Wetsuits: the trusty sidekick for every diver, surfer, and water sports enthusiast. They keep us warm, protect us from marine creatures, and enhance buoyancy, providing an almost second skin that helps us plunge into aquatic adventures without a second thought. But there’s one question that’s been bobbing on the surface for quite a while – do wetsuits shrink over time?
Wetsuits can shrink with time if left unused, but it’s also possible that your wetsuit has simply lost elasticity, giving the perception that it has shrunk with how tight it feels. You may also have gained weight since the last time you wore it. Alternatively, exposure to heat and high pressure can cause damage the wetsuit material.
In this article, we will discuss the various factors that can cause your wetsuit to shrink, or cause it to lose elasticity and give the impression that it shrank over time.
Impact of Wear and Tear on Wetsuits
How Wetsuits Age with Time
No matter how durable and snug your wetsuit was when you first got it, like all things, it will eventually get worn down over time. The degree of this deterioration depends on how intensely the wetsuit is used and how well it’s taken care of.
Frequent, intensive usage can result in the wetsuit losing some of its elasticity over time, which may give the feeling of the suit getting tighter.
Improper care over the years, such as failure to rinse off the saltwater, leaving it to dry in the sun, or putting it in the dryer, can all cause your wetsuit to shrink.
Many wetsuit owners have found that their wetsuit shrank after leaving it in storage during the off-season. This may have to do with the gas bubbles in the wetsuit slowly migrating out, causing the wetsuit to lose size and thickness and effectively shrink.
Common Misconceptions About Wetsuits Shrinking
Many divers and surfers often perceive their wetsuits as having shrunk over time. However, this isn’t exactly the case. Wetsuits are more likely to lose their flexibility and elasticity due to wear and tear, which can give the illusion of the wetsuit shrinking.
In fact, the reverse is often true; wetsuits are more likely to get stretched out over time as it molds to the shape of your body and gets put through the ringer with all of the water sport activities you do. What was once a snug fit can eventually loosen enough to allow water to flush in as the wetsuit material gets thinner and more worn down.
When you feel like your wetsuit has shrunk, it usually has to do with exposure to heat causing a loss of elasticity. Either that or you may have gained a bunch of weight over Christmas and New Years and haven’t quite returned to form.
How Saltwater and Sunlight Can Shrink Your Wetsuit
How Saltwater Affects Wetsuits
Sea lovers, here’s a salty truth – saltwater can leave behind residues that make the wetsuit feel stiffer, leading some to believe their wetsuit has shrunk. In truth, it’s merely the impact of the salt forming salt crystals and causing damage to the neoprene cells, wearing down the neoprene’s structure and flexibility.
To prevent this, it’s imperative that you thoroughly rinse your wetsuit with freshwater after each session. Use cool water and mild soap and let the wetsuit soak in it for 20-30 minutes, before you gently knead it over and over to loosen any dirt or debris. Consider using a wetsuit cleaner once a week to really give your wetsuit a thorough cleaning.
The Impact of Sunlight on Wetsuits
Here’s a sunny surprise – wetsuits can protect us from UV radiation, but what protects the wetsuit from UV rays? UV radiation can have a considerable impact on your wetsuit. Over time, sunlight can degrade neoprene, causing it to lose its flexibility and feel tighter.
It’s important to note that while color fading is a clear sign of sun damage, even without color change, UV radiation can still cause structural changes to your wetsuit.
In a similar vein, using a blow dryer, washing with hot water, or throwing a wetsuit into the dryer after washing it can also cause the wetsuit to lose elasticity.
Instead, you should let your wetsuit air-dry on a wide hanger in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated location away from direct sunlight. If you want to speed things up, blow a fan at it, but do not use heat to evaporate the water.
Do Wetsuits Really Shrink? Debunking the Myth
Now that we’ve explored the various factors that can affect your wetsuit, it’s time to face the question head-on – do wetsuits shrink over time?
The straightforward answer is no, wetsuits do not shrink over time. The perceived “shrinkage” is often due to a combination of factors including the natural loss of elasticity over time, the impact of saltwater and sunlight, and even changes in our body size.
Wetsuits are designed to withstand harsh conditions, and any changes in their fit or comfort level over time are more likely due to these external factors rather than a shrinking of the material itself.
So the next time you feel your wetsuit is a bit snug, remember – you probably didn’t take good care of it, or your weight is a bit heavier since the last time you wore it. Wetsuits are more likely to feel loose over time than tight, so learn the proper steps to take care of your wetsuit to maximize its lifespan.