Whether it’s your gear that’s gotten foggy or dirty or a rental that you want to clean before putting it on your face, your snorkel mask needs regular cleaning. And there’s more to it than dunking it in the water (even if it’s soapy water) and hoping for the best.
When it comes to how to clean a snorkel mask, there are right ways and wrong ways. The best method involves some type of cleaning agent, warm water, thorough drying, and proper storage to ensure the best views of the underwater world.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t spit in a rented mask. Sure, saliva in your mask can help discourage fogging, but other products do it better. Plus, you don’t want future guests to complain, “Why is my plastic snorkel so sticky?”
So let’s dive into how to clean snorkel gear.
How to Clean a Snorkel Mask
There are two different cleaning procedures, one for when your snorkel mask is brand new and one for after each time you use it.
Manufacturers coat the lenses of brand-new masks with a silicone layer to protect them from damage and prevent scratching during shipment to the retail shop. While that layer also acts to help the mask lens look good on the shelf in the dive shop, it will only serve to decrease visibility when you dive under the water.
While you can find fancy chemical products, you can get the same results with toothpaste.
A few caveats before we start, though:
- It needs to be a non-whitening paste, not a gel.
- The paste should not contain abrasive scrubbers, lest they scratch your new snorkel mask.
- If your lens is glass, you can use a brush (even a toothbrush), but if it’s a plastic lens or some other polycarbonate, be sure to use a microfiber cloth.
Don’t take a chance on ruining your new mask before you ever get to use it.
Steps to Take
Here is how to clean snorkeling gear.
Apply Toothpaste to Both Sides of the Lens
Spread the paste around to cover the entire surface of both sides of the lens and gently scrub. Use a microfiber cloth or soft sponge to be safe if you don’t know what your lens is made of.
If it’s made of tempered glass, you can use a brush without fearing damage. For a more gentle detergent, you can use baby shampoo instead.
Don’t decide to skip the cleanup involved with using a brush or cloth. If you use your fingers instead, you’ll get your skin oils on the lens. That oily film leads to a less-than-clear field of vision in salt or fresh water.
After thoroughly pasting, rinse your snorkeling mask off well with warm water, making sure all the toothpaste comes off.
Then dry the mask with a clean microfiber cloth or other soft cloth, and you’re ready to go.
When To Clean
After you’ve dived, snorkel masks need proper cleaning every time you come out of the water at the end of your snorkeling experience. Here is how to clean an old snorkel mask, removing sand and salt build-up that can cause damage.
- Use a detergent soap. Dish detergent works, though you’ll probably want to dilute it or find some mild dish soap, and baby shampoo works, too.
- As with a new mask cleaning, use a cloth or soft-bristled toothbrush as appropriate, avoiding using your fingers because of the skin oils.
- Thoroughly wash and rinse your snorkel mask. You’re removing foreign bodies that will damage it such as sand, salt, shell fragments, and other debris.
- Use a soft towel to dry completely the entire mask.
Always Clean Your Mask
Avoid the mistake of thinking that since you weren’t in salt water, your mask doesn’t need cleaning. Freshwater has particulates in it, and marine life lives there, too.
Both can build up or cause scratches, so use the same procedure no matter what water you snorkeled in.
Do you need to know how to clean goggles and snorkel gear? Here are a few things to consider when learning how to clean snorkel mask and tube sets.
Full disclosure: there’s mounting evidence that these masks may make snorkeling a riskier excursion than using traditional masks or goggles). How to clean snorkel goggles and other gear falls along the same lines. Use a gentle soap, then wash, rinse, and dry thoroughly.
These thorough cleaning steps will also help keep fogging to a minimum, but there are other steps and products to further prevent this. You have a few different methods available to you, and yes, one involves spit.
The Baby Shampoo Method
We used it to clean our snorkel mask when we brought it home from the dive shop, and baby shampoo can also help with anti-fogging.
Combine a few drops of baby shampoo with a few tablespoons of tap water to make a thin solution not much more viscous than water. If you store it in a small spray bottle, you can spray it in your mask, then lightly rinse it out.
Learn how to wash your gear gently. Don’t wash the shampoo out completely, or its defogging abilities will wash out, too. Leave a thin layer of the solution. If you leave too much in your mask, the baby shampoo won’t sting your eyes if it gets in them.
You’ll get the same anti-fog properties of the shampoo without having to make it yourself.
Saliva in your mask decreases the surface tension of the liquid and prevents water vapor from collecting on the inside of your mask.
Saliva acts as a surfactant and keeps vapor from collecting and fogging up your mask. If you’re using a rental mask and spitting in it, look into how to disinfect the snorkel and mask, which can involve disinfecting products or bleach solution that’s heavy on the water and light on the bleach.
Use a long tube brush to clean out the purge valve on your snorkel mask.
Ensure you regularly clean your equipment. After you learn how to clean your mask and snorkel with these care instructions, it will be ready for your next adventure.
Once you’ve learned how to clean snorkel goggles and gear, you may want to learn how to sand snorkel goggles and how to store that snorkel gear. But that’s for another time.