How To Wash an Open-Cell Wetsuit in 5 Minutes (or less)

Freediver in pool featured image.

Freediver floating in pool wearing open cell wet suit.

You should wash your open-cell wetsuit after every use. In fact, washing your wetsuit consistently can help it last longer and be more effective at keeping you safe and warm. So how do you properly wash an open-cell wetsuit?

Here’s how to wash an open-cell wetsuit:

1. Avoid putting your wetsuit in the washing machine.
2. Wash your wetsuit gently and avoid using harsh chemicals.
3. Use cold water in washing your wetsuit.
4. Dry your wetsuit completely.
5. Avoid direct sunlight when drying your wetsuit.

Let’s go into more detail about washing your open-cell wetsuit and discuss some common mistakes to avoid.

1. DON’T Put Your Wetsuit in the Washing Machine

There are so many ways to damage your open-cell wetsuit while attempting to clean it. Putting your wetsuit in the washing machine can be a big risk, as most wetsuits are made of neoprene which famously doesn’t do well in washing machines.

So unless you want to replace your wetsuit very often, just stick to soaking rather than washing.

2. Wash Your Wetsuit Gently and Avoid Using Harsh Chemicals

The key to not damaging your wetsuit is to do everything gently. Using a gentle cleaning method will ensure that your wetsuit lasts for a long time and remains effective. Avoid harsh products that may damage your wetsuit, like ordinary detergent.

It’s always best to stick with this Wetsuit Shampoo from, but if you don’t have any available, then dish soap will also help. The benefit of using this shampoo is that your suit will retain its colors due to the gentle ingredients. You can also use this on booties, fishing gloves, and waders.

3. Use Cold Water when Washing Your Wetsuit

Rinsing your wetsuit before washing it is vital for keeping it clean and smell-free. Make sure to rinse it with cold water or lukewarm. Hot water can cause the suit to constrict and no longer be as flexible.

Not only would this make it more difficult to get your suit on, but it could also limit your mobility underwater.

Often, strange smells in your suit are caused by not washing enough or not drying it properly. We’ll talk about the risks of not washing your wetsuit enough a little later, but for now, let’s discuss the proper drying process.

4. Dry Your Wetsuit Completely

Whenever your suit is wet, it should be hung to dry fully before being put away. This will allow it to air out some of those smells.

You know when you forget to put clothes in the dryer, and they have that musty smell from being wet too long? The same thing happens to your wetsuit if it isn’t able to dry properly before being stored.

The best way to dry your wetsuit is to let it hang freely. A thin wire hanger is the most effective way to achieve this.

5. Avoid Direct Sunlight When Drying Your Wetsuit

If you choose to hang your wetsuit outside, make sure that it’s not in direct sunlight. UV rays from the sun can dry out your suit but not the way you want it to.

The sun will dry your suit material causing it to be less flexible, similar to washing it in hot water. UV rays can even go further than washing in hot water. Direct sunlight can even cause the wetsuit to crack, which makes it completely unusable.

What makes open-cell wetsuits even easier to damage is the open-cell aspect.

If not cared for properly, open-cell wetsuits can begin to fuse if it’s put away wet. So, fully drying your wetsuit is even more important with an open-cell wetsuit because it can so easily be damaged.

Freediver laying on back underwater, near surface of water wearing monofin.

Why You Should Wash Your Open-Cell Wetsuit Often

Not only will the smell of an unwashed wetsuit make you want to get rid of it, but there are other reasons to make sure you wash your wetsuit regularly.

Your wetsuit is not going to last as long as it could if you go a long time without washing it.

As discussed above, your wetsuit can smell pretty bad without proper cleaning and care. If you want to avoid this, then make sure you are washing your suit thoroughly with a gentle soap or wetsuit shampoo.

The shampoo will be more effective for removing smells because it’s made for that purpose.

Neoprene Wetsuits Can Break Down Quickly

Neoprene can really break down over time with extended use, which is why it’s recommended that you don’t put your suit in the washing machine.

But using your suit in water can also break down the suit over time, especially if you aren’t washing and drying it properly. It is going to come in contact with a lot of oils and substances that, over time, can break down the neoprene.

Body Oils Can Ruin Your Suit

Think about it. If you sweat in your suit, those are oils that the suit will absorb and start to smell.

Of course, the smell isn’t the only danger here. Those oils from your sweat and the salt in the water can cause the neoprene to break down and become less effective. This is just normal wear and tear on your suit, and it isn’t very damaging if you are washing your suit regularly and drying it properly.

Knowing those chemicals, oils, and salt can break down your suit, it’s vital to wash it often to prevent that from happening as quickly. If you plan on buying another suit each year, then it’s not something you need to worry about.

But if you want your investment to last, then consider washing it more often to keep its good quality for as long as you can.

How Often Should I Wash My Open-Cell Wetsuit to Ensure I Get The Most Out Of It?

You should wash your wetsuit once a week with regular use, but you need to rinse your wetsuit every time you use it to clean off those chemicals and oils. This should be enough to keep your suit clean, but if you notice it starts to smell bad, you may want to consider washing it more often.

Remember that washing your wetsuit more often than once a week will not damage it.

Once a week is a good judge of how often you should wash it, but if you feel like your suit needs to be washed more often, that’s okay. Make sure you’re washing it gently and drying it correctly, and you can wash it as much as you want.

Rinse With Cold Water After Every Use

The best way to make sure your wetsuit lasts throughout the week is to rinse it with cold water after using it to get it cleaner than it would be otherwise. Then, follow the above advice on how to properly dry your suit. A lot of the smell of suits comes from sweat and chemicals left after a swim, but it can also smell even worse due to lack of proper drying.

So, follow the above advice to clean your suit thoroughly and dry it properly to avoid these smells.

Final Thoughts

Washing an open-cell wetsuit can be overwhelming if you aren’t sure how to do it. Since they can be expensive, you want to make sure you aren’t damaging the material. Follow this guide to ensure you can keep the quality of your wetsuit for a long time.

Without following this advice, your wetsuit may only last a year or even less.

About the Author Gerrie van Niekerk - Apnealogy

Gerrie is a passionate Freediver, Spearfisher, Digital Marketer, and author for the Apnealogy website. Gerrie is an SSI Level 1 certified Freediver who loves geeking out about freediving and spearfishing gear and lives for his family and adventure.

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