How to Care for Neoprene Waders

Took a trip to the river today and pulled out the old neoprene chest waders.  It is Fall after all and the water is plenty cold.  When I got done I dusted them off and got to thinking of maintenance.  When was the last time I washed those puppies down?  Hmmm…  It had been a while.

Neoprene waders are the old school standbys of fishing.  Warmer than the old rubber things, they do need some maintenance to stay water tight.

General Neoprene Maintenance

Neoprene is fairly resistant to most chemicals and generally very durable.  This being said, it is recommended that after every use you rinse them off and hang your waders up to dry.  This will eliminate things like sand and chemicals from having time to work on your waders before you use them next time.

Cleaning Neoprene Waders

Every so often it is a good idea to give your waders a good thorough cleaning.  To clean neoprene waders,  hand wash them with a mild household detergent (that bottle of lemon scented stuff you use on your lures will work) using moderately hot water.  Rinse them off and hang them to dry.

Storing Neoprene Waders

Improper storage is probably the biggest contributor to neoprene waders failing.  First off they like cool, dark and dry.  Heat will speed up the breakdown of the rubber, sunlight will eat them up fast, and damp will foster mold/bacterial growth.  The ideal situation is to store them hanging up in a nice dark, dry closet.   For stockingfoot waders, several sources suggest stuffing the feet with newspaper to help them hold their shape and help dry them out.  Leaving waders folded up can lead to creasing and create a weak point in the neoprene.

Repairing Neoprene Waders

Even the best maintained neoprene waders will fail eventually.  So how do you fix your precious protection from that cold nasty water?  Once you find the leak, which is a trick in and of itself, you need to seal it up with water proof rubber cement.  Here is the best way I have discovered so far to patch neoprene waders:

  • Turn your waders inside out and lay them out flat on a table.  Use some something heavy to hold them down.
  • Put some wax paper or other material under where you will be patching your waders.
  • Clean the damaged area with alcohol and put a good dab or Aquaseal or similar product on the hole.  If it is just a pinhole, that will probably seal the hole.
  • For larger holes or tears you will need to actually use patching material.
  • Be sure to let your sealant dry overnight at the minimum.  Unless you are using Cotol which is a drying accelerator.

That should keep your waders in water tight condition for years to come.  One thing I did run across when I was doing some reading on this was that people mentioned that Cabella’s has a very generous return policy on their waders and will take them back and get you new ones.  I would like to confirm this with anyone and see if it is true.  Let me know!