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Scuba diving is a sport that requires a lot of expensive gear, including wetsuits. To protect your investment, it is essential that you properly clean and maintain your equipment to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Cleaning a wetsuit is a difficult chore because you have to wash and rinse it and then allow it to dry. If you have a wetsuit, you may be asking yourself – Can I wash my wetsuit in the washing machine?
While you can technically wash your wetsuit in a washing machine, you should avoid doing it to preserve its shape and color. It is better to hand wash a wetsuit with a mild detergent, rinse it thoroughly with tap water, and hang it inside out on a clothesline to air dry before storing it. If you elect to wash your wetsuit in the washing machine, use a cold water setting with a slow spin cycle with no detergent.
Let’s look closely at your options and what method is recommended for washing your wetsuit. Read on!
Why I Need to Wash My Wetsuit
Most wetsuits are made of neoprene foam that absorbs every liquid it comes in contact with during your dive. This includes saltwater, sand, sweat, and sometimes urine.
For this reason, you should wash your wetsuit immediately after diving. Letting it sit for too long will cause it to smell. Worse, if you dove in seawater, the material can get damaged due to salt crystals, mold, and mildew.
Read my article about why your wetsuit smells?
How to Wash My Wetsuit in the Washing Machine
Throwing your suit in the washing machine may not be a bad idea after all, now that we recognize the importance of washing it immediately. That’s particularly true if you don’t have the luxury of time.
However, there are a few things you need to remember if you decide to do so. Here are some precautions you need to follow:
1. Never Use Hot Water
Don’t make the mistake of using hot water for washing.
Maybe a familiar picture for you is people running to a hot shower with a wetsuit on. However, that’s not good practice.
Neoprene, the material used in most wetsuits, responds to heat by expanding. Frequent exposure to that will make your wetsuit lose flexibility and shorten its lifespan.
Hence, always set your washing machine at the lowest temperature possible.
2. Use a Low-Speed Spin Cycle
A faster spinning cycle can easily dislodge dirt, but it can ruin your wetsuit too. It can stretch and weaken the fabric along the way.
Instead, use a slow spin cycle that’d be just enough to remove unwanted dirt.
3. Don’t Use Detergent
Detergents are harsh chemicals that can easily damage neoprene.
Your best option is to use specially-formulated cleaning agents for wetsuits. This way, you can safely wash yours and avoid causing deterioration.
All the same, wetsuit shampoos aren’t always necessary.
4. Don’t Put Other Pieces of Clothing
You know what happens when you wash clothes in the washing machine. They get tangled all over each other.
That’s why you should never wash your wetsuit with other pieces of clothing. Otherwise, you’ll be putting it at risk of being stretched in different directions. As a result, your wetsuit may not return to its original shape.
Additionally, sharp clothing details can also scratch or puncture your wetsuit. This can compromise the integrity and may render the wetsuit useless underwater.
How to Hand Wash Your Wetsuit
Hand washing is a better option compared to cleaning in the washing machine.
This way, you can control the force applied to clean your wetsuit and minimize wear and tear.
It’s also a cost-effective method. Unlike with a washing machine, you’ll need less energy, if at all. You’ll save on water too while helping the environment in the process.
Even better, hand washing your wetsuit is easy to do. Most of the time, all you need is water to get it done.
On occasion, you can use a wetsuit shampoo to remove odors and buildups that can damage the neoprene.
That said, here’s your guide to hand-washing your wetsuit:
- Fill a tub with cold or lukewarm fresh water.
- You can also get a hose and rinse your suit with water.
- Put a small amount of wetsuit shampoo into the tub.
- Soak the wetsuit. You can leave it for 10 minutes or skip this step altogether.
- Build up a nice lather and gently clean the wetsuit exterior.
- Pay special attention to the zippers and seams.
- Reverse the suit slowly, then clean the insides.
- Thoroughly rinse the suit until free from soap residues.
How to Dry Your Wetsuit
After washing, you need to dry your wetsuit. This step is equally important in maintaining its functionality.
Here are some care tips you can follow:
1. Never Use a Dryer
Once you have your wetsuit in the washing machine, you may also wonder if you can use the dryer. Sadly, you can’t.
The heat and spinning motion can damage the fabric and destroy its flexibility.
2. Dry Wetsuit in a Shaded Area
Direct sunlight, similar to hot water, can ruin the neoprene fabric. So, practice hanging your wetsuit in a shaded area and allowing it to air dry.
Still, you can opt to place it indoors or outdoors, but avoid extreme heat at all times.
Using a fan is another option if you want to speed up the process.
3. Hang Wetsuit in an Inside-out Fashion
You’ll want to dry out the side of your suit that’s directly hugging you first.
Simply because you want to avoid mildew from forming on it. Additionally, you may need the suit sooner than you think, so you want to keep it as dry as possible.
Once the insides are completely dry, reverse your suit to dry the exterior.
4. Keep Wetsuit Balanced
Never hang your wetsuit as you would a T-shirt. This can do significant damage to the shoulder areas due to the weight they carry.
The best way to hang your suit is by balancing it in the waist area.
Moreover, make sure you hang it on an even and smooth surface to avoid punctures or scratches.
Wetsuits require immediate cleaning after use. This removes dirt, salt water, and sand that can damage the neoprene material.
That said, can I wash my wetsuit in the washing machine?
You can wash your suit in a washing machine provided you keep in mind the precautions we mentioned above. Additionally, it’s recommended only if you do it on occasion.
Still, the best way to clean your wetsuit is by hand washing. Doing so will preserve the flexibility of the neoprene fabric. In turn, this prolongs the lifespan of your wetsuit.