Neoprene 101

By Beastly | @BadAlexCheves

Everyone is getting into neoprene these days. And there’s a good reason why. The material has a hot, skintight, industrial look and feel. For fetish gear and harnesses, neoprene is easy to care for and comes at a significantly lower price than leather and rubber. That said, many people don’t know how to properly care for neoprene (no, you can’t just throw it in the washing machine). Here’s the rundown of what you need to know to get the most out of your neoprene gear.

BACKSTORY: Neoprene is a synthetic rubber. It was originally used in electrical insulation and automotive fan belts. In the 1960s, it became a natural choice for wetsuits and SCUBA gear. Neoprene is insulating and traps heat, and is completely waterproof. It keeps shape and holds up even in extreme temperatures. When neoprene made the jump into fashion, commenters called the trend “SCUBA fashion.” The material’s utilitarian appeal has become popular in labels like Boy London, Gareth Pugh, and Lanvin. Neoprene is found in things you may use every day: car seat covers, tires, and the soft coating on some gym weights. As a fetish material, neoprene has become one of the most common materials alongside leather, rubber, and latex.

WHEN YOU WEAR IT 

Don’t excessively tug or pull on your gear. Like rubber, neoprene can tear, although generally speaking, most neoprene gear is more tear-resistant than rubber. Neoprene is prized for its durability, but even if the material doesn’t rip, it can stretch in areas you don’t want to stretch, and the stretches can permanently affect its shape.

Don’t worry about water. Neoprene is totally waterproof. Unlike leather, neoprene won’t be affected by excess moisture. It’s the same material used in wetsuits.

Avoid oil. Oil is a pretty corrosive material in general. While there are many different blends of neoprene and many different kinds of oil and oil-based products, a good rule of thumb is to keep oil away from neoprene gear, as it could damage it. Yes, this means avoiding slick, oil-based lube and massage oil when you’re wearing your neoprene chaps.

WHEN YOU CLEAN IT 

Wash your gear as soon as you get home. Strip off your neoprene gear and give it a good rinse in clean, warm water. If you’ve been wearing it all night, it’ll be covered in sweat (and other fluids). Allowing sweat, lube, and other materials to linger on your neoprene gear will reduce its longevity.

Handwash your gear. Don’t throw it in the washing machine. Machines are too rough. I’ve thrown jockstraps with neoprene pouches in the washing machine on a gentle setting and they’ve been fine, but I would not throw my neoprene harnesses in a machine. When in doubt, handwashing is best.

Use gentle soap. Better yet, use soap made for cleaning neoprene. Finding this soap is easier than you think. Go to your nearest sports supply store or any place that carries snorkeling and SCUBA equipment. They likely will have a wetsuit shampoo. Recommended:  Gear Aid Wetsuit & Drysuit Shampoo

Use cold water. Warm or hot water will make your neoprene more susceptible to stretching as it dries.

Lay it flat to try. Neoprene keeps shape even in hot and cold temperatures. The only time it may stretch is if you hang it to dry while it’s soaking wet (especially if you washed it in hot water). The water weight will pull on the neoprene, stretching it. Avoid this by laying it flat and letting it dry without any creases or folds.

Don’t fold or crease your neoprene as it dries, or for long periods in storage. Neoprene gear is notorious for keeping creases and folds. This happens when the material wettens, then dries folded or creased. The creases become permanent fixtures and very hard to get out. Keep this from happening by making sure your neoprene is flat and smooth when it dries. Only hang it when it’s completely dry. Pro tip: I fold neoprene hoods where the seam is (usually down the middle of the face). With neoprene harnesses, I lay them flat the way I would wear them, straps folded where they would naturally curve over my shoulders, so if creases form there, they are less noticeable.

Do not dry in direct sunlight. UV rays will cause your neoprene to break down faster. Towel drying is best.

 

Dry completely before storing or hanging in your closet. If your neoprene chaps are damp when you hang them up, they will collect dust and dirt and get sticky.

Do not use bleach, or iron your neoprene gear. Never iron neoprene. When you clean it, use only mild detergents and soaps on neoprene. Pro tip: When washing your neoprene, do not directly pour the soap on your gear. Instead, fill the bathtub or sink with water and pour the soap in, then soak your neoprene in the soapy water.

Keep away from other toys and gear. Generally, neoprene will not react with other gear, including leather and rubber. But certain sex toys and other gear might stick to it, so it’s best to store it separately, on its own hanger.

Inspect your gear regularly. Inspect your gear on a regular basis to make sure it’s dry and clean. Keep it from getting too dusty and dirty, and make sure nothing is causing it to fold or crease in storage.

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