No matter if you own a full set of scuba gear or just a few of the basics, you probably want your gear to last as long as possible. Buying equipment not only costs a small fortune but also takes a lot of time to find the perfect fit. The good news is that if you follow the basics of scuba gear maintenance and storage, your kit can easily last hundreds of dives.
Unfortunately, the elements that create the atmosphere that scuba divers love are the same elements that are a scuba dive gear’s worst enemy. The combination of sun, sand, and salt means a fun day out for us, but wreaks havoc on our expensive equipment.
In this guide, you’ll learn all about how to store and maintain your gear as well as how to give that much-needed extra attention to the more sensitive pieces.
1. RINSE EVERYTHING AFTER EVERY USE
Salt water corrodes metal, like parts of your dive computer, regulator, and BCD more quickly than freshwater. Think of how ships stationed in the ocean need more maintenance than vessels in a freshwater lake. Rinse all your gear with cold or lukewarm tap water to protect against corrosion.
Rinsing also gets rid of any sand or other particles that have come along for the ride. Sand works its way into zippers, buckles, and other nooks within your gear and is a recipe for disaster. Microscopic creatures, plant particles, or bacteria left on your equipment can cause it to stink (good luck finding a dive buddy). The goal is to keep your gear in top notch condition, without any extra sand or creatures.
Never use chlorinated or pool water in lieu of freshwater. This can be just as damaging, if not more, than salt water.
2. KEEP OUT OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT
Ultraviolet rays from sunlight break up the molecular structure of just about any material it contacts, damaging and aging it. Whenever possible, keep your gear inside of a dive bag if it’s dry, or inside a dark room. Even during surface intervals, you can increase your gear’s lifespan just that little bit longer by placing it somewhere shady. In an article called 7 Things that Can Destroy Your Dive Gear, PADI lists sunlight as arch-nemesis number one!
3. HANDLE WITH CARE
Never throw your gear – especially the more sensitive pieces like your mask, dive computer, and regulator – onto the floor. This puts your precious (and expensive) equipment at risk of being stepped on or chewed up the dive center’s local pooch.
Keep an eye on your dive bag when it’s being loaded and unloaded from a dive boat. Even better, load it yourself whenever possible. This keeps it from being damaged by other divers or tossed overboard on a bumpy ride.
Store your gear on wooden or plastic wide hangers – not skinny metal ones. If the hanger is metal, it can rust and stain your equipment. Thin hangers will stretch and warp the material.
4. STORE SOMEWHERE WHERE YOUR GEAR CAN BREATHE
It’s best to store all your gear somewhere dark – but this doesn’t mean tossed into a damp corner of your garage where mildew, mold, and creatures can run wild in their new home.
BCD bladders, regulator hoses, and snorkel tubes need a chance to breathe and dry out so they stay in great condition. Hang or organize your gear so that each piece has its own space.
Once everything is completely dry, you can put it in a storage container or dive bag.
5. AVOID THEFT
Sadly, there is always a risk of your dive gear getting stolen. This usually happens when you leave your kit out to dry in public or while traveling. Keep your gear hidden in an inconspicuous bag if you’re going to a site known for theft – a tattered backpack paired with an old towel doesn’t scream “I have expensive gear inside” like a mesh branded dive bag does.
Take basic precautions like drying your equipment where you or the dive center’s staff can keep an eye on it, locking your bag, and storing it somewhere as soon as it’s dry. Small items like cameras and dive computers are easy to snatch without drawing attention, so keep those locked away or on you at all times.
HOW TO STORE AND MAINTAIN KEY PIECES OF GEAR
1. STORING AND MAINTAINING YOUR WETSUIT, MASK, SNORKEL, AND FINS
Dry and store your wetsuit turned inside-out. This makes it prone to less UV damage and preserves the top, the most important layer. As a bonus, this also keeps the wetsuit comfortable to put on next time because the inside will be dry even if the outside isn’t. This guide from Surfer Magazine goes into even more depth on wetsuit care.
You shouldn’t pee in your wetsuit – but many of us do it anyways. You can wash your wetsuit with a tiny bit of dish soap or wetsuit cleaner to clear out any funky smells or residue.
To find the perfect wetsuit, read our guide on the best wetsuits of the year.
Wash your mask, snorkel, and fins with a little bit of soapy water and a sponge. You can use an old toothbrush to scrape out any bits of sand stuck between the cracks of your mask lens.
2. STORING AND MAINTAINING YOUR BCD
Chlorine and the sun’s rays are harsh on BCDs because it’s largely made up of nylon, plastic, and rubber. Always rinse your BCD especially well after diving inside a pool. Fully submerge it into the rinse tank and move the pieces all around – including any zippers, buckles, and Velcro. Inflate and deflate the BCD to get rid of any sand particles stuck in the buttons.
To check for leaks, inflate your BCD and dunk it in a rinse tank. Squeeze the BCD and gently move it around the tank. If bubbles are escaping, you might have a hole. Repair the hole at a dive gear servicer or with a sealant.
HOW TO CLEAN A BCD BLADDER – 5 STEPS
1. Place the oral-inflator under a hose or faucet while pressing the deflate button. Fill the bladder to about a third, then use the oral inflator to inflate the BCD completely.
2. Swish the water all around the bladder, covering the entire surface. Don’t add anything to the water unless it’s a commercial BCD cleaner, as any other detergents or chemicals can damage the bladder.
3. Pull the deflate cord and drain the water through the dump valves. If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned the inside of your BCD, you might have to do this whole process a few times.
4. Inflate the BCD and deflate it as quickly as you can to push out as much water as you can. Inflate the BCD again and hang it to dry. Let the hose hang down so that any water drains to the bottom of the hose – then deflate, emptying the hose.
5. Once it’s fully dry, store it partially inflated. This keeps the bladder walls from sticking to one another. You can put silicone spray to the outer rubber or silicone pieces of the BCD for prolonged storage.
3. STORING AND MAINTAINING YOUR REGULATOR
Regulators need regular servicing, usually outlined by your regulator’s manufacturer. This can range from every 100 dives to every 200 diving hours to every three years – it depends. Follow the instructions on your regulator’s packaging, or check on the brand’s website. For an in-depth look at all that goes into regulator servicing, an article called Regulator Service: A Lot More than Meets the Eye by Dive Training Magazine is an interesting read.
After every dive trip, give your regulator a deep clean by scrubbing the mouth pieces with a sponge and soapy water – but do not purge while doing so. Clean the dust cap and first stage by blowing onto it with air from the tank. Finally, once the regulator is completely dry, put silicone spray around the BCD disconnect, the metal pieces, and the first stage knob.
Don’t have a regulator yet? Here’s our guide to choosing the best regulator for you.
4. STORING AND MAINTAINING YOUR COMPUTER
When rinsing your dive computer, press all buttons a few times to ease out any sand or saltwater. Dry and store somewhere safe. You can read our article about how to choose a dive computer if you’re in the market for a new one.