How Long Do Swim Caps Last?

How Long Do Swim Caps Last

The most commonly replaced piece of swim gear is the swim cap. No matter what you seem to do, you just can’t get one to last more than a few months. You might be wondering if you’re doing something wrong, or if this is just par for the course?

Unfortunately, it is quite common for swim caps to last only a few months, sometimes only a few weeks. With all of the stretching, pulling, and exposure to chlorine and sunlight, swim caps can really take a beating. Certain swim cap materials, such as silicone and neoprene, are more durable than others. That said, you expose your swim cap to wear and tear each time you go swimming, so the frequency at which you swim greatly affects how long a swim cap lasts.

If you’re tired of replacing your swim caps so quickly, you need to know how to take better care of them. In this article, we will go over the factors that affect a swim cap’s lifespan and how you can work around them and make your swim cap last longer than ever before.

What damages swim caps?

Swim caps are worn down by stretching, pulling, sunlight, chlorine, and external damage such as long nails or jewelry scratching it, and not taking proper care of it.

Putting on the cap ineffectively

Everybody has their trick to putting on a swim cap. Fundamentally, putting on the swim cap requires two steps: stretching the swim cap wide open, and then placing/pulling it over your head.

Where swimmers differ is in how they do this. Some swimmers get a friend or teammate to help them out. Others might do something where they bend over while simultaneously trying to pull the swim cap over their head. Whatever your trick is, hopefully it will be less stressful on the cap than how others put it on.

When stretching the cap, it is best to put both hands inside, palms facing each other, and then to spread your hands apart. That way, the cap is stretched relatively evenly and can easily be placed over your head. If you put too much stress on any one section, it can cause the cap to be deformed in that one area, so be careful.

How tight your swim cap is and how hard you need to stretch the swim cap can cause it to stretch out quickly. Also, at any point, be very careful about your nails; it is very easy to scratch and tear a swim cap.

In addition to that, you need to pay attention to metal hair clips or bands and earrings which can easily poke a hole through the cap.

Exposure to chlorine and sunlight

Chlorine and sunlight are notorious for deteriorating your swim gear. Aside from your swim cap, your swimsuit is also frequently worn out over time and needs replacement as well.

That is because chlorine is a harsh chemical that can deteriorate your swimwear, and no surprise, swim caps are often made with the same materials as swimsuits.

It’s the same story with sunlight if you happen to be swimming outdoors. UV rays can be extremely damaging, making the material brittle and discolored over time.

Unfortunately, you cannot avoid chlorine or sunlight; the best thing you can do is isolate one. For instance, you can swim at an indoor pool out of the sun. Or you can swim at the ocean or lake and avoid chlorine, but not the sun.

But the worst thing you can do when it comes to swim gear longevity is to swim at an outdoor public pool where you are exposed to both chlorine and sunlight.

Not cleaning, drying, and storing them properly

You need to rinse your swim cap after every session, leave it out to fully air dry, and then store it in a cool and dry environment. This sounds straightforward but it’s easy to mess it up.

For instance, some people don’t fully rinse the salt or chlorine off their swim cap and this can quickly deteriorate your swim cap material if left on.

Some people fail to fully let their swim cap air dry, storing them while there is still moisture inside and resulting in mold growth. A common mistake people make is to leave their swim cap to dry in direct sunlight, but the UV rays will wear down the material quickly.

Instead, use a towel to wipe off as many droplets as you can after rinsing. Then hang it somewhere to dry. To speed things up, you can sprinkle talcum or baby powder inside, making sure to spread it evenly, to absorb the moisture and keep the cap from sticking to itself.

If you are storing your swim cap in a bag with other swim gear, be very careful about where you place it. Swim caps are delicate and can easily be scratched or left with marks when pressed up against your goggles or other protruding objects. Try to separate your delicate gear from your sturdier ones by placing a towel between them or placing them in separate compartments.

Swimming often

If you go swimming at all, even if you’re really careful, you are putting wear and tear on your swim cap. Therefore, if you go swimming often (i.e. 3-4 times a week), then don’t be surprised if your swim cap gets stretched out after only a couple of months.

Unfortunately, swimming less is not exactly an option either. Just like chlorine and sunlight, you cannot really avoid them, so what are you to do?

We need to focus on what we can actually do something about. We can affect how we put on our swim cap by improving our technique, we can also buy a higher quality swim cap made with a more durable material, and how we maintain and store our swim cap when not in use.

Popular swim cap materials and their durability

How long your swim cap lasts is also largely determined by how durable the materials it is made of is. The three most popular swim cap materials are silicone, lycra, and latex, so we will provide a brief overview for them below.


Out of all the swim cap materials, silicone swim caps are arguably the best which is why they see heavy use in competitive swimming.

They strike a good balance between stretchiness, comfort, and durability, as in they have all of these qualities in ample supply. You can immediately feel the difference just by how thick it is. Yet it is somehow stretchy and easier to put on thanks to its slick texture.

Silicone swim caps can last a long time with proper care, and some swimmers have even managed to make their silicone caps last over a year.

What is most likely to cause it to get damaged beyond repair is if you puncture it or scratch it with a sharp object. It is less likely to get stretched out than the other swim caps materials.


Latex swim caps are the most common swim cap material for recreational swimming. It is stretchy, easy to put on, and offers a snug fit. To achieve this, the material is much thinner which allows water to flow through the cap. Competitive swimmers won’t touch latex with a 10-foot pole because of this.

Many swimmers find that quality of latex caps to be desirable because it feels breathable and less constrictive. Unfortunately, latex is not durable and will not last for long. Furthermore, some people are allergic to latex so this is a no-go for them.


Lycra is the same material that your swimsuit is made of, so it feels like you’re wearing your swimsuit on your head. They are soft, stretchy, and comfortable, so they are great for casual swimmers who can’t wear latex.

Similar to latex, lycra swim caps are not very durable and long-lasting; you will replace it about as often as you replace your swimsuit. They are more durable than latex but pales in comparison to the durability of a silicone swim cap.

The bottom line

In this article, we discuss what are the common reasons why swim caps deteriorate quickly and what you can do about it.

The factors within your control are how carefully you put on your swim cap, the material and quality of the swim cap you purchase, and how you maintain and store your swim cap.

If you want a swim cap that lasts a long time, you should purchase a silicone swim cap and take good care of it.

Be careful with your nails or hair accessories when putting it on, rinse it after every swim session, dry it with a towel and sprinkle baby powder inside to absorb moisture, and store it in a soft compartment of your swim bag.

You can follow the same steps with a latex or lycra swim cap, but be warned that they will not last as long simply because the material is less durable, so expect to replace it faster.