How To Clean A Smelly Wetsuit After Surfing

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 wash out wetsuit stink 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 wetsuit when you surf. When they do, they also contribute to the bad smell of your wetsuit.

How Can I Stop My Wetsuit From Smelling?

Before you know whether or not you can stop your wetsuit from smelling, you need to understand what makes it smell.

Neoprene is not a breathable material. This means it traps the sweat, urine, dirt and body oil inside. This can be made worse if you store a wetsuit in damp places without drying it.

Wetsuit smell can be stopped by a series of routine cleaning steps. First of all, rinse your wetsuit after each use. You want to rinse off both the inside and outside. Then hand it to dry in a shaded area. Do not leave it in direct sunlight.

Next, give old faithful a dedicated deep cleaning every so often. Once a month should do it, depending on how much you use it. If you are in the water every day, maybe every two weeks will work. The trick is to get in front on stink and the build-up of grime.

Do I Need To Rinse A Wetsuit?

Yes, always rinse your wetsuit with fresh water after daily use.

But we are going a step further with a deep clean. After washing your wetsuit with shampoo and cleaner, you should rinse it in clean, salt-free water to take off all the sand and salt.

How to Clean a Smelly Wetsuit after Surfing

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 or a big plastic bin with room temperature or cool water. Add a wetsuit soap and stir it into the water, 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.

What Is Wetsuit Cleaner Shampoo?

A good wetsuit cleaner is a gentle cleanser specially formulated to help clean your wetsuit without damaging the neoprene. Ideal wetsuit cleaner contains ingredients that are biodegradable, alcohol-free and gentle on your skin and on the neoprene. It has antibacterial chemical ingredients which safely removes bacteria and salt from your wetsuit after surf session.

Why Do You Need A Wetsuit Cleaner?

We already established that peeing in your wetsuit and not giving it a proper cleaning is wetsuit abuse, but let’s give a wee bit color (here comes the zinger) that is not yellow.

A wetsuit cleaner is uniquely designed to remove the salt, sand, bacteria and all the micro-organisms that come with daily activity of being in the ocean. It does this without damaging the neoprene used in making your wetsuit. No other detergent does this better than a wetsuit cleaner.

Additionally, a wetsuit cleaner is gentle on your skin. Other laundry detergents may react with the salty waters of the ocean and cause some skin irritation. This is the last thing you want as a surfer.

Get That Funk Out Of Your Wetsuit

Wetsuit Cleaner & Shampoos on Amazon

Photo Title Price Buy
Wetsuit Cleaner/Neoprene Cleaner...image Wetsuit Cleaner/Neoprene Cleaner | All Natural Wetsuit Shampoo & Conditioner Wash – Citrus Deodorizer – Eco/Reef Safe/Biodegradable/Made in USA $9.99
O'Neill Wetsuit Cleaner O'Neill Wetsuit Cleaner $15.95
Jaws Slosh Wetsuit...image Jaws Slosh Wetsuit Shampoo, 4 oz. $7.49
Sink The Stink...image Sink The Stink Wetsuit Shampoo 4oz $11.95
Seavenger Wetsuit Odor...image Seavenger Wetsuit Odor Remover for Neoprene $11.95

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. Too much sun will damage your wetsuit.

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.

What Not to Do With A Wetsuit

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 wetsuit last as long as possible.

Is It Okay To Pee In A Wetsuit?

Peeing in your wetsuit will help you stay warm if you need it. So, barring hypothermia, we encourage you to not pee in your wetsuit when surfing.

If really need to pee when you are surfing, and we mean, really need to pee, be sure to flush out your wetsuit with ocean water as soon as you finished so you aren’t literally sitting in your own waste.

You can flush your wetsuit out by jumping off your board so you are in water up to your neck, pulling the neck of the wetsuit out a bit, and moving vertically in the water so water enters the top of the wetsuit.

Can You Machine Wash A Wetsuit?

No. Never put your wetsuit into a washing machine. The machine will damage the fabric of the suit (the neoprene), meaning you will be shopping a new wetsuit to replace what was once a perfectly good wetsuit.

Instead of using the washing machine, clean your wetsuit by hand.

Can You Use Laundry Detergent To Wash A Wetsuit?

No, you should not use ordinary laundry detergent to wash your wetsuit. This may be a double jeopardy for both you and your wetsuit. The chemical ingredients in laundry detergent make it harsh on neoprene and to your skin as well.

Do Not Leave Your Wetsuit in the Sun

This bares repeating. The UV rays of the sun are not kind to wetsuits because they 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 big 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.

What Is the Best Way To Store Your Wetsuit?

Clean it, dry it, fold your wetsuit and put it away where it won’t snag on anything. A dedicated bag used to keep your wetsuit, towel, sunscreen and other surfing essentials goes a long way. Keep your wetsuit in a dry cool place. Avoid heat and humidity if you can.

Do Not Let Your Wetsuit 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 dry and 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 you leave a damp wetsuit in the trunk of your car, that can be even worse. Not only will your wetsuit smell bad, but the heat inside the car can loosen the glue of your wetsuit’s seams. If the glue is weakened, the suit will leak. Also, 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.