Finding out that your dive mask didn’t seal properly right in the middle of your dive can be annoying. You keep tightening the strap and the next thing you know- you’re busy trying to clear and equalize your flooded mask. Your only remaining option, in that case, is to take a surface stop to drain the water that seeped in and seal your mask again.
More often than not, the mask quality is not at fault but the diver’s inability to create a perfectly sealed dive mask is to blame. The principle of creating a seal around your scuba mask is quite straightforward but in practice, there are a lot of other factors to keep in mind.
This article glosses over the 7 common reasons behind a leaking scuba or snorkel mask along with their working solutions. So hold your mask tight and continue reading.
Table of Contents
- 1 7 Ways Your Dive Maks Can Leak and How to Prevent Them
7 Ways Your Dive Maks Can Leak and How to Prevent Them
The rubbery strip (made of silicon) bordering the dive mask called the silicone skirt is responsible for creating an air-tight seal around your face. Any deformities or damage to the seal leads to rupture of the vacuum and your mask starts to leak.
1. Stop Over-Tightening Your Mask Straps
Divers often have the wrong notion that over-tightening the strap of their dive masks until the silicone skirt digs in deep can give them the perfect seal. Rookie mistake!
In reality, it does the exact opposite: extreme tightening overstretches and deforms the silicone skirt of your mask which in turn creates small irregularities in it. You may not notice it above water but as you dive deeper, these weak spots give in to the increased water pressure, thus breaking the seal. This makes an annoyed diver reflexively tighten the strap even more thus worsening the seal.
The purpose of the strap is not to create the seal but to keep the mask in place. So next time you wear your mask, tighten the straps just enough such that the seal skirt uniformly touches your face.
2. Trim Your Beard Before You Dive
It’s a tough pill to swallow but let’s face it: a bushy mane extending beyond your chin and a comfortable diving experience don’t go hand in hand. The skirt of your mask needs to touch the smooth skin to form a vacuum which isn’t possible with an uneven bearded face. While being clean-shaven is ideal (a mustache won’t hurt to be fair), a trimmed beard with the SMACO full face mask might just do the job.
And the option to tuck in and grease your beard with copious amounts of Vaseline is off the table, the reason behind that is explained in the next tip.
3. Do NOT Use Petroleum Jelly For Sealing
Using Vaseline or any kind of petroleum jelly on the skirt of your dive mask is not recommended as the chemicals in petroleum jelly break down the silicone skirt of your mask over time which makes the rubber porous and lose its ability to form a seal.
By that point, your only options are to either replace the seal skirt (good luck finding the perfect fit for your mask model) or buy a new mask entirely.
If you insist, I would suggest using lubricants that are silicone-friendly like the Super Lube Silicone Grease. Even then, don’t go overboard with the grease. Generally, the silicone skirt is more than enough to create a tight and sincere seal.
4. Maintain a Blank Face
From an ideal standpoint, the smoother your facial features are the easier it is to create a tight seal.
If you have sharp and contouring features like high cheekbones, hollow cheeks, or a strong jawline, chances are, any sudden shift in your facial expressions can deform and break the seal of your dive mask single-handedly.
In that case, keeping your facial expressions to a minimum is recommended. No more frowning or waggling your eyebrows after spotting a rare nudibranch.
5. Make a Conscious Effort to Not Breathe From Your Nose
It’s quite common for new divers to unconsciously incorporate their noses for breathing in between oral breathing. When you’re breathing through your nose the exhaled air has no place to escape and ends up creating high pressure inside the mask which pushes the mask outward, causing the seal to loosen.
Leave your terrestrial breathing habits on land. The regulator is attached to your mouth for a reason. So make a conscious effort to always breathe through your mouth and into your regulator during your dives.
Now, don’t forget to breathe lightly through the nose during descent to prevent any occurrences of mask squeeze.
6. Post-Dive Mask Maintenance Is a Must
You should be exercising appropriate post-dive care for your dive mask to keep it in tip-top condition for your next dive. Silt and salt tend to stick to the rubber skirt after each dive and these coarse particles can create gaps in the seal in your next dive and even scrub away at the silicone over time.
Remove every last bit of crystal from the silicone skirt. Just washing with a few drops of Dawn soap and some gentle swipes with a microfiber cloth will unstick most of the sand residue. If you’re planning for a head-to-toe cleaning of your mask, our dive mask cleaning guide is a must-read.
7. Maybe Your Dive Mask Is To Blame
If all the above reasons don’t hold for you then your mask itself is to blame. It is probably not the right fit for your face type or maybe it’s of subpar quality with a cheap silicone skirt.
In case your dive mask is faulty your best alternative is to stop being a penny pincher and invest in a dive mask of decent quality- one with a thick skirt made of high-quality silicone, triple-lens for a wider field of vision, and above all, one that wraps your face perfectly.
The detailed scuba mask buyer’s guide might aid you in making the final decision. This might also be the perfect time to look into buying scuba masks with corrective lenses in case you have poor eyesight.