Wetsuits have revolutionized our ability to engage with the underwater world. Whether you’re a surfer, diver, or watersports enthusiast, the wetsuit is a fundamental piece of gear. However, as crucial as it is for our aquatic adventures, many often overlook the importance of its proper care and storage.
A wetsuit is not just another piece of clothing; it’s an investment that can serve you for years if taken care of correctly. Proper storage is essential, not just for the wetsuit’s longevity but also for its performance.
A poorly stored wetsuit can lose its flexibility, develop a permanent crease, or even become home to mold and mildew. Let’s dive into how we can best store our wetsuits to ensure they remain in peak condition.
Cleaning Before Storing
Before even thinking of storing your wetsuit, cleaning it is the foremost step. Salt, chlorine, and even freshwater residues can degrade the neoprene, reducing the suit’s lifespan.
Freshwater Rinse: After every use, thoroughly rinse your wetsuit with cold or lukewarm freshwater. While tap water can often suffice, be mindful of areas with hard water, as the minerals can leave deposits on the wetsuit. In such cases, occasional distilled water rinses can be beneficial.
Specialized Wetsuit Shampoos and Detergents: Over time, body oils, lotions, and other residues can accumulate on your wetsuit. Regular soaps might harm the neoprene or not be effective. Instead, use specialized wetsuit shampoos or cleaners. They’re designed to be gentle on the neoprene while effectively removing contaminants.
Drying Techniques: Before storing, ensure your wetsuit is completely dry. Hang it inside-out in a shaded, well-ventilated area. Never use a direct heat source like a heater or hairdryer, as it can damage the neoprene. Drying it inside-out first helps prevent mold and mildew on the interior, which is often more susceptible due to accumulated sweat and body oils.
Proper Folding vs. Hanging
A common question that arises when thinking about wetsuit storage is whether to fold or hang. Each method has its merits and potential drawbacks.
Pros and Cons:
- Folding: It’s space-saving, especially for those with limited storage options. However, if not folded correctly, it can lead to permanent creases, which may reduce flexibility in those areas.
- Hanging: Ideal for maintaining the suit’s shape. However, using the wrong type of hanger or hanging for prolonged periods can lead to the wetsuit stretching out.
How to Fold a Wetsuit Correctly: If folding is your chosen method, lay the wetsuit flat on a clean surface, fold it in half so that the arms lay over each other, and then fold the legs up. Ensure that there are no sharp creases.
The Right Hangers: Regular wire or thin plastic hangers are a no-go. They can cause the wetsuit to stretch or develop pinch points. Instead, opt for wide, padded hangers designed specifically for wetsuits. If hanging for an extended period, periodically check to ensure there’s no stretching, especially in the shoulder area.
By understanding these fundamental care and storage steps, you can significantly increase the lifespan and performance of your wetsuit. Whether you’re folding or hanging, always ensure your suit is clean and dry.
Long-Term Storage Tips
When you’re not hitting the waves or diving into azure waters for prolonged periods, ensuring your wetsuit is stored correctly is crucial. This isn’t just about tossing it into a cupboard but considering factors that ensure its longevity.
Ideal Storage Environment
Temperature: A cool, dry place is optimal. Avoid extremes, as both hot and cold temperatures can adversely affect the neoprene. Ideally, store your wetsuit in an environment where the temperature ranges between 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C).
Humidity: High humidity can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew. A room with good ventilation or an area with a humidity level below 60% is ideal.
Light: UV rays can degrade and discolor the neoprene. Store your wetsuit away from direct sunlight.
Rolling vs. Hanging
Rolling: For those short on space, rolling can be an effective method. Lay your wetsuit flat, roll from the ankles upwards, ensuring there are no creases.
Hanging: If you have the luxury of space and the right hangers, this remains the most recommended method. Remember, wide, padded hangers are your best bet.
Periodic Checks and Maintenance: Even in storage, periodically inspect your wetsuit. Look for signs of wear, mold, or any other potential issues. This is also an opportunity to air it out.
What to Avoid
Even the best wetsuits can suffer if stored improperly. Here’s what you should steer clear of:
- Storing a Wet or Damp Wetsuit: This can’t be emphasized enough. A damp environment can lead to mold and mildew, not to mention unpleasant odors.
- Exposure to Direct Sunlight or Heat Sources: Prolonged exposure can cause the neoprene to lose its flexibility and become brittle. Moreover, UV rays can fade its color.
- Storing in Tight Spaces or Under Heavy Objects: This can lead to permanent creases, compromising the wetsuit’s flexibility and fit.
Additional Care and Maintenance Tips
Beyond storage, ongoing care ensures that your wetsuit remains in top-notch condition:
- Addressing Minor Repairs: Over time, small nicks or tears might occur. Address these promptly using wetsuit-specific adhesive to prevent them from expanding.
- Zipper Care: Zippers are often the first to go on a wetsuit. Ensure they’re free from sand and salt. Lubricate them occasionally with wetsuit-specific lubricants or beeswax to ensure smooth operation. Remember, a stuck or corroded zipper can render an otherwise fine wetsuit useless.
- Neoprene Treatment: Consider using neoprene conditioners. They can help maintain the wetsuit’s flexibility and provide a protective layer against elements.
Wetsuit Accessories Storage
Diving deeper (pun intended) into the world of scuba diving, freediving, or surfing, you’ll quickly realize that it isn’t just the wetsuit that requires attention. Wetsuit accessories like gloves, booties, and hoods also play a pivotal role in ensuring you have a comfortable experience in the water. Let’s delve into their care and storage:
- Gloves, Booties, and Hoods:
- Cleaning: Much like the main wetsuit, it’s crucial to rinse these accessories with freshwater after every use. For an added layer of cleanliness, consider using specialized cleaning agents.
- Drying: Turn them inside out to dry, then revert to their original form once the inside is dry. This ensures complete drying. Ensure they are not exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods.
- Storage: Once fully dried, store them in a cool, dry place. Consider hanging booties, ensuring air circulation inside.
- Special Considerations for Different Types of Materials:
- Neoprene accessories should be treated similarly to the main wetsuit. Ensure they are free from creases when stored.
- For accessories with thermal linings, make sure they are thoroughly dry both inside and out. The lining can often retain moisture longer than the external material.
- Accessories with rubberized surfaces or seals should be checked for wear and tear regularly, and these surfaces can benefit from periodic treatment with specialized products to maintain their elasticity and seal quality.
Your wetsuit, along with its accompanying accessories, stands as a barrier between you and the often harsh aquatic environment. It’s not merely a piece of attire but an investment in your passion, whether that be surfing, diving, or any other water-based activity. Proper storage isn’t just a chore but an acknowledgment of its service. By dedicating time to its care, you not only prolong the life of your gear but also ensure that it performs at its best, dive after dive, wave after wave.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I store my wetsuit in a sealed bag?
It’s not recommended. Storing in a sealed bag, especially if the wetsuit isn’t completely dry, can lead to mold and mildew. Always store in a well-ventilated area.
How often should I lubricate the zipper?
A good rule of thumb is to lubricate the zipper every few months or if you notice it starting to catch or become difficult to move.
Can I use regular detergent to clean my wetsuit?
It’s best to use a specialized wetsuit shampoo or cleaner. Regular detergents can degrade the neoprene and affect the wetsuit’s flexibility and lifespan.