Drysuit Care and Maintenance: Quick Checklists for Divers

 If you are new to drysuits, or simply want to organize your procedures for drysuit donning and care, these short lists will get you started with everyday drysuit maintenance. 

Predive Maintenance and Checks for Drysuits

Drysuit Diver, Diver White Background, Technical Dive Gear
Learning to prepare and don your drysuit properly will keep it functional for years to come. © Getty Images

 How you prepare your drysuit for use and how you don it can greatly affect the life of your suit and seals. Consider the following tips when preparing your drysuit before a dive.

1. Set up your gear before you don your suit. It's easy to overheat in a drysuit. Be sure to set up and check your scuba gear, and prepare accessories before donning your suit. Getting into your drysuit should be the last thing you do.  If you are in a hot environment, it may be a good idea to burp your suit and jump in the water for a minute or two to cool off before gearing up. Time stress from overheating causes mistakes when gearing up!

2. Lubricate your drysuit seals and zipper.  While it is possible to get into a drysuit with silicon on latex seals without lubricant, it certainly isn't advisable. These types of seals tend to stick to a diver's skin, distorting the seal and even tearing it. Lubricate your neck and wrist seals for easy donning with talcum powder or a water-based lubricant such as KY Gel. Similiarly, your drysuit zipper should be lubricated with zipper wax before every dive. This simply requires rubbing commerically available drysuit zipper wax on the outside face of the drysuit zipper prior to use. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's guidelines when selecting your lubricants, use of the wrong lubricant can destroy a seal or zipper. (Want to hear a funny drysuit lube story?)

3. Protect your seals from sharp or pointed objects when donning your drysuit. Earrings, hairpins, and other accessories should be removed prior to donning your drysuit. Even sharp fingernails can tear seals, and divers who grow their nails long may want to consider wearing a pair of thin gloves while sliding the wrist seals on to avoid snagging them.

4. Stretch your seals widthwise, but never lengthwise. Avoid pulling on your drysuit seals to don the suit. It's okay to stretch the seals widthwise to open them as they glide over your head or hands, just don't grab the seals and use force to pull them on. With lubricant, the seals should slide on easily. 

5. Zip up and burp your suit before entering the water. After you have donned your suit and zipped it closed, be sure to release extra air trapped inside before jumping into the water. Gently open the neck seal and squat to force some of the air in the suit out. Otherwise, when you jump in the water, the gas trapped in the suit will surge to your neck seal, causing it to stretch and wear out more quickly. When you burp your suit, have your buddy do a quick check to confirm that your suit is well and truly closed before you find out the hard way. 

6. Once you're in the water, check your suit for functionality and leaks. Your predive checks should include your drysuit, and a drysuit needs to do two things: it needs to seal, and it needs to be able to inflate and deflate. Before descending, perform a quick bubble check with your buddy to confirm there are no obvious leaks from your seals or other areas of the suit. Inflate and deflate your drysuit on the surface to confirm that the LPI hose is attached and functional, and that the release valve is open (or in the position you want it) and functioning correctly. 

Postdive Maintenance for Drysuits

Ice Diving, Drysuit Diving, Technical Diving
Remove grit and salt water from your suit after diving. © Getty Images

There's many styles and features of drysuits. Not all of these steps are necessary for every drysuit in every dive environment. Simply consider what is appropriate for your suit and the dive you have just made.  

1. When possible, rinse your suit before removing it. In locations where you have the option, it's often easiest to do a quick rinse of your suit under a shower or with a hose to remove any sand or other large particles from the exterior of the suit. This isn't always possible, and it isn't always necessary, but it streamline the rinsing processes significantly if you have been in a muddy or sandy environment. 

2. Clean your drysuit seals. Once you have removed your drysuit, inspect the seals for dirt or debris and rinse them thoroughly. A gentle soad may be used is permitted by the manufacturer.   Inspect the seals for small tears or rips - it's better to discover this now then before your next dive. 

3. Rinse the valves with fresh water. A drysuit has two important valves that must be rinsed with fresh water after diving -- the inflation valve and the deflation valve. Rinse these valves carefully to remove salt and debris and prevent corrosion. 

4. Clean the zipper. Inspect your drysuit zipper for sand or grit. Use a soft toothbrush to remove any particles. (It's a good idea to keep a soft toothbrush in your drysuit bag for this purpose). Take a quick look at the zipper itself and make sure that it looks intact and unbroken.

5. Pee valves. Relief valves require special care and cleaning. To sanitize relief valve after use, use a 50/50 solution of vinegar and rubbing alcohol, and then give the valve and tubing a good freshwater rinse. 

6. Rinse the inside of the suit. If there is sufficient time for your suit to dry completely before your next dive, you may want to rinse the inside of the suit to keep it clean and fresh. 

7. Hang your suit to dry.  Flip your suit inside out if possible, and hang  it by the boots with the zipper open to allow the interior of the suit to dry completely. There are commerically available, collapsable drysuit hangers that will allow you to hang your suit inverted, and they are well worth the investment.  Once the interior of the suit is dry, flip it right side out and dry the exterior. Be sure to dry the suit in the shade. Exposure to direct sunlight can degrade seals and other suit materials. 

8. Coat latex or silicon seals before storage. Dust your latex or silicon drysuit seals with a light coating of talcum powder before storing the suit for and extended period of time. Roll it loosely from the feet to the neck with the zipper open and keep it in a cool, dry, and protected place. Heat, humidity, and insects have all been known to damage suits during long-term storage. 

A Good Suit Is Only Half the Battle

How you care for yoru drysuit is just as important as the drysuit you buy. If you keep your drysuit in good condition, it should last for years.