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Tough to see through all that fog?


What makes your mask fog?  A warm face against a cold screen, or exhaling through your nose are common answers. But most commonly, it's dirt.  Fog particles stick to dirt particles so small you can't see them. You get fogged up.  

The first step in keeping your mask fog-free is to clean it.  Your skin oils, sunscreen and makeup transfer from your skin to the silicone mask skirt, eventually moving to the mask lens. Cleaning is the first step for a fog-free dive.

New masks have a coating of silicone from the manufacturing process that has to come off the lens before any defog will work. Use Softscrub, a non-gel toothpaste or 500psi Mask Scrub and rub the inside lens with your fingers for twice as long as you think it needs.   If you have prescription lenses, skip the abrasives and just clean them with soapy water.

Before every trip, get out the elbow grease and clean the whole mask.  Start with the silicone skirt, working in a silicone spray to clean off your last trips’ worth of contaminates. Follow this up with the same procedure for cleaning a new mask on the glass and you are ready to begin.

But a clean mask is just part of the answer. Another foggy factor is temperature differences.  When the water temperature is cooler than the inside surface of your mask lens, moisture condenses on the dirt particles. This is where defoggers come into play.

There are just as many choices in defog as there are divers, and everyone seems to have their favorite.

A nice lady on a trip asked me about the mold growing in an unreachable corner of her mask.  After I looked at it and commented on how she might consider a new mask, she spit into her mask and smeared it around.  "I just don't understand it", she said. How disgusting!  I see experienced divers doing this.  "I always know where it is" or "unlimited supply" they say. I’m not saying spit doesn't work.  A popular dive magazine once did a test of defogs, listing spit third from the bottom, working better than some commercial defog!  

There are reasons spit may not be your first choice.  Besides the build up of contaminates in your mask, spitting can lead to an eye infection.  There are organisms found in spit you wouldn't want in your eyes, like herpes and cold sores.  

My personal preference is Sea Gold. Smear a small dab, smaller than the size of a pea, on the inside of both clean lenses, rub in and gently rinse.  Avoid the blast from the hose on the back of the boat.  The pressure of the hose washes all the defog out!  Rinse it in the water you're going to dive in (ie the ocean, crater or reservoir).  

Despite your best efforts, on occasion your mask will fog up during a dive. Remember your partial flood and clear during your basic scuba course?  Let in a little water at the top of your mask, look down, rock your head and let the water clear the fog. This is why you never see mustached (leaky mask) divers with foggy masks!

I see divers rinsing their masks at the end of a dive in the same tank with other gear.  We all know there are two types of divers - those that pee in their wet suit and those who lie about it. You're going to rinse your mask in that tank with someone's wet suit? It's fresh water from the hose or a dip in the sea for my mask, then defog for the next dive.  Dedicated mask rinse buckets? If someone has spit in their mask, the rinse bucket is contaminated.

Next time you stop in the store, get a recommendation on defog.  Our sport is very visual. You don't want to miss anything!