Latex Care

Caring, Wearing, and Storage of Your Rubber

Rubber is an organic material that decays with time. There is nothing you can do about that. But you can treat it properly and extend its lifetime for a decade or more. Over the years we have tried various methods, based in part on manufacturer’s instructions, for the care and maintenance of our rubber. Here we share with you some of our experiences and what we have learned so far. We would be happy to pass along any tips that you may have.

PUTTING IT ON

Of course, it’s always best to have a friend help you put on a tight fitting rubber piece. But if that is not possible, we recommend you smear a light coating of Eros or silicone over your chest or legs. A good dusting of talc on the inside of the garment also works. (If a cloud forms, then you’ve used too much!). A light smearing of latex-safe lubricant on the inside also works (see Between You section below). For sleeveless or T-shirts, you may want to roll it up, unrolling it again after you’ve got your arms through.
Take off any ear studs or sharp jewelry, and clip and file those fingernails! Remember that rubber tears and cannot be repaired except by patching.

When undressing, simply slide, pull, or roll the rubber off. A T-shirt or other tight top can be difficult to take off if it sticks.  These can removed by gentle tugging and unrolling, but is much easier in the shower (well, unrubbering is more fun in the shower no matter what you are wearing, especially with a partner!). Remember your jewelry.

POLISH

Polished rubber can give the impression of wearing liquid. If you like to have that perfect shine (as do I!), there are several types we’ve grown to trust over the years. A sponge or dense weave cloth or towel can be used for polishing. We recommend you keep a separate set of sponges to be used only for polish.

Silicone

Pure silicone makes an excellent polish. It lasts a long time and feels pleasant and not tacky to the touch. Food grade silicone is preferred, and spray silicone can be found at leather stores and most scuba diving shops. Spray cans leave a nasty cloud, so use with ventilation. Bottles of silicone liquid can be gotten from latex suppliers or on the internet.

Polish

Our prefered polishes are from Blackstyle (Berlin) and Syren (LA). All latex polishes we have used have given good results. AVOID RUBBER POLISH SOLD AT AUTO STORES. They are intended for the heavier rubbers of tires and dashboards and can in some cases damage your latex.  The best results seem to be to use the milky polish first then a layer of silicone oil on top of that.

CLEANING

Greasy food should be avoided at all cost. It will destroy the integrity of the rubber, but can be quickly wiped off with spit, mild detergent or soapy water. Each rubber item should be washed in luke-warm water and hung to dry thoroughly before storage. Gloves are especially a problem. You can find yourself inserting your fingers into a moldy mess if they aren’t allowed to dry properly.
We have found “Gum>ol Blau Bleu”, a blue detergent designed for rubber, to be very effective as well, but we have found it only in Germany (we have recently found Dawn blue dish soap also works). Only a few drops in a bucket or on a sponge will do an entire outfit. We have been told that Ivory liquid soap can be also be okay for rubber although we have not used it. Any soap used should be mild, but DO NOT use antibacterial soap under any circumstances. Spit also is a good cleaner for some small spots. Just rub some in, rinse, repeat.

Never hang your rubber with metal hangers or clips. They can mark or stain the gear. All metal parts should be dried immediately. The metal may stain the rubber or cause it to decay or rot over time.

Pockets can collect water during cleaning and provide an unpleasant surprise the next time you use them unless you empty them. I have punched small holes in the inside bottoms of our pockets to allow water to drain (DO NOT punch through the outer rubber layer!!!)

A natural sponge is very good for cleaning and soft on the rubber (as long as there is no organic residue within it).

An essential home rubber maintenance kit. Eros, silicone, soap (Blau Blue), polish, lubes, and (front) talc and a sponge. Repair kit not shown.

Storage

Opinions vary but the answer may depend in part on your local conditions. We store most of our large items hanging on a commercial clothing rack in a dark dry room. We prefer to not fold large items too long because the weight can leave permanent creases in rubber.

Smaller items can and probably should be folded and stored in bags with a light dusting of unscented talc or polished (availle at medical supply outlets or pharmacies: consult the yellow pages).

All items should be dusted or polished before storage, or they will begin to cling tightly together over time. Pulling them apart may result in torn rubber. Better it cling to you than to itself. If this happens, avoid the frustration of pulling it apart and go in the shower and soak it as you put it on. It’s more fun that way!

Part of our collection hanging to dry after a long weekend.

Between you and your latex

Here again, opinions vary on how (or if) to lubricate the inside of your rubber garments, and the answer will depend on your personal preference and experience. We use different things for different gear or events.

LUBE (LATEX SAFE)
J-LUBE (POWDER)
Liquid lubes provide the slippery feel I prefer. They also prevent skin chafing if you are not sweating. J-Lube is also very slimy but requires premixing or reliance on sweat to create the right mixture as you wear the rubber. J-Lube can be less expensive than liquid lubes and is available now at most rubber stores. Some lubes have a distinctive odor that can be noticed in close quarters, so keep that in mind.

TALCUM OR BABY POWDER
Talcum is a good dry lube that allows for easy slip on of your rubber. Talcum or powder MUST BE UNSCENTED or the oils will eat your rubber.

EROS
Eros is good for preventing skin outbreaks in certain areas and is good for easing entry into your rubber. It’s also very good as a post-rubber conditioning agent. A little goes a long way so use it sparingly.

NOTHING (the Sweat Solution)
Some of our friends prefer direct contact with their rubber, and this works well for my all-rubber hipboots, for example, or on hot summer evenings. Sweat provides a natural and highly pleasurable lube. Dancing at the club for a couple of hours invariably produces this result to great enjoyment!

Smoking

Avoid cigarettes! The hot embers will leave a small scar on the rubber that will require a patch to repair. The odors from heavy smoking will penetrate rubber. A good rinse in warm water and mild soap will remove most of this. (And smoking isn’t the best thing for you, either! – my pontification for the day.)

Daylight wear

We enjoy challenging the prevailing winds and sometimes wear our latex in the open daylight, risking turning into stone. Contrary to some warnings, our rubber items have not disintigrated or turned grey. The heavy polish we use may protect the rubber, but over time, excess sunlight does destroy rubber and it should not be exposed frequently. See the Health Guide for more information on Sun exposure.

KILLER ANTS FROM SPACE!

Yes, some varieties of ants like latex! We were surprised to find sugar ants chewing on our hard-to-find Seal-Dri all-latex waders. We traced them to a discarded food bag that had been left in a spare bedroom wastebasket. Once inside, they found their way to the latex. So be wary and check your residence at regular intervals.

Repair

This is a complex but important question. First, always clip your nails to reduce the risk of tearing the rubber while putting it on or off. Be careful around open car doors, as I have torn two rubber items, including my Aquala (argh!), when the rubber stuck to the finish on the corner of the door and ripped.

Once polish has been applied to latex, any patches applied to tears or holes using ordinary rubber cement, like those sold in the States in diving stores, don’t hold up as well as they would normally. Something in the polish inhibits the proper bonds from set up. The US does not permit sale of the strong glues required to repair our rubber. We have found excellent glues in Europe (Blackstyle, for example). We pick it up personally while travelling (if asked, it is for personal not professional use). If anyone has found an American source, we will gladly post the information here.

With trial and error, you can learn to patch rubber effectively, but large repairs usually take a professional repair job, and most of the sources on the Links page can do the job.