How to Wash a Wetsuit + Best Cleaners, Shampoo & Soap

Wetsuits provide protection from the cold, the sun’s UV rays, stings from animals and many other aspects. With each use, you’ll need to clean them up. Cleaning them is quite easy since you just rinse them in water then dry them up.

You will, however, need to give the suit a thorough cleaning every once and again especially when it becomes smelly, stiff and greasy. For this one, you’ll need a more detailed procedure. This procedure is also quite easy and the focus of this article. The fact that you’ll be washing neoprene makes it a bit different from normal cloths.

This is a guide on how to clean a wetsuit the thorough way and what cleaners to use. The steps are broken down with details on what to avoid in order to preserve the integrity of your suit. Always know that neoprene can be damaged by some chemicals. Wetsuits don’t come that cheap so you’ll do well to avoid this.

Step by step Process of Washing

The steps to washing your wetsuit the thorough way are as follows:

1.     Prepare the Cleaning Supplies

First up, start with the supplies for the washing. You can use a bathtub, a large sink or basin as per your situation. Fill it with cool to slightly warm water since hot water destroys the neoprene in your wetsuit. Water from the tap at room temperature is enough for this routine.

Add the cleaner as per the instructions on the label. Make sure that it can be used with wetsuits or neoprene materials in general. Neoprene has similar properties to most types of rubber. As such, if the cleaner can’t be used with rubber materials, don’t use it.

2.     Prepare the Wetsuit

Start by opening all locks and zippers on your wetsuit. You should then turn it inside out so that you thoroughly wash the parts that come into contact with the skin. It is this part of the suit that will develop a greasy feel and funny odors if not washed well.


3.     Wash the Wetsuit

Submerge the whole wetsuit in the bathtub or other container you chose upon then give it about 20 minutes. Knead the suit with your arms making sure you cover every part of it. Do the kneading slowly and gently to avoid tearing the wetsuit since neoprene can be quite delicate when stretched too much.

When kneading the wetsuit, make sure your nails are cut off to their shortest to reduce the risk of cutting it up. The same goes for any sharp jewelry you may have on your hands. Essentially, keep the washing gentle by all means.

4.     Rinse and Dry the Wetsuit

Once you’re satisfied with the results on your wetsuit, it’s time to rinse it out. First, drain or pour out the soapy water from the sink or basin. Rinse the bathtub to clean out any soap remnants then pour in clean cold (room temperature) water to rinse the wetsuit. If the soap doesn’t clear out with the first rinse, do it again.

drying after washing

Hang your suit up with hangers so that the water drips down as it dries. To avoid stretching out the shoulders, use a thick hanger or several of them tapped together. As the suit dries up, turn it in several ways to give all parts equal drying. You should preferably dry it up under a shade.

Further Reading: How to Properly Dry a Wetsuit + Best Drying Hangers & Racks

5.     Store Your Wetsuit

In the storage of your suit, you should store it with the same hangers you used to dry it up. Never store it while folded unless it’s during transportation. The reason for this is that it can easily develop permanent creases which will make it less effective in keeping you warm. Store it in a cool and dry place with enough air circulation.

With these steps, your wetsuit will be clean and ready for the waves again. You should do such a cleaning every few times you use it and especially before long-term storage.

Best Cleaners for Wetsuits

Besides simple water rinsing, the following cleaners are the best suited to cleaning your wetsuit:


Soap is the most common type of cleaning agent you can use to clean your wetsuit. However, you’re only supposed to use mild soap and not a detergent. Detergents are way too strong to be used on neoprene materials. Use a bar soap or other gentle soap instead.

Home-made Cleaner (DIY)

The best homemade cleaner for your wetsuit is a combination of distilled white vinegar and essential oils. While the vinegar does all the cleaning and killing of germs, the oils sooth and improve the smell of the wetsuit when washed.

To use this cleaner, you follow these steps:

  • Pour several cups of the vinegar into the bathtub then add about 20 drops of your essential oil of choice then put in the wetsuit.
  • Knead the wetsuit to ensure the mixture has reached all areas then leave it for 30 minutes.
  • Rinse it thoroughly then dry it as in the initial procedure.

Make sure the essential oil you use has no additions that can ruin neoprene.

Wetsuit Shampoo

A wetsuit shampoo helps easily remove organic and inorganic residue, salts, chlorine and other deposits that may damage your wetsuit when they stay in contact for too long. Wetsuit shampoo is formulated to be gentle on the wetsuit but tough on the stains for a thorough clean.

Some of the best wetsuit shampoos include O’Neill Wetsuit/Drysuit Cleaner and Conditioner, McNett Wetsuit & Drysuit Shampoo, Rip Curls Piss Off, Jaws Slosh Wetsuit Shampoo, Gear Aid Revivex Odor Eliminator, Sink The Stink Wetsuit Cleaner, Pau Pilau Biological Wetsuit Cleaner and others.

Following are the most frequent questions in regard to cleaning wetsuits.

Can you wash a wetsuit in a washing machine?

You should never wash your wetsuit in a washing machine since you’ll be damaging it by doing so. The chemicals and washing motions of a washing machine aren’t conducive to the neoprene in your wetsuit. Other aspects to avoid include drying it in the sun or a dryer and ironing it. Never use bleach to wash it as well.

How do you clean a Smelly/Stinky Wetsuit?

A smelly or stinky wetsuit is cleaned with a cleaning agent such as soap as detailed in the first series of steps above. You should then rinse it then dry it out completely before using it again.

How to clean a Moldy wetsuit?

A moldy wetsuit should be cleaned with vinegar to kill and wash away the mold. This also works for a wetsuit infected with bacteria since vinegar kills and washes away both types of microorganisms away.

Do I need to rinse my wetsuit after washing?

Yes. You need to rinse off the soap or other cleaning agent you may have used with your wetsuit. If you don’t, the chemicals in the cleaning agent may damage the wetsuit. Also, the smell of soap on your wetsuit when it dries up with the soap might not be that pleasing.

What should I not use when washing wetsuits?

Stay away from bleach and other harsh chemicals. They will damage your wetsuit even after a single cleaning.

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