Care and feeding of your wetsuit

So you've just made a $300 investment in a wetsuit. Now you've got to make that investment last, not to mention justifying your purchase by putting together some PR swim splits!

Here are some tips to extend the life of your wetsuit and make your second skin last from five to 10 years:

1. Use care with neoprene
Be careful when pulling your suit on, and most importantly in the frenzy of swim-to-bike transition, pulling off your suit.

That's when you get those little nicks and cuts and dig marks that you notice sometime after race day and think, "Where did that come from?"

Those came from your nails. Be careful not to dig your fingers and fingernails into the rubber. Instead, pull up on the suit as flat as possible, in almost a crab pincher motion.

2. Don't pee in the suit!
Oh, I know it's cold out in the water and that'll warm things up nicely, but come on, we're all big boys and girls.

If the thought of swimming in sewage doesn't turn you off, nothing will. Nasty.

Not only does the suit retain the smell over time, but it can also break down the materials used to make the suit. So remember, hold it till you get out.

3. Rinse the suit
After any swim, hit it with fresh cold water. It washes away harmful bacteria, salt, chlorine and oil.

Do this by filling a plastic dish tub with fresh water, and, if possible, stand in it as you remove your suit. This will keep the sand and dirt on your suit to a minimum. If you don't have that luxury, most beaches have outdoor freshwater showers.

While you have the suit on, rinse the outside, then drop the top and flush cold water inside the torso, arms and down the inside of the legs.

4. Store it properly
Turn the suit inside out. Any sunlight, especially direct sunlight, will eventually dry the rubber, making it brittle.

To properly hang it, get a sturdy plastic hanger (not steel, as it will rust) and foam water pipe insulation. Cut the pipe lengthwise, punch a hole in the middle and hang it over the hanger.

The soft foam distributes the weight of the suit over a larger area, and eliminates dents in your suit from sharp angles on a hanger.

5. Wash it
You might find some wetsuit-specific shampoos out there. Use them. They kill organic waste matter. Or, use a mild detergent like anti-bacterial hand soap or regular shampoo.

Fill your bathtub at home and scrub the inside with a soft-bristled brush and the outside with a soft sponge, so as not to damage the neoprene.

Youll want to wash your suit about once every 10 swims, but don't use petroleum lubricants on your suit; just like with your skin, itll clog the pores.

6. Off-season storage
If you are putting your suit in off-season storage, take it off the hanger and lay it flat, preferably without putting any folds in it.

Don't place anything on top of it, as that creates destructive dents as well.

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