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Thread: Latex seals breaking down

 

 



  1. #1
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    akirawut's Avatar
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    Latex seals breaking down

    I bought a used drysuit with latex seals, took it for one run in the pool to test it out. Afterward I noticed some black gunk on my wrist as if I had got some adhesive of some sort on it. I looked at the wrist seal and it's as if it started breaking down, before getting in the pool it was perfect.

    Now the seal has some very uneven and rough edges, and is covered in some wiry looking hairs/fibers that appear to be from the latex breaking down.

    Any idea what caused this and how to avoid it? It was right away after getting out of the pool, IE didn't seem to be a question of not rinsing etc.

    Thanks for any input.

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    I suspect the latex was in poor condition before you got in the pool, but getting it wet allowed the decomposed latex to soften and stick to your skin.

    Out of curiosity, what kind of suit was it? I've run into several reports of this happening with Fusion seals, and it happened to me. I've never seen any of my other latex seals do this. They break down, but not into sludge.
    "If something goes tits up, don't count on rising to the occasion. You will fall to what you have truly mastered." (PfcAJ)
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    That's really strange, and not the sort of thing I've ever seen happen as a result of contact with water containing pool chemicals or the like. Were you, by any chance, wearing some sort of lotion, creme, or oil? Any chance the seals were exposed to solvents in the past? It could be they were just old.

    In any case I'd think replacing the seals is prudent when buying a used suit, necessary now that they've deteriorated, and likely to solve the problem.
    Matt Silvia

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    akirawut's Avatar
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    No lotion or oils, although i was pretty sweaty, hot, humid day. It wasn't a fusion, but it was another White's suit, a kodiak.

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    Doing an Experiment

    OK, I am in the middle of an experiment on this very phenomenon. Like Lynn, it involves Fusion seals. I had the same wrist problem more than a year ago, and those seals were replaced and are just fine now, more than a year and many dives later.

    I take care of my seals very carefully; I cannot imagine that anyone could be more careful than I. That is why I was very frustrated a couple of months ago when I saw a gooey spot in the middle of my neck seal, on the outside. I got through a day of diving, but I knew I was in trouble. (I was nowhere near a pool when it happened, and my wrist seals were always exposed to the same waters at all time. The waters in which I was diving were in an inland, fresh water sink hole that has no contact with any potential source of pollution.)

    I was very busy after that, so I did not take the suit out to replace the seal for nearly a month. At that time, I saw that the gooey spot has spread considerably and gone clean through the seal. It was like my seal was being attacked by a flesh-eating bacterium. It continued to spread after that.

    Once I got the seal off, I cut the unaffected parts into squares and introduced potentially harmful chemicals. I put suntan lotion, all my toiletries, mask defogger, gasoline, alcohol--anything I could think of that may have contaminated the seal on those squares.

    Nothing happened in any case.

    I talked to a chemist who said he would be surprised that seals would have this problem, since he would think they would be engineered to resist anything of this sort. He mentioned the fact that it seemed to be spreading, and suggested the possibility that, given the fact that latex is a natural product, the problem might be organic. I therefore cut out two similar patches of affected seal and put them in baggies. I heated one in the hope of killing anything biological. I also dabbed some goo on an unaffected square. I want to see if one continues to spread and the other does not. Of course, if nothing happens nothing will be proven, since the spreading may have stopped already on its own.

    Another chemist was contacted, and he had another thought:

    The question first asked should be "Why is the material failing under its intended use application" not What is causing it to fail?

    Elastomeric and polymeric materials are highly crosslinked compounds making them a 3D network molecule which can't be dissolved in solvents. Sun lotions could act as a solvent but should only be absorbed without significant change in the material other than swelling. The "goo" is an indication that the rubber, latex or other material is slightly dissolving which make me think the material is failing because it is: 1) the wrong material for this application or 2) it is defective due to improper or incomplete polymerization or crosslinking.

    Also, how much sun expose does the collar receive while not being worn? If one assumes sun lotions are absorbed in the collar, they might aid in photodegradation of the material under the sun. But this still brings us back to why is the material failing under it intended use. So I might conclude that the collar is defective.
    So, I don't know, but I do know it is happening in more than a few cases. I would hope that the manufacturers who are having this problem would do a study of their own to find out why it is happening. I read an online posting by a manufacturer that suggested that the problem was probably caused by pollution, especially gasoline from outboard motor engines. One application of gasoline to a piece of my seal proved that this is not true. I would think they would have tried that themselves before offering it as an explanation.
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    Myself and the 3 guys I dive with all have identical suits (Bare XCD2) and the exact same thing happened to 3 out of the 4 within 2 months of each other. Basically, the lady at my LDS explained that the latex just breaks down after a period of time which could be months or years depending on the age of seal its self.... which can be VERY different than the age of the suit. The best way to extend the life of the seals is to powder them properly before / after each dive.

    When I asked why the 4th suit didn't experience the same issue, she mentioned that just because they are same manufacturer doesn't mean that the seals are of the same age or even from the same supplier. This makes sense to me when you're talking about a part that gets made in batches by the thousands.

    The new seals on all of the suits have been in service for 2-3 years and still look fine. Believe it or not, I think the 4th guy's suit still has the original seals.

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    Thanks for all the feedback folks. Interesting and unfortunate that this happened right after I bought it, at least I got a pretty good deal... I think.

    I was wondering if maybe I shouldn't have them replaced by Whites since there was mention of other people having this happen on Whites suits, but it now sounds like it's not vendor specific.

    Hopefully the seals last through the weekend, then I can ship it off for repair.

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    Something a lot of people do not know is that if you stage your equipment on an asphalt parking lot, contact of latex seals with the pavement can transfer petrochemicals to the seals and they will start to break down if you don't wash them with mild soap and water.

    Keep your feet wet and your ears dry, Muddiver
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    Muddiver, I haven't done that with this suit yet, but I have definitely done that before. Good to know about that, never would have considered it.

    You know I wonder if it's something in my trunk... Maybe I'll start carrying the suit in the back seat.

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    Akirawut:

    I had a chance to post this before, but the goo makes me think this may not be the problem. One thing that really effects latex seals in general is ozone. But ozone's effect on latex is dry rotting of the seals, not a goo problem. This is weird. I help my buddy who runs a drysuit demo trailer for a shop in Southeastern PA. I'll ask him when he gets back from a short vacation. If he knows the answer, I'll pass it along.

    Back to ozone. Storage of your drysuit around anything that has a motor will have an effect from ozone. Cars in the garage, HVAC and related items are all in this group. Store your drysuit away from any of these items. I have seen new suits, stored over just one season, with bad dry rotting seals at the first spring tune up dive of the next season.

    I'll get back to you if I find out about anything with the goo. You could go back to Whites to have the manufacturer replace the seals, and I understand why you would, but the shop I use does it all the time. My buddy changed my seals in my DUI just because they were old, and they are now 'out of the box' new.

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