Scuba diving equipment can be expensive. If you have spent the time researching and buying your own dive set up, you want it to last. This means you need to clean and maintain it and occasionally send it in for servicing.
But, there is one specific thing you can do to greatly increase the longevity of your dive gear. You need to make sure you are taking the time to clean each piece after you use it. Especially after saltwater diving.
Why is salt water bad for equipment?
Salt can cause metals to corrode faster than normal. When you go scuba diving in salt water, the water and salt stay on the equipment when you get out. If you don’t clean and maintain your equipment, the water eventually dries, leaving behind the salt. For metal alloys, this can speed up the rate at which they corrode.
Think of all the equipment you have that has metal in it:
- Dive Knives
- Scuba Tanks
- Dive Computers
- Dive Watches
- Some types of fins
Almost everything you use when scuba diving is made in part or in whole from some type of corrosive material. Most equipment nowadays is made from certain types of corrosive resistant materials such as titanium or stainless steel. But, over time, especially when not properly cleaned and maintained, even these materials will begin to corrode.
Remember that you are trusting this equipment with your life. The last thing you want to happen when diving is some type of equipment failure because you didn’t properly maintain everything. It is vital, quite literally life and death, that you go through the proper procedures to clean your equipment after each dive.
But how do you do this? Let’s break it down piece by piece.
How do you clean each piece of equipment after a saltwater dive?
The first thing you will want to do with almost every piece of equipment you have is to clean it with fresh water. The most important thing is that you are washing off all of the salt. As we mentioned above, when the water eventually dries any remaining salt is going to stick to your dive gear and this is what is going to lead to corrosion and eventual gear failure.
After this, there are some specific things you will want to do for different pieces of equipment. So, let’s break it down from head to toe starting with your mask and snorkel.
Mask and Snorkel
We’ll start with the snorkel since it’s the easiest of all of your equipment to clean. Saltwater isn’t a major issue when it comes to snorkels as plastic does not degrade the same way as metal. The main issue is mildew growth.
After a saltwater dive, if possible, run fresh water over the outside and then through the inside. Make sure all of it is washed out. Afterward, leave everything out to dry. Make sure you hang your snorkel in such a way that water can drip down and out if it rather than just laying it on its side. It is always best to make sure your equipment is completely dry before packing it away for storage or extended travel.
For your mask, you need to do the same thing. Rinse thoroughly with water and make sure that it is dry. Periodically, it can be a good idea to use a mask scrub to help keep the lens clean and clear. We recommend 500PSI Mask Scrub. This will help to keep your mask in pristine condition for many years of diving.
This is a big one. If your mask fails while you are underwater, it is possible to make it back up to the top. If your regulator fails you, depending on how deep you are, you may be in trouble. Life support systems such as your regulator are the most important pieces of equipment to maintain. Of course, you want to maintain all of your equipment, but these are the ones where failure can have catastrophic consequences.
Regulators have metal in them which can easily begin to corrode over time. It is always recommended that you take your regulator in for regular service to your local dive shop. In between service times though you need to take the utmost care to prevent corrosion. Improper maintenance can lead to severe issues during a dive including free flow which can empty your entire tank out in a matter of seconds depending on how deep you are.
After each dive, you need to rinse your regulator off by dunking it in a pool of freshwater. Always make sure that the purge valve button on your second stage and octo are not pressed in. This can allow water to get into the second stage which can stay inside and lead to corrosion and mildew growth. Likewise, you need to make sure the dust cap is firmly in place on the first stage.
It is good practice to make sure you are putting the dust cap in place on the first stage anytime it isn’t hooked to a tank. One of the main causes of corrosion for regulators is water getting in through the first stage. It stays in there and does not dry out and overtime leads to corrosion on the inside. This is usually caught during servicing of the regulator which is why it is extra important to have your regulator serviced at least once a year.
This is another of your life support systems. Many people thank the regulator is the most important part of your scuba gear. But, BCD failure at depth has led to many unnecessary accidents. It is equally important that you are taking proper care of your BCD to avoid any issues during a dive.
After each dive, you need to make sure that you are rinsing your BCD thoroughly with fresh, preferably warm, water. It may not always be possible but, if you can, try and also use BCD cleaner. If it is not possible to use BCD cleaner after a dive, usually because of lack of a tub big enough to dunk your BCD, we recommend you do so upon returning home. We like to use Gear Aid BCD Cleaner. It helps to remove sand and salt from your BCD as well as prevent bacteria growth and mildew which can cause unpleasant odors.
Standard practice is to fill a tank or tub full of water and then put the recommended amount of cleaner in. You want to empty all of the air out of your BCD before placing it in the tank and weighing it down so that it stays completely submerged. Make sure and leave your BCD in for 20 to 30 minutes and then drain the tank. After this, rinse off the BCD completely with fresh water. Then, refill your tank or tub with clean fresh water and let it soak a bit longer to completely remove any remaining soap residue.
It is also important that you are cleaning the inside of your BCD. Use the mouthpiece to fill up the BCD with fresh water till it is about 60% full. You want to move the water around by shaking the BCD to help remove any salt or sand which may have gotten into your BCD. After this, empty the water using all of the valves to make sure each one is cleaned. Rinse it out one more time to ensure it is completely clean and then fill the BCD full of air to about 50% capacity. Make sure you are hanging it so that it can air dry and leave it until it is fully dry both inside and outside.
Dive Computer and Dive Watch
Dive watches and dive computers are two of the most expensive pieces of equipment you will buy next to your regulator set. For this reason, it is always a good idea to take care of them so they will last. Thankfully, these are two of the easiest pieces of equipment to take care of post-dive. Make sure that you rinse both your dive watch and dive computer thoroughly with fresh water after each dive.
For your dive computer, it is also important that you are having it serviced by a trained technician or by the company. You want to have your computer serviced at least once a year, if not more. This will ensure everything is working properly and your battery is good to go.
Like your mask and snorkel, your fins simply need to be rinsed off to make sure all of the salt is removed. Make sure to take care that you are doing a thorough job of cleaning around potentially corrosive areas. This is primarily going to be fins that have springs. Make sure the springs are being completely washed and that no salt crystals are stuck in between the spring. Rinse your fins thoroughly and then make sure they dry completely before storing them.
Wetsuits and Rash Guards
These can be cleaned in a similar manner to your BCD. You want to rinse them off first with fresh water to remove any salt and sand crystals that may be on the suit. After this, fill a tub full of water and use wetsuit shampoo. We like to use Gear Aid Wetsuit and Drysuit Shampoo.
Go through the same process as your BCD. Fill up the tub or tank with fresh, preferably warm, water and then completely submerge your wetsuit. It is also best to include any similar pieces of gear such as dive boots, gloves, and hoods. Leave them submerged for a bit and then handwash them to ensure they are clean. Make sure and rinse everything with fresh water after to thoroughly remove any soap residue. After this, hang each piece of equipment out to dry before storing it.
That wasn’t too hard, was it? Scuba equipment maintenance doesn’t have to be complicated. If you make sure to stay on top of things and clean your gear thoroughly after each dive, you can ensure it lasts for many years of diving.
Remember, you paid good money for your equipment. You didn’t spend that money just to have everything break down prematurely. Also remember, this is the gear you trust your life with. You don’t want it failing at the wrong time.
What are your thoughts on gear maintenance? Do you have any special tips you think are helpful? Let us know in the comments section. We love to hear from fellow divers and always appreciate tips we may not have heard before. You never know when your information might help a fellow diver.