How Long Do Wetsuits Last?


Apart from your bicycle, your wetsuit is probably the most expensive investment you’ll make when buying triathlon gear.

But while you can expect your bike to last you for years, how long do wetsuits last?

In this article, we’ll answer that question plus provide some tips to maximize your wetsuit’s lifespan.

The good news is that there are ways to make your wetsuit last longer. Nobody wants to have to replace their wetsuit again and again. Not only can get expensive but it can also be difficult to find the same wetsuit year after year.

So for both comfort and financial reasons, it’s in your best interests to take extremely good care of your wetsuit.

Here are our top tips…

How Long Should a Wetsuit Last?

If you look after your wetsuit properly and treat it well, you can expect it to last you for a long time.

Much of that depends on how often you use it, but looking after your wetsuit can help it to last for years.

But if you don’t pay attention to your wetsuit and make an effort to take care of it, it may only last a few months, or even just a few races, depending on the conditions.

Tips to Extend the Life of Your Wetsuit

1. Wetsuit Quality Matters

We know that wetsuits can be expensive, but it’s best to invest in a high-quality wetsuit from the beginning. Choosing a low-quality wetsuit means there’s a higher chance of it tearing or becoming damaged.

High-quality wetsuits may be more expensive, but they usually incorporate technology to help the material last longer.

It’s worth buying a high-quality wetsuit from the start, as the chances are much higher of it lasting you a long time even if you use it often.

2. Be Careful Getting It On and Off

A large part of caring for your wetsuit is being patient when putting it on and taking it off. Wetsuits are designed to fit tightly, so it may take some time to get them on properly.

Taking your wetsuit off without damaging it may be more difficult. This is where much of the damage happens, as neoprene becomes more stretchy when it’s wet.

When the wetsuit is wet and stretchable, it becomes weaker and is more susceptible to tearing. Taking your wetsuit off quickly can lead to ripping the stitching accidentally or stretching the material to the point where it can’t go back to its normal size.

Taking care when putting on and taking off your wetsuit can increase its lifespan significantly.

3. Fresh Cold Water Rinse

Whether you’ve been swimming in freshwater or saltwater, step into a cool shower with your wetsuit on to rinse off any debris, residue, or salt that may be lingering on your suit.

Try to do this as soon as you can after finishing your race, so there’s no time for anything to dry out on the suit, which can be harder to clean.

When you are able to get home, rinse the suit inside and out with clean, fresh, cold water. Saltwater and residue can be trapped inside as well as outside, so be thorough when you rinse your wetsuit.

Make sure not to use hot water on your wetsuit. This will damage the material and make it less durable. Cold or cool water is best.

4. Washing by Hand and With Soap

If you wash your wetsuit after every wear and make sure to dry it properly, you won’t need to use soap every time.

You can hand wash your wetsuit in the tub once every three or four triathlons. Fill the tub with cool water and wash the wetsuit by hand. Never use the washing machine, as the heat and spin cycle will damage the material of the wetsuit and possibly render it unusable.

You can wash it with a wetsuit shampoo, like O’Neill Wetsuit Cleaner or Gear Aid Revivex Wetsuit & Drysuit Shampoo. These are designed to cleanse the wetsuit and remove chlorine, residue, and other contaminants. You can also use mild baby shampoo.

Make sure that you rinse it very well after each wash and leave no soap on it before you leave it out to dry.

5. Hanging and Drying

Make sure to dry your wetsuit properly after washing it. Never put it in the dryer, as the heat is sure to damage the fabric. Also, never leave it in a hot vehicle.

Air drying will be sufficient as long as the wetsuit is left in a well-ventilated area that isn’t in direct sunlight. Hang the wetsuit up on a hanger and find a spot that’s in the shade. Wind can help, as long as it’s not going to blow the wetsuit off and onto the ground.

It’s best to not hang your wetsuit by the shoulders as you would hang a jacket. Try to find a hanger that you can hang the wetsuit on by folding it in half and hanging it by the waist.

Hanging it this way will help to prevent stretching in the shoulders that will also damage the suit. You will need to turn the wetsuit over to dry both sides, which helps to prevent bacterial growth.

6. Storing

When your wetsuit is dry, you should store it in a cool, dry, and dark area. This way, it won’t be able to be damaged by sunlight or heat.

Fold your wetsuit by folding the legs and arms in on themselves. Then, fold them into the middle and lay the wetsuit flat.

7. Patch Tears and Holes When You See Them

If your wetsuit does get a hole in it, patch it up as soon as you notice it. Even a small tear can quickly develop into a large one, especially if you swim with the damaged suit.

You can buy neoprene patches like the Gear Aid Wetsuit Repair Kit to keep with you in case you need to do a quick repair.

You can also use something like Gear Aid Aquaseal NEO Contact Cement, which is a kind of glue designed to repair small tears or cracks in your wetsuit. It dries very quickly so you can perform fast repairs if you need to.

How Long Do Wetsuits Last for Triathlons?

If you only use your wetsuit in a pool for training, chances are it will last longer. But if you’re wearing it in open water for triathlons, it can wear out faster due to the conditions in which you’re using it.

In open water, there may be hazards like branches or residue that could damage the material of the wetsuit. When you get out of the water, you’re rushing towards the transition area and small tears and stretches can happen quickly in these rushed moments.

How long your wetsuit lasts depends on how many triathlons you do and how many times you use your wetsuit. The more often you use it, the more wear and tear it will pick up.

But if you look after your wetsuit in between races, you can help to expand its lifespan significantly.

Photo of author


Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.