I was recently asked about wetsuit care and after my athlete explained that they had 'rinsed' it I a washing machine I thought that a guide might be a good idea..
So here is my DIY guide to taking care of your wetsuit and repairing any issues that you may have with it.
Step 1: Put away the duct tape.
When your swim cap rips, you buy a new one. Ditto for when your goggles start to leak. But your wetsuit cost hundreds of your hard-earned cash, so a quick replacement isn’t always an option. Taking good care of your wetsuit can keep it strong for years to come, but sometimes, things go wrong, and you need to figure out wetsuit repair. Tears happen, zippers get stuck, and funky odours emanate, causing us to take the do-it-yourself route to salvage our expensive suits.
Wetsuits are not cheap, so don’t try to repair them with lower quality substitutes. Fix your wetsuit properly and you can get years out of your investment.
Wetsuit Repair: Before You Get Started
When you damage your suit, it’s best to repair it right away. Each time you pull the suit on and off of you, you increase the chance of any tear expanding and getting worse.
It’s also a good idea to check with your wetsuit manufacturer to see if your suit is under warranty; many will work with loyal customers to repair or replace a damaged wetsuit for a low cost (some even fix suits for free).
If you do decide to take on the repair job yourself, always make sure the suit is completely dry before starting. Wetsuit repair materials are designed to be applied to dry neoprene, so lay the suit flat until completely dry before starting the repair process.
Wetsuit Repair: A Small Tear
For a tear of any size, resist the urge to sew up your suit: Using thread or floss to try and sew back a triathlon wetsuit is a bad idea. Because triathlon wetsuits are made with closed cell neoprene, it’s not going to hold the way it may in a surf or dive wetsuit. And its a big NO for duct tape: The tape is not flexible; it will restrict movement. It will also peel away and will leave behind the sticky adhesive that will make putting on your wetsuit that much more difficult.
So long as the damage is to the neoprene and doesn’t go through to puncture the liner, a small tear (like a fingernail tear) can be treated with specially designed glues like Black Witch. It’s essentially a rubber cement for wetsuits.
Wetsuit Repair: A Large Tear
If the damage to the suit goes all the way through to the liner, glue won’t be enough to mend the rip. A wetsuit patch kit, will provide some extra reinforcement to the neoprene, sealing the tear and keeping it from re-opening when stretched and hopefully eliminating the need for further wetsuit repair.
If you left your soaked wetsuit in your transition bag for days (or even weeks), the odour awaiting when you finally open it will be…ripe. And persistent. It should go without saying, but just in case: Don’t put your wetsuit in the washing machine. Ever. Instead, all cleaning should be done in a bathtub or large bucket.
For cleaning needs, a mild detergent specific for wetsuits should do the trick for removing salt residue and odours.
Ideally don’t store your wetsuit on a hanger. Think about how heavy that neoprene is, what happens to a jumper you hang on a hanger?” Dimpling on the shoulders and thinning of the material is one issue with no wetsuit repair solution, you can’t “take in” a wetsuit like you would a shirt at the tailor. If it’s already happened, it can’t be reversed. It’s best to store the suit folded up with the chest areas flat.
But Seriously, Don’t Damage Your Suit
The best wetsuit repair is to prevent it from getting damaged in the first place. My tips are:
Put your wetsuit on correctly
Turn the suit completely inside out, minus the very bottom of the legs and use the inside of the wetsuit to roll the suit onto your body. The liner is much more durable and tugging and grabbing it on the liner means no nail pokes on the outside of the suit
Handle with care
The higher the quality and flexibility of neoprene, something you want for maximum flexibility and range of motion, the easier it is to poke a nail into it. Small shifts in the material make a big difference in how it fits, so handle carefully.
If you follow these tips then you should get years of wear from your investment.