A new snorkel and mask is a great investment for someone who is into any water activity. A mask is necessary for being able to swim while being able to see under water. But there are a few things people need to do with a new snorkel and mask for the equipment to last long and provide the best experience.
The following are the steps you can do to break in a new mask:
- Make sure you have the right fit by trying it on.
- Reduce the stiffness of the mask by wearing it for 15-20 minutes.
- Apply a solution to the lens to prevent fogging.
There are different ways a person can break in a mask without doing damage to the mask or themselves. The remainder of this article will discuss these methods as well as review tips and tricks for caring for and storing the mask and snorkel.
Things to Do With a New Mask
With the purchase of anything new, you are going to want to keep the item in good condition for as long as possible. Purchasing the best snorkeling mask for you and your intended use may be tricky, though. There are a variety of masks to choose from, so being thorough when purchasing a new mask will benefit you over the long term.
The mask can be the most important aspect of your swimming/snorkeling adventure, so choosing the best one for you is important. Finding the right fit, comfort level, style, and shape are all factors you need to know when purchasing a new mask. But once you do purchase a mask, always provide the best care for it too.
1. Find the Right Fit
There are many issues that can come up when purchasing a new mask. The very first thing you need to do when purchasing a mask is to try it on before purchasing to make sure the mask fits properly.
The mask should fit on your face, around your eyes, with moderate tightness or a snug feel. The reason you want a tight fit around your eyes is so that there is no break in the seal between the mask’s skirt (the plastic edge around the goggles) and your face. If the mask is too loose in that area, then water can leak into the mask and block your view or irritate your eyes.
Also, if the mask is too loose, then there is a chance that any sort of force (i.e., jumping into the water, a swipe across the face) will cause the mask to become detached from your head, possibly scraping your neck, face or eyes. Here are extra mask tips if you have facial hair.
The snorkel is also an important item that is necessary to have a good fit. You are going to want the snorkel’s mouthpiece to fit into your mouth without the snorkel having to be adjusted on the mask strap all the time. While adjusting the snorkel is not too big of an issue, finding a mask and snorkel combo needing as little adjustment as possible is your best bet.
2. Reduce Stiffness
One issue people might have with a new snorkeling mask is the stiffness. The best way to take care of that is like a new pair of sneakers; you just have to break the mask in.
Find the best fit on the mask using the straps to allow for a tight, but comfortable fit along your face, and wear the mask for 15-20 minutes. Doing this for a few days right after purchase will allow the mask to be broken in and not feel so stiff when using it. You can always adjust the strap after using the mask a few times.
3. Prevent Fogging
Another issue people have is their mask fogging up in use. There are a lot of different tips and techniques people have come up with that help with anti-fogging of the mask. New masks come from the factory with a layer of clear silicone on the lens. This should be removed before using the mask.
The first, and perhaps the most popular technique, is to take a dab of non-whitening particle-free toothpaste and rub it on both sides of the lens to wipe away any manufacturing film or buildup. Most people recommend doing this right after purchase, as it may keep the goggles fog-free for some time. Some use dish soap and a quick rinse each time the mask is used. Don’t use products with scrubbing particles, as they may scratch the lens.
In the video below, you will see the flame method of removing the filmy layer. Note this should only be used on tempered glass lenses. The newer polycarbonate and plastic lenses will be ruined by doing this. Most of the full-face masks are polycarbonate. Masks only designed for snorkeling often are polycarbonate. Dive masks are typically tempered glass to withstand the higher pressure. If you aren’t sure of your material, don’t use the heat method.
Another technique to keep the lenses in their best shape is to use a professional defogging product. There are plenty out there, but one of the more popular brands is McNett, who offers a few different versions of their defogger. Here is a short list of Poptions from Amazon.
Baby shampoo has also been touted as a great agent to use when trying to maintain the goggles of a snorkel mask. Simply rub the baby shampoo on the inside lenses of the mask when the mask is completely dry. And before you go out for a swim, give the mask a quick dip rinse in a bucket or the body of water where you are snorkeling without removing all of the shampoo.
If all else fails, the tried and true method of using your own saliva is a great backup if you cannot find any other products. A simple spit and wipe, and you are good to go. My wife has tried all of the above methods, and I simply use spit. My mask is always the clearest after diving or snorkeling.
Maintaining Your Dive or Snorkeling Mask
Also, keeping the rest of the mask, the skirt, the adjustment straps, and the snorkel clean and clear of any buildup or debris, is a great way to keep the mask from deteriorating. Doing a thorough check before each use and cleaning on a regular basis will keep your mask in use for a longer period.
Maintain the Skirt
For the skirt, a simple cleaning product sprayed onto a towel is sufficient enough with a good scrub down. Keeping the skirt clean will keep your face clean, as it is the middleman between the mask and your face. Sunscreen will build up on the mask skirt over time without regular cleaning.
Clean the Straps
The adjustment straps are also another area that is easy to clean with just a simple cleaning product. The key is to either loosen the mask until it is as big as it can go or to completely take off the adjustment straps. Be sure to not rip, tear, or damage the straps in any way when removing them from the mask (and also be sure you know how to put them back on). Once again, a good wipe down with gentle soap and water will prevent any debris from building up on the straps.
Caring for the Snorkel
For your snorkel, there are a few trouble areas to watch out for: the mouthpiece and the tube. For the mouthpiece, always be wary of too much ripping and tearing. You are biting on this part of the snorkel, which can lead to some deterioration. Hold the mouthpiece lightly in your mouth with your jaw to prevent jaw pain and equipment damage.
The tube of the snorkel is can be tricky to clean. Because they have small diameters , it can be hard to clean the inside. A simple trick is to use a pencil or stick and attach a towel or paper wipe to the end. A quick up-and-down motion will allow you to get any debris that is in the tube. Make sure the towel is long enough for part of it to hang out, as you do not want to lose the towel inside the tube. If this happens, blow forcefully into the mouthpiece or flush water into it.
Storing the Mask Correctly
Now that you have cleaned and properly cared for your mask, it is equally as important to store the mask in the proper location to keep it in good condition as long as possible.
First and foremost, when storing a snorkeling or scuba mask, make sure the mask is completely dry from the previous dive/use. If not, a mask that is put away wet can grow mold and mildew and ruin the mask. Who would want to wear the mask after seeing mold on it?
A big part of the mask that can accumulate water and thus lead to mold/mildew is the trim around the outside of the face plate or lense. To prevent this from happening, be sure to shake all of the water out of the mask. You can also use a dry hand-towel or paper towel to absorb any excess water that may not come out when shaken.
The mask and the snorkel can be stored together or separately—whichever is the easiest solution for you. If separately, the snorkel part can be hung on a hook upside down, like an inverted letter “j.” The mask then should be stored in a cool, dry place. Most snorkels will come in a plastic container or a bag that are both perfect for holding the mask in storage. Both should be kept out of direct sunlight when not being used, as this can cause gradual degradation of the plastics.
All of the above tips will help you get the longest life out of your mask.
Where to Buy Snorkels and Masks
Snorkels and masks are great to use in so many different activities; they are very versatile. If you are just starting to look for one, there are several places to find the best ones. Below is a list of a few places that are great starting points to shop for a quality snorkel and mask:
- Amazon.com – The most obvious place to start is Amazon. The online shopping center has just about every brand and every type of snorkeling equipment out there.
- Dicks Sporting Goods – Dicks is a great sporting good store that carries a variety of equipment. Their snorkeling and scuba selection will be more limited than Amazon or a dive shop though. It is a national chain, so you may find a store near you. There are also plenty of other sporting good stores across the nation as well, so check for local retailers.
- Walmart – Walmart is a great bargain shopping store and online market for finding just about everything you need. There are also plenty of other national box stores, so comparing snorkeling gear at some of those locations can be a good place to start.
All of these locations are great places to find snorkels, masks and other gear. While this list is certainly not complete, these are a great place to start. If you are near the beach or a popular body of water, there are likely shops nearby that will also carry various snorkels, masks and fins that you can try on before you buy.
If you wear glasses, be sure to read Scuba Diving if you need Glasses and Snorkeling With Glasses: Do’s and Donts
Activities You Can Do with a New Snorkel and Mask
With the purchase of a new snorkel and mask, there are numerous uses for them. Pretty much any water sport or activity you can think of, you can use a snorkel and/or mask.
Another thing to keep in mind is that masks can also be used outside of the water as well. At the time of this article, the world is dealing with a coronavirus epidemic. Some healthcare workers are using snorkeling masks for protection from exposure due to a shortage of medical gear. This provides an example of why renting snorkeling and scuba gear may not be as safe as buying your own. Everyone who has used a snorkel before you leaves behind some microbes.
If you get a little creative with your gear, there are boundless opportunities to take advantage of using the snorkel and mask. If you’re at a loss of what else you can use the gear for for besides snorkeling, the below list can help:
Activity #1: Snorkeling
Obviously you bought a snorkel and mask for snorkeling. A well-fitted quality mask with a good lens gives you great advantages while swimming at the surface of the water versus just swimming without one.
With a snorkel and mask, the snorkel allows you to stay face down for a long period without having to rise up to breath. You breathe in and out through your mouth with a traditional mask and snorkel. You can nose breath with a full-face version, but your mask may fog.
Activity #2: Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is another activity you can use your mask for. Like snorkeling, scuba diving is an activity that allows you to go beneath the surface of the water to explore the ocean or sea without the need to constantly surface for air. Some snorkeling masks are not designed for the higher pressures of scuba, so make sure you understand what type of mask you bought. They may look the same, but they are built differently. At a minimum, scuba masks need tempered glass and not plastic lenses.
Activity #3: Swimming
The third activity you can use a snorkel and mask for is swim competition practice. We are talking about lap swimming in a pool here. Snorkels and masks may seem out of place, and they are not legal in swim competitions. But swimmers of a younger age just learning competitive swimming may use masks because they are the best available option for them.
Both of my kids were competitive swimmers for about 6 years, one at a high level with some regional and state records. The only times snorkels were used in practice was for beginners working on learning the kick method for each stroke.
Activity #3a: Learning how to Swim
Snorkels and masks are also great for those just learning how to swim for the first time. Like the swimmer practicing their stroke to compete faster, a snorkel and mask allows the new swimmer to focus on staying above water and not have to worry about their breathing.
Activity #4: Body/Boogie Boarding
Another activity you could use a mask for is boogie boarding or bodyboarding. These two activities happen at the beach or bay (if there are waves) and are great fun as they only require lightweight inexpensive equipment.
Boogie boarding requires a board, which is wider and shorter than surfboard; usually only 3-4 feet in length. Boogie boarding requires the swimmer to lie on the board, and with good timing, ride a wave towards the shore. It is a fun activity that someone can do for hours. Or watch your kids do for hours. And hours. And more hours. All the while taking videos that you’ll never get around to watching. Or maybe that’s just in my family ;).
Bodyboarding is similar to boogie boarding, but it does not require a board. The swimmer simply positions themselves up with the wave and forms their own “board” out of their body. The momentum of the wave will carry the swimmer into the shore if they time it properly.
A mask is perfect for these two activities because it allows the rider to keep his or her eyes open while boogie/bodyboarding, thus limiting the danger of running into someone on the shoreline.
Activity #5: Tubing
Moving away from the ocean and beaches, some people may use a mask when riding a tube being towed by a jet ski or boat. Though it may be uncommon for people to use a mask while being pulled by a boat, there is an element of comfort associated with wearing a mask.
For most tubers, the reason they would potentially use a mask is for when they are flung off the tube and into the water. Typically, they are wearing a life jacket, and that is all that’s needed.
A mask allows a tuber the advantage of being able to see everything once they enter the water and prevents splashes from hitting the rider in the face on the tube, much like goggles when riding a jet ski. Balance that with the risks of having the mask pull on your face or neck if you tumble out though. In general, I don’t recommend a full face mask for tubers. Swim goggles may be a better choice.
A snorkeling mask has so many different uses inside the water and on land. From swimming and snorkeling to training for triathlons, a snorkel and mask can be a great purchase for just about anyone involved in water sports.
All of the activities above can be enhanced with the snorkel and mask either because of the added safety bonus and/or because of the multi-ability of the snorkel and mask. Be sure to keep your gear in tip-top shape through regular cleaning and inspection, and you’ll be having safe fun in the water with clear vision for a long time.