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Nobody likes to think about the end of summer, but like it or not, that end is in sight. While you probably know your personal watercraft will need to be prepped for winter storage, you might overlook some of the related gear that also needs a little extra care. Stuff like wetsuits, booties, gloves, PFDs, even those inflatable water toys you might have enjoyed throughout the season.
Want them to last for years to come…and not stink like a wet dog come Spring? Follow these tips to get the job done right.
VIEW: Read our feature on six commonly overlooked winterizing tips
Wetsuits, Booties, Gloves & PFDs
Unless you’re lucky enough to ride in really pristine water, neoprene-based gear will take on a funky smell over time. In saltwater, the problem is far worse. Of course, the worst offender is urine. Yeah, we know, you don’t pee in your wetsuit. That’s what they all say.
The best bet is to routinely rinse your gear in fresh water after every ride, and to wash your suit every few weeks to prevent buildup of sweat and body oils, but it’s absolutely essential to wash your stuff before winter storage.
VIEW: Read our feature on what to look for in a PWC wetsuit
So, start by giving everything a bath…literally. Fill your tub with cold water, then add a mild soap like Woolite, or even just a couple capfuls of dishwashing detergent – ccording to one wetsuit manufacturer, it works just as well as anything else. Other alternatives include a dedicated wetsuit shampoo, or even a product called Sink The Stink, which uses odor-destroying bacteria cultures to get the job done. Whatever your choice, add some to your tub, toss in your neoprene gear, and swirl it around for a fair amount of time to get everything clean. Once you’re satisfied the detergent has done its job, take everything outside and hose it off — working from the top down — to remove all the detergent.
With everything clean, hang your gear up and let it thoroughly dry. Don’t rush; packing away damp gear can lead to even more smells and mildew growth. Exposure to the fresh air and sun can even be beneficial for your stuff, as the combination is a great, natural way to destroy mildew. Just don’t overdo it. Excessive exposure to bright sunlight can also fade your gear’s cool colors.
Once everything is thoroughly dry, hang it in a closet out of the way. Avoid wire hangers; they’ll rust and their thin profile can put undue stress on the seams and materials used in your suits and PFDs. Instead, opt for thick, plastic hangers that better distribute the load.
Inflatables, Water Toys
The same suggestions go for any inflatables you may have used over the course of the summer. Most utilize an outer, nylon wrap; many also add neoprene panels below grab handles or common wear points. With time, both can build up gunk and smell.
VIEW: Read our review of the SPORTSSTUFF Slalom Jockey towable
Again, rinse thoroughly and, if possible, wash as well. Hose everything down to get rid of any remaining soap and then dry, dry, dry. When everything is clean and dry, deflate the inner PVC bladder to collapse the tube. The quick, easy way is to use a Shop Vac and literally suck the air out. This will deflate your tube to the bare minimum and make it easier to pack away. No, you’ll probably never get everything as small as the manufacturer once did, but it will be close.
With your inflatable flat, fold it carefully and store it away in a safe place. A great idea is to use a plastic tub with a lid. This will keep your toys clean and dry, protect them from anything that might rip or damage the surface, and even keep rodents at bay should you store your stuff in a garage or cellar.
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