A favorite dive mask is one of the most popular pieces of gear scuba divers bring on vacation. Lightweight for packing, you can easily bring your mask along. A good mask, snorkel and fins set isn’t cheap, so you’ll want to take good care of your investment. Proper maintenance not only prolongs equipment life, it also helps you stay safe while diving. Regular user maintenance of all your gear requires that you visually inspect, clean and properly handle all the pieces of your setup using specific steps for both pre- and post dive care. So, before heading off to Maui to dive with Lahaina Divers, follow the tips in this guide to make sure your mask, snorkel and fins are ready to dive.
Mask, Fin and Snorkel Care
Visually inspect and gently stretch out the silicone skirt surrounding the mask and all straps on the mask and snorkel, the snorkel mouthpiece, as well as the foot bed and any straps in the fins. Fine cracks can be hard to spot, but could be signs of impending failure. If you use a “strap wrapper” to cover your mask strap, either slide the cover to the side or remove it so that the strap underneath can be fully inspected. Make sure all buckles are in good shape and clear of debris.
If you find cracks in any of these items, don’t dive until they are repaired or replaced.
Clean the mask lens with diluted baby shampoo and water, rinse thoroughly then and check for fogging, cracks and chips. This could mean it’s time to replace the mask. If you notice water spots on the lenses, try cleaning it with toothpaste. Smear a small amount of toothpaste on both sides of the lens, leave it on for half an hour then rub it off with a soft, dry cloth. Toothpaste is a mild abrasive, so don’t scrub, just wipe and polish.
Never use gasoline, aerosols, chemical solvents, or alcohol to clean or defog your mask or other gear. Using aerosol sprays (other than defog) on your mask can cause silicone, rubber and plastics used in masks to degrade. This can lead to dangerous conditions when diving.
Post dive, rinse your mask, fins and snorkel in fresh water. We have barrels at the shop for this purpose. Let fully dry before packing for home to avoid mildew. When you do pack, and later when you store your gear, make sure the mask doesn’t get crushed, the snorkel is in a natural position and the fins can lay flat. Leaving these items squashed into a weird position for a long period of time will cause them to take on an unnatural shape. Also, avoid placing in direct sunlight for extended lengths of time, and don’t store near solvents or chemicals. You can place a dry mask and snorkel in an extra large, heavy duty ziplock to further protect it when stored.
When it comes to disinfecting, the equipment the comes in contact with your face and respiratory tract including masks, snorkels and regulators is most critical. 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 gear.
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.
Remember, this is a relatively quick dip in diluted bleach. Then, gear 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. After rinsing, drain all water and rinse again.
With proper care and maintenance, your mask, snorkel and fins can last for many seasons of diving.