Whether you’ve just purchased your first entry-level wetsuit or you’ve upgraded to a performance-enhancing top of the range suit. A wetsuit is an investment, and one you’ll want to take care of so it can see you through several seasons of open water swimming.

From washing your wetsuit to dealing with any small holes or cuts. Get some top tips for looking after your wetsuit.

Take care when putting on your wetsuit

Putting a wetsuit on properly can feel like an endurance sport in its own right. But it’s important to take your time and put your wetsuit on carefully to avoid damaging it. Yank it on quickly, and you’ll soon find it’s covered in finger nail cuts and holes.

Work systematically from the ankles up, using the pads of your fingers – rather than your finger nails – to gently pull the neoprene up a small amount at a time. Work your way up your legs until the wetsuit is pulled all the way up to your crotch before you start trying to put your arms into the suit. This will help you to avoid overstretching the materials.

How to wash your wetsuit

It’s important to rinse your wetsuit after every swim to get rid of salt water (if you’re sea swimming) which can damage the zip, and to rinse off any lingering lake water smells or hiding creepy crawlies.

Rinse the inside and the outside of your wetsuit in clean cold or lukewarm water after each swim. Turn it inside out and hang it up to dry. Use a wide clothes hanger or a wetsuit hanger to make sure the suit doesn’t stretch out at the shoulders.

Avoid putting your wetsuit in the washing machine – and you definitely don’t want to put it in the tumble dryer. It’s also important to dry it somewhere that’s not in direct sunlight, as UV rays can break down the neoprene. Once a month, you may want to submerge your wetsuit in cold water with a special wetsuit cleaning solution to give it a deeper clean. Just avoid any harsh chemicals that could damage your wetsuit.

Pick your wetsuit lube carefully

Plenty of swimmers use some form of lubricant on their neck when swimming in a wetsuit to avoid chafing when they breathe and sight. Triathletes also often use a lubricant on their elbows, wrists and ankles to make it easier to remove their wetsuit quickly in transition.

However it’s important to choose your lubricant carefully. Vaseline or other petroleum jelly products might seem like an obvious, and convenient, choice. However the petroleum in these lubricants can damage the neoprene on your wetsuit. Instead opt for a dedicated wetsuit lubricant such as BodyGlide, or use non-petroleum based products such as baby oil.

How to fix any cuts or holes in your wetsuit 

With the best will in the world, it’s likely that at some point you’ll accidentally get a nick or a cut in your wetsuit. But that doesn’t mean it’s game over – unless you’re looking for an excuse to treat yourself to a new wetsuit! Superficial cuts that haven’t torn through the inner lining aren’t much to worry about. Just use a wetsuit glue (such as Black Witch) to mend them and prevent the holes or cuts from getting any bigger.

Sumarpo victory triathlon wetsuit

Regularly inspect some of the ‘stress points’ on your suit – such as the armpits and the crotch – to identify any cuts or small tears and fix them before they get any bigger. If you do have more extensive damage to the suit such as torn seams or holes that are too big to mend with wetsuit glue, there are wetsuit repair specialists who can help.

It’s important to take action on any nicks, cuts and holes in your wetsuit as they can let excess water into the suit which will create drag and slow you down while you’re swimming.

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Jenny Lucas-Hill