Monday, December 19, 2011

How to Care for a Dry Suit - Lubricating Zippers, Conditioning Latex Seals, Packing, and Storing

A dry suit is a major investment, and if you take care of it - you should get several years of serviceable life out of your suit. In the video below, APS President Kyle Gross gives you a coaching session on how to care for your suit properly.






There are five major areas of focus when caring for a dry suit:
Overall Care
Zippers
Latex Socks & Seals
Properly Packing your Dry Suit for Travel
Properly Storing your Dry Suit - In General and in the Off Season

Overall Care

When you don your suit in the elements, you expose all exterior components of the suit to salt, chemicals floating on the surface of the water, and other contaminants. Additionally, you expose the interior components of the suit to oils on your skin and vapors from the moisture your body expels.

To ensure the longest life possible from your dry suit, it is important that you rinse both the inside and outside of your suit with fresh water every single time you wear the suit. Several sailors who wear dry suits, wear their suits straight into the shower after a day of sailing to rinse the exterior.  After the shower rinse - take the suit off, turn it inside out, hang it on a hanger (folded over like trousers - not like a dress shirt), and rinse the interior.  Leave to dry completely before storing it.  (Keep reading for tips on how to properly store your dry suit.)

Zippers

Be diligent about keeping the zipper of your dry suit lubricated. (Note: If the zipper fails, it’s very expensive to replace so you should invest some time into maintaining it.) In the first dry suit videos, you learned there are two kinds of dry suit zippers: the T-Zip and the Metal Zipper.

The T-Zip Zipper - as found in the Henri Lloyd TP1 Pace Dry Suit – keeps the cost of the suit down but requires a little more maintenance than a metal zipper. If not well lubricated, T-Zips tend to "pop open." If your zipper does this, lubricate the open zipper, run it all the way to the bottom, and re-zip.

We recommend using Zip Tech (which kind of reminds us of an oversize chap stick) to lubricate both the T-Zip Zippers and Metal Zippers. To lubricate, open the zipper, wind out the Zip Tech stick, and rub the Zip Tech over the teeth of the zipper until you get a nice, light coating. Again, the T-Zip requires lubricating quite frequently.

The other zipper that was discussed in the first two Dry Suit videos is the Metal zipper. The same Zip Tech product can be used to lubricate these. It's easy to identify when you should lubricate metal zippers. As soon as they have resistance when closing, it's time.

There is another product on the market that cleans and lubricates both types of zippers. It is called Zip Care. With it's brush applicator, you can get down into the teeth of the zipper to make sure the it's clean of any debris, etc.

Latex Socks & Seals

The Henri Lloyd and Gill Dry Suits have latex socks, while the Kokatat and Musto Dry Suits feature Latex wrist seals - making this next section quite important. You want to keep the water out after all, don't you?

Latex dry suit socks and seals are specifically susceptible to degradation caused by chemicals and salt in the water where you sail and oils on your skin.  To keep your latex in good shape, you should condition the latex on your suit with a product called Seal Saver.  Seal Saver prevents dry rot and thereby increases the longevity of your suit. Note: Conditioning latex with Seal Saver reminds us of using Armor All on the interior of a car - it kind of shines it up, makes the black look blacker.


Be sure to condition the latex on your suit - but don't over do it. If you over condition, the latex will soften too much. A good idea is to condition the latex at the end of the season before storing your suit for the off season and conditioning at the beginning of the season to create a protective layer that will help defend the latex from the elements. Also, if you get a lot of wear out of your suit, feel free to condition every once in a while during the season.

Note:  Neoprene seals do not need to be conditioned.  However, be sure they are rinsed well with fresh water.

Properly Packing your Dry Suit for Travel

Don't crumple and or stuff your suit! You can cause serious damage to the zipper when you're packing a suit. The proper way to pack it is to lay out a completely dry dry suit, front down with zipper zipped. Starting from the feet, and roll your suit up. All of the air will be squeezed out of the suit, and the zipper will be resting in a compressed state. Fold arm over arm. The suit will be as small as it will get. Remember, this is how you can travel with your suit - not how you store it. Do not leave it like this in direct sunlight, in high heat, or for extended periods of time.

Properly Storing your Dry Suit - In General and in the Off Season

When storing your suit, make sure it's clean and dry. If you haven't already, pull out a hanger. Do not hang your dry suit like a dress shirt by the shoulders and neck as this will create unnecessary wear on the neck seal. Rather, fold the suit over the hanger at the waist almost as you would a pair of slacks. Stick the suit at the back of a cool, dry closet.

If you are putting your suit away for the off season, condition the latex one final time with Seal Saver. This will prevent dry rot, and your suit will be ready to go at the start of the next season.

Replacement Dry Suit Seals & Video

Now that you know how to properly care for your dry suit, you might be curious how to fix/replace seals if they tear or how to take care of the fabric making up your dry suit. Click here for that information.

We wish your dry suits long and prosperous lives!

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