Should You Disinfect Your Scuba Equipment & Gear?
In light of the recent outbreak of COVID-19 that has taken the lives of many around the world and affected the economy of every country, the travel and scuba diving industry has been struggling to stay afloat during this difficult time.
Local dive centres globally have taken a huge hit with no tourists being able to enter due to international borders on lockdown. After months of isolation from the underwater world, we are finally beginning to see the slow recovery of travel as some countries start to open up its international borders and flights resume.
Before you start checking in with your favourite dive centre for the best deals and pre-booking flights, you probably should first disinfect your scuba equipment and gears. While you’re at it, you might also want to take your equipment for maintenance if you haven’t done so for some time.
Lately, there have been lots of talks about diving during COVID-19 and disinfecting your scuba equipment and gears. As divers, we are also concerned about the likelihood of contracting the virus during our dive trips. So, is it necessary to do so? (the answer is YES!) And what are the methods to do so?
According to DAN, although there are no specific tests that have been carried out on the permanence of the virus on diving equipment and its penetration into the inner parts. However, the use of approved disinfectants in neutralising the virus is recommended for diving equipment.
Although we do not know how long the virus can survive on scuba equipment and fabric, taking on additional measures for pre and post-dive is worth the efforts.
So, what should you be disinfecting?
- Masks & Snorkels (including the inside)
- Regulators and Mouthpieces
- BCD oral inflator
- Wetsuits, Booties & Gloves
High touch-points equipment includes rental equipment that is shared, cylinders, and fill station.
Disinfecting Your Scuba Equipment
Some products, such as quaternary ammonium compounds (quat), are effective and highly compatible with typical diving equipment materials (rubber, neoprene, plastics, metal, etc.) but difficult to find and harmful for the marine environment. Although quat is commonly found in cleaning solutions, this chemical has not been proven to be effective at removing the COVID-19 virus. Having said that, this chemical is recommended by WHO as part of their lab biosafety guideline. Do take note that quat is harmful to aquatic environments when not disposed of properly.
Other products, such as sodium hypochlorite, are easier to find and cheaper but must be used in strict compliance with instructions and precautions for use. There are also more expensive products (EW80, Virkon S, etc.), commonly used by divers, that have been proven to be effective against the virus.
Below are our findings to some of the questions you may have.
- Can I use hot water to sanitise my gears and equipment?
Theoretically, yes. However, we do not recommend using hot water because it will likely damage the equipment, especially the soft parts.
- Can the virus survive in a compressor?
It may survive on the surface of the cylinder valve or fill whip, causing cross-contamination. So, to prevent and minimise the spread of the virus, always wash your hands before and after interacting with these items. especially on high touch-points.
- Can I use soap and water only?
Most of us usually use soap water to soak our gears (and that stinky wetsuit). However, it will not be enough to effectively remove the virus by soaking in soapy water unless you get into the cranks and gaps to scrub it clean. Remember to use clean water to wash out any soap residue thoroughly.
- Can I use bleach?
According to DAN, in general, the equipment can be effectively sanitised by submerging it in a 1% bleach solution or using a cleaning product such as Steramine™ tablets or any other quaternary ammonium compound. Be sure to use these products according to the manufacturer’s directions and then rinse the gear with fresh water.Always take note of the following:
- Use room temperature water and never hot water as it will decompose the active ingredients in the bleach.
- Do not mix bleach with other chemicals.
- MUST wash your gear thoroughly with clean water and allow it to dry completely before use to prevent any harmful residue from entering your body.Currently, we have not found Steramine™ tablets in Singapore but it can be found online on Amazon.
- Can I use alcohol?
We wouldn’t recommend it as it can degrade soft parts of the equipment. Always follow the manufacturers’ maintenance guidelines.
For more information on cleaning and sanitising your gear and equipment, visit https://www.diversalertnetwork.org/emailView/landing/blogs/cleanEquipment19/index.html