MAKE YOUR EQUIPMENT LAST – PROPER CARE, CLEANING AND STORAGE OF DIVE GEAR
By Aaron Lazar
Take care of your gear and it will take care of you. This certainly seems to be the case in many equipment intensive activities, especially in diving. Through proper use and care of one’s gear, a typical scuba setup can last for years. On the flip side, failing to take the relatively simple steps in caring for one’s gear can lead to early breakdown and deterioration of equipment.
Aside from annual maintenance, which should be performed on various components of your diving setup (regulator servicing, visual cylinder inspections, new batteries in computers, etc.), and maintenance on any item that is not completely in working order, there are several steps you can take to both increase the longevity of your gear and help ensure it will serve you in the way intended. These include treating gear in a generally careful manner, rinsing equipment thoroughly after diving and storing your equipment in a way that both protects and does not subject it to unnecessary strain. While each of these steps are relatively straightforward and common sense, they’re important to keep in mind, especially as you begin to invest in more and more of your own gear.
Treating equipment carefully.
While most dive gear is designed to be somewhat rugged for the conditions it will be subjected to, it’s still a good idea to treat your equipment carefully. This holds true even more so for the more delicate pieces of gear such as regulators, computers, masks, etc. Storing these types of items in protective cases or bags, especially when going to or from the dive site, will help alleviate the chances of damage. When diving, make sure everything is secured and streamlined. Loose hanging SPGs, instrument counsels, alternate air sources or other items are a big no-no. Having these items hanging loose will not only subject your equipment to potential roughing and scuffing but can also pose a serious threat to fragile marine organisms such as coral. Simple clips, retractors, bungees and various types of keepers are available and offer a quick fix. When transporting gear to and from the dive site, make sure to first load heavy items, like cylinders, with lighter and more fragile pieces of equipment on top.
Cleaning gear thoroughly.
Perhaps the most important part of daily post-dive care is the process of cleaning and rinsing gear thoroughly. While it may be tempting to skip this after a long day in the water, it’s important that you don’t rush this and spend the time to rinse off residue that may be detrimental to your equipment. This is especially important after dives in saltwater or in pools that are treated with chlorine or other chemical compounds. Failing to adequately clean equipment after dives in these environments can result in discoloration, weakening and overall deterioration of your gear. Even after diving in freshwater, it’s still a good idea to take the time to clean your gear thoroughly. This will help wash away any dirt, aquatic growth or contaminants that may have been in the water.
Cleaning gear isn’t rocket science. A thorough freshwater rinse is usually all that is needed. This can be done in a dunk tank or tub, a shower if available at the dive site, or with a garden hose. Regardless of the means by which water is provided, the important part is that all gear get’s a top to bottom rinsing, both inside and out. Some like to let their equipment soak in a tub, which is fine, but be sure that the water your gear is soaking in is, itself, not too dirty. Using a garden hose or similar device helps ensure that equipment is being rinsed with a continual flow of freshwater and allows for more detailed rinsing of specific areas.
Pay Special Attention to These Items
While it is important that all gear be rinsed thoroughly, there are several pieces that are worth specially noting. This includes equipment that water can accumulate inside of, pieces with moving components, and parts that may be extra sensitive. Wetsuits (and dry suits) and accompanying exposure protection should be rinsed inside and out. While probably not part of everyday post-dive cleaning, wetsuits that develop a foul smell can be treated with a variety of mild wetsuit shampoos before a final rinsing. Components of the regulator (first stage, second stages, SPGs, instrument counsels, hoses, etc.) should all receive a good rinsing. Allow water to flow into the second stage chamber through the mouthpiece and through the exhaust valve area, making sure not to press the purge button when cleaning if the regulator is not pressurized. Also make sure that dust caps are in place over first stage inlets before rinsing.
BCDs and wings should be rinsed on the inside as well as the outside as saltwater trapped inside can lead to a breakdown of the bladder or air cell material. A common technique is to add freshwater into the bladder via the low pressure inflator hose by holding down the vent button. One can then manually inflate the BCD or wing and shake the water inside of it around. Water can be drained back out of the low pressure inflator hose as well as other dump valves.
Small movable components like clips or bolt snaps should be operated while rinsing them off. This will help reduce the buildup of grit inside of these pieces. Freshwater should also be aimed through the area between the plastic handle and center of cylinder valves. Basically, the goal is to clean anywhere where corrosion or buildup may occur. Special care should also be taken when cleaning dive computers and, if applicable, the computer’s water activated contacts, especially after saltwater dives as residual salt can cause the contacts not to function properly.
When finished rising, allow everything to air dry in a well-ventilated area. Various hangers and rack systems are available to allow suits and other pieces of equipment to dry thoroughly.
After everything has been rinsed and dried completely, it’s time to store it. Generally, it’s a good idea to devote an area for dive equipment storage. Whether it be a closet, racks in the garage, or stackable bins, the area should offer adequate protection and be a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
Care should be taken to store equipment in a manner that doesn’t stress your gear. Wetsuits, for example, should be stored hanging on a designated wetsuit hanger to avoid creating creases and other unnecessary strain. If space requires that you stack equipment, make sure to put the lighter, more delicate items on top, just as you do when transporting. Again, it’s a good idea to keep those more fragile items such as regulators, computers and masks in protective cases.
Keep these several steps in mind, and the gear you’ve invested in will have the potential to last many years. This, combined with regular upkeep and maintenance at your local SDI Dive Center, will help ensure safety and enjoyment of you and your buddy on your next adventure below the surface.
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