Your scuba diving kit takes a beating every time you going diving, coming under attack from grit, salt, sand and other contaminants as soon as you jump in the water and it is easy to forget that this equipment keeps you alive whilst you are under the water so if you take care of your kit it will look after you. Take a few minutes to follow these steps and you'll go a long way to making sure your kit remains in full working order between services.
Any equipment with silicone or rubber components are prone to damage from salt as well as direct sunlight so make sure you deal with these first.
- Rinse in fresh water (ideally warm to help dissolve the salt), taking care to wash any stubborn grit out of corners and joints.
- Allow to dry out of direct sunlight where possible to avoid rubber perishing and silicone discolouring. If there isn't anywhere in the shade that is suitable remember to collect and store them as soon as they are dry.
- Pre-storage check - Take the time to do a visual check of your mask and other perishable items before putting them away, doing so now will help prevent getting caught out by a broken strap or buckle as you are kitting up for your next dive. Carefully stretch the mask skirt and all straps to look for cracks, holes, etc and also look at buckles for signs of wear or damage.
- Store these items so that their shape is protected to prevent distortion, for example use a mask box rather than a bag to prevent the silicone being crushed and keeps fins flat.
- If you are using a dive computer to rinse underneath the screen protector if it is one of those removable hard covers, push the buttons whilst it is submerged in water to clear our the buttons and pins, clean the water contacts if they are visible and finally give the strap a good wash before drying flat. Remember to check the battery status before you put it away and get is changed if it starts to run low (bear in mind that cold water temperatures can quickly sap the power from a battery so if in doubt, change it!). We offer full battery change services here at Mike's with quick turnaround times.
Neoprene has a tendency to develop a fairly unpleasant odour if left to its own devices and not washed and dried properly. It takes a bit more effort after a day of diving but you'll be thankful for a clean smelling suit, gloves, boots and hood next time you get them out.
- Wash your neoprene items in fresh water and use some dedicated cleaner such as Zybax or McNett Shampoo to sanitise and deodorise your kit. Using generic household cleaning products may react un-expectantly with the rubber, causing it to become brittle and perish so if you don't have any at the time it is best to give it a good wash with just fresh water and remember to pick some up for next time.
- After shampooing rinse again with fresh water.
- Ideally neoprene should be turned inside out for drying but that isn't always practical.
- Pre-storage check - Give your kit a good visual check, looking for rips and tears that could develop into bigger problems if not repaired. If you spot anything you can try a DIY repair with neoprene glue like McNett Black Witch or Aquasure.
- Make sure the kit is completely dry before packing away to prevent mildew from forming. When packing remember to keep the neoprene as flat as possible and suits should be rolled rather than folded to prevent the neoprene from becoming crushed and losing it's thermal properties.
- If you are storing a suit for a reasonable amount of time between dive trips you should hang them a purpose design hanger that prevents creases and marks.
Drysuits have quite a few components that need to be properly cleaned after a dive to make sure they last as long as possible. There are a lot of different drysuit variations so you may need to adapt what you find here to best suit your kit.
- Cleaning the suit - Neoprene drysuits can be cleaning the same way as a wetsuit but membrane suits are probably best just thoroughly washed and rinsed in fresh water.
- Cleaning valves - Make sure you rinse the inflator and deflator valves well to flush out the salt and grit that might make them sticky.
- Cleaning the zip - use a soft brush to clear salt and grit from the teeth of the zip and give a final rinse to wash away.
- Drying - Use a strong, wide hanger to prevent unnecessary stress on the zip. Some hangers are designed to hold the suit by the boots, allowing any water to drain out of the zip. There are also more advanced hangers like the Hangair that uses a fan to expel moisture via the neck seal which makes drying in cooler conditions quicker.
- Storage - If you have a traditional brass zip make sure to check it for damage and then lightly lubricate it with a wax to ease movement and prolong its life. If you have latex seals make sure you lightly dust them with talc to prevent them perishing and sticking together. If you have a neoprene drysuit remember to roll rather than fold and take care to keep zips open and prevent them from folding to prevent the zip snapping.
The regulator delivers that all important oxygen stuff to your so it is a no brainer to make sure you look after them well. A bit a grit in the exhaust valve may only let in an annoying bit of water but a salt damaged first stage could easily have much more severe consequences.
- Before washing make sure your dust cap is clean and securely in place over the first stage inlet. Water in your first stage is not a good place to start. Also remember not to press the purge button on your second stage whilst washing as this will have a similar effect.
- Thoroughly rinse your regulators. Ideally, soak them for a few minutes in a freshwater rinse tank, with the first stage above the waterline. If possible, run fresh water into the mouthpiece and out of the exhaust valve to remove any built-up salt or debris. Water inside the second stage housing is absolutely fine just don't push that purge button.
- Pull back hose protectors and rinse to get rid of any hidden grit and take the opportunity to check the hose for wear and tear.
- Hang your regulators up to drip dry, giving the second stages a quick shake to dislodge any surface water.
- Pre-storage check - Check your hoses for degradation and cracks. Rubber hoses are prone to perishing and UV damage. Braided hoses are much more resilient to this but still check them for cuts and abrasion damage. With the dust cap still sealed in place give the second stage a quick suck to make sure the exhaust valve is in good condition. If you can draw air through you'll need to get it checked before your next dive. Finally check your mouthpiece for damage and replace if needed.
BCDs and Wings
Your BCD or wing may be your only source of buoyancy when diving and whilst you could ditch your weights in order to get back to the surface should it fail that alone could lead to all sorts of problems. Better to keep it clean and in good working order in the first place don't you think?
- Rinse the BCD in fresh water and allow it to soak for a few minutes to allow the salt to dissolve out of the materials.
- Rinse the inflator and dump valves to wash out any grit.
- It is important to also flush out the inside of the BCD as during the dive water is often forced into the bladder by the exterior water pressure, leaving salt crystals behind. You can use a hose to squirt water into the bladder via the oral inflator or alternatively remove one of the pull dumps. You might also consider using McNett BC Life Conditioner to help clean and protect the inside of your bladder.
- Allow the water to fill the BCD to about half way and then turn the BCD over a few times to wash in all the spaces. Drain the water out of one of the dump valves. Orally inflating the BCD will help to force the water out.
- When done partially inflate the BCD and allow to dry.
- Pre-storage check - Once dry fully inflate the BCD and leave for an hour to check that bladder integrity. If it goes down during that time then you have a leak somewhere. Visually check all the components for signs of wear and that all the valves work smoothly. If you have a long period before your next dive you should partially inflate it again for storage to prevent the bladder sticking together on the inside.
No matter how carefully you clean and inspect your diving kit there will always be wear and tear so regular servicing is essential. This is LIFE SUPPORT equipment at the end of the day so don't risk yours by scrimping on cleaning and regular servicing in accordance with the manufacturers recommendations. If you are in doubt about anything then you should have a professional service technician check it out. Better safe than sorry.