If you don't clean them properly your wetsuits can really begin to pong! Sometimes a rinse in cold water isn't enough to get the damp and disgusting smell out of them and a real wetsuit wash is needed.
But you have to be careful what you clean your wetsuit with because the neoprene fabric can be damaged by certain chemicals and high temperatures. It is important to wash your wetsuit the right way, using the right wetsuit cleaning product to keep it in good condition. You can buy wetsuit shampoos for the job but there are also some other great homemade wetsuit cleaner alternatives.
The best homemade wetsuit cleaner alternatives are baking soda, vinegar, baby shampoo, dishwashing liquid, plant-based disinfectant or (strangely) mouthwash can also work. Never use bleach or extremely hot water to wash your wetsuit.
There are a few dedicated wetsuit cleaning products on the market, but they all cost upwards of $25! To avoid this extra expense, use one of the highly effective wetsuit cleaner alternatives that you probably already have at home.
Here, we discuss how to properly clean a wetsuit using homemade alternative wetsuit cleaners.
The 6 Best Homemade Wetsuit Cleaner Alternatives
You can’t just use any product to clean your wetsuit. Certain cleaning products contain chemicals that can damage wetsuit fabric.
However, do not let this scare you into feeling like you have to buy a special wetsuit shampoo! There are plenty of homemade alternatives you can use.
The best, safest alternative wetsuit cleaners that you will find at home are the following:
- Baking Soda
- Baby Shampoo
- Washing Up Liquid
- Plant-Based Disinfectant
Cleaners NOT To Use On Your Wetsuit
Before we jump into the different options for homemade DIY wetsuit cleaners it's important to look at what NOT to use so you don't damage your wetsuit.
Neoprene fabric can be damaged by harsh chemicals and heat. Never use any harsh cleaning products containing chlorine bleach to wash your wetsuit (no matter how smelly it is!). This is very important for the life span of your wetsuit.
Extremely hot water can also make your wetsuit lose its flexibility and cause it to become stiffer and tight. This can be useful only if you're trying to shrink your wetsuit but otherwise it's not advised as it will lower the lifespan of your wettie.
Only rinse and wash your wetsuit in cold or lukewarm water.
What Can I Use To Clean a Wetsuit?
When your wetsuit is ready for a deep clean, get the following supplies ready:
- A 20L bucket full of tepid water
- Cleaning product – wetsuit cleaner, gentle laundry detergent like Woolite, Persil, or Comfort, vinegar, baking soda, mouthwash, baby shampoo, washing up liquid, or plant-based disinfectant.
- A wide hanger – click here for a list of the best wetsuit hangers
How To Clean Your Wetsuit Properly
Once you have gathered everything you need to give your wetsuit a deep clean, follow these steps:
- If you have just used the wetsuit, rinse all the sand and saltwater off under cold, running water. I live in an apartment so I do this in the shower but if you have a house you can do this with a hose outside. Open all the zips so that you can rinse out every little nook.
- Add the cleaning product you are using to the water – you only need to use a small amount – and give it a good stir to dilute it.
- Put the wetsuit into the bucket of water and leave it to soak for about an hour.
- Rinse it thoroughly under fresh running water.
- It is important to allow your wetsuit to dry completely after you wash it. Hang it on a wide hanger in the shade. Avoid direct sunlight as UV rays can damage neoprene.
Can Vinegar Be Used To Clean A Wetsuit?
Vinegar is a fantastic, natural cleaning product.
You can use vinegar to wash a wetsuit. Add a few cups of white vinegar to a bucket of water with your wetsuit, mix it around and leave to soak for 30-60 minutes. Then give a thorough rinse and leave to air dry.
You can use white distilled vinegar – the cheapest kind that you can buy in bulk from the supermarket – to clean your wetsuit.
It is gentle on neoprene, does not leave behind a residue or smell, kills bacteria, and removes oils and dead skin cells that build up on wetsuit fabric. It will definitely get rid of bad odors in your wetsuit! Just make sure to rinse your wetsuit well and air it out so it doesn't smell like vinegar.
Vinegar works so well because it contains acetic acid. Distilled white vinegar usually has 5% acidity, which is the same as most general-purpose cleaning products. You'll also be diluting this with water making it much easier on the fabric.
But vinegar is a great multipurpose cleaning product and it's fine to use on wetsuits.
I personally don't love the smell of vinegar (some people do) so if I use it I like to leave my wetsuit somewhere with a breeze so it can air dry and take the vinegar smell away.
Can Dish Soap Be Used To Clean A Wetsuit?
Dishwashing soap can be used to clean a wetsuit because it is mild, anti-bacterial and will not damage neoprene. Only use a small amount of dishwashing liquid – 2 tablespoons in a 20L bucket of water is enough.
Dishwashing liquid works well for cleaning a wetsuit because it is designed to break down fats and oils. It is excellent at dissolving the bodily oils that build up on wetsuit fabric over time.
Can I Use Washing Detergent To Clean My Wetsuits?
You should avoid washing your wetsuit in a washing machine, but you can still use mild washing detergent (specifically designed to be delicate on fabrics) to clean your wetsuit.
However, you should avoid putting your wetsuit in the washing machine especially if it's a top loader as this can damage the fabrics. You should also not put a wetsuit in the dryer unless you're absolutely desperate and you put the dryer on low heat or air dry.
The heat from a washing machine damages neoprene, but laundry detergents like Woolite, Persil, and Comfort will not harm your wetsuit.
Can You Clean A Wetsuit With Baking Soda?
Baking soda is very effective for cleaning a wetsuit. Baking soda is basic or alkaline, so it has anti-bacterial properties and can break down oils and wax. It is great for removing bodily oils and surfboard wax from a wetsuit.
Can Baby Shampoo Be Used To Clean A Wetsuit?
Baby shampoo is great for cleaning a wetsuit. Because it is made for babies’ delicate skin, the soap is very gentle, so you can be certain it will not damage your wetsuit’s fabric.
You only need to use a small amount (1 to 2 tablespoons) of baby shampoo in a 20L bucket of water to clean a wetsuit. While you leave it to soak, the baby shampoo will remove the oils and skin cells from the neoprene.
It's a good idea to give your wetsuit a good rub whilst in the
Tips To Keep Your Wetsuit Looking And Smelling New
To keep your wetsuit looking its best and prolong its lifespan, keep the following in mind:
- Rinse saltwater and sand out of your wetsuit as soon as you take it off.
- Hang your wetsuit out to dry inside-out in the shade to prevent UV and heat damage.
- Try to get your wetsuit and wet suit gloves and boots to dry as fast as possible to avoid them getting stinky. Follow these tips to get your booties and gloves to dry as quickly as possible.
- Avoid leaving your wetsuit baking in your car on a hot day!
- Do not leave your damp wetsuit in a dry bag for more than a few hours!
- Do not swim in a pool with your wetsuit. Chlorine degrades the neoprene and stiffens it.
- Once dry make sure you store your wetsuit properly so it doesn't get damaged or doesn't attract mold.
Vinegar, baking soda, gentle laundry detergent, dish soap, mouthwash, and plant-based disinfectant products are all effective at cleaning wetsuits and will not harm neoprene.
Having a clean, fresh-smelling wetsuit will ensure you always feel confident in it. Have a look at this article for more tips on how to look and feel your best in a wetsuit.