Rinsing dive gear

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sandiegoaes

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I haven’t seen a lot of postings on rinsing dive gear, so I thought I would pass along my techniques for keeping my dive gear working in good order. It seems intuitive but there are some actual procedures for rising out dive gear rather than just spraying some fresh water on your gear.


A friend of mine just got back from Seabase (Boy Scout Scuba adventure) and told me about some conversations with a “very experienced diver” who advised him to “buy a pony tank, keep his regulators pressurized and only use distilled water to rinse them” which seemed really strange to me since I have never done any of these techniques and do not personally know anyone who does.


FWIW - I am a NAUI Course Director, Trimix Extreme Exposure Instructor, PADI MSDT and ran the scuba repair center for a major dive chain and also ran the scuba shed at my university when I went to college. I hold the IAST Master Technician rating along with a pile of scuba repair technician certificates. I repaired regulators and looked inside of far more scuba tanks that anyone should.


These techniques have worked pretty well for me over the years and area easy to do. I have found they tend to extend the working life of my equipment and helps during annual maintenance time as well.


All I need to clean my gear is a small tub and a bottle of vinegar.


Following a dive, there are three points I like to remember: 1) Once you go diving, salt water under pressure is going to force its way into tiny places in scuba gear that, no matter how hard I try to clean and how much fresh water I run over it post dive, the fresh water rinse will never visit the places inside that the salt water is at; 2) the only way to clean these areas is to take apart the reg every year and clean these areas; 3) once you accept points one and two, buying pony tanks, pressurizing regulators during rinsing and other “expert” advice seems a little silly to me since you are going to get salt in these areas and never be able to get them out until you do your annual overhaul of the regulator. Even if a little fresh water gets into your regulator, it isn’t all that big of a deal but I will explain my thoughts on that later.


The key takeaway to keep your regs wet until you can give them a freshwater rinse. This, by far, is the most critical step.


Keep your gear wet for as long as possible until you get it into fresh water. It is critical that no “complex” piece of equipment become dry and the salt crystalizes inside. (Complex gear includes, regulator, BC inflator, drysuit inflation and dump valves, camera, etc…) If your gear dries with salt in / on it, it will stay there forever and gum up the reg’s performance.


When I am teaching a scuba class, I make it a point to not get distracted when I get out of the water. My job depends on my keeping my scuba equipment working and safe, so I need to keep it in good order. For example, if I am teaching at La Jolla shores, I get out of the water, rinse off at the shower and then take my tank off. I immediately remove the reg and dump it into a tub filled with water after the dive. This keeps the regs wet.


If for whatever reason I cannot keep my gear wet until I can rise it off with fresh water, I will keep it wet using salt water. In a pinch, even if I have to go to the beach and fill the tub up with salt water to keep them wet, it is better than having them dry out. There has been more than once that I have gotten to a dive site and there isn’t a fresh water hose or water source to fill up my buckets. So, I just keep them submerged in salt water until I get home and can clean the properly.


All I need is a small rinse tub. I didn’t buy anything fancy. Just a Rubbermaid tub I had laying around. Or two if you have bigger gear (camera, scooter prop). You don’t need to go to Home Depot and buy five different types of containers. Just something to hold water will work.


Getting back to the beach. Once I have ensured my regs aren’t drying out and remain wet, I can take off my wetsuit, debrief students, lecture, grab a sandwich, whatever. My gear is wet and the salt won’t crystalize inside. I don’t really worry about my wetsuit or anything with fabric. I will clean those out later. Once I get all my stuff temporarily stowed, answer student questions, sign logbooks, whatever and I am in position to clean my gear that is soaking in the tub, I start mixing my cleaning agent.


I use a cleaning agent since the fresh water will help melt away all the salt but I want really, really clean gear. I really want all the salt off and for my gear to shine!


For this, I use straight vinegar and fresh water to create a cleaning agent for the hard pieces of my dive gear. It's no secret that white vinegar (acetic acid) is an all-powerful dirt busting powerhouse of awesome. ... And the best part is that it's 100% natural, biodegradable, vegan, hypoallergenic, and non-toxic. You can throw it away without polluting the environment and it shreds all salt off your gear. I mix one cupful for each gallon of water – I eyeball this. I don’t bring a measuring cup to the beach or boat. All you need in addition to your wash tub is a small bottle of vinegar.


I soak my gear for about twenty minutes to half an hour in this solution. I usually do this during lunch or while conducting my dive debrief. Just still your hard gear in, swish it around and let it soak for a while.


I submerge my regulators and also dip my BC inflator into the tub, drysuit valves, etc… into the tub. Every once in a while, I shake the around. It helps a little but again, you are not going to replicate the same pressure as you are underwater, so it doesn’t really help to keep swishing them around constantly. A few times will do it. Just a little diluted vinegar to help get the salt off my gear and clean it.


I have seen vinegar clean “too well” when repairing regs and the metal started to flake off. I wasn’t sure if it was due to an old piece of metal or vinegar starting to break down the reg parts. Since I am not sure, I wanted to prevent this, so I limited the amount of time for my gear to be in the vinegar bath to 20-30 minutes to play it safe.


Now, the only time I would not use vinegar is when I am on grass. Vinegar does a great job and everything I need but I don’t want to kill any plants or grass. In this case, you can buy Salt Away. You can find it at West Marine and I have even seen it at Home Depot. It is pretty much interchangeable between vinegar but again, it doesn’t stain the grass. Boater use Salt away to help clean their boats.


How Salt-Away Works


Vinegar is cheap and easy to come by. Salt Away costs money and requires a trip to Home Depot or a marine store.


I let my gear sit for 20-30 minutes in the vinegar solution. I then drain the tub and fill it up with regular water (nothing crazy like distilled water, filtered water or anything like that). Then I rinse my drysuit valve and BC inflator off a few times by swishing it around in the tub and allow them both to dry in the sun. I take my regulator, computer, camera, etc… and submerge them into the tub. How long do I leave them there? To quote the immortal and legendary underwater photographer, Al Bruton: “One to three beers. Depending on how big of a beer drinker you are.” Typically, I will fill up the tub in the back of my car and leave it there while I finish up with students or pack the rest of my gear. I leave my tub with my regs in the back of my car when I drive home. The car motion mimics an ultrasonic cleaner somewhat as you drive home, so it might have some positive effect on the cleaning. I am not sure but it sure sounds cool!


If I have a scooter, I like to do the same technique as described above and run the prop of the scooter in my vinegar tub and then let it soak in the fresh water tub afterwards. Just stand it upright and run the prop a bit to flush it out, then soak in fresh water.


If you are on a boat and cannot immediately rise your gear, you can buy a small squirt bottle and you can fill it up with the diluted or straight vinegar. Spray your gear with it, let it soak for a few minutes and then rinse your gear with fresh water. It isn’t as good but better than nothing!


Once I get home, I hang my regs to dry and drain out the tubs.
 

sandiegoaes

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For wet or drysuits, I fill up a trash can with water (make sure you take the trash out first!) and some laundry detergent and woolite. Just a squirt. I make sure they are turned inside out for this part. Vigorously push and pull the suits out of the trash can to move the water around a bit. Hang them up to dry. When the inside is dry, flip it inside out and then hang up again. I leave mine hanging like this for storage. Same thing with the BC. It cleans it really well and makes it smell nice! I don’t use vinegar for anything with fabric, just hard gear like plastic and metal.


I should point out I do not use a pony tank or pressurize my hoses. I put the reg caps in place and toss my regs into the vinegar solution, then rinse it really well with a fresh water soak.


For the people who insist on buying pony tanks and pressurizing your hoses while your regs are submerged, I will offer this advice:


First - The best thing you can do to prevent water from getting into your regs is to change the o-rings on your regulator dust caps. Once the O-rings become become flat, they tend to leak a little. I can change these o-rings over 2,000 times for the cost of a pony bottle and get the same result.


Second – Getting fresh water inside your regs is not a huge deal. However, getting salt water inside is!


Way back 20 million years ago, one skill taught in scuba classes was to take your regulator off the tank and breath off the tank. The legend is that one particular reg manufacturer pushed this skill on the agencies so they could sell their particular brand of regulator and being superior since it could flood and still work reliably. The reg manufacturer intended for this to happen in a swimming pool. The instructor would demonstrate the skill, blow the water out of the regulator, reattach it and go diving. And it worked!!!!


It worked so well that someone tried it in salt water!!! Then the reg was so gummed up from all the salt encrustation that the reg didn’t work anymore and the skill was eventually dropped from all scuba course curriculums.


Salt water inside will absolutely kill your regulator. Again, this is the reason I am so adamant about keeping my regs wet until I can clean them. Salt kills all your gear! A little fresh water in your regulator won’t kill it. It if happens, hook your reg up to a tank and blow it out. I worked on repairing a few regulators that were submerged in a fresh water pool accidentally and then left with water still in them for several months because the shop employee forgot to turn them into the repair department and they were stored in a supply closet accidentally. They had fresh water in them for four months. I hooked them up to a tank, blew the fresh water out and tested them. They worked fine and had to noticeable corrosion anywhere, including the filter. I rebuilt the entire regulator and was surprised at how little corrosion there was for the amount of time that the fresh water was in the reg.


I have used these methods for over 30 years of diving. My gear has a better than average reliability rate and everyone wants to be my dive buddy since I smell so nice now.


Use my techniques if you wish. If not, thanks for reading!
 

BoltSnap

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Thank you for the post.

The reason some of us use "distilled" or "filtered" water is because our local tap water is heavy with minerals and will leave mineral residue on metals parts after soaking. I noticed this on regulators, spearguns and other metal joints on my scuba equipment. It looked like salt and was difficult to remove. I started to soak my regulators, spearguns, camera housing, etc. in filtered/distilled water as a final stage in rinsing my dive equipment. I don't do this for rubber/soft equipment (for BC, just the hose/valve parts).
 

sandiegoaes

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Thank you for the post.

The reason some of us use "distilled" or "filtered" water is because our local tap water is heavy with minerals and will leave mineral residue on metals parts after soaking. I noticed this on regulators, spearguns and other metal joints on my scuba equipment. It looked like salt and was difficult to remove. I started to soak my regulators, spearguns, camera housing, etc. in filtered/distilled water as a final stage in rinsing my dive equipment. I don't do this for rubber/soft equipment (for BC, just the hose/valve parts).

Thanks for the info. I have never had that problem.
 

BoltSnap

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Thanks for the info. I have never had that problem.

It is probably because you have better grade of tab water than we do. We don't drink tab water here since it has high mineral/salt content, we only use bottled filtered water for drinking.
 

formernuke

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I just don't log dives
I just soak and rinse mine when I get home.

Ideally I would bring water bucket to the site but no room in my car.
 
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