Zippers and Seals

By Chris Gabel, Ocean Eye, INC.

Zippers and seals. Typically the most abused parts of the dry suit. A dry suit is always a significant investment. Even used you’re shelling out at least a third of what a new suit costs and that’s if you get one of those amazing deals from a friend who stopped using theirs. New ones can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $4,000 and more. Since they are used so much in contaminated water, the last thing you need is the nasty stuff to make its way inside your suit. Whether it’s just cold water or as someone I know says, a POO job.

First, let’s talk about zippers. A zipper replacement can cost anywhere between $300 and $500. So not an insignificant repair. There are a few simple tips to make sure that your zipper lasts as long as possible.

The first step is to use some kind of zipper wax. Lubricate your zipper with it in the closed position. You don’t want excessive build up of wax so a light coat will do. You should only apply the wax on the outside of the teeth so it doesn’t tend to interfere with the zipper’s inner sealing surfaces. You can also exercise the zipper a couple of times to help lubricate the inside of the shuttle. Make sure that you don’t stress the zipper any more than you have to when your donning or doffing the suit. Jerking a zipper to force it open or shut is never the best course of action and is a good way to lose teeth.

Now let’s move on to seals. Specifically Latex seals. As we work on suits that need repair, the one thing that we noticed a lot here lately are seals that look as if they melted. No, the diver did not spontaneously combust. What we’ve witnessed are divers not using Talc to get in and out of their suits. Coupled with the use of, let’s call it, personal grooming products such as balms and gels make it a disaster for seals. Most, if not all, soaps do the same thing. The chemicals in these products react to the Latex in the seals and wreck them quickly. They appear melted and become brittle. The use of pure talc, with no fragrance, is what is recommended. It works both to help you get in the seals easier and wicks away other elements you may not want to be in contact with the Latex seals.

The Neoprene seals aren’t as susceptible to the chemicals in skin care products as they are sensitive to fingers’ prolonged pushing on the same place and eventually going through the seals. Usually, the only thing holding a Neoprene seal together is a bit of the outer fabric. Varying your area of contact when you’re putting on or taking off your suit can extend the life of the seal. Also, a bit of talc won’t hurt to prolong longevity as well.

As always, dive safe.

For any questions, please contact Chris Gabel at CGabel@oceaneyeinc.com.