Scuba diving opens up an exciting world for exploration. But keeping your scuba gear clean is essential for both safety and extending the life of your equipment. Proper disinfection removes contaminants like bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can cause illness or degrade gear over time.
Disinfecting your scuba equipment should be part of your regular post-dive maintenance routine.
This comprehensive guide outlines tips from diving experts on how to thoroughly sanitize every part of your scuba gear. Follow these best practices to kill germs and prevent corrosion or deterioration.
Why Disinfecting Scuba Gear is Critical
Disinfecting your scuba gear after every dive prevents the spread of that can cause skin infections, sinus infections, pneumonia and more. Viruses and bacteria from other divers’ exposed body fluids may contaminate rental equipment. And even your own gear can harbor organisms from the marine environment.
Thorough cleaning is the first step, but disinfection provides an extra level of protection by killing microbes that soap and water may leave behind. It’s especially important for critical items like your regulator and mask that contact mucous membranes.
Other key reasons to disinfect gear include:
- Preventing deterioration – Salt, body oils and microscopic organisms can slowly break down rubber, silicone and other material over time if not removed.
- Extending lifespan – Disinfection removes corrosive contaminants so your expensive gear lasts longer.
- Maintaining function – Salt and oil residue can hinder proper functioning of regulators, BCDs, and other components.
- Preventing odors – Bacteria growth causes foul odors. Disinfecting kills the organisms and refreshes the smell.
Regular disinfecting is easy to incorporate into your post-dive ritual. And it provides huge benefits for your safety, gear longevity and diving enjoyment.
There are several effective disinfection methods to choose from. Below are common techniques for disinfecting scuba gear:
- Bleach solution – An easy, inexpensive option that kills a wide range of microbes. Use a dilute solution, and be aware of using only the tiniest portion. As you know, it is a very powerful cleaner.
- Antibacterial spray – Convenient ready-to-use disinfectants that come in spray bottles. Look for types suitable for scuba gear.
- UV light – Special sanitizing devices that expose gear to UV rays that destroy microorganisms.
- Boiling – For heat-tolerant gear only, boiling water kills bacteria, viruses, and more.
- Chemical wipes – Pre-moistened cloths with a disinfecting solution that wipe away organisms.
- Ozone treatment – Using ozone gas to disinfect gear is effective but requires special equipment.
When choosing a disinfection method, confirm it’s safe for scuba gear materials. Carefully follow product instructions.
Scuba Gear to Disinfect
Certain parts of scuba equipment warrant special attention when sanitizing.
Pay special attention to disinfecting these parts of your scuba system:
- Regulator – The entire regulator, including mouthpiece, hoses, and connections.
- Mask – Especially the interior that touches your face.
- Snorkel – Main tube and mouthpiece.
- Wetsuit – Both interior and exterior surfaces.
- BC/BCD – Bladder, inflator hoses, and mouthpiece.
- Exposed skin – Hands, neck, etc. that contacts gear.
- Gauges – Console, pressure gauge, depth gauge, compass.
- Weights and weight belt – Any parts that might brush against your body or gear.
- Suits/gloves – Both inner and outer surfaces.
Thoroughly sanitize these high-contact areas as well as the rest of your gear.
How to Disinfect Scuba Gear Step-by-Step
Follow this complete sequence for properly disinfecting your scuba gear after each day of diving.
Step 1 – Rinsing
- Rinse equipment with clean, fresh water. This removes debris, sand, salt residue, and heavy concentrations of organisms.
- Use a garden hose or shower. Avoid rinsing in untreated natural bodies of water, which could further contaminate gear.
- Rinse thoroughly, especially crevices, connectors, and areas where moisture lingers.
Step 2 – Cleaning
- Wash all gear with diving-safe soap and warm water. Use a soft brush to scrub.
- Target grimy areas and crevices buildup.
- Regulators, BCDs, and removable parts must be disassembled to clean interior spaces.
- Rinse again with clean water to remove all soap residue.
Step 3 – Disinfecting
- For bleach solution – Mix 1 tablespoon of bleach per 1 gallon of warm water. Submerge gear or spray/wipe solution on surfaces. Let sit for 5 minutes, then rinse.
- For wipes – Wipe down all surfaces thoroughly according to product instructions. Reapply if needed.
- For sprays – Spray a heavy coating on all surfaces. Allow proper contact time before rinsing. Reapply if needed.
- For UV light – Follow device instructions to expose the gear to sanitizing wavelengths.
- For boiling – Use only for heat-tolerant gear. Boil submerged for at least 10 minutes. Air dry.
Step 4 – Drying
- Allow gear to fully air dry before storing. Hang or lay flat.
- Residual moisture encourages bacterial and fungal growth.
- Use a fan or dehumidifier to accelerate drying if needed.
Step 5 – Maintenance and Storage
- Perform any needed gear maintenance, like lubricating O-rings.
- Coil hoses neatly to prevent kinks or damage.
- Store properly to prevent recontamination – use clean bags/containers.
Tip: Place drying agents like silica packs in bags/cases to deter moisture.
Repeat this full sequence after every diving day. Combine with periodic deep cleaning days for maximum benefit.
Certain types of diving equipment warrant some special attention. Follow these tips to properly sanitize key pieces of gear:
- Take apart the regulator to clean and disinfect interior channels. Soak or wipe all pieces.
- Remove and disinfect the mouthpiece separately.
- Pay extra attention to the regulator first stage and second-stage openings.
- Thoroughly sanitize hoses, fittings, and connections.
- Rinse carefully – blast water through the regulator to flush all passages.
- Air dry fully before reassembling the regulator to prevent moisture buildup inside.
- After the basic steps to clean the mask, use a bleach or antiseptic wipe for the lens interior and skirt. Avoid UV sanitizers, as prolonged exposure can degrade the lens.
- For full masks, remove the snorkel attachment and disinfect separately.
- Soak mask strap in disinfecting solution if detachable.
- Rinse the mask thoroughly with clean water after wiping.
- Disconnect the snorkel from the mask.
- Use a small brush and bleach solution to scrub the interior tube.
- Soak or wipe down the exterior. Pay extra attention to the mouthpiece.
- Blast clean water through the tube while rinsing.
- Deflate and remove the bladder for cleaning. Disinfect exterior and interior bladder surfaces.
- Scrub inflation hoses, mouthpieces, straps, and buckles.
- Soak removable weight pockets in solution. Disinfect any parts that touch your body.
- Rinse thoroughly before reassembly. Air dry bladder interior before reattaching.
- Hand wash exterior AND interior surfaces with soap and disinfectant solution. Use a brush on stubborn areas.
- Somebleach solutions may degrade wetsuit material – test on a small area first.
- Rinse thoroughly before hanging drying outside-out.
- Compass, gauges, dive computer – Disinfect with wipes or spray. Avoid prolonged UV exposure.
- Weights/belt – Use bleach solution or wipes on the belt and removable weights.
- Suits, gloves, hoods – Machine or hand wash with detergent AND disinfectant solution.
- Tools, knives – Disinfect with wipes or sprays. Sharp edges may require extra scrubbing to remove buildup.
- SMBs – Deflate. Disinfect exterior surfaces and interior bladder.
Follow gear-specific methods for optimal disinfection. Then let everything completely air dry before storage.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
It’s easy to take shortcuts when disinfecting gear, but that puts you at risk. Avoid these common mistakes:
- Not dismantling regulators, BCDs, and removable parts before cleaning.
- Disinfecting in lakes, oceans, or untreated water sources that recontaminate gear.
- No rinsing disinfectant residue thoroughly before drying. Chemical residue damages material.
- Letting gear dry haphazardly which allows moisture to linger in crevices.
- Not fully drying gear before storage which allows microbe growth.
- Using excessive UV exposure which degrades soft gear like hoses.
- Disinfecting gear in full sunlight which reduces solution potency.
- Not pre-soaking certain parts like regulators in solution. Spraying alone is not enough.
- Neglecting lesser-considered areas like snorkel interiors, gauge hoses, weight belts, etc.
Take the time to methodically disinfect and dry each piece of equipment for optimal results and gear longevity.
Regularly disinfecting all your scuba equipment is a fundamental practice for every diver. Using the right methods and targeting all gear components is critical for eliminating dangerous microbes and extending the lifespan of expensive equipment.
Follow the complete sequence outlined in this guide. Rinse, wash, disinfect, rinse again, and fully air dry your regulator, BCD, mask, wetsuit, and additional gear after every trip. Repeat frequently to prevent corrosion, odors, and breakdown over time.
Consistent, thorough disinfection takes a bit more time but provides huge dividends for your safety and enjoyment. By keeping your gear sanitized and functional, you can focus more on underwater adventure and less on maintenance.