DIY: Eliminating Wetsuit Smell and Odor

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Wetsuits often develop an offensive odor which can be quite pungent (this is a polite way of saying they stink as a skunk). Why does this happen? Seawater is not the main thing here as you would think. This smell is the result of the natural sweat, oils and other odors which are produced by our bodies. They get stuck in and on the neoprene where they became a perfect breeding ground for bacteria which are in fact source of the strong, unpleasant smells. Since wet warm places are perfect for bacteria the worst thing you can do is to leave your wettie wet in a plastic bag in the trunk of your car. This can even result in growing mold in the suit. If you’re someone who urinates in their wetsuit this can also cause additional smells.

So let’s say you did all the wrong things and your suit is stinky as hell. Now what?

Getting Rid of the Smell

Regardless of the cause of the smell, you want to eliminate it as quickly as possible before people start to look at you funny, try to give you small change or avoid standing downwind from you.

Prevention

Prevention is better than cure: the first thing to do is more of a preventative step than anything. Make sure you always rinse out your wetsuit with fresh water as soon as possible after getting out of the water and then leavi it out to dry. Doing this every time will help keep the odors to a minimum. Here you can find a few tips on how to do it right.

If, however, your suit does develop a smell there are some steps you can take to help get rid of it.

Wetsuit Shampoo

You can purchase soaps which were designed specifically for wetsuits. They are very effective at eliminating the odor and are also mild so they won’t damage the neoprene and are ok for more or less regular use. Popular wetsuit shampoo brands are for instance Piss Off, Sink The Stink, Slosh, McNett… and many others. To use them read the instructions on the bottle (obviously :) ), usually they say something like this:

Dilute the sampoo in water and then soak your wetsuit for about 10-20 minutes. Once you remove the suit let it dry without rinsing it off to help prevent further odors from developing.

Home Solution

If you’re the type of person who wants to use a cleanser which you make at home you can follow these instructions:

  • Fill up your bathtub with warm water.
  • Add a few drops of dish washing soap
  • Wash your suit, the dish washing detergent is especially good at breaking down the oils and also helps to get of bacteria in the wetsuit.
  • Rinse your wetsuit off with fresh water to ensure the soap washed is off and then let it dry in the fresh air.
  • Washing your suit in this manor every three or four weeks will help keep the odors away.

If you have any extra tips – they’re welcomed in the comments.

2 Comments

  • Paul Pickering says:

    I appreciate the information but I disagree that the skunk smell is the result of sweat and other issues. I bought my wetsuit brand new from the O’Neill store in Santa Cruz. It totally smelled up the car on the way home. I actually believe that the “skunk” smell is due to the out gassing of chemicals from the neoprene. O’Neill should take the responsibility to investigate the out gassing and determine the root cause. I doubt this is harmful but the smell is really annoying.

    • K says:

      Paul, there is the new wetsuit smell which is definitely noticeable, but it’s quite different from the smell your wetsuit gets after a season of surfing :)

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