de-brittling latex seals

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lg18
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de-brittling latex seals

Post by lg18 » Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:38 pm

Hi everyone,

After a winter in the garage my drysuit latex seals have become hard and brittle (kokatat, only bought last summer), as I didn't treat them with anything before storage. What is the best way to restore them to their former flexible glory? Or are they doomed?!

thanks,
Lucy

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by PlymouthDamo » Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:51 pm

I don't think there's anything you can do with them, but replacing wrist-seals is fairly easy, or you should be able to get a dive shop to do them for you fairly cheaply. (I've been using http://drysuitdoctor.co.uk for my diving drysuit repairs, and their quality and price is remarkable, although they were a bit slow.) As for the neck seal, you might use this as an opportunity to upgrade from latex to neoprene. I don't know why paddlesuit manufacturers are sticking with latex, as the new thinner/stretchier neoprene is drier, more comfortable and far more durable. When I last paid someone to do a neckseal for me, it was around £50 to fit a latex one, but if you do it yourself, you can get a neoprene seal, plus glue, for around £20.

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by Rainshine » Tue Apr 19, 2016 3:13 am

Just be careful that you don't invalidate the remaining Kokatat warranty by trying to do repairs on your own or sending the suit away to someone just because its cheaper in the short term. Many Kokatat suits carry lengthy, comprehensive warranties - that's partly what you are paying a premium for. Its worth checking what the warranty provisions are before you do anything.

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by Jim Tait » Tue Apr 19, 2016 8:20 am

Have you tried seal saver? They might be salvageable.....

https://www.scubastore.com/scuba-diving ... 7-ml/382/p
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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by pathbrae » Tue Apr 19, 2016 6:42 pm

From Kokatat...
Latex gaskets need to be treated every 4–6 weeks to prevent drying and cracking. Kokatat recommends 303 Protectant.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/30308-Aerospac ... title_autoSeems to be the stuff - it might soften them up again
So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by jamiemagee » Tue Apr 19, 2016 8:35 pm

Seal saver seems good too

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by PlymouthDamo » Tue Apr 19, 2016 10:36 pm

The latex seals on my diving drysuit haven't been changed for years despite loads of use. (I've never treated them with anything.) I've also got Kokatat gear, and the seals seem to be holding up as well as my diving gear has. On the other hand, I've had other spare-and-unused seals turn to black goo. I suspect what's turned them into goo has been something in the atmosphere - i.e. a tube of glue stored nearby which was slowly leaking solvent fumes.

From my experience, the best way to prolong the life of your latex seals is to be very anal about rinsing them in fresh water after every use, and then thoroughly drying them before storing them somewhere reasonably warm, well-ventilated, away from fumes and very dry - not a garage. A cotton bag hanging from your wardrobe rail would be perfect. I've also heard talk of sunblocks and other creams and potions destroying latex seals - personally I've never had a problem, but it might be something else to consider.

That seal-saver stuff linked to above seems to be advertised as a seal protectant - can it also repair damaged seals?

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by lg18 » Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:05 pm

Many thanks for all your useful replies. I've ordered the McNett stuff and the 303 protectant in the hope that it can soften them again, and will endeavor to hang the drysuit in a wardrobe, not the garage in future. Someone else also suggested they may soften if kept in the warmth for while. I'll try all these things, as I really don't want to have to send it off to a seal-replacer-person! This never happened to the latex seals in my other dry-suits, so am a bit annoyed it has happened to a new uber-expensive Kokatat. I reckon that if it really is essential to treat the seals every 6 weeks, they shoulde provide a tube of the stuff with every new suit (given though cost £1k!!!). The stuff they recommend (303) is apparently a UV protectant, so I thought I wouldn't need it in a box, in a garage, in Scotland (which as no UV in winter even outside!!!), and in the mildest/warmest winter on record! Oh well, lesson learnt....

thanks again for your help!
Lucy

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by Jim » Wed Apr 20, 2016 9:54 am

lg18 wrote:in Scotland (which as no UV in winter even outside!!!)
Be careful with that thinking, UV is at the cool end of the spectrum, you can get sunburn on a cold sunny day just as easily as a hot one.

I don't think I've had a seal go brittle, it might be worth asking kokatat in case it is a material defect in the latex.
Either way, I doubt if the embrittlement is reversible.
Looking at the earlier responses, no-one else has mentioned experience of brittle seals, only gooey, which is how I find they usually go.

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by lg18 » Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:32 pm

Well ok Jim, I was clearly exaggerating very slightly by saying "NO" UV! But let's be honest, this winter it really has been as near as dammit zero UV all winter! (And by winter I don't mean April, where I HAVE burnt previously, when out for 10 hours in the hills in the snow with unbroken sunshine and no suncream). Given that Kokatat are in California, I do take their UV protection frequency recommendation as slightly over the top for the cloudy, northern conditions I tend to paddle in.

This winter I even had to have a last-minute emergency trip to Tenerife to escape the misery of incessant rain, cloud, dark and gales. Living proof that Scotland's UV index is appallingly low in winter and possible explanation for why we're all a bunch of miserable b'stards:

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/health/publ ... 1461121200
http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images ... March_2001

Update on the brittle seals for any future use for anyone: after a few days in the warmth, and having applied 303, they are quite a bit more flexible and I have hopes they may not be doomed... But will definitely keep them indoors and treated from now on!

Thanks!
Lucy

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by RichJ » Wed Apr 20, 2016 7:13 pm

Hi Folks,
What do you mean by 'brittle'?
I have had Lomo, Palm and Kokotat seals loose their flexibility after time and cold temperatures in the garage. With all brands this has been reversible with warmth and use. I do believe this to be a 'normal' action for this type of polymer. I doubt it has been caused by UV and actually, unlikely to be helped by 303.

Richard

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by PlymouthDamo » Wed Apr 20, 2016 9:43 pm

I'd imagined the OP was talking about where latex starts to show very fine cracks, with even a bit of rubber dust coming off. I've inherited a few very old suits with seals that have gone like this. Once my good suit reached this stage, I'd definitely change them - no point leaving the inevitable to happen just before you're about to set off on the trip of a lifetime for the sake of a few quid.

I'm on record as being anti-Kokatat because of poor customer service over a design flaw with one of their products. However, when it comes to latex seals, I'm pretty sure they just use the same ones everyone else does and I don't think they can be held responsible for the innate fragility of these things. Their warranty specifically excludes latex seal replacement, and I think that's fair enough. Their website includes instructions for how to replace your own seals, so presumably you won't void your warranty by doing so.

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by lg18 » Thu Apr 21, 2016 12:40 pm

Hi, good point, Richard, I should have described/defined "brittle".
There were no cracks, but the latex had gone hard, inflexible, unstretchy, and there is no way I would have risked putting my head through, as I'm sure it would have caused tearing and cracks if I'd forced it to stretch or bend.

I think in retrospect this may have been due to cold and lack of use for 5 months, and no treatment with any stuff that helps maintain flexibility, as they have improved after being brought into a warm house and treated with stuff.

However, having said that, it has been a particularly mild winter with no frosts here, plus this has never happened to my other dry suits, even with extremely cold winters, so I'm thinking it is not necessarily "normal", but hope that the seals will survive this little episode, and hopefully won't happen again if I store the drysuit indoors and with treatments regularly. We'll see!

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by pathbrae » Thu Apr 21, 2016 6:17 pm

There are warnings about storing dry suits / cags etc. in sheds or garages with petrol fumes / paint fumes or near any other solvents - but I agree that that would tend to turn into a black sticky thing rather than make them go hard.
My very oldest dry cag, which must be about 25 years old now (why do I still have it??) had a very hard neck seal when I went to lend it to someone - but a bit of warm water and gentle working of the latex had it back to serviceability fairly quickly.
So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by Chris Bolton » Thu Apr 21, 2016 8:49 pm

I have experienced seals going brittle in cold conditions - I tore a neck seal putting my head through it on a cold morning in Greenland. I replaced it, so I didn't find out whether the brittleness was permanent or temporary, but I made a mental note to always warm up seals before putting the suit on.

I would have expected that storage in cold conditions would extend the life of seals - ageing of latex is a chemical process and all (?) processes slow down in cold temperatures. A web search finds http://www.hotndry.com.au/howto.htm which says "The ultimate storage for your latex is refrigeration or a freezer." and http://www.aqualung.com/nl/technical_li ... Manual.pdf which says "Store in a cool dry place, out of direct sunlight and away from electric motors or fumes (chlorine, diesel or gas)."

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by Jim » Thu Apr 21, 2016 9:25 pm

OK, that seems to make some sense, Latex is basically tree sap so it shouldn't be a surprise that it hardens in the cold and eases up again when warm - I'm sure my bones do that!

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by RichJ » Thu Apr 21, 2016 11:18 pm

Ha, ha..Well, for sure my limbs don't operate so well on cold mornings either!
I have also heard rumours about the nasty effects of hydrocarbon vapours and damage to seals. I just don't know the answer to this. However, I do know that with time the polymer of our seals does tend to harden. However, so far and with care, I have found this to be reversible. Now, an observation. The latex cuff of my Kokotat jacket did crack (after around 5 years). I had allowed this section to fold over in use. Don't know if this was significant.
Richard

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by Ceegee » Fri Apr 22, 2016 8:08 pm

Mine (also Kokotat) did this after a winter in a sub-zero boathouse in Berlin. Gentle warming to 20 degrees (hair-dryer on low) rendered them good as new. DONT try and handle them when rigid. If they crack it is all over.!!!

They did need replacing a few years later which I did myself for £30 with the Kokotat kit, easy peasy, video instructions on-line.
Cheers,
Steve C. G.

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by lg18 » Sun Apr 24, 2016 6:47 pm

This is all really interesting... especially as I will be paddling in Greenland this coming July, and if my Kokatat seals went hard in a not-very-cold shed, then I'm going to have to be really careful in Greenland, presumably keeping the drysuit inside the tent at night with me and making sure the seals are properly warm and flexible before putting on every morning. Brilliant info and tips, thanks all.

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by branwell » Mon Apr 25, 2016 9:32 am

I work in a field specialising in these types of elastomer materials and there is a lot of rules which we follow which also apply to drysuit seals...

All elastomer materials have a glass transition temperature. This is the temperature which the material changes from rubbery to leathery to hard. I am not sure what grade of elastomer the Kokatat seals are made from, (possibly nitrile?) but this has a bearing on the glass transition temperature. Stiffening due to low temperature is fully reversible, just by raising the temperature. this may account for the stiffening of the drysuit seals.

For elastomer materials, as used on dry suit seals storage environment is important. Storing in a cool environment will prolong the shelf life of an elastomer, but other factors will cause degradation, such as UV light, humidity (seems strange for dry suit seals), ozone (produced by high voltage equipment), excessive heat and contact with chemicals. For storage temperatures, reducing the temperature (from 23 degC) by 10 degC will increase shelf life by 50% and vice versa.

If you have drysuit seals with cracking, then the material has suffered ageing resulting in embrittlement, and there is no magic cure to fix, other than replacement.

hope this helps

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by MikeB » Tue Apr 26, 2016 8:42 am

I had the same problem with K/tat seals go hard when stored in a cold place for a prolonged period. They recovered just fine. This said, when camping in below zero temps, while the suits froze overnight the seals were fine in the morning when putting them on.

If they've gone sticky and / or cracked, they're dead.

Deet will also kill them in double quick time, so if you're going to a mossie / midge infested part of the world, avoid! The other thing which I understand is bad for them is storing them in any place which has a electric motor in it. I gather that will produce ozone, which does them no good. So near a boiler for example, which will have a central heating pump.

I'm also interested to know whether keeping them in one of those plastic storage boxes will cause problems. I believe the plastic will fume off and cause damage. IS this likely?

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by branwell » Tue Apr 26, 2016 9:02 am

Yes, you are quite right, motors or any high voltage devices give off ozone and this can shorten the life of seals/rubbers. With regards storing in plastic boxes, i think the benefits of storing them like this will outweigh any reactions with the degassing of the plastic box, but that is just my opinion.

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by MikeB » Tue Apr 26, 2016 9:12 pm

branwell wrote:Yes, you are quite right, motors or any high voltage devices give off ozone and this can shorten the life of seals/rubbers. .
Would this include storing them in a cupboard containing the meter and main breaker box for the house?

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by Chris Bolton » Tue Apr 26, 2016 10:36 pm

I'm also interested to know whether keeping them in one of those plastic storage boxes will cause problems.
I've had no problems with storing seals in plastic boxes provided the seal isn't in direct contact with the plastic. If there's contact, the seal degrades rapidly - I think the plasticiser in the box migrates into the latex.

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by Jim » Wed Apr 27, 2016 12:23 pm

Right, now that summer is here, I'm going to wrap my drysuit in a natural (unbleached), close woven hessian bag and bury it in the garden (away from the route of the power cable to the garage) until I need it again in the winter....

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by john.ruston » Fri Apr 29, 2016 7:42 pm

For best long term storage, natural rubber components like a good dusting with talcum powder.
I think that a combination of cool, dark and talc will prolong their life massively. Baby powder will do nicely.

Sticking my neck out a bit but aren't 303 and SealSaver, Suit Juice etc all different brands of the same stuff ?? They both work to extend seal life.

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Re: de-brittling latex seals

Post by Chris Bolton » Sat Apr 30, 2016 3:34 pm

aren't 303 and SealSaver, Suit Juice etc all different brands of the same stuff ?
as I understand it, 303 is designed to protect anything, including items like boats, against UV. The others are specific to protecting latex seals and may have a wider scope than UV.

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