Over my decades long diving career, I’ve had my fair share of mask-clearing fails and triumphs. Whether it’s a small leak or a completely flooded mask, knowing how to quickly and efficiently clear your dive mask is an essential skill for any underwater adventure. After years of trial and error, I’ve got some hard-won tips to share.
Table of Contents
- 1 Don’t Panic! Stay Calm and Carry On Diving
- 2 Dive Mask Clearing Protocol: Step-by-Step Clearing Guide
- 3 Prep Your Mask Pre-Dive To Minimize Leaking
- 4 Troubleshooting Minor Mask Leaks
- 5 To Descend or Not to Descend? Clearing Tips for Different Depths
- 6 Pro Diver Tips and Tricks for Mask Clearing Success
- 7 Stay Calm, Take Your Time, and You’ll Nail Mask Clearing
Don’t Panic! Stay Calm and Carry On Diving
The number one rule when your mask floods is don’t panic! Take a few slow deep breaths from your regulator and get your bearings. A flooded mask is very common and even seasoned divers deal with it on almost every dive. With the right technique, you can clear even a fully flooded mask in less than 15 seconds.
The key is staying calm, having a plan of action, and not disturbing the delicate marine life around you with any erratic movements. Rushing will only make the silt and water churn around, further obscuring your vision. Plus, a hurried attempt may fail or cause mask squeeze.
So take your time, relax with some nice deep breaths, and follow this step-by-step guide to clear your mask smoothly and efficiently, no matter how much water is inside.
Dive Mask Clearing Protocol: Step-by-Step Clearing Guide
Say, your mask caught a sudden leak mid-water and water starts to rapidly fill your mask. This has happened to the best of scuba divers no matter how much fancier the dive mask technology has gotten over time. So, what should be your next set of actions?
1. Stop and Regroup Mentally
I cannot stress this enough! Time and time again I’ve seen new divers going on a panic-driven rapid ascent when their masks started flooding and getting the dreaded bends. I know, it’s very disorienting suddenly having your mask full of water and not being able to see clearly. Fight that urge of ascent! Instead, stop where you are, take a few breaths, and get oriented.
Thinking about this will help you calm your nerves better- know that you have ample air in your tank and regulator and there’s your freaking dive buddy beside you. So take your time and be clear methodically.
2. Tilt-Head Back Slightly
Next, tilt your head back just a bit, about 30 degrees. This positions the water in your mask so it’s ready to flow out. Too far back and the water stays put. Too far forward and it blocks your nose.
3. Take A Deep Breath To Fill your lungs
For a moment just forget about all those breathing techniques. With your head still tilted back, take a deep rattling breath through your regulator until your lungs are full. You’ll be exhaling this air later to create pressure inside the mask and force the water out.
4. Hold the Top of The Mask Seal
Use your left hand to press the top of your mask firmly against your forehead to create an airtight seal there.
This secures the water in place and prevents it from rushing up into your eyes and nose as you prepare to clear the bottom.
5. Break the Bottom Seal and Look Down
Using your right hand, gently pinch the bottom of the mask skirt away from your face just enough to break the seal. This creates an opening for the water to escape.
Once the bottom seal is broken, tilt your head slightly forward and look down so gravity can drain the water out of the bottom opening.
6. Blow The Air You Inhaled In Step 3 Through Your Nose
Here is where the actual clearing happens. While looking down with the bottom corner open, slowly exhale about half the air from your lungs through your nose. This controlled exhalation provides additional pressure to push the water out of the bottom opening.
6.1 Blow Gently and Relentlessly
The key is to blow slowly and continuously – don’t just big huff once into your mask or you may dislodge the top seal. Maintain a gentle but steady stream of bubbles for 5-10 seconds until all the water is pushed out.
6.2 Equalize If Needed
If you feel mask squeeze pain in your nose or eyes during this, stop blowing and gently push your mask away from your face to relieve the pressure. Then go back to blowing carefully to avoid mask squeeze recurring.
7. Voila! Crystal Clear View Restored
With all the bulk water drained out, tilt your head back again and inhale fully to repressurize the mask interior. Then look side to side to let any remaining droplets drain out. Finish by gently exhaling through your nose to clear any last bits of moisture. Then congratulate yourself on a mask clearing well done!
There you have it – a flooded mask successfully cleared in under 15 seconds! Now you can continue your dive with a crystal clear view.
Prep Your Mask Pre-Dive To Minimize Leaking
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true when it comes to mask clearing. Taking the time to properly adjust and prepare your mask and gear before diving can prevent leaks and make clearing much easier.
Here are my top tips for setting up your mask and gear for easy clearing:
Find the Perfect Mask Fit
An improperly fitted mask is one of the main causes of flooding and leaks. Take the time to find a mask that fits your face snugly without pinching. The skirt should create a complete seal around your eyes and nose without gaps. Straps should just be tight enough but not painfully so.
A proper fit will make a world of difference in preventing your dive mask from leaking and allowing easier clearing. Masks come in all shapes and sizes, so find the right one for your mug.
Defog Like a Champ
A foggy mask is impossible to see out of and tricky to clear. Prevent fogging by cleaning your mask thoroughly before each dive and applying a high-quality defog solution. I swear by Sea Gold – a few dabs on the inside of the lens before each dive keep things crystal clear.
If fogging happens anyway, stay calm. Just give a few gentle exhales aiming up across the inside of the mask to dissipate the moisture. Avoid spit…it just makes things worse!
Low Volume is Your Friend
Choose a low-volume dive mask with minimal air space inside. This gives you less water to clear out if flooded. Low-volume masks are also easier to pressurize when descending and require less equalizing.
I love my Scubapro Spectra mini mask – it holds very little water when flooded but still gives me a nice wide field of view.
Purge Valves Make Clearing a Breeze
Many mask models today come with one-way purge valves around the nosepiece. These valves allow water to flow out easily when cleared but prevent water from surging back in. This makes clearing flooded masks incredibly fast and easy. Just tilt your head down and all the water flows out the valves. It’s like cheating!
If your mask doesn’t have purge valves, you can still clear it fine, just takes a bit more work.
Troubleshooting Minor Mask Leaks
Even when you think your mask setup is perfect, sometimes a small leak still develops during the dive. A little water trickling in is annoying but manageable. Here is my method for troubleshooting minor leaks and clearing small amounts of water:
Identify the Source of the Leak
First, determine where the water is entering from. Tilt your head in different directions while looking toward the leak. Is it coming through the skirt or from your nose/mouth area? Finding the source will allow you to remedy it.
Check Your Straps
Often a small leak means your straps need tightening. Reach back with both hands and gently tighten the straps, especially on the side of the leak.
Just don’t overtighten to the point of mask squeeze. A little wiggle and adjustment is usually all it takes to seal up a strap-related leak.
Purge Your Nose and Mask
For a nose or mouth leak, first, purge your regulator to clear any water inside. Then press the top of your mask against your forehead to create a seal. Blow gently into your nose to force any remaining water droplets out through the valve or bottom of the skirt.
Tilt Your Head Back
Once you’ve stopped the water flow, tilt your head back so the water accumulates at the top of the mask near your forehead. Then look down to let gravity drain the droplets into the mask skirt.
And there you have it. A partially flooding dive mask cleared to the last droplet.
To Descend or Not to Descend? Clearing Tips for Different Depths
What if your mask starts flooding just as you’re about to descend? Or mid-dive you’re 20 meters down when the leak springs? Does depth change how you should approach clearing?
Here are my tips on mask clearing at different dive depths:
Still at Surface? Clear Before Descending
If you notice major fog or a leak just as you’re starting your descent, stop! Ascend back up and fully clear your mask before going down again. Much easier to troubleshoot and clear effectively with a calm mind while still near the surface.
Shallow Depth? Make a Controlled Safety Stop
If minor flooding starts shortly after descent while still in shallow water above 10 meters, stop your descent by inflating your BCD. Hover in place and clear the mask before continuing downward.
Deep Down? Clear Mask In Place
No need to ascend if major flooding happens deep underwater! Just stop, get buoyant, and clear following the steps above. Remaining deep avoids rapid pressure changes that could injure your ears or lungs.
The only difference is needing to equalize more frequently on mask blows to avoid squeeze pain. Other than that, the technique is the same anywhere.
With this knowledge, you can master mask clearing no matter how deep you are!
Pro Diver Tips and Tricks for Mask Clearing Success
Through hundreds of dives and countless mask floods, I’ve discovered some handy tips and tricks for fail-proof mask clearing every time:
Carry a Spare Mask
A backup mask clipped to your BCD offers redundancy in case you just can’t get your primary mask to seal properly. Rather than aborting the dive, you can swap to a spare and keep diving!
Keep Hair Out of the Way
For the ladies with long hair, be sure to tie it back securely in a bun or braid. Strands floating around near the mask skirt are just asking for leaks and flooding.
Check Your Mask After Every Dive
Thoroughly rinse your mask with fresh water after every dive and inspect for any damage or wear around the skirt. Address small tears early before they turn into full leaks. Store your mask properly between dives.
Baby Shampoo Makes an Awesome Defog
Here’s a little trick I recently discovered – using a tiny drop of gentle baby shampoo instead of defog solution keeps my mask fog-free all dive long. My personal choice has always been CeraVe Baby Wash– cheaper than dedicated defoggers, and has a nice after-smell!
Make a habit of equalizing gently every few feet on the descent by blowing into your nose and pushing the mask slightly away from your face. This prevents uncomfortable mask squeeze as pressure increases.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
There’s no better way to get good at clearing your mask than practicing. Get comfortable in shallow water before trying it on deep dives. Instinctively knowing how to clear quickly will give you confidence underwater.
So there you have it – my best pro tips and tricks for mastering mask clearing in any situation. With the right preparation, practice, and technique, a flooded mask doesn’t need to cut your dive short or be a stressful experience.
Stay Calm, Take Your Time, and You’ll Nail Mask Clearing
While a flooded mask can seem like a terrifying situation underwater, just remember to relax and go through the steps. Take your time, get buoyant if needed, and you’ll have that mask cleared in seconds.
Before you know it, mask clearing will be second nature on all your underwater adventures. Just practice the techniques until they become instinctual. Soon you’ll find yourself becoming the diver buddy teaching everyone wants to clear their masks properly like a pro!