Stop the Stink - Sanitizing your Neoprene

Stop the Stink!  
Now that we're in wetsuit season this also means our equipment maintenance time has increased as well. After a class I have 2-8 pairs of booties to wash and dry as well as wetsuits. As a result I've become pretty good at cleaning gear and turning it around so the same gear is ready for the next class. Here's some easy tips to keep your neoprene gear from stinking up your car and/or home.  

Washing - 
After washing the sand off I place both my booties, gloves and (inside out) wetsuits in a plastic tub of cold water infused with either Dawn or Castile soap. I swish them around in the water then let them sit an hour or so. Some prefer wetsuit shampoos from McNett or similar products which have enzymes to further clean gear. I haven't found those particularly effective but others swear to those products.  

Rinse and Drip Dry the gear to get the soapy residue off in fresh water. Castile soap leaves a saltwater looking stain if you don't rinse it thoroughly. I then let my gear drip dry for about 1-2 hrs prior to adding heat (below). This speeds overall drying time. 

Drying - 
Wetsuits - After drip drying my wetsuits, I hang them on a shower rod in my downstairs bathroom. I then turn on
an oil based floor heater and let them sit overnight. Start drying wetsuits are inside out first, then reverse if you have time. There is a fan powered hanger product you can purchase which blows air into the suit while drying in a closet. These are great for travel. Clothes dryers will break the seams of your suit down thus causing leaks. If your seams are already broken down, then go for it, watching that the heat doesn't get too hot.  

Booties & Gloves - Since I usually need my gear the next day, I use the DryGuy forced air ski boot dryers. You can find these at REI and related stores that sell ski gear. The dryer (see pic) has four tubes which blow hot air into your booties and gloves drying the interiors within an hour. They have a product called the Octopus which has 6 tubes if you have a lot of gear. PEET has good dryers but they're just heat which takes longer to dry, sometimes overnight, whereas my DryGuy does the job in about an hour.  

Alternatively you can stuff newspaper or a rag into your booties to remove moisture. A cheap version of a bootie dryer is a blow dryer but don't leave it in the bootie as you may create another problem.  Some inventive friends are able to build a homemade bootie dyer from PVC tubing and then using a fan or blow dryer. I'd burn my house down if I went that route. :)  Thin 2-3mm booties can be turned inside out. Thicker winter booties 5-7mm require air or heat to be blown inside. 

Drying Gear on the Road - 
Hotels / Cabins - When surfing the coast or travelling elsewhere, I carry a portable electric heater with me to warm up hotel bathrooms. Some hotels have good fans and/or heat lights but many don't. I also carry an extra shower curtain rod as some hotel bathtub bars curve over the floor, thus would make it a wet mess trying to drip dry gear.  I also carry my DryGuy bootie dryer especially in winter. In the car, I carry all my gear in a Rubbermaid plastic tub with a cover to reduce odors. I'll carry the tub into the hotel room to keep dripping down and my gear together.  

Camping - Bring rope or use your tow line to drip dry your wetsuits. Some use clips on the line to hang booties or find a tree branch to hang those from. You can attempt to dry your suit with your campfire but beware of both melting or burning your neoprene as well as receiving a smokey odor. Drying gear in your car means a stinky car afterwards.  The thought of putting a wet wetsuit on sounds super cold, but once it's on and you're moving about you warm up quickly and forget about it.  

Tip: Putting on a wet wetsuit can be difficult as your hands and feet won't slide in easily. Instead put your foot and/or hand/arm into a plastic bag then stuff that into the suit. It'll slide right in!  

Storing Gear - To maintain that lovely clean and dry smell, I'll throw in a few cedar chips or blocks with my booties and gloves (inside booties). Wetsuits are hung by thick hangers in a closet (or for me on a clothing rack) in a well insulated room. Note even dry neoprene can stink up a closet or basement. On occasion air out the room to keep it smelling normal.  

Check out this link from NRS which has good info on gear drying. Click Here

Read More:
3 Bootie Drying Tips
Fixing Wetsuits
13 Things I Learned in my First Year as a SUP Business / Shanon Dell
Tips on Keeping your Wetsuit Free from the Stink

Any questions give me a holler. Feel free to leave comments or other tips
salmonbaypaddle@gmail.com / 206.465.7167 Check out our year round SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

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