How To Wash A Wetsuit

One of the first things that you'll find when learning to surf is wetsuits can smell terrible if they aren't taken care of the right way. Learn how you can knock out wetsuit funk so you can focus on learning to surf, not the nasty smell of your wetsuit.

Why Do Wetsuits Smell So Badly?

Although you might not want to hear this, the main reason your wetsuit smells is you! Don't take it personally. It happens to everyone.

There are a few common reasons your wetsuit can really stink:

Reason # 1: Your body naturally has sweat, oil and bacteria that get on the wetsuit's neoprene material. They can make it smell terrible! Bet you didn't know you could sweat in a wetsuit, did you?

Reason # 2: You pee in your wetsuit. If you pee in your wetsuit, it gets even smellier. There's almost nothing more grom than peeing in your wetsuit. It's best not to do that.

Reason # 3: The ocean is full of saltwater and algae that get on your suit. When they do, they also contribute to the bad smell of your wetsuit.

How to Clean a Smelly Wetsuit

For daily cleaning, after every use, rinse your wetsuit with clean water and let it dry. This will help keep odors under control. Be sure to rinse the inside, the outside and all of the nooks and crannies of the wetsuit if you're using a bucket or a hose.

When it's time to deep-clean your wetsuit, follow these steps:

  • Fill a bathtub with room temperature, warm — not hot — water. Add a specialty wetsuit soap, like one of the wetsuit cleaners reviewed here.
  • Soak the wetsuit in the tub for up to 20 minutes.
  • Rinse the wetsuit completely.
  • Let it air-dry. Be sure to flip your wetsuit inside and out to get both sides dry or you will create even more stink.
  • Make sure the wetsuit is completely dry before you put it away.

Give your wetsuit a good cleaning like this once every few weeks to keep the bad smell off your wetsuit.

Proper Wetsuit Drying Storage

It's always best to store your wetsuit flat. Spread it out in a place that is clean, dry and away from direct sunlight.

If you are unable to store it flat, you can use a hanger that is specifically designed for wetsuits. The right type of hanger has thick arms to fully support the material of the wetsuit. You don't need anything fancy. This thick plastic hanger designed to allow airflow does the job very well.

If you have access to an outside patio or yard, shade and a chair you can drape your wetsuit over the chair to let it dry outside. Just be sure to turn you wetsuit inside and out to dry both side. Also, be aware of how the sun moves across your patio or yard throughout the day so you don't end up leaving your wetsuit in the sun by mistake.

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What Not to Do

Now that you know what to do to care for your wetsuit, it's time to learn a few things that you should not do. Avoiding these wetsuit mistakes will help your suit last as long as possible.

Do Not Wash It in the Washer or Put It in the Dryer

Never ever, ever put your wetsuit into a washing machine. The machine can damage the fabric of the suit, meaning you will be shopping a new wetsuit. Instead of using the washing machine, always clean your wetsuit by hand.

Do Not Leave Your Wetsuit in the Sun

This bares repeating. The UV rays of the sun are not kind to wetsuits because they can damage and dry rot the neoprene material. When your suit spends too much time in the sun, it may start to feel dry or brittle. The wetsuit won't be as stretchy and flexible as it once was and one day, you may rip the wetsuit when trying to put it on. As you may have guessed, a wetsuit with a hole in it will not keep you as warm when you are surfing. Go figure.

If you happen to get a small rip in your wetsuit, O'Neill's Wetsuit Repair Cement can help make your wetsuit water tight again.

If you find yourself with proper hole in your wetsuit you may need a wetsuit repair kit like this bad boy. We've used it. It works.

Do Not Leave Your Wetsuit on a Hanger

You can place your wetsuit on a hanger to dry, but you should not leave it there no matter what type of hanger you use. Unless of course, you want to stretch out and weaken the shoulders of your wetsuit

Clean it. Dry it. Fold your wetsuit and put it away where it won't snag on anything. A cool bag like the one from Rareform used to keep your wetsuit, towel, sunscreen and other surfing essentials goes a long way.

Do Not Let It Sit Wet in a Bag

Using a good wetsuit bag, like one of these wetsuit bags/changing mats, to transport your wet wetsuit can help keep your car, your clean clothes and towel from getting wet and prevent them from smelling like your wetsuit. If you are busy after surfing, you might forget to remove your suit from the wetsuit bag. If you do that, you'll be in for a nasty surprise the next time you go to wear it. Bacteria multiply in a damp environment, and it can make your wetsuit smell awful and feel slick. If that sounds like your thing, good for you, but most surfers want to avoid that type of thing.

If you leave a damp suit in the trunk of your car, that can be even worse. Not only will your suit smell bad, but the heat inside the car can loosen the glue of your wetsuit's seams. If the glue is weakened, the suit won't work as well. And your car will smell like your gross wetsuit. A double whammy.

So, remember, if you take care of your wetsuit, your wetsuit will take care of you and provide you with lots of fun surf sessions.

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