Maintaining Latex Gaskets
This article is about maintaining latex gaskets and socks found in drysuits and dry tops. To be clear, these are the super tight, stretchy seals found tucked under neck and wrist covers and the rubbery booties that can be found on some drysuits. If you don’t know what these are, chances are your paddling jackets does not have them. In fact, for a jacket or suit to be considered “dry” it has to have some combination of these in place. There are currently some alternatives available for folks with latex allergies, but this article just addresses gaskets and socks made with latex.
The issue is that while a well-made and well-maintained dry top or drysuit may last almost indefinitely, latex gaskets do not. From the moment they are made, the clock starts ticking on how long they will last, and to be honest, there is not a whole lot you can do about it. It is not uncommon for people to get 2 or 3 seasons out of a neck gasket or latex booties, and latex wrists can last 2 or 3 years longer. When they start to fail, you will see the edges of the wrists and neck seals start to dry out and crack, and on the booties you will see creases start to crack. If you can catch this in time, you can send your garment back into us for replacement before you have an unexpected blowout on the river. Here’s a pic of gasket reaching the end of it’s life:
There are several aftermarket products out there designed to lengthen the lifespan of latex gaskets, but according to the gasket manufacturer (who supplies gaskets to almost all paddlesport brands) these products typically only address UV exposure, which is only one of a number of things that can make a gasket degrade. Their study suggested that even when using these aftermarket products, the gaskets would fail due to ozone exposure or other reasons just as fast. Long story short - the UV treatments are probably not worth it.
However, there are a couple of things that you can do to make sure that gasket doesn’t break down prematurely:
- Keep sunscreen off of them as much as possible. Sunscreen can contain components that can damage the latex.
- Copper or copper alloys should not come in contact with latex gaskets.
- Storage temperatures should be less than 78 degrees.
- Moist storage conditions should be avoided.
- Garments with latex gaskets should be protected from prolonged UV exposure from natural and artificial light.
- Do NOT leave garments with latex gaskets inside a hot car.
- Mineral oils also destroy latex – these are often found in hand lotions and other moisturizers (including sunscreen with moisturizers).
- If you’re not sure what’s in it, don’t put it on your gasket. While we don’t have exact data on this, we have seen several cases of gaskets that seem to have been destroyed by Armor-All.
- Latex booties are not meant to be used as shoes. You should also just put a very thin sock over top of the latex bootie before you slip it into your shoe to not only make it easier to slide in, but also protect the socks from grit and small rocks.
In conclusion, don’t worry about it too much, beyond making an effort to keep sunscreen from getting on your latex products, and not walking on bare latex booties. When they start to dry out, give us a shout, we’ll get them replaced in no time.
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