Why Does My Wetsuit Stink?!
If you've used a wetsuit before, you'll know there comes a time where you notice it stinks.
This is because it needs a proper clean.
Its common practice to go for a dive (or a surf) and afterwards rinse it in the bath or hose it off on the driveway each time. This is a good idea as it gets rid of the salt water, sand, and general excess grime each time. However every few weeks, depending on how often you use your suit, you'll start to notice your wetsuit smells vaguely like a dead seal, a wet dog, some kind of decaying hedgehog, or if like me and rinsed your suit in a river, it may smell like a rancid swamp. Now's a good idea to use something with a bit more oomph. Its also a good time to address some of the everyday products you use.
The stronger the smell of your wetsuit, the more bacteria, oils from your skin, chemicals and fragrances from whatever you've used to get it on, whether you pee in your suit, or the deodorant you wear... it all adds up eventually.
Not only does it smell- it is harboring bacteria and possibly fungus or yeasts that can cause skin irritation or even infection. And ladies- That's especially not great for you, in saying that, thrush is not fun for anyone involved.
I want to point out that I am talking particularly about Open Cell wetsuits below- closed cell suits need the same care, however there are some differences in how we use them in the first place ie getting them on requires a lubricant, which needs to be rinsed off too. Your choice of lubricant may determine how funky your suit gets.
Always rinse your suit in clean water after every use. Whether you do this in the bath, the shower, hose it outside, or fill your dive bag. Get it done.
Dry inside out, then turn it side out to keep drying. Don't leave it in the sun, ever. That includes in the boot of the car till tomorrow! A fine way to get a good bacterial brew. Neoprene left in the sun will deteriorate quickly by drying out, going brittle and therefore becoming less effective. It'd be a shame to ruin something you spent a fair chunk of money on unnecessarily.
Use a decent hanger, not a metal one!
Do Not- Use a washing machine. Use hot water. Use detergent every time. Or put your wetsuit in the dryer (I'm not joking!)
The Serious Clean
There's more than one way to do this and I'm keen to hear what others do so please feel free to comment. I will share here what I do and have been doing which works for me so far. I am however always looking for more natural cleaning options, and or ways to prevent the smell in the first place (see next section).
1-fill the bath with clean tepid (not hot or warm- tepid!) water adding half a cap of Dettol. This will kill any bacteria build up in the suit.
2- Leave for 30min to soak.
3- Drain bath and refill to swish and rinse. Then drain and rinse and swish again. I also use the hose or shower to really rinse any remaining Dettol solution away.
4- Thoroughly dry both inside the suit and outside. Preferably in fresh air, not in sun.
Having spoken to a lot of divers and surfers over the last few years, I have discovered the health and cleanliness of your skin in the first place is a very important factor to preventing the funk to set in.
Using detergents to get your suit on every time damages the skins acid mantle. The pH of your skin is very important to its protection. If you break it down, the balance is upset. This can cause irregular bacterial counts, and ongoing pH issues. Pimple& dermatitis alert! Same thing happens when using fragrances and surfactants. Ill write another blog post on this.
On the flip side- using oils like conditioners, or straight up oil- can clog the small bubbles in the neoprene, like it does pores of the skin, and create a layer of bacterial growth ripe for funk. Pimple alert!
I've noticed by using Octacle, which is water soluble, has no fragrance, no additives or strange chemicals in it, washes away completely, and doesn't upset the skin or build up on the suit.... It takes a heck of a long time for the suit to start smelling at all. Way longer than if I were using dishwashing liquid to get into it every time.
Happy skin happy suit.
Ideally a scupper is also key because as much as we all love a good pee in our wetsuits- that's not great for your skin or suit either.
If you are using Octacle Wetsuit Lube to get into and out of your suit, simply rinse your suit after use as above. There is no need to rinse off your skin, simply use a towel.
If it dries on your suit, your clothing or your skin, simply rinse off. It wont cause any damage, irritation or staining.
Now go and enjoy the water!