Whether you’re getting started with snorkeling, scuba diving, or even freediving, you’ll need to get yourself a high quality dive mask. Thankfully, dive masks are affordable and it is highly recommended that you buy one of your own instead of renting all the time. Having your own dive mask means you’ll also be more likely to get a higher quality one and take better care of it. This will make your diving and snorkeling experience much better overall for years to come.
Before you take the plunge, you might be wondering exactly how long scuba and snorkel masks can last for. That all depends on how well you clean and store your mask. A mask that is well-maintained and stored properly can last for over 10 years. That’s an extremely long time, and it basically means that you will definitely get your money’s worth. A dive mask is an essential piece of equipment to have even if you’re a casual diver or snorkeler, so it’s a no-brainer.
Chances are, by the time you decide to replace your scuba mask, it won’t be because it’s broken or defective in any way. Rather, due to their longevity and our constant desire for new and better things, you’re more likely to replace an old mask just because you want a new one, not because you need a new one!
For those frugal and patient dive mask owners who are willing to use the same mask for over a decade, it’s even more crucial that the mask fits you well, is comfortable, doesn’t leak, and is generally reliable. Otherwise, you will be quickly replacing that mask for one that doesn’t cause you discomfort even if the old mask is technically still usable.
How long does a scuba mask last for?
High quality snorkel and scuba masks typically feature durable tempered glass lenses instead of cheap plastic ones, high grade silicone, a comfortable and adjustable strap, and a mask skirt that forms a watertight seal on your face. If you buy a mask that meets all of this criteria, it will likely last a long time.
That said, the biggest factor in how long a mask lasts is how well you take care of it. Even a high quality mask won’t last long if it’s neglected. Conversely, a cheap mask can last a long time if it’s given the best care. Assuming it’s taken care of and stored properly, a mask can last 10-20 years, if not more (more on how to take care of your mask in the next section).
As we mentioned, dive masks can last so long that many times they are replaced even when they are still usable. Not everyone likes to use old equipment, and sometimes people get the urge to buy a new mask once the luster of the old one has faded. If you are one of these people, then perhaps a mask won’t last very long after all.
Another factor is comfort. Sometimes when you try something on in a store, you don’t quite get the true sense of how it will feel once you’re actually using it for real and for long periods of time. It’s possible that a mask that seems to fit well at first actually ends up feeling uncomfortable after a while.
Chances are the source of the discomfort is the mask strap. When a mask doesn’t fit well, water will enter, rendering the mask useless. To compensate, some people will tighten up the straps so much that it digs into their skin. Even if the water leak problem is fixed, there’s a new problem: the mask is so uncomfortable you don’t want to wear it for very long. An ill-fitting, potentially leaky, uncomfortable mask will be replaced very quickly and therefore won’t last very long.
How to clean and dry scuba masks properly
As a rule of thumb, after every scuba diving or snorkeling session, you should thoroughly rinse your gear using fresh water. You want to rinse off any salt, dirt, or other debris from your gear at a minimum.
If you feel your gear is particularly dirty, or you plan on putting them into long term storage, then you will need to do a more thorough cleaning. Thankfully, this is also a straightforward process. All you need is a large enough bucket or a tub filled with warm water, dish soap (or commercial cleaning product), and a non-abrasive cloth. Here are the steps to follow:
- To start, rinse your mask with fresh water to get rid of any salt or debris. You don’t want to introduce these unwanted particulates to the warm water bath we’re about to give the mask.
- Next, submerge the mask in the bucket of warm, soapy water you prepared. You can pick it back up and begin scrubbing it with a soft cloth. Do not let your fingers touch the lens because the oil on your skin can transfer to it. Use only the soft cloth to clean everything, making sure to get into any hard to reach or obscure places.
- For a more thorough clean, you can then leave the mask to soak in the soapy water for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes have elapsed, you can give it another scrub to be even more thorough.
- Finally, rinse off any bubbles using fresh water, dry it with another towel, and then leave it out to completely dry. When you are drying your mask, again, make sure not to touch the lens with your finger.
A big mistake people make when drying is that they leave their mask in direct sunlight to dry. It seems logical – the sun is warm and can speed up the drying process, right? However, the harsh UV rays can also damage the material, cause it to become weak and brittle, and discolor it as well.
Instead, you should leave your gear to dry in a cool, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. If you happen to have a drying rack setup, then you can just leave the mask with the rest of your scuba gear to dry.
To speed up the process, make sure the windows in the room are open, and you can even use a fan to blow directly at your damp gear to dry it even faster.
How to store your snorkel mask
Believe it or not, knowing how to store your dive mask is just as important as knowing how to clean it. This is especially true if you only scuba dive or snorkel a few months out of the year.
The rest of the time, your gear is just sitting in storage. After months of neglect, you can easily open your storage to find a moldy, discolored, brittle mask that you don’t want anywhere near your face. Let’s go over how to prevent this.
If you remember in the section above, we recommended not only drying your mask with a towel after rinsing it, but we also told you to leave it out to air dry. Air drying is crucial because there could still be bits of moisture that haven’t evaporated yet after rinsing. If you store your mask too soon, this bit of moisture can result in mold growth.
In a similar vein, you should place your scuba and snorkel gear in a cool, dry environment away from the sun. The sun’s UV rays can discolor your mask and make it brittle. A dry environment is also important to avoid water damage and mold growth. For instance, storing it in the garage or outdoor shed is generally not a good idea because materials like concrete and wood are porous.
When storing your gear, make sure the heaviest items are on the bottom, and try not to stack too many things on top of each other. Any soft material like neoprene or silicone can get damaged just by having something heavy placed on it. For this reason, we recommend putting the mask back into the case it came with for extra protection.
Lastly, make sure your scuba and snorkel gear is out of reach of children and pets. The dive masks’ strap and silicone skirt in particular may seem like a fun toy for children and animals to bite, tug, or otherwise play with.
How to keep your snorkel & dive mask from fogging up
Are you thinking about replacing your mask because it keeps fogging up? This is a symptom of a larger problem and getting a new mask might not necessarily fix the problem. Besides, your current mask might still be fine – just follow these tips to see if you can breathe some life back into it.
Actually, if you’ve just bought your mask recently and are getting fogging problems, you might think you bought a defective product. I hope you’ve already given it a good wash to remove any lingering oil or dust from the factory. Like we described in the “How to Clean” section above, all you need is dish soap, some warm water, a soft brush or a soft cloth, and to scrub the mask with this warm soapy water, particularly the lens.
You should frequently clean your mask. Even if you haven’t worn it, it’s possible that it got dirty again from handling it. The cleaner the lens is, the less likely fog will coat it. After cleaning it, you should also use an anti-fog product to ensure things stay clear. Read this article to learn more about them.
Some people burn their glass mask lens before use. Don’t worry, this is a one time thing and not something you need to do ever again. We mention this last because not everyone is comfortable with doing it, and there’s a risk you can damage your mask or burn yourself.
Essentially, use a candle or lighter to apply heat to the mask lens, incinerating the factory-produced silicone layer on the lens where moisture can get trapped. This only works on glass lenses; a plastic lens is likely to melt along with the silicone layer.
My dive mask is discolored, can I fix it?
Even if you take exceptional care of your dive mask, wear and tear will eventually prevail and the crystal silicone on your mask may change to an opaque, yellowed color. This is from repeated exposure to UV in sunlight (from when you’re actually wearing it, not from improper care) in addition to exposure to chemicals such as those found in sunscreen or makeup.
Assuming you took great pains to clean it, dry it, and store it properly, then chances are the material is still in good condition and that the discoloration is merely cosmetic. You can likely still get more years of use out of it before you need to replace it, though some people understandably want a product that looks better.
There is a chance you could make your mask look less yellow by placing it in a diluted bleach solution of ⅓ cup of bleach to 1 gallon of clean fresh water. Fully submerge your mask (and other gear) for 1 minute, then remove it from the solution, rinse it with fresh water, and completely dry it before use. This would also have the more important benefit of thoroughly disinfecting the mask if you feel it’s unclean.
What causes mask leaks and how to fix it
A mask can leak due to a variety of reasons. Before you replace it, let’s see if you can fix the problem without getting a new mask. The most common reasons are as follows:
- Strands of long hair or mustaches can prevent the silicone skirt from sealing against your face. If you have long hair, make sure your hair is tied up or at least pulled back away from your face when wearing the mask. As for the mustache, you can shave 1-2 mm from the top of your mustache (just below the nose) so the mask skirt has a patch of skin to seal tightly against without obstruction. You can also use mask sealant to help it get a better seal.
- The mask may be worn improperly. The mask strap should fit snug and not overly tight. It should be level with your head and still able to stay tight on your face even with a snorkel attached. Ironically, an overly tight strap can prevent the silicone skirt from sealing properly against your skin due to being pressed too hard, and it will feel uncomfortable on top of that.
- The mask may be damaged. When the mask is leaking not because of user error but because it’s legitimately damaged, then you should replace it as soon as possible. Damage can often occur from neglect, direct impacts, or if the mask is made from cheap materials and just broke on its own.
- The mask does not fit your face shape. A mask can only keep water out if it fits your facial shape. Most masks are one-size-fits-all, but if you have an exceptional face (i.e. too wide, too narrow) then you might need to try multiple masks on to find the perfect fit. If you need to tighten the mask strap until it digs into your skin, it’s a bad fit. For a point of reference, the mask skirt should rest on your temple. If it’s sitting on the corner of your eye then it’s too small; on your hairline and it’s too big.
- The mask is low quality. To be fair, all masks will leak. However, a lower quality mask will leak earlier and perhaps too quickly. If your mask’s skirt is made with rubber, low grade silicone or PVC, then it may not seal as tightly on your face. Furthermore, low quality masks are more likely to degrade or get damaged, causing leaks.
Buying/selling a used dive mask
Whether you are looking to buy a used mask or sell one, you will be glad that a high quality mask that’s been well taken care of has such great longevity. The used scuba and snorkel equipment market is thriving thanks to services like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. You might also find used masks in flea markets or at a local garage sale.
If you’re willing to tap into the second hand market, you can have many more options as both a buyer and seller. As a buyer, the dream scenario is that you find a mask that has barely been used that the owner is trying to quickly sell off because they didn’t use it as much as they thought they would or some reason like that. You could pay half price for a mask that could last you years.
As always, when buying used, look for signs of wear and tear. Check for discoloration, brittleness, damage, and so on. Make sure to ask the seller when they bought the mask, what they used it for, how they took care of it, and how long it’s been kept in storage. Assuming it passes your quality checks, there could still be a dealbreaker.
Another important consideration is fit. If the mask skirt is pressed against your skin, that means that is fits your face and is more likely to have a watertight seal. You won’t know for sure until you test it, but that’s a great sign. Then, if the mask is listed at a good price (or if you’re good at haggling), you just got a solid mask at a huge discount.
From the seller’s perspective, a long-lasting mask means that you can literally use it for years and then recoup some of the costs sometime later. By following the maintenance tips in this article, selling your old dive mask becomes a viable option.
Snorkel and scuba diving masks can last as long or as short as you want them to; it mainly depends on how well you take care of them. Assuming proper care was given to them, they can last for years, decades even. That said, eventually wear and tear might cause them to become discolored, brittle, or damaged.
The majority of this article focused on general mask care, prevention of problems, as well as how to fix some of them. It’s important you know these things because that’s how you can ensure your dive mask lasts a long time. They can last so long that you just want to buy a new mask because you feel like you’re missing out, not because you need a new one.
Oftentimes, a mask reaches the end of its lifespan quickly due to neglect. Conversely, sometimes a mask is still perfectly usable, but due to slight discomfort, you might decide to buy a replacement mask anyways. In a similar vein, if you don’t know what to look for in a mask, you might even buy a “good” mask that simply doesn’t fit your face or is uncomfortable for some reason. In that case, you’d want a new one almost immediately.
Lastly, low-quality, cheap masks are probably not worth your money. They may not seal properly against your face which can result in leaks, or they may not feel comfortable to wear. What’s worse, they are most likely brittle to begin with. If anything so much as knocks on it, it can crack the frame, scratch or crack the lens, and otherwise ruin the mask.
Do yourself a favor. If you want a mask that lasts, look for a decent one from the start. Even a good quality mask is relatively cheap in the grand scheme of things, especially if you’re a scuba diver. Plus, a dive mask is something you will use each time; it’s one of the most essential items you can buy, so you will definitely get your money’s worth out of it.
We recommend you read our reviews on the best snorkel masks, frameless scuba masks, prescription dive masks, low-volume masks, snorkel masks for those with facial hair, and full-face snorkel masks for adults and kids. We go over in great detail how to pick the right mask including material consideration, budget, and how to get the right size, so you can pick out a mask for yourself that lasts a long time.