A drysuit is a big investment and it should last for years if taken care of properly. It is just as important a piece of life support as your regs. Not only does it stop you from being cold and wet on a dive, but it is also crucial in providing safe, comfortable descents and ascents. By adopting some simple care steps, you can avoid large repair bills and parts replacement. Any piece of equipment with silicone or rubber components will be prone to damage from the elements like salt and direct sunlight. However, our care guide below will help you get the most out of your drysuit for years to come.
- Correct washing
After diving, rinse your drysuit with fresh water (ideally warm to help dissolve any salt) taking care to wash any grit, sand or salt crystals out of the valves. Keep the zip closed when rinsing and - if you can – plug the seals to avoid water getting inside. Seals should be washed with a mild soapy water to remove any body oils. Every so often it is a good idea to wash both the inside and outside of your suit with a drysuit shampoo to avoid any unpleasant odours, such as McNett Wet and Dry Suit Shampoo. It will also protect waterproofing properties. Allow to dry out of direct sunlight as UV rays will break down the latex, perish the rubber and can discolour silicone. Membrane drysuits tend to be quicker drying than neoprene suits.
Dry your suit in a well venilated area. Moisture from perspiration can build up in the boot/sock area so hang upside down to allow draining. Use a proper wide hanger like the Waterproof Wetsuit and Drysuit Hanger to prevent unnecessary stress on the zip. Some hangers such as the Scubapro Drysuit Hanger are designed to hold the suit by the boots which allows any water to drain out.
Most drysuit zips are comprised of brass teeth and a rubber seal that together create a waterproof seal. Brass zips are the cheapest option but can be stiff and must be cleaned and lubricated which will ensure correct zipper movement. You only need to wax the outer teeth by using a product like the Beaver Aquawax Stick. You can also use a toothbrush or a special zip cleaning solution that comes with a brush like McNett Zip Care Lubricant. The zip should be completely open when the drysuit is not in use. A composite zip is made from lightweight synthetic materials. These zips are easier to maintain but may cost a little more. They are popular on front entry drysuits like the Fourth Element Argonaut 2.0 Flex Drysuit.
- Valves and inflators
Always check valves are tight, whether you have a cuff, standard auto or low profile auto dump. This is especially important on a neoprene suit as the crush pressure over time can loosen the valves. Do this on a new suit before wearing as well. If the dump valves do not exhaust expanding gas effectively, you may have a runaway ascent. To test them, connect your regulator to a cylinder and connect the inflator hose to the inflation valve in the centre of the chest. The neck and wrist seals should be plugged with tennis/footballs or something similar. Press the valve and check the speed of release. The power inflation valve may be a swivelling or fixed orientation inflator valve. This also needs testing prior to use and also to ensure your attached lpi hose is not sticky. We stock a number of spare dump and inflator valves on our Drysuit Accessories page.
Seals fitted at the neck and wrists keep your drysuit watertight. Neoprene drysuits are typically fitted with neoprene seals while Trilaminate (or membrane) suits have latex seals as standard. Latex seals are stretchy but can feel very tight when new and deteriorate over time, especially if not properly maintained. Try not to wear perfumes or face/neck creams as this can perish the latex material. If you have recently bought a new drysuit or had new latex wrist or neck seals fitted, you may need to trim them to fit so they do not restrict blood flow. Use a sharp pair of scissors and make one straight cut along the guideline ring. Do this one ring at a time and check for fit. If you cut too much you will need to have them replaced again. Silicone seals need a little more care when getting the suit on and off but do not deteriorate like latex does over time. High quality talc such as McNett Protalc helps preserve latex and rubber seals- makes donning and doffing easier and helps to prevent chafing.
Store your drysuit carefully so that its shape is protected. This will prevent distortion. Make sure the suit is completely dry before storing or it can go mouldy. Mould and mildew will damage the material and make it smell musty. If you have a traditional brass zip, lightly lubricate it with a wax to ease movement and prolong its life. If you have latex seals, lightly dust them with proper drysuit talc (not perfumed) to prevent them perishing and sticking together. Try to avoid storing in a shed or garage with toxic chemicals around. If you have a neoprene drysuit roll it rather than fold and keep zips open. Folding them can cause the zip to snap. If you don’t keep your drysuit in the house put it in a secure dry bag to avoid any rodents or moths from chewing on it in storage!
Get your drysuit pressure tested every couple of years (or more frequently if it is your primary exposure suit). The inflation and exhaust valves should get periodically tested and examined by an authorised service technician as o-rings may need replacing or greasing. They can also replace any tape over stitching that may have perished or add patches on joints that have worn or stretched over time. While it is tempting to do this yourself, an authorised technician will be familiar with drysuit friendly glues and greases. See our list of drysuit repair services here available at Mike’s Dive Store.