Tips to prevent your mask from fogging up and leaking
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There are not too many things more annoying than having a leaking mask when scuba diving. Being one of the less expensive items of gear you will buy as a newbie scuba diver, sometimes means that your mask is purchased before you really know what you should be looking for.
Although a small leak is annoying, a badly fitted mask could lead to a dangerous situation if not fitted correctly.
Here are some tips on how to prevent a mask from leaking, as well as fogging.
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The difference between a snorkeling mask and a diving mask
Diving masks are more expensive than a mask made for snorkeling. This is because a diving mask will be made of better quality materials, making it well worth the extra few dollars.
The mask skirt must enclose the nose in a pocket. Masks that don’t cover the nose are not suitable for scuba diving. This nose pocket needs to be flexible enough for you to pinch your nose and clear your ears during descent. This equalizes the pressure in your middle ear and prevents the ‘squeeze’ feeling caused by the increase in pressure.
There should be a ridge of silicone around the edge of the skirt where it comes in contact with your face. This provides a double-seal.
Many of the cheaper snorkeling masks on the market have low quality plastic or glass face plates. These are perfectly fine for snorkeling, but aren't recommended scuba diving or any diving at depth.
Some masks have a one-way purge valve located under the nose to let water out. This type of mask is commonly used by snorkelers but most scuba divers don't like these at all. This is mainly due to the possibility of the valve failing at depth which will cause the mask to leak.
The diving mask skirt
The mask skirt is the flexible part of the mask that connects to the face plate and fits your face creating a water-tight seal. Most skirts are made of quality silicone, although some are synthetic rubber. The better quality the skirt, the greater flexibility it has, which in turn makes the mask a nicer fit.
There are masks with different colored skirts but these aren’t common and often have a special purpose. Most mask skirts will be opaque, almost transparent, or transparent. A skirt that is almost transparent provides better peripheral vision and often reduces the feeling of claustrophobia that some divers experience.
The skirt must enclose the nose in a pocket section. Masks that don’t cover the nose are not suitable for diving. This nose pocket must be flexible enough for you to pinch your nose and clear your ears during descent. This equalizes the pressure in your middle ear and prevents the ‘squeeze’ feeling caused by the increase in pressure.
There should be a ridge of silicon around the edge of the skirt where it comes in contact with your face. This provides a double-seal.
Prescription lenses and Scuba mask face plates
The face plate on a scuba diving mask should be tempered glass (which is also known as toughened glass). This is much stronger than regular glass. Tempered glass will have a sticker or mark identifying it as tempered on the glass plate.
Diving masks have either a large single faceplate or two lenses in front of the eyes.
Divers who need prescription lenses often go for masks with two lenses. Having two glass plates can make it easier to have prescription lenses fitted directly into the frames. It’s also possible to have prescription lenses glued to the inside of the original flat glass, either fully or partially - partially will make the mask function the same way as bifocals.
Strap comfort and good fit
It’s important to buy a mask that is the correct size for your face. Over tightening the straps in order to get a good seal ineffective and just plain uncomfortable. It also puts pressure on the skirt and will cause damage over time.
Mask straps are usually made of rubber or elastomer which can be annoying for divers with longer hair, causing tangling. The straps can be covered with a neoprene cover, or completely replaced with a neoprene strap. Either of these options will make the straps feel more comfortable.
If the strap's in the wrong position it can make the skirt to buckle slightly losing it's watertight seal. The strap should always be positioned around the back of your head so that it is neither higher nor lower than the center of the mask.
At the beginning of each dive, make sure that the mask is in the correct position on your face, and your hair is out of the way. After entering the water, re-check the position of your mask. If you need to remove it, then dunk your head to clear your hair and replace your mask.
How to check the mask is a good fit for you
Start by putting the mask on using the strap. If there's a mirror around, check to see if the mask is centered on your face and the skirt doesn’t extend past the outside of your cheeks. If there’s no mirror around, ask someone to help check this for you.
Does your nose feel comfortable? If there’s any pressure on your nose at the front or bottom means this shape and fit isn’t the correct one for you.
With the mask on, look around to check how well you can see. If it looks and feels comfortable, then take it off and hold it on your face without using the strap. Gently inhale through your nose, then hold your breath. If the mask stays on without any help, then it means no air is being drawn in and it’s a good fit.
If it's possible, try a mask on with a regulator or snorkel in your mouth. This can make a difference on how a mask fits under your nose.
Men with facial hair often have problems getting a good seal. Putting some petroleum jelly on the hair where it meets the mask can help in getting a good seal.
If you don’t get a mask that's a good fit for the size and shape of your face, then it will be impossible to keep the mask from leaking.
How to stop your new mask from fogging up
New dive masks are all sold with a protective seal over the faceplate. This causes them to fog up once you’re underwater.
There are plenty of mask defoggers on the market, but one of the most reliable methods to stop your new mask from fogging is toothpaste. Buy a cheap brand of toothpaste that doesn’t have whitening agents as this can damage the mask skirt.
How to defog with toothpaste
There are plenty of mask defoggers on the market, but one of the most reliable methods to stop your new mask from fogging is toothpaste.
Buy a cheap brand of toothpaste that doesn’t have whitening agents as this can damage the mask skirt.
Make sure your hands are clean before you start, then spread a liberal amount of toothpaste onto the face plate. You should start to feel the face plate change in texture and become smoother.
Wash away the toothpaste with clean water once the whole face plate area feels smooth. Now perform a breath test. There should be no fogging. If the mask still fogs, repeat the process or try the same method with baby shampoo.
How to defog with Spit or Baby Shampoo
Many divers keep both a defogger and a cleaner in their kit but don't forget good old-fashioned spit. Don’t worry about others seeing you spit in your mask. Most people do it. Spit in the mask before diving and spread the saliva around the inside of the faceplate. Rinse with a little water. The saliva residue allows any condensation to wet the glass and form a continuous film rather than form droplets and fog up.
If you're like me and not keen on using your own spit, there are good cheap anti-fog products available that do this for you. Click here to see Amazon prices.
Another solution that is growing in popularity is baby shampoo. It's cheap and comes in travel sizes. It can be applied directly in small amounts or mixed with water and delivered through a spray bottle.
IMPORTANT: When applying an anti-fog solution, make sure your mask is dry. Put a couple of drops inside your mask lens and rub it around evenly with a clean finger. Once applied, rinse it out using either fresh water or salt water. After rinsing, DO NOT touch the inside of the mask as it will create an uneven spread of the solution.
It’s also normal to have to defog your mask between dives. Your spit acts as a de-fogger but does lose its effectiveness as soon as you remove your mask at the end of the dive.
Mask storage and maintenance
These few easy steps will keep your mask in good working order and leak free for many years.
Have you got any other helpful tips to share? We'd love to hear them.
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