Forrest Wells // June 06, 2016
If you have a dry-suit, or are considering buying one, you know it's a big investment and an important piece of equipment. Dry suits save lives and we highly recommend them for anyone paddling in open water and for anyone paddling in temperate waters. With that said it is important to care for your suit properly and maintain it so it functions properly when you really need it!
We've been wearing, washing, selling, storing and helping people with their dry suits for over 30 years, and we thought it'd be nice to share a bit of our knowledge. In this post we'll cover washing and drying your dry suit, gasket and zipper care and maintenance and storage.
Cleaning your Dry Suit: After each paddle we recommend thoroughly rinsing your dry suit to keep salt or any other effluent from disrupting the material, and from leaving a funky smell that's almost impossible to get rid of once it gets into the material. When it come time to wash the suit, use appropriate detergents. It is important to use a detergent that is not to harsh to prevent excessive wear or damage. We recommend Nikwax Tech Wash. Tech Wash is a mild detergent specifically formulated for technical materials. To wash your dry suit, use cold water with the recommended amount of detergent and wash by hand (inside and out), and voila! Your dry suit is now sparkly clean. Hang your dry suit to dry on a thick hanger with the zipper open, first right side out, then inside-out .
Reapply DWR (Durable Water Repellent): DWR is a substance that bonds to the fibers of your suit to keep water from absorbing into the threads, healthy DWR will cause the water to bead up. When the water beads up it lets the water proof breathable membrane of your suit function properly and breathe.
Yes, DWR is durable but it doesn't last forever. You will need to reapply every so often. If you get out of the water and you look like you are wearing a brightly colored wet paper bag, it may be time. We use Nikwax Spray on DWR. Simply spray the product on and wait for it to dry. It is a good idea to test the DWR by adding some water to a small section of your dry suit to ensure that the water is beading up. If you aren't seeing beads time to add more Nikwax!
Gaskets: Latex Gaskets do a great job keeping the water out but can be a bit finicky. Make sure that you are keeping them happy with a regular dose of 303. 303 will help keep the latex happy and minimize cracking and tearing. Spray on 303 wipe out with a clean cloth and boom, walk away cause you are done.
There is nothing worse than a gasket failing at the put in or on a trip. But gaskets will tear and crack, it just happens over time. Don't fret, they can be replaced!
Zipper Care: It's simple to maintain the zippers once you make their care part of your paddling routine.To begin, when rinsing your dry suit, pay special attention to the zippers. Ensure any sand, salt or other gunk is cleaned out of both the main and relief zippers. After rinsing, apply a zipper lubricant. We use McNett Zipcare, but there are many brands out there, both in liquid and wax form. We like this one because it has a handy brush attached to the bottle to ensure the lubricant gets worked into all the teeth and help remove garbage from in between the zipper teeth. Open and close the zipper a few times to really work the lubricant in. If your zipper gets stuck, resist the urge to freak out and force it. Instead, back it out to where it IS working, apply lubricant, then try again. If you try and try and it just won't work, a zipper tooth may be out of whack and you may need to replace the zipper. In that case, contact the dry suit manufacturer.
Storing your Dry Suit: To ensure a long life for your drysuit, follow these tips: Store with zippers unzipped on a thick hanger. This will allow the dry suit to stay aired out and keep creases from forming it will also keep the zippers from compressing. Keep the suit out of temperature extremes. Your dry suit was made for cold weather and water, but it doesn't like to be stored in the cold or hot. Keeping stored in a spot where there are not extreme swings in temperature is best.
It is important to properly maintain your dry suit to keep yourself nice and toasty but to keep yourself safe as well. Gasket or zipper failure while in the water can be a hair raising experience. Proper washing, drying, storage, zipper and gasket care, will ensure your dry suit will last you for many years and be one of your best paddling buddies. If you have questions or comments about any of these topics, other supplies or other dry suit topics, please feel free to contact us any time with questions, we are here to help!