swimmer wearing their wetsuit

How to Wash Your Wetsuits and Swimsuits

Whether you're competing, training for a triathlon, or simply working out, once you exit the water, there is typically a routine that follows: shower, stretch, refuel, and rest. While it can be hard to remember, your swimsuit and wetsuit deserve the same care, attention, and TLC post-swim.

Washing your swimsuit or wetsuit increases longevity, helps to retain its shape, and prevents color fading. If suits are not cleaned properly, they can stain from sunscreen, chlorine, and other pool chemicals and even build up smells from mildew and mold. You should also be rinsing off fresh lake water. Although it is deceivingly clean, lake swimming can still attract dirt, sand, and bacteria that stick to your swimsuit or wetsuit.

We've put together some tips and instructions for washing your swimsuits and wetsuits after both pool and open water swims.

How to Wash a Swimsuit

There are several ways you can wash your swimsuit. At a minimum, you should be rinsing your swimsuits after each use. One of the best methods is to rinse your swimsuit in cool water by hand. Cold water helps maintain the suit's elasticity and prevents the fabric from weakening, while warm water can fade colors faster and lead to lowered elasticity.

If you're unable to rinse your suit by hand, a simple alternative is to keep your swimsuit on while showering after your swim. This ensures that the suit gets the freshwater rinse it needs. Just be sure to avoid shower gels or shampoos that may compromise the swimsuit material.

Past simply rinsing in water, swimsuits should be soaked in cool water for 30 minutes after every third or fourth wear. This will help remove any pool chemicals, body oils, salt, sand, and dirt that were not cleaned off during each post-swim rinse. Feel free to add half a cup of baking soda if you'd like to add a cleaning agent to this soak.

Image of a swimmer wearing their swimsuit

How to dry your swimsuit

Whatever you do, avoid wringing out your swimsuit. This method comprises the spandex, elasticity, and shape of the suit. Instead, place the suit between two towels and roll it up gently. This will remove excess water in a way that will not compromise the suit. The final step is to hang your suit to dry in a well-ventilated area out of the sun.

Can you put a bathing suit in the washing machine?

Some bathing suits require hand washing with no detergent, while others will accept a machine wash with mild detergent. Check the label of your swimsuit for specific washing instructions. If you want to wash your suits in the washing machine, look for long-lasting fabrics like polyester and nylon.

Use a laundry bag if you're washing a swimsuit with long strings (like a bikini or swim trunks) to prevent damage. If you don't have a laundry bag, you can tie the strings together and double knot them before washing.

One thing that is consistent with all bathing suits is that you should never put them in the dryer. Dryers significantly decrease the lifespan of a swimsuit, especially those made with Spandex or Lycra, because the heat weakens the elasticity.

How do I get the smell out of my bathing suit?

Bathing suits that smell typically have two main sources: chlorine or mildew. The chlorine smell can linger due to neglecting the post-swim rinse, while mildew is caused by fungal growth when a swimsuit is not in good ventilation while drying.

How to remove the smell of chlorine or mildew

In a bucket or sink, combine equal parts water and vinegar and one tablespoon of salt. Add the swimsuit, swish it around for one minute, then let it soak for 30 to 60 minutes. After the suit is done soaking, rinse it in cool water, towel roll it to remove excess water, then hang to dry in a well-ventilated area.

For mildew, hang the suit outside under direct sunlight—the ultraviolet rays have disinfecting properties that can help kill any remaining bacteria. Be aware, though, that direct sunlight can cause the colors on your swimsuit to fade.

How to Wash a Wetsuit

To wash your wetsuit, you'll want to rinse it with cool or lukewarm fresh water after every use. It is important to rinse your wetsuit before it dries. This will ensure the efficient removal of dirt, sand, and other chemicals. If the suit dries before you rinse it, it will be more challenging to clean afterward.

swimmers preparing for a wetsuit swim

The best way to rinse off your wetsuit is by giving it a good soak in the bathtub, making sure to clean the inside and outside thoroughly. If you don't have a bathtub, you can rinse your wetsuit with a hose or handheld shower head. Be sure to spray down the outside of the suit and then turn it inside out to get the inside as well. Finally, if you're in a bind, you can take a quick shower with the wetsuit on; however, this should be a last resort as the inside will not get cleaned well.

image of a swimmer wearing their wetsuit

Beyond the post-swim rinse, you'll want to give your wetsuit a deep wash about every ten uses. You can do this yourself at home with the instructions below:

How do you wash a wetsuit at home?

Washing your wetsuit at home requires a bathtub or large sink. Turn the wetsuit inside out, open all the zippers, soak it in a tub of cool or lukewarm water for an hour, then rinse and hang to dry. If your suit is a bit smelly, mix in a cleaner that will not compromise the neoprene. Acceptable cleaners include special wetsuit shampoo, baby shampoo, or a few drops of mild dishwashing detergent. These cleaners will help to break down and remove any body oils that may have built up in the neoprene fabric.

It should be noted that wetsuits hate being left out in the sun. The UV rays can break down the neoprene and compromise the longevity of your suit. Other contaminants such as salt, harsh detergents and soaps, and even hot water can also damage the neoprene.

Drying your wetsuit

It is important to dry your wetsuit properly to avoid compromising the integrity and shape of the suit. Wetsuits should always be hung to dry naturally and never placed in a dryer as dryers are hot enough to damage the synthetic neoprene rubber.

Depending on your location, there are a few options for drying your suit:

  1. Hang dry outside: If you live in a warmer climate, feel free to dry your wetsuit outside as long as it is in the shade—preferably with a bit of a breeze.
  2. Hang dry inside: If you prefer to dry your wetsuit inside, keep the suit away from heat sources like radiators, fireplaces, and space heaters.

How you hang your wetsuit to dry is very important. If it is done incorrectly, the suit may crease or stretch out. The best approach is to place a thick towel or mat over your shower door or curtain rod and drape the wetsuit over the top. Alternatively, you could use a clothes drying rack or special wetsuit hanger with a built-in ventilator.

If none of these options are available to you, consider bundling multiple hangers together and hanging the wetsuit to dry by the shoulders. Using multiple hangers will prevent any stretching or creasing at the shoulders.

Wherever you choose to hang your wetsuit to dry, be sure that there is a bucket or drainage system underneath to catch any dripping water.

Pro tip: If you want your suit to dry faster, squeeze the end of the wetsuit arms and legs after it's been drying for a while. This will help drain the pooled water in these areas.

Can you put a wetsuit in the washing machine?

No, we don't recommend doing so. Putting your wetsuit in the washing machine could impact the life expectancy of your wetsuit—the spinning cycle can damage the wetsuit's seams, which are important for keeping you warm in those cold water swims.