How Long Does A Swim Cap Last (And how to recycle swim caps)

For swimmers, one of the most important pieces of gear is the swim cap.

A good swimming cap can help you move through the water more efficiently and can also protect your hair from chlorine damage. But how long do swimming caps last?

On average, swimming caps last for between three months and five years depending on use. Swimming daily, a silicone cap will need to be replaced every three months. However, with intermittent use, a silicone cap can last as long as five years.

I get very attached to my swimming caps, and although I need to change my silicone swimming cap every three months, I always do so with a little regret as I have swum for so many hours with my cap.

Many will argue that they can get many more months out of their swim cap. Although this may be true since silicone swimming caps are particularly durable, having purchased so many swimming caps, I have developed a skill for noticing when my swimming cap is losing its freshness and elasticity.

I have tested how long a swimming cap lasts and can show you pictures of what a new and three-month-old swim cap actually looks like.

In this article, I will cover the fundamental information about swim cap maintenance, including:

  • How long does a swim cap last?
  • How do you maintain a swim cap?
  • Can you recycle swim caps?

How Long Does A Swim Cap Last?

How long a swimming cap lasts will depend on the following factors:

  • What material the cap is made from
  • How often you swim
  • How well you clean your swimming

I have tested how long a swim cap lasts and for me; I have found that a silicone swimming cap will last three months with daily swimming. Latex swimming caps are not as durable as silicone and can lose their freshness in as little as one month with daily swimming.

Here is a picture of a three-month-old silicone swimming cap versus a new silicone swimming cap. This swim cap is the Speedo Plain Moulded Silicone Swim Cap and is one of my favourites. You can see that the new cap on the left does not have any crinkled material and is far softer than the used swim cap on the right.

Cloth swimming caps, such as Lycra, are very durable and can last much longer than silicone or latex swim caps, however, they are mostly used by recreational swimmers or those who do not swim laps as Lycra swimming caps can easily come off with water drag.

Based on my own tests of swimming daily, here is the data I have uncovered on how long a latex and silicone swimming cap lasts.

Swim Cap MaterialSwim FrequencyHow Long A Swim Cap Lasts
SiliconeDaily pool swim3 months
LatexDaily pool swim1 month

I should point out that after the duration listed in the table above, my swim caps are still useable, they have just lost their elasticity and freshness. They look tired and worn.

In theory, you can still use the swim cap after this point. In fact, many swimmers can still swim with a silicone swim cap daily for up to a year, but the cap will look tired and dated.

I love any excuse to buy new swimming kit, so I get a new silicone swimming cap every three months when it starts to look tired.

If you’re not sure whether your swim cap is latex or silicone, or you’re not sure which type you should use, take a look at my article where I go into more depth about the differences between the two types.

How Do You Maintain A Swim Cap?

To get the most out of your swimming cap, it’s important to take care of it. After each swim, rinse your swimming cap in fresh water to remove chlorine or salt water.

Allow your swimming cap to air dry completely before storing it in a cool, dry place. Avoid folding or creasing your swimming cap as this can cause it to tear.

Latex swim caps, in particular, tear easily, so handle them with care and keep them away from any sharp objects such as hair clips.

Many swimmers sprinkle talc or baby powder into their swim caps to stop the sides of the swim cap from sticking to themselves. Personally, I do not recommend this as there is currently some debate on how safe talc or baby powder is for our health. [source]

If you want to learn more about how to maintain and clean your swimming cap, I have covered this in much more detail in this article, How To Clean A Swim Cap (Keep your swim cap like new)

Can You Recycle Swim Caps?

When your swimming cap reaches the end of its lifespan, you may wonder what to do with it. If you are like me and change your swimming cap every three months, then the number of old caps you have lying around builds up.

As a general rule, you can recycle silicone caps. However, latex and lycra (spandex) are not widely recyclable at the time of writing.

As mentioned, just because your swim cap is not as elastic, shiny and new as you would like, others can still most likely use it, especially recreational swimmers.

Here is a picture of my swimming cap that is three months old, and used every day. You can see that it is well used, but in reality, this swim cap still works. It might not look new, but there is no need to put a used swimming cap in the bin.

The best option I have found to recycle and make use of my old swimming caps (and goggles) is to send them to an organisation called Sea & Stream.

This organisation sends the swim caps to either SwimTayka or Cool Bathing, depending on the condition of the hats.

SwimTayka is a charity providing free swimming lessons to underprivileged children who live along the world’s waterways, including rivers, lakes and seas. In addition, they provide environmental education about clean water.

How easy it is for you to recycle your old or dead swim caps will depend on where you are in the world. However, checking with your local recycling body will quickly let you know if you can recycle your swim caps.

It is also worth checking for any charities in your region, such as Sea & Swim, that can help get your old swim hats repurposed and go on to help other swimmers.

Final Thoughts

A swimming cap is an essential piece of gear for any swimmer, but how long does it actually last? On average, a silicone swimming cap will need to be replaced every three months with daily use but can last up to five years with intermittent use.

If you take care of your swimming cap and store it properly, ensuring it is fully dry before placing it in your gym bag, you’ll get the most out of it.

When your swimming cap reaches the end of its lifespan, recycling or repurposing are the best ways to dispose of it.

Silicone is widely recycled. However, at the time of writing, Latex and Lycra are less widely recycled.

As swim caps can last a lot longer than we think, another great option is to donate your used swim cap to swimming charities that need them. Your swim cap may have passed its day for lap swimming, but is perfectly fine for recreational swimmers who need it as they learn to swim.

If you are ready for a brand new swim cap and you’re not sure what you should try next, then check out my Swim Cap Buyers Guide, where I go through everything you need to know to get the cap that is right for you.

Happy swimming!

Emma Moore

Hi, I am Emma, and I am obsessed with all watersports, from swimming to surfing and everything in between. I spend my free time in the water or preparing for my next water travel adventure.

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