As you complete your initial dive training and begin your diving adventures, you’ll likely start purchasing some of your own scuba gear. For all intents and purposes, this is life-support equipment, so — although it’s become a cliché in scuba diving — if you look after your scuba equipment, it will look after you. Diving takes a toll on your gear, so appropriate post-dive equipment care on your part is one of the best ways to keep your gear functioning properly. Salt, sand and grit can work its way into gaps and crevices. Also, just the process of going diving results in wear and tear or, sometimes, damage during transportation or when entering or exiting the water.
Usually dive centers and resorts have dedicated rinse tanks and an area where you can clean and hang your equipment after a dive. Alternatively, if you’re diving from a liveaboard, the trip leader will usually brief you on cleaning procedures at the end of your itinerary.
So, when a dive day or trip ends, how should you take care of your equipment? And, if your equipment is about to take an extended surface interval, what should you check before putting it into storage? Here’s everything you need to know about post-dive equipment care.
Mask, snorkel, fins and computer
- Rinse these delicate items in fresh water and allow them to drip-dry before packing them away. Masks, in particular, can be prone to mildew or mold if you pack them before they dry sufficiently.
- Don’t leave these items in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Especially in hot climates, doing so can degrade, crack or fade silicone, rubber and neoprene.
- When dry, pack your mask in a box that will protect it, not crush it —Ideally, in the hard case it came in. Pack any other delicate items somewhere that the remainder of your equipment won’t crush or damage them during transportation.
- Store your fins in a flat position being careful not to bend or curl the tips. If possible, put the original plastic inserts from purchase back inside the foot pockets so that they retain their shape.
- Thoroughly rinse your computer and depress all the buttons while it’s submerged in fresh water or with fresh water flowing over the buttons. This ensures that any encrusted salt, sand or grit is removed.
- Before packing your equipment and when these items are dry, carefully stretch and inspect the mask and fin straps for tears, splits or cracks. If you have a neoprene slap-strap covering your mask strap, pull it away and check the silicone strap beneath. If you notice any damage, replace the strap before diving again.
- Check fin and mask buckles for any cracks or damage and replace where required. Also, check the mask frame for chips and cracks and the skirt for feathering or splits that will cause leaks.
- Switch on your computer and check the battery status so that you’re not caught short if diving in a few days time. If the battery is getting low, this is a good time to change it or book it for a battery change, service and pressure test at your local dive center.
Wetsuit, dry suit, boots, hoods and gloves
- Carefully remove your drysuit with lubrication in the wrist seals. Zip it up and rinse it carefully with fresh water. Make sure to run fresh water over the chest inflator valve and shoulder/cuff dump valves so they don’t become encrusted with salt or debris.
- Wax the suit’s zip with beeswax or a zipper product designed specifically for the task.
- Store the drysuit out of direct sunlight in a position where the zip is kept straight and the teeth won’t be damaged or bent. For longer-term storage, lay the suit over a rail — not on a hanger — to reduce stress on the neck and zip.
- Wash your neoprene wetsuit, boots, hood and gloves in fresh water with some disinfectant or wetsuit shampoo. Rinse a second time with just fresh water. If possible, let your neoprene products dry inside out. Make sure they’re dry before you pack them up to prevent mildew build up.
- When home, store your wetsuit by hanging it on a wide, bespoke wetsuit hanger to prevent marks and creases.
- Lubricate zips to ensure they run smoothly on the next dive trip.
- Drysuit zips are notoriously expensive to replace. When waxing the zip, check all the teeth to ensure none are missing or damaged. Early identification of zip problems will help you to budget for any problems or, alternatively, explain why you got a little damp on the last dive.
- Look for rips and tears in your wetsuit, hoods, boots and gloves. Normal wear and tear is to be expected and, with heavy use, gloves will likely develop holes. Regular inspection helps you plan replacement gloves and boots accordingly.
- Carefully wash these key pieces of equipment with fresh water. Be absolutely sure when cleaning your regulator that, before rinsing the unit, the dust cap is firmly in place. This protects the first stage from the water. Letting water get into the first stage is like pumping diesel into a car that runs on unleaded, and can end with a trip to a service technician.
- Dry the dust cap before replacing it. If the dust cap is detachable, store it somewhere safe and dry while diving, ready for your return. If the dust cap is attached to the first stage, wipe it dry with a cloth or towel. Don’t dry it with a blast of high pressure air from a cylinder as it will startle or deafen anyone in the vicinity, the boat crew may assume there’s a problem with a tank valve being knocked open and rush to close it, and finally, the blast will usually deflect water and spray it back into the first stage, defeating the object of the exercise.
- 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.
- Rinse the low-pressure inflator fitting by sliding the slip coupling back and forth while holding it under warm, running water. This prevents encrusted particles and annoying bubbles on subsequent dives.
- Be mindful not to depress the purge buttons on either the primary regulator or alternate air sources while submerged and not pressurized as this can allow into the first stage. If you have hose protectors, rinse underneath them during the cleaning process.
- Alternatively, you can fully submerge your regulator if the first stage is still attached to a pressurized cylinder. This will prevent any water from entering the system.
- Once you have finished rinsing your regulator, hang it up, give the second stages a gentle shake to remove any residual water, and allow them to dry before packing them away.
- Check mouthpieces for wear and tear. Look for small tears, holes or perishing. Also, check the tabs for tears and chewing that may require you to change the mouthpiece before your next dive.
- Inspect your hose for perishing and bubbling of the structure. Pull back the hose protectors and check condition. Manufacturers recommend that you change hoses regularly to prevent potential problems.
- You need to clean your BCD or wing both outside and inside; during a dive, water leaks into the BCD through the dump valves and the low-pressure inflator. Include draining and cleaning as part of your post-dive maintenance routine.
- Rinse your jacket or wing in fresh water. Remove all the air from the bladder and place it in the bottom of a rinse tank, ideally leaving it to soak for several minutes. This helps dissolve any salt or sand.
- Use a hose to flush fresh water into the jacket or wing’s bladder. Allow the water to flow in via the low-pressure inflator, making sure to hold down the deflate button as you do so. Alternatively, remove the shoulder dump-valve and fill from the shoulder.
- Allow the water to flow into the jacket or wing until it is approximately one-half full and then orally inflate it. With the water inside, pick up the jacket or wing and tip it upside down and then right side up. Shake it to help the water easily circulate inside the bladder.
- Then, invert the jacket or wing and hold it on your shoulder like a set of Scottish bagpipes. Squeeze the fresh water out of the bladder as you drain the system by using the LPI deflate button extended beneath you. You can repeat this process several times before inflating the jacket or wing approximately half full to dry and store.
- Store your jacket or wing in a cool, dry place. The bladder’s semi-inflation will help prevent it from sticking together.
- Check that the LPI moves freely and doesn’t have any encrusted salt or debris.
- Leave your jacket or wing inflated to ensure that it can hold air and there are no leaks.
- Check the cummerbund, waist strap, shoulder straps, zip pockets, tank band and all the buckles for excessive wear. If your BC has metal buckles, check them for corrosion.
- Check the toggle shoulder and kidney dump-valve toggles for signs of wear.
If you have your own cylinder and accessories, rinse them with fresh water too. For specialized camera equipment, follow manufacturer guidelines.
No matter how carefully you clean and inspect your equipment, there will always be wear and regular servicing required. When it’s time to dive again, be sure to carefully check your equipment. Be mindful of service requirements on cylinders and regulators and test your equipment before using it again.
A few minutes spent looking after your equipment post-dive will help maintain its performance, extend its life and help safeguard yours.