How To Clean Neoprene Chest Waders (And Tips On Caring For Fishing Waders)


How to clean fishing waders

On those cold days, be you up to your armpits fishing for trout or kayak fishing and breaking ice with your boat, neoprene / dry suits are a lifesaver ( quite literally in some cases) However, in my experience from kayaking and fishing for over 30 years, there is nothing quite like the smell that wafts up when we take them off after a hard day fishing or paddling.

The only saving grace in my time as a paddler is that everyone else at least smells as bad. With fishing it may well be that it was just you in the water, and your family or friends are going to have to put up with that smell for a while on the way home.

Lets see if we can help with that and look at some of the more effective ways to take care of and importantly clean neoprene waders and suits.

Neoprene waders can be cleaned with laundry detergent without softener or bleach inside added. To be safe there are also specialist waterproof detergents and shampoo for wet / dry suits. Some waders are machine washable but check your brand. importantly make sure they can hang dry in a well ventilated area.

We will explore some of these methods, and tips to make sure those waders are clean, smell free and last longer than the two seasons they are likely to last if you dont take care of them below.

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How to Clean Neoprene Chest Waders

We all know the feeling, or i hope its not just me, of pulling down the waders next to the car and getting a noseful of the bowls of hell. It is possible to mitigate this by spending a little time before and after your fishing trips. Just to temper those expectations, you are not going to have a set that is going to be smelling of roses, but it might at least mean you can drive back home with the windows up rather than down.

Simple Laundry Detergent

Hand washing with detergent in warm to slightly hot, but not boiling water is the most common way to rinse off that mud and smell. However make sure to choose a detergent that is non biological. This means no enzymes that they advertise on TV. Also be aware of color enhancers and added bleach.

You are fishing, the last thing you want is to be easy to spot. Although the main reason is waterproof material is delicate and this ingredients will do your waders no favors. Something like Ariel Non Bio detergent will be fine, just dissolve it in the water before starting to wash.

Specialized Waterproof and Wet Dry Suit Shampoos.

If you want to be extra safe with those 300 dollar waders you should be able to pick up some specialized neoprene and waterproof shampoos that are designed for the job (DWR – Durable Water Repellant Products). If you haven’t bought a pair of waders yet you can check out these on Amazon, however if you go to the shop its is VERY likely that they will also stock specific cleaning materials that you can pick up with your purchase.

Otherwise brands like Nikwax and Gear Aid (You can check the price) can be picked up fairly reasonably. They are likely to be designed for other waterproof clothing as well so could be multi purpose ( if you need a reason to justify the extra 10 bucks or so they cost)

How to Hand Wash Neoprene Fishing Waders.

The best way to hand wash fishing waders, chest waders and wetsuits is to do it in a bath of cool or warm water and mix in the correct amount of detergent, make sure it dissolves. Then use a sponge or cloth to clean the outside of the mud and dirt. However, and this is important, then turn them inside out. You may wipe the dirt off the outside but the smell is on the inside!

Wipe all the obvious areas on the inside, groin and backside but also do the legs and sweat drips down and will have settle towards the bottom of the waders as well.

Once you have finished then make sure to rinse off the excess detergent both inside and out and then hang them full length outside to dry ( more on this later). Leaving the department on the waders is likely to stain or mark them, and if on the inside could react to your skin and cause rashes or discomfort. When you’re done washing, rinse your waders with cold water. You can use the shower to rinse the waders or take them outside and spray them with a hose. Just make sure they are free of all residue.

Can You Use a Washing Machine to Wash Your Neoprene Fishing Waders?

This very much depends on the manufacturer. Some, especially new ones, will be able to be put in a washing machine on a short delicate wash in cool water. There will be instructions on the labels in the back of your neoprene waders. However if you are in any doubt then in is best to just continue to wash by hand. Make sure you take off all the straps so as not to get them caught up when you do put them in the machine though!

Drying Your Neoprene Fishing Waders

This is equally important as washing them in the first place. After washing you should find a well ventilated area with a through breeze if possible to ensure all the water can dry off. If not you are risking mold to take a hold. Which, i am sure, you dont wish to be anywhere near your unmentionables!! It also affects both the breathability and the waterproofing.

When you hang them make sure they are fully stretched out with no little tucks and folds where water can collect, and give them a shake to remove the excess moisture. Unless things have changed dramatically, neoprene and gortext are not fans of being put into driers so we would avoid this! Store them in a dry place once they have finished drying ready for your next trip.

Top Tips on How to Care for Fishing waders

  • Dry them out: Very important and we mentioned it above!! make sure after each trip, whether you wash your neoprene fishing waders or not, that you dry them out to stop mildew and mold forming.
  • Treat them with Waterproofing formula: After washing and drying add a layer or DWR ( Durable Water Repellant) to your fishing Waders. It will help keep the waterproofing fresh, and add a few seasons to your use. Something like Revivex or Nikwax (if you have a drysuit or similar) will work just fine.
  • Make sure they are a proper fit: We have an article on this here on how to correctly size your waders. But if you want the short version. Make sure you can kneel, bend down at the knees and raise your knees to horizontal. to small will wear them down and too big can be a safety hazard.
  • Avoid putting bulky items n the pockets: As much as we want our car keys or phone, lighter packet of cigarettes etc on hand. if you consistently use the same pocket to do this it will add strain to the material. Keep them in a little dry bag like this close to the shore or on the kayak or boat. It also saves explaining why your phone is at the bottom of the sea, lake or river later to your family as well.
  • Avoid storing them in sunlight: second only to saltwater, probably, not many things service to well being places in direct sunlight for any length of time. so limit their exposure to when your legs are in them, not to when they are not.
  • Get salt water off them: You fish, and maybe boat as well. You know this one. Salt water is corrosive, rinse it off as soon as you can. This goes for all your gear not just waders.
  • Store them well: Different manufactures will advise different ways. The basic rule of thumb is not in a ball at the bottom of a fishing bag. Once dry you can hang them in the closet or in the garage, just make sure it is in a dry ventilated place. We roll ours up but not tightly. it stops creases and folds happening which can create stress points.

Types of Neoprene Fishing Waders

Chest waders and neoprene fishing waders are an important addition to a lot of fishing environments. Fishing waders and neoprene chest waders come in at different price points, and we explore these here. There are different types of fishing chest waders depending on your requirements, from ankle all the way to up to full chest waders. We will explore the difference below. In case you are in a buying mood there are links to Amazon to check prices as well.

Comfort, when it comes to fishing, is really important. As much as we wish the sport was fast and furious its often patience that wins the day. We want to own a dependable pair of fishing waders that can be worn all day and still not chaff parts that don’t want to be chaffed.

The Three Types of Fishing Waders

chest waders

There are actually four types of fishing waders; they are Shoe Waders, Hip Waders, Waist- High Waders, and Chest Waders. They come with different styles and measurement depending on the water depth you intend to wade into.

Hip Fishing Waders

These kind of fishing waders are intended for water no deeper than knee-level. They are designed in two separate pieces- one for each leg. They have a unique designed which each side attaches to your belt with straps in order to prevent the wader from sliding down when wearing it. These hip waders are the lightest among the three of them. They are both easy to put on and take off. They also provide comfort even in a hot weather. These waders are ideal for smaller streams and shallows. Easy to pack and great to have on hand for any activities such as trailing boats and launching, hunting in boggy terrain and this is also an advantage for digging for clams.

Waist- High Fishing Waders

These fishing waders fall in between hip waders and chest waders. They are styled like a baggy pair of pants (kinda) and designed for water that is not deeper than mid-thigh. These waders have belt loops to hold them up. They can also be used with suspenders / braces, if you would like to.  They have more coverage than hip waders, and are more flexible and not as restrictive as chest waders. The upper body part is completely exposed so these suit warmer climates and shallower waters.

how to clean neoprene fishing waders

Insulated Chest Waders

Insulated fishing chest waders can be made of neoprene material and best used for colder conditions. The neoprene waders are very warm, stretchy, waterproof and durable. Like wetsuits they come in various thicknesses which offer various degrees of warmth. These fishing waders are generally less expensive than other wader and are not breathable which means when you start working up a sweat, the moisture will likely be trapped inside. They also offer a degree of buoyancy which is a useful if you are fishing is deeper water.

Finishing Thoughts

After washing, always hang your waders out to dry thoroughly after use. If you used you waders in a saltwater area, rinse them well with fresh water before letting them dry to prevent salt deposits from forming. When storing waders, ensure that the waders are totally dry before hanging them up in a cool and dark place with no direct of sunlight. Lastly, avoid leaving your waders sitting in the sun for a long period of time. Follow these simple tips and you will be able prolong the life of you fishing waders no matter what they are made of .

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