How to Clean a Drysuit

The deep ripe stink of it wafts up from the depth of two seasons of throwing your suit into a pile of gear in the corner. This time, the stench catches you at the top of a wave looking down its face with a foam pile behind you. So distracting the smell that a capsize is the only solution to immediate relief. It’s time to wash the drysuit.

Washing a drysuit evokes two reactions from most paddlers. The first is fear of ruining a very expensive piece of gear. After the kayak, there usually isn’t anything as expensive as a drysuit. The second is the fear of having to wash something by hand. Both fears can be mitigated with the right knowledge.

Drysuit Machine Washing Procedure

So, the suit stinks. Time to wash. This is the easy part. Run to the laundry mat, find a front loading washing machine without a center agitator, unzip all the zippers, throw the suit in, add powdered mild detergent, set the machine for a gentle cycle, wait, and you’re done. You now have a nice clean drysuit. That was easy. Don’t use liquid detergents, because of the emulsifiers they typically contain, which might react with the fabric’s DWR. For the best results, head down to the local gear store and pick up some fancy outdoor fabric cleaner from Nikwax or ReviveX. By the way, don’t use bleach or fabric softener.

While the suit is wet, the next step can be completed. If during paddling, you’ve noticed that the water doesn’t bead up on the outside of the suit, it’s time to revive the DWR. Nikwax, 303, and ReviveX all make products designed to revive DWRs. Pick your product and spray it on. Hang the drysuit while you wait for it to dry.

Drysuit Zipper Maintenance

Once dry, take care of the zippers. They should be clean from the washing machine, but to make sure, treat them with a zipper cleaning product. Remember that the zippers are still open, so leave them that way while carrying out this step. Let that dry and then apply a zipper lubricant liberally to the zipper. If you haven’t been applying zipper lub often to your zippers now is the time to start. A well lubbed zipper is a dry zipper.

Drysuit Maintenance Between Uses

That’s it you’re done with the cleaning, but it’s not a bad idea to keep a couple of ideas in the front of your head after using your drysuit. These are a listed as a bunch of DOs and DON’Ts.

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  • Do rinse your suit after each use in nice fresh water.
  • Do wash off any sunblock that got on the latex.
  • Do store with all the zippers open.
  • Do dry completely before storage.
  • Don’t store in a hot or humid location
  • Don’t store with the latex gaskets in the sun.
  • Don’t store near gas (not even in the trunk of the car).

By cleaning your drysuit following these simple directions and by following these simple rules between usage, your suit shouldn’t develop the stink of death that you tend to always notice right in the middle of the most fun.