Rubber Care 101

Some of the Chicago Rubbermen at their anniversary party in Chicago. (All photos courtesy of Chicago Rubbermen)

Since there were so many new guys at Rubber Recruit the other night and quite a few of them bought surf suits and other gear from Full Kit, I thought a little rubber care 101 might be appropriate for the day after. If one of your friends bought some gear last night (specifically the guys who bought the red rubber suits) reach out to them or send them this info so they can get plenty of use out of their gear for years to come..

Rubber Care 101:

1) Dawn Dishwashing liquid is your friend. It will help remove the silicone lube from your body, your bathtub, you floors and your gear. It’s always easiest to keep a small bottle of Dawn in the shower so that when you get ready to take off your rubber gear you can clean it and yourself all in one easy step! Under a warm shower, wash the outside of your gear.with dawn while wearing it, then strip off the gear and wash the inside of the gear as well. (It will slip and slide across itself fairly easily and that should be enough to remove most dirt, grime and residue from shenanigans. If there is additional heavier cleaning, use a soft washcloth to lightly scrub the area in need. Then rinse well under warm water. Put gear on a heavy plastic hanger and let drip dry. Be sure to flip the item inside out after a bit as water may be trapped inside and may cause mold if left to remain.

2) Rubber/latex is a very porous material. Sweat and other fluids can work their way into the rubber and over time if not addressed they will start to change the smell, color and texture of the gear. One way to prevent that is to soak the gear in a bath/sink with a small amount of ammonia in the water. (One cup at the most with several gallons of water to dilute.) Leave it there for an hour or so, move it around every once and awhile to ensure the entire garment is exposed and soaked. Be sure to rinse the garment well after you remove it from the bath, place on a plastic hanger and let it drip dry. (Note: anytime you soak rubber gear for a long time it will discolor temporarily as it absorbs the water. This should fade as the item dries off over 24 hours or so.)

3) Storage – Rubber gear should be stored in a cool dark place, NEVER on a wooden or metal hanger (or any hanger for an extended period of time,) If you own colored latex like a red surf suit, or a clear/transparent suit, be sure to store them separately from other items and in their own bag or container. These items can become discolored when they remain in contact with other pieces of gear, with metal, soft plastics (like personal toys) fragrances like cologne, sunscreen or body lotion. For storage it is recommended that you use corn starch or unscented talc to coat the inside and the outside of the garment (I usually take a trash bag, put in some corn starch, drop my gear inside and then shake the bag until the garment has a light coating of talc or starch inside and out. (like battering chicken – but for rubber!), Then carefully fold the items and place into a large ziploc style bag or some other sealed plastic container. (Printed bags like from a grocery store can transfer ink to the garment and they are not recommended for storage of gear.) Rubber gear that is not stored properly can start to bind to itself and if left coated in silicone lube for an extended period (months) it can change the material to more of a gummy or gelatinous like texture which becomes much more prone to ripping.

4) Prepping stored items to wear. – When you are ready to gear up, take your gear out of its storage and wash it again with Dawn dish washing liquid to remove any starch or talc residue. A warm rinse will also help release any folds or creases in the gear. If the gear has bonded to itself at any point, carefully and slowly separate those areas while running under warm water. (This should not happen when stored correctly). To bring back the shine on your gear, use Vivishine or some other Latex Shine product and follow the instructions on the bottle. Use some silicone lube to help you slide into your gear (or j-lube if you really want to slip and slide all night long). NEVER EVER USE PRODUCTS WHICH ARE PETROLEUM BASED OR CONTAIN OIL. Just like you can’t use oil based lube with condoms (or they will disintegrate) the same thing applies to Latex/Rubber Gear.

5) Neoprene gear is a little simpler, wash and clean as outlined above. Neoprene can be disinfected with ammonia as well. Neoprene will require a longer drying period as it retains water. Neoprene can be stored on heavy plastic hangers with no side effects (except maybe misshaped shoulders after some time, but that should release when worn.).

When in doubt, call the manufacturer of the gear and ask for help on storage and or cleaning tips. If you need repairs or notice a blow out has occurred, carefully remove the garment and place in a safe location to avoid further tears or rips. There are numerous people in this group and others that can do repairs for a small fee, or you can sometimes send them back to the manufacturer for repairs.

Hope this helps! Enjoy the gear for many years to come!

Rubberwilli

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