How to Clean Your Snorkel Gear

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Expert: Cameron – I have been snorkeling for over two decades and diving for the past three years all around the world from the Red Sea to the Gulf Coast to out West in the Pacific Islands. During this time I have been shown many techniques on upkeeping your gear and have learned what is necessary and dangerous to use on your equipment.


While you may be drawn to throw your mask and fins to the side to enjoy the beach after a snorkel or dive session; it can be harmful to your equipment and will lessen the use and life of the gear you are using.

Salt water is very corrosive and will break down your gear very quickly if left unchecked.

The simplest way to keep your snorkel gear clean is to ensure a thorough rinsing after each use. Once you have finished using your gear for the day ensure you rinse it again, wash it gently with a mild soap or detergent, rinse again in warm water, then leave to air dry out of the sun before storing.

A few quick steps will allow you to vastly improve the use life of your snorkel gear and get you back to enjoying your adventure in no time at all.

Snorkel Gear Cleaning Guide

Snorkel Gear Inside

There is a method to the madness and a reasoning for it too.

The end goal here is to keep your gear in use for as long as possible to ensure that your money is saved and snorkel equipment remains reliable.

Here we will go step-by-step to ensure this reality can be made real in 10 quick steps.

1: Rinse Off All of Your Snorkel Gear

Typically, there are rinsing stations or showers wherever you are snorkeling; here is the most important step in prolonging the life of your equipment so rinse all of your equipment as soon as you exit the water.

If there are no rinsing stations or showers then use a water bottle to spray down as much surface area of your gear especially your mask and snorkel.

Throughout the day of use this is all you need until the end of the adventure so leave your equipment out of the direct sunlight while drying to avoid damage from the UV light.

Why can’t you let it dry in the Sunlight?

Umbrella Shading UV Rays
#1

The Sun produces many forms of radiation and one that reaches us is Ultraviolet light or UV Rays.

These Rays are what tan your skin and can leave you sunburnt; further and prolonged exposure can lead to skin cancer as well.

This is also harmful to plastics and rubber which make up your snorkel equipment.

UV light has enough energy to cause chemical changes to the polymers used in plastics formulations according to Dr. Laurence W. McKeen’s research.

While there are some snorkel companies that use  UV inhibitors within their silicone and plastics to prevent early tear down; this only works for so long.

To keep your equipment maintained as long as possible, keep everything out of direct sunlight when not in use.

2: Loosen any Straps or Equipment Ties

Loosening the straps or even completely removing them will get out any water from the snorkel or dive that has been set in from adjustments that were made while adventuring.

This includes your snorkel fins (if they have straps) and mask.

Also separate the snorkel from your mask and any other ties that were made in the water.

Loosening the strap of your snorkel mask keeps face fit and lengthens to use time you will have with it.

3: Submerge Snorkel Gear Completely

If buckets of fresh water were not available immediately after your session, now is the time to submerge them completely.

Letting the set for a few minutes is best to let the water get into any cracks.

4: Gently Dry Off Snorkel Gear

Remove your equipment from the water and gently dry off with a soft sponge to prevent any scratches to the snorkel lens.

5: Soak Snorkel Gear in Warm Water with Mild Soap

In mildly warm water, add a small amount of dish soap or a silicone-based cleaning solution that can be found in dive shops; avoid anything that contains petroleum or alcohol.

While in the solution gently shake your equipment to insure the water gets inside any cracks and crevices.

Why Can’t I Use Rubbing Alcohol or Alcohol Based Soaps to Clean my Snorkel Equipment?

Just like UV Rays, isopropyl (or rubbing alcohol) can damage or deteriorate plastics at an even higher rate than general salt water can.

According to a post from the Chemistry Stack Exchange, while rubbing alcohol or isopropyl does not dissolve the silicone plastic, it can corrupt or corrode the surface of the material leaving a permanent film on the surface.

6: Clean Mouthpiece with Antibacterial Soap

During your solution rinsing; take some antibacterial soap and wash off your snorkel mouth piece.

You carry different forms of bacteria in your mouth and tend to bite down on the mouthpiece at times leaving small cracks and abrasions within the plastic.

Take the time to clean it now to prevent anything from growing on it that would leave the mouthpiece flavorful (in a negative way) for the next time you decide to use your gear.

7: Brush Snorkel Valves and Crevices with Soft Bristled Brush

Now is a good opportunity to take a soft bristled toothbrush and work your way into any valves or crevices of your gear to assure no sand or algae is stuck in cracks.

Even with the washing that we have done, small creatures or plant life can have attached themselves to your equipment and left unchecked will die and rot or continue growing leaving an undesirable smell over time.

8: Rinse in Warm Fresh Water

Remove your equipment from the cleaning solution and put it in a new bucket of fresh warm water (NOT HOT).

Shake it around while submerged to insure no cleaning solution is left.

9: Hang or Leave to Dry in an Open Space Away from Direct Sunlight

Take out your equipment and dry it off gently with a non-abrasive towel or sponge.

Hang up everything or leave it sitting out separately away from direct sunlight and sand (if at all possible).

10: Store Snorkel Equipment

After everything is dried off store everything up.

Ensure your snorkel mask is in a protective case to prevent scratching of the lens or anything deciding to crawl into it and make a home since it’s nice and clean now.

Most cases that a snorkel mask comes with offer extra protection from UV rays.

It is not recommended that you prep your snorkel mask with fog agent before storage.

Hang up any vests or wetsuits in a cool dry place doing your best to avoid high heat like in a garage.

Again, ensure everything is completely dry before storing to prevent any mold or mildew.

How to Clean Mold Off Snorkel Gear

Dirty Beach
#2

You can encounter this if you did not properly clean your gear from the last use; many microbes live on the beach and in the saltwater causing bad stenches and mold growth.

While I have not had to personally experience this, I have spoken with others who had good cleaning practices with their gear and still managed to come across mold later on.

This can also happen especially if your snorkel gear is stored in a humid environment which is common for us that live by the sea.

Down below I will break down a safe a sure way to rid yourself of this mold or mildew in 7 simple steps.

1: Create a Diluted Bleach Solution with Cold Water

Make sure to weaken any bleach solution used; Bleach is one of the most corrosive chemicals when it comes to silicone or plastics.

A tablespoon of 5% household bleach to 1 gallon of water is best.

2: Submerge the Effected Snorkel Gear in Solution

After you ensure the solution is diluted submerge the effected equipment inside of it and shake it around a bit.

3: Rinse the Solution and Wash with Dish Soap by Hand

Some do not add this step, but taking soap to the gear and scrubbing it with your hands usually ensures this will only need to be done once and removes most the spores the mold can reproduce with.

4: Create a Diluted Bleach Solution in Warm Water (NOT HOT)

Create another bleach solution to submerge the equipment with warm water but ensure that it is NOT HOT because this can lead to deforming of your snorkel gear.

5: Soak Effected Equipment for 30 Minutes

Simple enough, let your gear soak in the solution for around 30 minutes.

If you are having issues keeping it underwater without it floating to the top get a coffee cup and fill it with water then set it on top of whatever is attempting to float.

6: Rinse Thoroughly

It is essential to rinse whatever you were cleaning completely and thoroughly to ensure there is no bleach left on the equipment.

Left on there, the bleach can cause unwanted rapid deterioration to your gear.

7: Air Dry and Store After Completely Dried

Be very sure that everything is dry this time before storing it again.

The likely reason of mold in the first place is that the equipment was not dry before storing it.

Summary

While enjoying your adventure it is important to consider your equipment’s health for future endeavors.

Rinsing your gear upon immediately leaving the water is the most important step you can take to prolong the life of your snorkel gear.

Before your day ends, deep cleaning your equipment will save you money, keep your equipment safe, and keep your storage area from smelling like mildew or mold.

If mold does occur, clean it with a very mild bleach solution and keep an eye on it before using it on your next adventure!


[Sources and References]

McKeen, Laurence W. The Effect of UV Light and Weather on Plastics and Elastomers. William Andrew Publishing, 2019.
Sortofsleepy, et al. “Isopropyl Alcohol Leaves a White Haze on Plastic, Is There Anything I Can Use to Clean It off?” Chemistry Stack Exchange, 1 Mar. 1966, https://chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/115642/isopropyl-alcohol-leaves-a-white-haze-on-plastic-is-there-anything-i-can-use-to#:~:text=These%20alcohols%20do%20not%20dissolve,haze%20is%20very%20well%20visible.

[Image Attribution and Licensing]

#1 Image by Jana Wersch
#2 Image by Liane Kwoll