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How to Fix Wetsuit Tears, Wash a Wetsuit & Care Guide

Taking proper care of your wetsuit makes a difference in its performance and lifespan. Washing and drying your wetsuit regularly helps avoid things like premature wear and tear, mildew and less than pleasant body odors. Sweat and body oils get stuck in the neoprene and become a breeding ground for bacteria that in turn produce the bad smells. 

Avoid Punctures and Nicks

The first step to taking care of your wetsuit is knowing how to avoid things that can damage it. When putting on your wetsuit, avoid standing over hard or rough surfaces like sharp rocks as they can damage the neoprene. To avoid this, place a towel or board bag over the rough surface. While putting on or taking off you wetsuit be careful with rings, fingernails and watches as they can easily damage the neoprene.

See our How to Put on a Wetsuit Guide for more info on safely putting on and taking off your wetsuit.

Elements that Can Damage Your Wetsuit

  • Hot water can ruin neoprene, causing it to lose some of its flexibility.
  • Sun and UV rays cause neoprene wetsuits to age quickly. Dry your wetsuit in a shaded area when possible. Wetsuits in use are constantly being cooled by the water surrounding them, minimizing sun damage to the neoprene.
  • Aerosol spray or car exhaust will cause the neoprene to degrade.
  • Chlorinated water or salt water will break down the neoprene. This is why it is important to rinse your wetsuit with fresh water after use in chlorine or salt water.

How Wash & Clean Your Wetsuit

After use, it is extremely important to rinse your wetsuit out with fresh water. This can be as simple as spraying it down with the garden hose or taking it into the shower. It may be worth going the extra mile to hand wash with a mild non-detergent soap if you plan to store your wetsuit for any length of time. 
  1. Directly after use, rinse your wetsuit out with fresh water as soon as possible.
  2. Be sure to rinse your suit both inside and out.
  3. Hand wash with mild non-detergent soap as needed. Special wetsuit shampoos and conditioners are available, such as PISS OFF, Sink the Stink, and O'Neill Wetsuit Cleaner. Baby shampoo can also work to clean wetsuits.
  4. Hang dry. More information below.

How to Dry Your Wetsuit

Drying your wetsuit is about as simple as it sounds, but there are a few things to keep in mind in order to maximize its lifespan.
  1. After washing and rinsing your wetsuit, turn it inside-out to help retain the flexibility on the outside of the wetsuit. As an added bonus if the wetsuit is dried inside out then you will always crawl into the drier side.
  2. Hang to dry on a special wetsuit hanger/padded clothes hanger. The thicker the hanger the better. NEVER hang on a wire hanger as the metal will cause the neoprene to stiffen, crack, and degrade along the shoulders.
  3. Do NOT dry in the sun. UV rays can damage the neoprene, shortening the overall lifespan of the wetsuit. Tip: Try drying your wetsuit in a shower stall.

Storing Your Wetsuit

You spent all this money on a nice wetsuit. The least you can do it show it some love when it comes to putting it away. Avoid damp places like an old bag, trunk or a musty garage as they create bad odors and will reduce the lifespan.
  • Store your wetsuit on a flat surface or use a special wetsuit hanger (think thick).
  • Store your wetsuit in a clean, room temperature environment. 
  • Avoid wire hangers.
  • Avoid folding whenever possible to avoid creases and loss of insulating effectiveness.

Things to Avoid

  • Do not use bleach.
  • Do not iron your wetsuit.
  • Do not store in a hot car.
  • Be mindful of watches, rings or anything else that might catch the neoprene as you get in or out of your wetsuit.
  • Avoid putting petroleum jelly on your suit; it makes it slippery and the jelly is hard to remove.
  • Do not pee in your suit. Urine is a particularly hard smell to remove.

Wetsuit Washing & Care Tips

  • Lending your suit - It is fine to lend your suit to another rider for a day or two, but most experts discourage lending for longer periods of time. Wetsuits will stretch to fit the wearer, and your friend's body is most likely not exactly the same as yours.
  • Prolonging the life of your wetsuit’s zipper - Use beeswax or a zipper lubricant to keep them from snagging and tearing your suit. This will also lengthen the life of your zipper.
  • Surf wax on your neoprene wetsuit - Don’t worry about it. Surf wax will inevitably stick to your wetsuit; there is no simple way to remove it and more will just get stuck in its place.

How to Repair Wetsuit Tears and Rips

Inspect your wetsuit for rips and tears after each use. The rips and tears are much easier to fix when they are small, and will grow if they go unnoticed. Wetsuits can easily tear from things like fingernails and small rocks. Small tears (around 1-2 inches long) can be easily repaired at home. Tears bigger than a few inches may require professional repair services. If the stitches or seams are torn it may also be a good idea to take your suit to a professional for repairs.

  1. Before repairing your wetsuit make sure that it is clean and dry.
  2. Turn your wetsuit inside out.
  3. Clean the area around the rip with alcohol. Allow the alcohol to evaporate. Make sure there is no dirt, sand or wax around the ripped area. If the area is not cleaned properly the repair might not heal correctly.
  4. Open up the rip to reveal both sides of the tear.
  5. Apply a first coat of the adhesive to both surfaces. The glue can be applied with a short bristle brush or painter’s brush. Do not press the sides together.
  6. Let the glue dry for about 1 to 3 minutes (depending on room temperature and humidity), keeping the two sides apart. The glue normally looks glossy when it is wet and will appear matte when it is dry; it should feel slightly tacky and not stick to your finger.
  7. Once the first coat of glue is dry, apply a second coat of adhesive to both sides of the rip. Allow the second coat to dry for about 10 minutes.
  8. Firmly bring the two sides of the rip together, doing your best to keep the seam in a straight line.
  9. Use a weighted object to keep pressure on the tear while it dries and seals.
  10. Allow the repair to fully dry. The seal dries within 2 to 3 minutes, but the seal will form more fully if you allow it to dry for at least 6 hours. The best option would be to allow it to dry overnight to allow the strongest seal possible to form.
  11. Optional strengtheners: An optional addition to your seal would be to use your brush to paint a coat of adhesive over the ripped seam once it has been pressed back together. Coating both sides of the newly repaired rip with the adhesive will strengthen your bond. You can also glue a piece of neoprene or neoprene tape over your repaired seal. Coat the piece of neoprene/neoprene tape and coat the repair with adhesive; join the two together and let dry.
  12. If your wetsuit has a gouge, there are liquid fillers available for repair. These fillers are normally called liquid silicon or liquid rubber. Fill up the gouge with the liquid filler and let it dry.

Supplies You Need to Repair a Wetsuit

  • Repair Adhesive/Sealant/Neoprene Cement: there are brands of adhesive and sealant made specifically for wetsuit repairs, such as Neoprene Queen and Aquaseal. You can also buy a “puncture repair kit” from any bike store (the glue used to fix a bike tire inner tube is basically the same).
  • Small Brush (bristle or small artist’s brush)
  • Alcohol
  • Weighted Object
  • There are also wetsuit repair kits available that contain everything you will need.

This is evo. We are a ski, snowboard, wake, skate, bike, surf, camp, and clothing online retailer with physical stores in SeattlePortlandDenver, Salt Lake City, Whistler, and Snoqualmie Pass. Our goal is to provide you with great information to make both your purchase and upkeep easy.

evo also likes to travel to remote places across the globe in search of world-class powder turns, epic waves, or legendary mountain biking locations through evoTrip Adventure Travel Trips. Or, if you prefer to travel on your own, check out our ski & snowboard resort travel guides and mountain bike trail guides.


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