If nothing else, a leaking mask during a dive or whilst snorkelling is just annoying. Constantly having to stop and clear the water that has seeped can quickly become tiresome. A leaky mask can mean that it has been damaged or the silicone seal has split or perished but before you throw your mask away and rush out and buy a new one make sure you follow these few tips and tricks to help stop it happening again in the future.
You can try all sorts of things to stop your mask leaking but if it doesn't fit your face properly in the first place then you'll be spending a lot of time trying little adjustments and tricks for nothing. Follow these simple steps to check whether your mask (and any future masks) fits you correctly:
- Loop the mask strap over the front of the mask so that it is out of the way and hold the mask gently against your face, making sure your hair is not under the skirt.
- Gently inhale through your nose. If the mask stays in place with no air leaking in then it should be a good fit for you.
- Check that the mask skirt seats evenly against your skin along the entire edge. Moustaches and beards can make finding a good seal a little more difficult, but still possible.
- Loop the strap back over, adjust the strap for a comfortable fit and put the mask on to see how the mask feels on your face.
- Try pinching your nose to make sure you can equalise your ears without affecting the fit or seal.
It is important to try lots of masks to get a feel for different mask styles and sizes and to narrow down which masks offer the best fit and comfort for you. Remember, don't sacrifice fit and comfort for price.
Hoods and Hair
You'll be surprised how even the smallest of objects can disrupt the seal between your skin and the silicone skirt of the mask. A few strands of hair under the skirt or a neoprene hood ever so slightly tucked underneath it can be enough to allow a trickle of water to find its way into your mask. If you have a mask fitted with a purge valve then even a tiny grain of sand can be your nemesis!
Just remember when you are fitting your mask to carefully brush all your hair out of the way and run your fingers around the edge of the skirt to make sure your hood isn't interfering with the seal. Get your buddy to do one last visual check before you enter the water, being careful to protect your mask if a jump or rolling entry is required by placing your palm on your regulator and spreading your fingers over the lens of the mask ( this has the added benefit of stopping your air source being knocked free at the same time).
This might go against logical thought but your mask might actually be leaking because you have your strap too tight which is often evident if you finish a dive for snorkel with a impression of your mask skirt on your skin.
A mask skirt has a delicate structure that has to hold the mask frame and lenses in the correct position in relation to the eyes as well as orientating the skirt for a good seal against the skin. If you over tighten the strap it actually causes the skirt to buckle and distort as it is pulled against your face, compromising the sealing surfaces and creating creases that allow water to seep in.
Think back to how we check a mask is a good fit. That whole process is done without even fitting the strap. The strap is there to stop the mask from moving, not to help increase the seal efficiency. Adjust your mask strap so that it comfortably holds the skirt against the skin with no free movement of the skirt over your skin.
A problem often experienced by men is facial hair preventing the skirt from sealing properly, particularly just below the nose. The simple fact is that skirts just can't deal with facial hair very well as the generally course hair pushes the skirt away from the face and allows the water in.
Some masks are fitted with skirts that featuring varying thicknesses, often with an ultra thin and very flexible piece designed to help improve the seal in the troublesome area just below the nose. A temporary fix is to use a little Vaseline or even silicone grease to help fill the gaps that the skirt can't deal with. Just be away that petroleum based products like Vaseline can have a negative effect on a silicone skirt over time so make sure you wash your mask thoroughly after use.
Sometimes you just want to smile and laugh whilst diving but some facial expression such as smiling and frowning causes the skin under the skirt to crease and break the seal, rapidly filling your mask with water. It's unavoidable on occasion but try to keep the muscles in your face relaxed and neutral, your vision will thank you for it.