Wetsuits and exposure protection gear care and maintenance is pretty much straightforward in what to do but much of it does bear repeating. This article is broken up into neoprene and non-neoprene exposure protection gear.
Neoprene wetsuits and accessories, when brought out of storage, should be inspected for any holes or seam separations. If found, minor holes and seam separations can be repaired using neoprene cement designed for this purpose. Follow manufacturer instructions and safety precautions when using neoprene cement. Any major holes or separations generally mean that you need to replace the suit. After inspection, the snorkeler should try the suit on and check fit. Neoprene is a rubber based material and contrary to popular belief, it does shrink with age and the fact that our bodies do have a tendency to change in both size and weight as we, ourselves, age. This is especially true following major holidays where copious amounts of fattening foods are consumed. A suit that is too tight can cause changes in the heart rate and problems with both circulation and breathing. A loose fitting will not afford the proper thermal insulation thus defeating one of the suit's major purposes.
PRIOR TO TRAVEL
Neoprene should not be folded when packing for travel as this can cause permanent creases in the neoprene material which will reduce the suit's thermal insulation ability. It is best to roll the suit starting at the ankles (for jumpsuit style suits) and working up to the neck area. If the suit has long sleeves, the sleeved can be left unrolled and laid across the chest area. If it is a 2 piece suit, both pieces should be rolled separately. This is recommended for packing in a gear bag for local travel, as well as in luggage for vacation travel.
PRIOR TO SNORKELING
Because of it's insulation properties it is best not to wear it for prolonged times out of the water as one can become overheated. When not in use the wetsuit should be protected from exposure to the sun keep it either rolled up in the gear bag or in a shaded area until ready to don it.
When you are finished snorkeling for the day or their is a prolonged interval (hours) out of the water, it should be rinsed in fresh tap water. This is to avoid the formation of salt crystals which can eventually work their way into the material causing small rips, tears and a separation of materials. Once rinsed, it should be hung in a cool shaded area to dry on a wide shoulder clothes hanger is best. Do not turn the suit inside out to dry it. The neoprene rubber of the wetsuits is usually sandwiched between stretchy nylon laminate material. Turning the wetsuit inside out, for prolonged periods can cause a premature delimitation because the suit was built to be worn with the inside...er well...inside.
WHEN YOU GET HOME
Following your trip, your wetsuit should be placed in a stationary tub with tap water and a commercial wet suit shampoo following manufacturer directions and safety precautions for use. Do not use conventional dish soaps or liquid soaps as these will begin to deteriorate the neoprene. Do not place in a washing machine as this is very bad for the suit. Use of Mirazine or sink the stink is also advised to eliminate odor. The suit should then be hung on a wide shoulder hanger to drip dry in a cool shaded area. Do not place in a clothes dryer unless your Barbie or Ken doll needs a suit, it is always best to store it in cool dry area.
NEOPRENE BOOTS, BOOTIES, SOCKS, GLOVES & HOODS
Follow all procedures outlined for neoprene wetsuit care and maintenance with the exception of hanging them on a clothes hanger. Neoprene accessories can be stored flat in a cool dry area. No need to roll the boots for packing.
LYCRA, NON-NEOPRENE EXPOSURE SUIT & PROTECTION GEAR
Non-neoprene exposure suits, tops hoods and gloves and socks can be made of various materials and material combinations. Follow all manufacturer recommended procedures for cleaning. Any item containing neoprene rubber in combination with other material should follow procedures outlined for neoprene products. Storage of non-neoprene apparel is a little less strict as folding them usually does not damage the materials. If the manufacturer tags lists neoprene as on of the materials used then hanging the suit and storing the accessories flat is recommended.