Care & Maintenance of Technical Drywear

Aug 19, 2022

It should be noted that the information given in this post is applicable to all technical drywear in the paddlesports and outdoor industries, not solely to Level Six products. It will be especially applicable to any garments using Gore-Tex technology, or similar materials to Level Six’ eXhaust technology series.
This information is being shared in an effort to provide transparency and to better inform consumers on why regular care is essential. Many companies’ warranty policies are similar to that of Level Six, with similar restrictions and requirements.

Be advised that this is by no means a blanket statement, and every warranty/repair claim will be determined on a case-by-case basis. We still welcome you to reach out to our warranty team for an assessment.

Warranty Clauses:

Level Six’ official warranty policy hinges on a few, very important, clauses. There are two that we see more commonly than others which we would like to highlight in this post.

The two clauses we will touch on are:

  • The presence of mould voids the lifetime warranty,
  • Any fabric damage caused by sunscreen or bug spray voids the lifetime warranty

When submitting a warranty to Level Six, if the presence of mould or chemical deterioration is detected, the warranty is void regardless of whether the defect is related to those things. The main reason for this is that mould and/or delamination around the collar and cuffs is the first indicator to us that a piece of drywear hasn't been properly cleaned and cared for in its lifetime.

An example of delamination caused by chemical deterioration or the presence of mould.

The inside of a mouldy drysuit (left) vs a dry suit that was properly cleaned and maintained over its lifetime.

These issues cannot be fixed by our warranty/repair team, so steps must be taken from the start to prevent them from happening.

Getting the Most Out of Your Gear:

To get the fullest lifetime out of your technical drywear, they need to be cleaned very regularly. It is the most important thing you can do for maintenance. Just like you wouldn’t buy a car and never change the oil, when purchasing a technical garment, you should ensure they are properly maintained in order for them to continue working properly.

They should be both rinsed off with fresh water after every use and left to fully dry, inside and out. If being used frequently, you should consider cleaning them with a pro-cleaner on a weekly to bi-weekly basis.

When purchased new, Level Six drywear has a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating woven into the face fabric, but this will naturally wear off over time. When the water stops beading from the material, the DWR should be reapplied. If left without this coating, water will absorb into the material, trapping all the pollutants in, which in turn hastens any wear or delamination associated with not cleaning it.

Resulting Issues from Lack of Cleaning:

1. Material - The waterproof and breathable membrane in the lining of the material relies on fine pores in order to release moisture from the inside. If these pores are clogged with dirt, sweat, oils, or residue from the body of water it is used in, then it no longer has that breathability, and the user will be left with an uncomfortable, swampy feeling inside the suit. This also occurs when the DWR coating is gone, and water is absorbed by the outer nylon face fabric.

2. Seam-Tape - If left unwashed, the bacteria left by sweat, dirt, and moisture is the perfect environment to breed mould. This is obviously not good for many reasons, first and foremost being for the health of the user, but also because mould can form in and around the adhesives used in the seam-seal tape. This contributes to seam tape lifting and seams no longer staying dry. Once it is present it can be seen visually usually in the form of small, black dots or as a splotchy patch of pink. When this happens any subsequent repairs won’t be as effective, as the presence of mould never truly goes away. The simplest way to prevent mould growth is by cleaning the suit regularly with a pro-cleaner and allowing it to fully dry out between uses.

3. Deterioration/Delamination - Many oils and chemicals, like sunscreen, bug repellant, deodorants, and even body oil, can lead to the eventual failure and delamination of the material. The lining is a chemical compound that is susceptible to breaking down if exposed long-term to such oils and other harsh chemicals. So, if you get sunscreen on the collar of your drysuit, then it needs to be washed with cleaner as soon as possible.  It is also for this reason that we recommend using a pro-cleaner in the wash instead of a regular clothing detergent, as many regular household solvents can lead to the breakdown of the material. Once the delamination has begun, it is impossible to repair, and will eventually cause a “wetting out” as the breathable membrane no longer works to stop water from penetrating the material.

4. Shortened Lifespan - Consider the longevity of your investment. Drysuits are highly technical garments and can be quite expensive. The 'lifetime' of a drysuit varies greatly based on factors such as the user's washing schedule, care after use, care during use, exposure to chemicals like sunscreen and bug spray, and overall use. Like most things in life, the expected 'lifetime' of a drysuit is a spectrum that depends on how it's used and cared for. A weekend warrior who wears their garment 10 times a year may get a much longer lifetime than a professional guide who wears theirs every day. Conversely, a weekend warrior who abuses their garment and neglects basic maintenance may get less usage from it than a guide who uses their suit daily but takes meticulous care of it. The best way to maximize performance and the lifetime of your garment is to dry it after each use, clean it regularly, and make minor repairs caused by wear and tear before they become major issues.

Our Recommendations for Cleaning:

To make it easier, we suggest using a front-loading washing machine on a gentle cycle on cold. Always hang dry out of direct sunlight for 48 hours. It is important not to wash it in hot water or put it in the dryer. If you don't have a front-loading washing machine, then hand washing in a big bucket filled with pro-cleaner and water should work as well. Just make sure to agitate it frequently and thoroughly rinse all the cleaner out with fresh water before hanging to dry. Use this time to thoroughly inspect your suit for tears, mould, or any other issues you may not have noticed.

For pro-cleaner and DWR finish we recommend GearAid products which can be found under the Outerwear Repair and Replacement page.

Once the garment is fully dry (we mean dry-dry, not mostly-dry-but-still-kinda-damp) you can then store in a cool dry place for long-term storage.

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