Why Do Wetsuits Smell? An In-Depth Guide

Why Do Wetsuits Smell? An In-Depth Guide

*This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

If you own a wetsuit, chances are it doesn’t smell too good. The unpleasant odor is a common problem, so you’re not alone.

This begs the question, why do wetsuits smell?

The wetsuit is constantly in contact with your body. Naturally, it’ll soak up some sweat and oil. You’re also diving in salt water among fish, reefs, and aquatic plants. In addition, neoprene is the main material of wetsuits, which absorbs all the odors. All of these factors are behind the unpleasant odor.

In this post, we’ll tell you all about the causes of a smelly wetsuit, how to avoid the odor, and how to clean your wetsuit. Let’s dive in!

Related articles:
Can I Wash My Wetsuit in the Washing Machine?
Can You Put a Wetsuit in the Dryer?
How to Clean a Wetsuit with Vinegar (A Step-by-Step Guide)

Why Does Your Wetsuit Smell?

The stench in your wetsuit is due to multiple reasons, including:


Neoprene is the primary material used in making wetsuits and diving gear. It has a pretty distinct chemical smell, especially if it’s newly manufactured.

If your wetsuit is fresh out of the box, the material might cause a weird smell. You don’t have to worry, though. Swimming with the wetsuit once is enough to get rid of the smell.

Still, if you can’t bear wearing the smelly wetsuit, air it out for a couple of hours. The smell should go away.

Body odor

Diving is a strenuous activity. Though you might not feel it, you sweat in the water. The sweat and oil seep into the wetsuit, contributing to the smell. The neoprene material of the wetsuit can also make you sweat more!

Further, divers spend hours underwater. So, it can be hard to hold in their pee! Being in cold water even drives you to pee more frequently. It’s only natural that over 90% of divers pee in their wetsuits.

Since neoprene isn’t breathable at all, there’s no way the wetsuit won’t absorb all the unpleasant odor.


Many divers assume that they don’t need to wash their wetsuits, as ocean water does the cleaning for them. However, the wetsuit contains a lot of trapped sweat, oil, and moisture. These elements won’t just wash away in the seawater.

To add, the salty water isn’t particularly clean either! It contains fish, plants, and lots of debris.

Storing the wetsuit after wearing it provides optimal breeding conditions for bacteria and mold. These organisms cause the wetsuit to smell even worse.

How to Keep Wetsuit from Smelling

Prevention is the best solution. Instead of thoroughly washing the wetsuit when it smells, you should prevent the bad odor in the first place.

Here are some methods that can help you avoid a smelly wetsuit:

Shower before wearing the wetsuit

You’ll inevitably sweat while diving. Still, you can prevent excessive body odor and sweat by showering beforehand.

This way, less oil, and sweat will get trapped in the neoprene wetsuit.

Keep your wetsuit clean

Divers can be quite careless with their wetsuits. Yet, wetsuits make an excellent home for germs and bacteria. Naturally, you’ll want to keep bacteria from getting in your suit.

Even if you can’t wait to get out of your wetsuit after a diving session, make sure you change in a clean area.

Avoid throwing the wetsuit on the sand, in the trunk of your car, or on the parking lot’s concrete! Instead, get a specific bag to keep your wetsuit in.

Rinse the wetsuit

You might think your wetsuit looks fresh and clean after you take it off. Well, you should rinse it anyway! Rinsing your wetsuit after diving is the best way to avoid the unpleasant smell.

You don’t need any cleaning supplies, though. Immediately after taking your wetsuit off, simply rinse it with fresh water. This way, no dirt will accumulate in your wetsuit, causing an unpleasant smell.

Air-dry the wetsuit

Avoid storing the wetsuit while it’s wet! You should let the wetsuit dry completely before tucking it away, whether you’ve washed it or not.

Ideally, you’ll want to air-dry the wetsuit. Air-drying eliminates all bacteria and gets rid of all the stuck saltwater and chlorine. It’s also the safest way to dry your wetsuit.

You should place the wetsuit in a sunny area, especially if you’ll be using it again soon. Some divers dry their suits on the shower curtain rod, but wetsuits take ages to dry in the bathroom’s humidity.

How to Properly Clean a Wetsuit

The above methods are sufficient to keep the wetsuit clean and odor-free. However, if you haven’t cleaned your wetsuit in a while, it might take more than a rinse to freshen it up again.

Follow these steps to easily clean your wetsuit:

Turn the wetsuit inside out

The inside of the wetsuit is where all the dirt and sweat accumulate. For this reason, you should turn the suit inside out, and unzip all the zippers. This way, you can get all the dirt out.

Additionally, the interior of the wetsuit is fairly easy to clean. It doesn’t contain any zippers or other designs that can get in the way of the cleaning process.

Wash the suit with warm water

The next step is to fill your tub with warm water. Then, add a wetsuit cleaner along with the wetsuit. If you don’t have a cleaner specific for wetsuits, you can use a small amount of dish soap or even shampoo.

Wetsuit cleaners can get rid of the most stubborn smells. They also keep your wetsuit in good shape. Our favorite cleaners include:

How to Deep Clean Your Wetsuit

Like most divers, you’ve probably stored your wetsuit over the winter, only to be greeted with the most horrid of smells when taking it out. In this case, your wetsuit might benefit from a thorough, deep clean.

All you need to do is make a cleaning solution. Mix white vinegar and baking soda to make a powerful cleaner that can get rid of the most pungent smells. You can also add a couple of drops of essential oil to combat the odor.

Then, soak the wetsuit in warm water with the mixture for about 15 minutes. Vigorously rinse it out two or three times. After all, you don’t want the suit to smell like vinegar! Lastly, dry your wetsuit as you normally would.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should you use hot water to wash a wetsuit?

Only wash and rinse your wetsuit using cold or warm water. Hot water can damage the neoprene, causing it to lose its flexibility.

Can you wash a wetsuit in a washing machine?

Putting your wetsuit in the washing machine can shorten its lifespan. The powerful spinning cycle of the washing machine might cause the wetsuit to puncture or lose its elasticity.

If there’s no other option, you can use the delicate setting on your washing machine, as there’s no spin cycle.

Alternatively, you should never put the wetsuit in a dryer. That’s because dryers subject the wetsuit to both heat and spinning.

Final Take

So, why do wetsuits smell?

There isn’t a solitary reason for your wetsuit’s unpleasant smell. The odor is a combination of salt water, sweat, oil, and even pee.

The stink becomes worse if you don’t rinse the wetsuit often. Bacteria might even grow in the wetsuit over time! For this reason, you should rinse the wetsuit immediately after taking it off. Additionally, make sure to dry it in a sunny area.

You can easily get rid of the smell by hand-washing the wetsuit. Ideally, you should use a wetsuit cleaner. Still, you can use shampoo, dish soap, baking soda, and vinegar.

Jack Thompson

Jack Thompson, a scuba diving enthusiast from San Diego, has spent over a decade exploring the underwater world across the globe. Sharing his passion through captivating stories and informative articles, Jack aims to inspire others to embark on their own scuba diving adventures and uncover the ocean's hidden treasures. Follow Jack on Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, and Facebook or email him at Jack@diving-info.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts