Would you know what to do if you finished your triathlon only to discover that your wetsuit had a tear in it?
Fortunately, learning how to repair a wetsuit isn’t hard. If you learn how to do it, you may find your wetsuits lasting longer than ever.
Let’s have a look at how to do it the right way so your wetsuits last many more seasons.
Why Repair a Wetsuit?
A wetsuit is an investment that can cost hundreds of dollars. If you take care of it, then you’ll find that it lasts for many seasons.
But there may be times when a tear happens: you scrape the wetsuit, the zipper gets stuck, or worse, the zipper comes off completely.
After each use, inspect your wetsuit for small or big tears and fingernail knicks. Smaller tears are easier to repair at home.
It’s best to repair a tear right away. This will prevent it from getting bigger. With that being said, you shouldn’t try to repair a wetsuit with common household materials such as duct tape or superglue.
Before You Start a Repair
Before you start to repair your wetsuit, check with the manufacturer of your wetsuit to see if it’s still under warranty.
Most wetsuit manufacturers will offer a 1-year warranty. Some brands will allow you to extend the warranty by an additional year, as long as you have registered the product with them.
Many brands will work with their loyal customers to either repair or replace a damaged wetsuit at a reduced cost.
If you do decide to repair your wetsuit yourself, then you’ll need to make sure that the wetsuit is completely dry before you start. Clean the area around the tear to make sure that there’s no sand or dirt in or around the tear.
If the area isn’t clean then the tear could open up again if the repair doesn’t “heal” properly.
What Are the Different Ways a Wetsuit Can Be Damaged?
1. Small Tear (Not Going to the Liner)
Triathlon wetsuits are made from closed-cell neoprene and you shouldn’t try to sew the tear with thread or floss. The area around the tear will lose its flexibility and this can cause a bigger hole in the wetsuit.
You shouldn’t try using duct tape to cover the tear either. Duct tape isn’t flexible and when it does peel off, then you’ll have a sticky adhesive mark on the suit.
The way to do it is with some specialty products made specifically to repair neoprene.
Make sure that you keep a tube of Aquaseal + Neo Neoprene Cement, as this is specifically designed glue to repair tears in wetsuits.
Start by cleaning the area around the tear with alcohol. Then fold the wetsuit at the point of the tear so that you can clearly see the edges that need to be glued back together.
Apply a thin layer of Aqua Seal + Neo to both edges of the tear and leave to dry for 1 to 3 minutes. Make sure not to apply too much, as this will cause the glue to overflow when you do press the sides back together.
To apply the glue, you can use a small paintbrush, q-tip, or a paperclip. Once the glue is dry it will have a sticky feel and matte look.
Once the glue is dried, apply a second coat of Aqua Seal + Neo to the edges of the rip. Allow this layer of glue to dry for 8 to 10 minutes. Then firmly flatten the suit out around the tear so that both ends of the tear come together, keeping the seam in a straight line.
Then press the two edges firmly together.
To ensure that the maximum bond is achieved, use a weighted object like a book to apply pressure and leave to dry for at least 6 hours.
2. Bigger Tear
To repair a larger tear that goes all the way through to the liner, you’ll need to use a patch kit. This will provide added reinforcement to the neoprene.
You can use a Tenacious Tape Iron-On Neoprene Patch, as this will help to seal the tear and prevent it from re-opening even when you’re putting your wetsuit on.
This patch is heat-activated, and you’ll need to make sure that your iron is warm before applying it.
Start by turning your wetsuit inside-out and then measure the tear. Then, cut the patch so that it’s slightly larger than the area around the tear inside the liner.
Flatten the wetsuit so that the edges of the tear are as close together as they can possibly be. Then put the patch over the tear and apply the hot iron so that the patch sticks to the suit.
Let the wetsuit cool down for about 5 minutes and then turn the suit right-side-out. Grab the Aqua Seal + Neo and use it to seal the tear on the neoprene side. Leave the glue to dry for about 20 minutes and then check to see if the tear has sealed properly.
You can give the area a tug and check to see if there are any areas that may still be open. If there are, reapply more of the Aqua Seal + Neo.
3. Shoulders Are Stretched Out
Wetsuits can stretch over time from wear, but they can also stretch in the shoulders if you hang them on a hanger after you’ve used them.
Your wetsuit is heavy, and if you store it on a hanger it will stretch out like a sweater. Once the wetsuit has stretched in the shoulders, the damage is irreversible.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use a patch or Aqua Seal + Neo to try and firm up the areas; this would impact your range of motion and performance.
The best way to avoid your shoulders stretching out is to fold your wetsuit and store it in a cool and dry place.
When you fold your wetsuit, lay it out flat and then fold it in half, making sure that the chest areas are flat. Then fold the knees behind it.
You may have finished a swim, folded your wetsuit, put it in your transition bag, and then gone home. You may have forgotten to take your bag out of the car or to take the wetsuit out of your bag for a few days.
The smell can be really bad when you do finally take it out of the bag! The good news is that you can get rid of the odor easily.
Don’t wash your wetsuit in the washing machine, as the spin cycle will place the suit under stress. This can cause it to stretch and the seams can come apart.
Instead, wash the wetsuit in your bathtub with a wetsuit shampoo such as Gear Aid, Revivex, Wetsuit & Drysuit Shampoo. This is a mild detergent soap that will help to remove chlorine, salt, and odors.
However, if the odor is persistent, then you may want to try enzyme-based formulations like Gear Aid Revivex Odor Eliminator—previously called MiraZyme. You’d need to soak the wetsuit for at least 24 hours.
Rinse it thoroughly several times by turning the wetsuit inside-out and then right-side-out. After you’ve rinsed the suit, turn it inside-out so that the suit retains its flexibility on the outside.
Make sure not to hang your wetsuit in direct sunlight to dry.
5. Zipper Is Stuck
If you’ve noticed that the zipper is starting to get stuck or is firmly stuck, you can repair this without harmful household lubricants like WD-40.
Instead, use lubricating products that are specifically designed for wetsuits, like Salclear Trilube or SeaBee Natural Beeswax Zipper Lube.
Apply some lubricant to the zipper and gently wiggle the zipper up and down until it moves smoothly again. Do this before each swim. This will help to extend the life of your zipper and keep it moving smoothly.
Preventing Damage to Your Wetsuit
Put Your Wetsuit on Correctly
Make sure that you have the right wetsuit fit and don’t rush putting the wetsuit on or taking it off.
Depending on the brand of wetsuit that you have, they may have come with specific gloves to put the wetsuit on and take it off. Make sure that you use those gloves, as this will help to protect the wetsuit. Your warranty may also be voided if you don’t use them.
Make sure that you’ve trimmed your nails and taken off rings and watches that could puncture any part of the wetsuit while you’re putting it on.
Be mindful of where you’re putting your wetsuit on and avoid areas that have hard or rough surfaces that could damage the suit.
When you put on the wetsuit, make sure that you’ve turned it inside-out, leaving only the bottom of your legs right-side-out. This will allow you to roll your wetsuit onto your body.
On race day, you may want to consider skipping the wetsuit peelers. They’re there to help you get out of your wetsuit as quickly as possible, but they may stretch the suit or put fingernail knicks in it.
Rinse Your Wetsuit Right After
After every swim, rinse your wetsuit with freshwater. You should give it a wash using either a mild detergent or wetsuit shampoo after every 5 swims. This will help to remove all chlorine or saltwater and extend the life of the wetsuit.
After washing and thoroughly rinsing your wetsuit, make sure that you turn it inside-out. This will dry the inside of the wetsuit so that you can use it the next day and it will help retain the flexibility on the outside.
Hang and Dry It Carefully
Hang the wetsuit over a thick rod or chair, or use a specifically designed wetsuit hanger like the Hang Pro Slide Wetsuit Hanger. This will help prevent shoulder wear and stop the wetsuit from stretching.
Don’t hang the wetsuit out to dry in direct sunlight, as the UV rays can damage the neoprene. The harmful UV rays can cause your wetsuit to become hard and brittle on the outside. This can lead to cracks and tears on the surface when you put it on.
You also shouldn’t leave your wetsuit in your car, as the heat will cause the neoprene to lose its elasticity. The heat can also melt the joints, which could lead to the wetsuit losing its shape. The wetsuit would then lose flexibility and it could be further damaged when you put it on.