the cleaner with regards to amounts to be used. The typical process (although always check as there can be differences between brands) is to fill a bath with cold/tepid water. Submerge the inside out wetsuit and then knead the cleaner into the problem areas- usually armpits, neckline and cuffs and crotch. Then rinse and dry thoroughly as above.
How to store a wetsuit
The amount you are using your wetsuit dictates how you store it. At the moment mine is used so regularly that it basically comes off the dryer and goes back in the water with me. It is always recommended that you store a wetsuit in a cool dry place with a constant temperature if possible. Avoid storing your wetsuit in a shed or garage as the temperatures can fluctuate- especially in winter or on hot summer days. An ideal way to store your wetsuit would be to hand on a thick, padded hanger with a protector over it (think dry cleaning style protectors) or fold once at the waist and put into a box. Don’t store anything on top of the box as this will put pressure on the fold. Avoid screwing your wetsuit up for months on end.
Further wetsuit aftercare
Frequently check that your zippers are in working order and the neoprene has not become damaged- remember to check the back and areas like the armpits which come under a lot of strain. Also familiarise yourself with the warranty- for example Zone3 offers a 12 month warranty for defects.
About my wetsuit
I currently wear the Zone3 limited edition Aspire wetsuit, I love the bright back and different coloured cuffs. I’ve worn Zone3 since I first started open water swimming, I’m now lucky enough to be one of their ambassadors. I began three years ago with a Vision which is still going strong as I’ve cared for it the best I can. I also have a swim run wetsuit for swim-run events (and I sneakily use this on warmer days when I don’t want to swim skins).
For 15% off all Zone 3 products on their website (full priced ones only) follow this affiliate link to obtain a code and enter this at the checkout.
You might also like:
Credit: James Poole for Zone 3