Wetsuits can become a source of unpleasant and often pungent odors (that is a nice way of saying that they can start to stink like a skunk).
Why does this happen, and what can you do to prevent this?
Sweat and oils that are naturally produced by our bodies become trapped in and on the neoprene material where they become a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria is the source of the offensive odors that come from our wetsuits.
Warm moist places are perfect for the rapid growth of bacteria, so the worst thing that you could possibly do is take your wet wetsuit off and toss it in the trunk of your car. The heat and humidity caused by doing this could also start mold growing on your wetsuit and other items in your trunk.
Don’t just think that wetsuit smells are caused by sweat and body oils trapped in the material. Urinating in a wetsuit also causes its fair share of wetsuit odors. A mentor of mine told me once that there are two types of divers: those who urinate in their wetsuits, and those that lie about it. So which of the two are you?
So, before everyone on the dive boat or at the beach starts whispering about you and avoiding being downwind of you, or people start trying to hand you spare change when they walk by you as if you were homeless, what can you do to get rid of the stink from your wetsuit?
As with anything else, prevention is better than cure. Preventing the odors from forming in the first place is where we want to start. Start by taking a shower before you put your wetsuit on. This will remove sweat and oils that are already built up on your skin before the dive. After the dive make sure you always thoroughly rinse out your wetsuit with fresh water as soon as possible after getting out of the water and then hang it out to dry in the shade away from direct sunlight. Doing this every time you use it will help keep the odors to a minimum, and help extend the life of your wetsuit.
“I rinse mine every time, but it still stinks“. Ok, so you are still having an odor problem even though you are thoroughly rinsing the wetsuit out every time you use it, your in luck. There are several products on the market made for this specific purpose. Wetsuit shampoos are formulated to remove sweat, body oils, and other things which can cause offensive odors in wetsuits, and are specifically formulated to be safe for delicate neoprene fabrics.
Neoprene is made from petroleum (oil), so using a harsh cleanser, dish detergent, or degreaser could potentially damage the material or shorten the lifespan of the wetsuit. For this reason I do not encourage the use of such cleaners on wetsuits.
Wetsuit shampoos come in a variety of brand names such as: “Sink the Stink, Piss Off, McNett, Slosh, Suit Fresh, Stinky Pete’s, and many, many others.
Be sure to read the directions carefully on the product label because some of the wetsuit shampoos are made to be thoroughly rinsed after washing, while others are not meant to be rinsed off at all.
Generally you would dilute the shampoo in fresh water and then soak the wetsuit for 10 to 20 minutes, then depending on the brand either rinse thoroughly in fresh water and hang to dry, or just hang to dry without rinsing.
Remember to always hang your wetsuit on a thick coat hanger to avoid tearing up the wetsuit material, and hang it in the shade away from sunlight. Sunlight and UV rays are the mortal enemy of wetsuits, making them age much quicker and making them less flexible and easier to tear.
Most wetsuit shampoos are mild enough that they can be used for more or less “regular use”. If you’r like me however and you dive multiple times per week, I would recommend thoroughly rinsing the wetsuit each day, and only use the shampoo on it once a week.
Remember, keeping your wetsuit looking, and most importantly smelling clean, will make it easier for you to find a dive buddy willing to spend the day around you.
Yes, you heard me correctly, a wetsuit made from a rock.
I received my new rescue wetsuit and dive boots for work the other day, and started checking out my new “toys”.
Normally, wetsuits are made from a material called Neoprene, which is a petroleum-based product. My new rescue wetsuit from NRS however is made from a new material called Geoprene, also called Terraprene.
Geoprene looks like neoprene, it feels like neoprene, and it floats like neoprene, yet it is a “Green” product that is safe for the environment and does not use up our already depleted petroleum reserves. It is just as buoyant as a neoprene wetsuit of the same grading however it is warmer than a neoprene wetsuit which allows you to use a thinner one offering better flexibility than neoprene. Take for instance a 3 mil geoprene wetsuit, it is the same thickness as a 3 mil neoprene wetsuit, yet it is almost as warm as my 5 mil neoprene version which is very bulky.
Geoprene is made from 99.7% limestone, which is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth. It was developed way back in the 70’s, but for some reason has not quite caught on yet, why I have no idea. With Geoprene being made from limestone instead of oil based products, it is better for the environment and future generations. Because geoprene is warmer than neoprene, a thinner wetsuit can be worn, meaning less natural resources have to be used to produce it. Geoprene lasts at least twice as long as neoprene, meaning that less natural resources will be needed to produce replacement wetsuits. Geoprene aka Terraprene is a win-win for everyone.
One of the big concerns that I keep finding on the web against geoprene is the “extremely high cost” to produce it. Even though I did not have to pay for my wetsuit as it was issued to me for work, I did find out what the cost of it was, and it was THE SAME PRICE as my new Bare neoprene wetsuit and my new Xcel neoprene wetsuit. That just blew the whole extremely high cost complaint out of the water. And with geoprene lasting at least twice as long as neoprene, the cost is much less than neoprene wetsuits and their replacements.
Geoprene has a maximum elongation of 480-530%, which is far greater than that found in human skin. In fact, even at the greatest elongation point on the human body, the armpit, it is only 60-70%. This means you’ll be able to move freely while in this type of wetsuit and you won’t ever feel constricted.
After doing some research on geoprene I found that there are some additional advantages to using geoprene instead of the traditional old-fashioned neoprene in wetsuits. Neoprene is 65% water impermeable whereas geoprene is 98% water impermeable. What does that mean you ask? That simply means that geoprene will not soak up water like a sponge the way that neoprene does. Geoprene is touted as being warmer, lighter, dries faster, and lasts longer than neoprene.
I decided to put the drying speed to a simple test. I took the new 3 mil geoprene wetsuit, and a new 3 mil neoprene wetsuit and dipped them in water long enough to make sure they had absorbed as much water as they could hold. Then I took them out and hung them up to dry on my drying rack.
Immediately I could feel a difference between the two wetsuits as I lifted them out of their water baths. The geoprene wetsuit was at least half the weight of the neoprene version. Both wetsuits were the same thickness so theoretically they should have absorbed the same amount of water, making them weigh the same, but this was clearly not the case.
With the wetsuits hanging on my drying rack I checked the time and went inside. Every hour I planned to go back to the drying rack to check on their progress, however when I came back to the drying rack for the first check, the geoprene wetsuit was completely dry. The neoprene wetsuit felt like it was just hung up to dry and was still dripping water onto the ground. That was an amazing difference between the two materials.
I have no idea how they can turn limestone which is dug out of massive rock quarries like the one pictured here into a buoyant 3 mil wetsuit, but they have managed to find a way.
Limestone was once used in Egypt to build the Great Pyramids, and now we can wear it as clothing, impressive. What will they think of next?
With all of this in mind, when it comes time to replace my next wetsuit I will have to think long and hard about the replacement being made from neoprene. As long as I can find the wetsuit in my odd-ball size, they will always be made from geoprene from now on.