Weíve written multiple times about how to care for your personal watercraft when the season winds down and winterís chill is just around the corner, but equal attention needs to be paid to your pricey PWC riding gear. Stuff like wetsuits, PFDs, booties, and gloves. All of it needs to be cared for if you want it to last multiple seasons and function properly.
In short, donít just stuff your gear in the garage and discover its condition in the spring, only to find you need to replace it. Take a few minutes nowÖand save your time and money later.
Neoprene is the core material of the vast majority of our riding gear. Itís the material of choice for wetsuits, gloves, booties, even hidden liners inside those cool board shorts. Itís tough, but requires some care to make sure it lasts.
For starters, that soft, supple, comfortable neoprene will stiffen with age and neglect. The stiffer it gets, the more prone it is to cracking and tearing. Neoprene will also shrink slightly with degradation. Some of this is unavoidable, but much of the process can be slowed by how you care for your gear.
Start off your winter storage by washing your suit, as well as all your other neo gear, in the bathtub in cool-to-warm (but not hot) water. Use a wetsuit-specific shampoo, or mild soap like Woolite, and let the stuff do its job, getting rid of the smells, body oils, dirt, and other nastiness (some of you know what you do in there) that has collected over the season. Even minerals in lake or ocean water can lead to neoprene degradation. Swish everything around, work the suds into any trouble spots, then let it soak for about 20 minutes. Particularly nasty smells can be treated with a product like Sink the Stink. It actually uses safe, non-toxic, odor-destroying bacteria to consume organic matter like algae, bacteria, pollution, waste matter and urine. In return, these bacteria produce only carbon dioxide and water. Sounds like a science experiment, but it works.
Air it Out
When the shampoo or anti-stink potion has done its job, rinse and rinse again with cold water. Get all the soap residue out of the gear, then hang it somewhere in the shade to thoroughly dry.
Donít be tempted to use the dryer! Likewise, avoid a heater or hair dryer. Heat leads to stiffening and cracking. Just let all your neo gear dry naturally, using a thick, plastic hanger for your wetsuit and PFD that wonít rust or put undue stress on the material. Open all zippers, ties and closures to maximize air circulation.
Have a small hole or tear thatís been bugging you? Nowís the time to take care of it. Get some neoprene-specific glue at a PWC, dive, or watersports shop, and follow the directions to repair the problem. Glue will close up the tear, and keep it from getting any larger.
Have a zipper thatís causing problems? Several products are available to lubricate the plastic zipper teeth used in most suits, as well as prevent rust and corrosion on metal zippers. You can also try paraffin or beeswax to keep things running smoothly.
Stow itÖWith Care
Once everything is clean, dry, and repaired, store it away carefully for the winter. Avoid folding wetsuits; folding can cause creases that will permanently scar your suit if left for an extended period. Ideally, lay the suit flat. As thatís not always the most practical, hang the suit (again on a wide, plastic hanger), or even roll it.
Avoid hanging it in the garage. Exhaust emissions are another factor that causes neoprene degradation. Instead, keep dry gear in a closet, Rubbermaid-style tub, or anywhere else it will stay dry and protected.
Sure, itís a little more work now. But you ó and your friends ó will thank us later.
Personal Watercraft Winter Storage Tips
How To Properly Store Your PWC Fuel for Winter
How to Repair Personal Watercraft Hull Damage