How Do You disinfect Snorkel Gear? Tips and Best Methods
Author: Nicole Malczan
You just came back from an amazing day of snorkeling. You can’t wait to go again, but in between snorkel sessions, it seems best to clean your gear. The only problem is you have no idea how to go about disinfecting snorkel gear. What do you have to do?
We recommend these tips and best methods for disinfecting your snorkel gear:
- Use dish detergent on fins, soaking them in a bucket of water and then scrubbing them
- Steramine comes in handy for boots, hoods, and suits; you can also use it for your BC inflator, its mouthpiece, and your regulator
- Soap or detergent can clean a snorkel mouthpiece inside and out
- Disinfect your snorkel mask with shampoo and water, detergent and water, or toothpaste depending on what’s most convenient
- Treat a moldy snorkel with bleach
In this article, we’ll elaborate on all the tips above. From some handy shopping links to the exact quantities of the ingredients needed to make your own homemade snorkel gear disinfectant, by the time you’re done reading, you’ll have all the info you need.
Tips and Tricks for Disinfecting Your Snorkel Gear
Dish Detergent Works Well on Snorkel Fins
Most snorkel fins are made of carbon fiber, plastic, rubber, and sometimes all three materials in one. When you’re done using your fins for the day, you can start the cleaning process in one of two ways. If you have access to a hose or another source of fresh water, then clean off your fins. Otherwise, you can always give them a soak later in the day.
You’ll want to fill up a bucket large enough for the fins to fit in their entirety. Mix in some dish soap until the water begins sudsing up, then dump your fins in. If you only have dish detergent available instead of soap, that’s okay, as the detergent is a very suitable alternative.
Depending on how dirty your fins are, let them soak for a while. The more time they spend in the detergent or soap, the better, but you shouldn’t have to let them soak overnight. When they’re ready to come out and are still a little damp, check for debris inside of or outside your fins. A soft-bristled child’s toothbrush can clean up this debris, as can a gentle sponge. Don’t put too much elbow grease into this part of the cleaning, as you don’t want to accidentally damage the fins when trying to disinfect them.
Steramine Is Useful for Cleaning Boots, Hoods, and Suits as Well as the BC Inflator and Your Regulator
For an array of snorkel gear, Steramine is a heavily recommended product among snorkelers. If this is your first introduction to Steramine, allow us to explain what it is. Steramine is a brand that manufactures sanitizing tablets. You dump a single tablet into a gallon of water to get 150 gallons of Steramine cleaning solution.
According to Steramine themselves, their dissolving tablets can remove traces of HIV-1, Staph, E. coli, and other harmful microorganisms. You can get six bottles of Steramine on Amazon for under $50 using the link above, which is a good deal. That gives you 150 tablets in all.
Non-porous snorkeling items like boots, hoods, and suits can be cleaned with Steramine, although it’s not as effective on neoprene as other materials. Steramine will remove most boot and wetsuit odors so wearing this gear is a little more pleasant.
You can either fill a large bucket with the recommended quantities of water and then mix in your one Steramine tablet, or you can make a spray of Steramine. If you do this, you need to increase the number of tablets you use to at least two. Some snorkelers will even add in three tablets at a time when making Steramine spray, especially if they’re combatting tough odors.
For the BC inflator, you want to make your Steramine solution, this time in a bucket of water rather than a spray container. Put your inflator and the mouthpiece in the water and allow them to fill up with the Steramine and water mixture. Hit the oral inflate button on your inflator to ensure the Steramine gets into the valve within.
After five or so minutes, begin cleaning your oral inflator with fresh water, ensuring it’s thoroughly rinsed. Leave it open as you do this to prevent the valve from trapping any Steramine residue.
We hope you have some Steramine leftover for cleaning your regulator as well. This has a rubber mouthpiece that you put into your mouth to create a seal. Since the regulator or reg spends so much time in your mouth, it’s among one of the filthiest parts of your snorkel gear. Thus, the reg needs frequent disinfecting.
By cleaning the regulator, you can ensure it’s removed of all spittle as well as sand, salt, and other debris. The good thing about Steramine to disinfect the reg is that it leaves no taste behind.
Once again, take a tablet of Steramine and combine it with a gallon of water. When the tablet has dissolved and the water is blue from the Steramine, pour the dissolved Steramine tablet and water into the second stage of the reg. You want the interior chamber to be full.
Some snorkelers will remove the reg as they clean the interior chamber. They’ll also turn the chamber upright so the Steramine and water can get to the reg’s exhaust diaphragm. You can do this as well, but refrain from using the purge except in situations where the reg is attached to a cylinder and you open the valve.
After five or 10 minutes have passed, you can stop soaking the reg, cleaning it with fresh water so no traces of residue remain. Just because you can’t taste Steramine doesn’t mean you want it left in the reg, so rinse carefully.
Soap or Detergent Is Also Suitable for Disinfecting Your Snorkel Mouthpiece
If you don’t have any Steramine handy, that’s not your only option for cleaning your snorkeling mouthpiece. You can also use detergent or dish soap, just like you did when disinfecting your fins.
If you are indeed cleaning with dish soap, you can squirt that straight into the mouthpiece tube and then mix it with a bit of water. You should also combine your detergent with water, then pour that down the tube and clean your mouthpiece that way.
You can also rely on your trusty bucket, filling it with water and dish soap or detergent. Let the mouthpiece soak in the mix, taking special care so the breathing tube is sitting in the water, not floating at the top.
After roughly five minutes, take out the mouthpiece. Use fresh water to clean the mouthpiece inside and out so you don’t leave the residue of any disinfecting product behind. Then find a sponge or a microfiber towel to dry out the breathing tube, leaving no moisture behind.
Use Shampoo, Detergent, or Toothpaste for Your Snorkel Mask
A smudged-up, blurry snorkel mask can really detract from your underwater exploration experiences. What’s even worse is when you discover too late that your mask is all smudgy. It’s not like you can clean the mask while underwater, especially not the inside of your mask. You just have to get through the day with a smudgy mask, and that’s no fun.
Fortunately, your options for cleaning your snorkeling mask are multiple so you can ensure you never have anything but a clear mask for all your hours spent in the water.
Your first option is to use shampoo. Yes, that’s right, the same product you grab daily to clean your hair makes for an awesome snorkel mask disinfectant. If you use shampoo, you want to leave the ultra-fragrant, flowery products in your bathroom. Instead, choose shampoos that don’t have much alkalinity.
A product that’s considered alkaline, such as a shampoo, is also referred to as being more basic on the pH scale. Any item that’s over 7 on the pH scale is basic or alkaline, including those that are rated 8 to 14. These include sodium bicarb with a pH rating of 8.3 to 8.6, soda ash at 11.3 to 11.8, calcium hydroxide at 12.6, and liquid chlorine at 13.
Alkaline products can dissolve some acids, which is probably why they’re not recommended for cleaning your snorkel mask.
Once you find an appropriate, non-alkaline shampoo, mix it with water and then rub it over both the front and back of the snorkel mask, making sure you get the tight corners and crevices. After several minutes, rinse all the shampoo away, checking that you’ve cleaned any remaining residue. Leftover shampoo can dry hard but turn wet when you wear the mask again, obstructing your vision.
If you don’t have any non-alkaline shampoo, then you can trust in detergent as you have to sanitize other parts of your snorkel gear so far. Use it the same way you would the shampoo.
No shampoo or detergent? Your third choice is toothpaste. You might want to check the ingredients list of your toothpaste before you apply it to your snorkel mask. Minty products especially could irritate your eyes should you fail to remove all the toothpaste residue. You’ll have to rinse really well to be on the safe side. Also, avoid gel toothpaste, as it’s not as effective.
Begin by squirting out a generous amount of toothpaste onto your mask. Then, using your finger (no need for gloves or hand protection unless you have especially sensitive skin), rub the toothpaste in all the corners of your snorkel mask. Repeat this on the front or back of the mask, whichever surface is uncleaned.
Running tap water in your bathroom, hold the mask under the water and clean away what remains of the toothpaste. If you miss a few spots, the hardened toothpaste will be white, blue, or green. That makes it pretty easy to see the areas you’ve missed and rinse them off before donning your snorkeling mask again.
When you’re confident that you’ve rinsed the mask as well as you can, use a heavy cloth (that’s still soft) or a sponge to dry the mask completely.
You Can Save a Moldy Snorkel Mask with Bleach
Let’s say that you’re just now prioritizing disinfecting your snorkeling gear. Before, you’d clean as needed, or as you remembered, whichever came first. What if conditions have gotten so bad with your snorkel mask that it’s developed mold?
This isn’t the only gear that can get moldy without the right care. Your snorkel fins, breathing tube, and other parts may grow mold as well. Essentially, if you submerge snorkeling gear in the water and then put the gear somewhere enclosed where it can’t adequately dry, mold can develop. The same is true of leaving your gear in a humid environment.
Discovering the growth of black or white mold on your snorkel gear can leave you with a knot in the center of your stomach. Your first inclination will be to throw the gear away, but this isn’t necessarily your only option.
Before you declare the gear a goner, try removing the mold yourself. You don’t even need a specialized cleaner either, just good, old-fashioned bleach.
Make a bleach solution with water, leaving the bleach as undiluted as possible. Make sure you wear gloves when handling bleach and when touching your moldy snorkel equipment as well. You might even want to wear a face mask if the mold is especially bad so you don’t breathe in the spores.
Carefully, place your snorkel equipment in the bleach bath. You should do this outdoors, because if bleach gets on your upholstery, furniture, or clothing, it will stain these.
If part of your snorkel gear, such as a snorkel tube, is bobbing and floating in the bleach and water mixture, put something heavier atop it so it’s submerged.
Within five minutes, you want to take the snorkel gear out of the bleach bath. It shouldn’t be completely mold-free at this point, but that’s okay. With an unused toothbrush or even your own gloved hand, scratch away any remaining traces of mold. These should come right off.
With the mold removed, now you want to rinse and rinse some more. We really can’t emphasize this enough. While a bit of toothpaste on your snorkel mask can leave your eyes red and irritated and some Steramine residue in your mouthpiece might feel unpleasant, bleach can kill if ingested.
Once you’re done rinsing the snorkel mask with fresh water, you may have to go back and repeat the whole process a second time if it turns out your snorkel gear still has some mold on it. It’s risky to breathe in mold or have it anywhere near your face, so don’t leave even flecks of it on the mask. Mold can also worsen allergy symptoms and other breathing-related conditions like asthma. You may have eye and skin irritation or breathing issues due to mold as well.
Should You Clean Your Mask Ahead of Your Dive or Only After?
Each time you go snorkeling, you clean your gear afterward. Then, one of your snorkeling buddies mentioned how they disinfect their gear both before and after diving. Is this necessary or just overkill?
You don’t have to disinfect every last piece of snorkel gear you own that often, but it’s not a bad idea to clean your snorkel mask and breathing tubes before your dive and then again after. The silicone coating included with most diving masks might make your mask fog up in the water. Like with smudges, it’s too late to do anything to clean your mask until your dive has ended.
With a bit of toothpaste, you can ward off unwanted mask fogginess before you hit the water. The same rules for using toothpaste as in the section above apply here. That means foregoing the gel toothpaste and trying not to use very minty stuff either.
You can always shop for an anti-fog solution such as Happy Snorkel to fight off fogginess. A single bottle of Happy Snorkel that’s 1.25 fluid ounces should get you through about 50 dives without any fog.
Disinfecting your snorkel gear prevents odors, stains, smudges, and the growth of mold. It’s for your health and safety, so you must prioritize cleaning all your gear regularly. Most of the time, you can use common household cleaners for such a job, such as detergent, dish soap, shampoo, or toothpaste. Anti-foggers and dissolving cleaners like Steramine are also highly recommended among those in the diving community.
Next time, whether you rent or buy your own gear, you’ll be ready to keep it clean so you can dive without distraction!