Pre-COVID-19, rinsing salt water off gear after a dive was a primary concern. Since COVID-19, disinfection of equipment tops the list of priorities. Lahaina Divers follows a thorough cleaning and disinfection protocol for all of our rental gear, but what about your own dive equipment? Your gear represents an important investment, and one has to be careful when cleaning certain surfaces like neoprene, metal and silicone.
Even though the guidance on slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus changes from day to day in different parts of the world, it’s better to be safe and include sanitizing your own gear in your trip planning. You may want to consider a deep cleaning before heading to Maui. We also have some tips on sanitizing your own gear during your travels.
When it comes to disinfecting, prioritize any equipment that comes in contact with your face and respiratory tract including masks and regulators. Pay special attention to mouthpieces and areas surrounding them, plus BCD inflators and snorkels. Lahaina Divers does a complete three step system on all of these items in our rental gear inventory, but you can effectively clean your own equipment while traveling too.
For these types of nonporous surfaces, the Divers Alert Network (DAN), advises following CDC guidelines, including using household bleach for disinfection. When using bleach, The CDC recommends a solution of 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water (22mL bleach per L water) with a soaking time of 1 minute for hard, nonporous surfaces. Use cold water, as hot water will decompose the active ingredient. Never mix bleach with other chemicals, as this can cause a dangerous reaction. DAN states this relatively weak 2% bleach solution and short contact time should not cause damage to scuba regulators.
While bleach is readily available on Maui, you might want to pack a pair of reusable dishwashing gloves to wear and a small measuring cup, just to save time. If washing gear in your hotel or condo bathtub, keep the door open and exhaust fan on for air ventilation. Eye protection is also recommended by DAN.
Gear disinfected with bleach must be thoroughly rinsed with fresh water and allowed to dry before use, as it is corrosive to stainless steel (in higher concentrations) and irritating to mucous membranes, skin and eyes. Be careful to only use the recommended mixture—a higher concentration of bleach can cause metal fatigue and in some cases hose failure.
Wetsuits and other wearables
While there is no specific CDC recommendation that we have found for neoprene, the recommendation for porous washable materials is soap and water and agitation, such as gently scrubbing with a soft brush. This can be used for wetsuits and BC’s. Make sure to clean the inside of the BC bladder. Also disinfect the oral inflator in the bleach/water solution described previously.
There is also a common laundry product, Lysol Laundry Sanitizer, on the CDC “N” list of disinfectants for coronavirus, recommended by some wetsuit manufacturers. This product contains Quaternary Ammonium, a common disinfectant used in the scuba diving industry. The product can be used when handwashing a wetsuit, or according to laundry instructions when washing dive skins and rash guards. Unlike regulators and other dive gear, you can use warm water when washing wetsuits, skins and rash guards, if recommended on the laundry tag of your suit.
Lahaina Divers keeps rental gear and our sanitation stations separate from your personal gear for your health and safety. However, there is a fresh water rinse available to remove salt water at our shop after your charter.
There are many different dive products on the market, so this could be considered a general guideline based on CDC recommendations. It may be worth contacting your equipment manufacturers to confirm recommended products and procedures for disinfection of your specific set of gear. You can also check out the EPA’s diving safety manual for its guidelines on decontaminating scuba equipment.