Knowing how to clean a BCD is one sure-fire way to protect your investment.
Not only will you want to ensure it's sanitized, but cleaning it also helps ensure it is kept in the best possible condition.
Cleaning a BCD requires a few extra steps other than rinsing the salt water off after diving, as we'll explore below.
Common BCD Care Tips
Before getting into the details of cleaning your rig, let's first discuss some of the most basic care tips.
By following these suggestions, you can easily prolong the longevity of your favorite travel BCD. Not to mention, it will also help to make cleaning it much simpler.
1. Avoid Direct Sunlight
UV rays can wreak havoc on your diving equipment, especially if made from malleable materials like nylon.
The more exposure your gear has to sunlight, the more likely it is to incur damage along its seams.
Extreme heat is also a worry, as it can cause the materials to warp and create holes in the fabric.
2. Prevent Scraping and Chafing
As you dive, it's essential to take special care to avoid rough and sharp objects underwater.
Otherwise, you could find yourself puncturing the BCD or causing significant abrasions, rendering the equipment useless.
You'll also want to take extra care when it comes to storage to make sure nothing is placed on top of your BCD.
3. Avoid Chlorine
You'll likely have to begin training with your BCD in a chlorinated environment, such as a pool.
However, as chlorine is a chemical, repeated exposure can damage the integrity of your BCD.
Not only will it show signs of significant discoloration, but it could also speed up material decay.
How to Clean a BCD
Now that you have an idea of how to care for your equipment, let's get into the cleaning process.
Depending on your preferences, you can opt to clean your BCD with plain water or unique cleaning products.
With special cleaners, you’d get optimal sanitization of exterior and interior components.
You'll also find that they don't leave residue traces while preventing mold and bacteria buildup. Still, the most cost-effective option is to use water without a cleaner.
Step 1: Rinsing
First, you'll want to make sure you rinse the outside of your BCD as much as possible.
Be sure to pay attention to all of the nooks and crannies, including pockets, folds, Velcro, and buckles.
Ideally, you'll want a full pressure hose that you can run over the entirety of your rig, ensuring every inch is rinsed.
Once this is finished, you can submerge it in a freshwater bucket to remove any dirt and debris.
Be sure to use a fresh bucket of water; otherwise, you could be dunking your gear in some water already filled with silt.
Step 2: Move Buttons and Levers
Another vital part of making sure there aren't any traces of dirt left behind is to move the levers and buttons on your BCD.
You can also do this using the rinsing bucket, making sure you move all of the buttons to loosen any silt.
Be sure to clean around the inflator and deflator buttons, valves, and any other closures.
Step 3: Rinsing the Inflator Hose
As you rinse the inflator hose for your BCD, make sure you hold the deflator button down. This step helps to make sure you're allowing fresh water to travel through the whole hose.
By not pressing the button, the water will get trapped and go straight into your bladder. You can use specific products to make this process easier, such as washout hoses.
Insert the washout hose directly into your inflator hose, preventing you from getting wet. It also helps make sure hidden traces of dirt and silt are blasted away.
Step 4: Cleaning the Inside Bladder
Once you have removed the majority of dirt from the outside of your BCD, focus on the bladder. This is the most critical step, but it's also one of the most forgotten.
With every dive, you can guarantee water is entering your bladder, which can bring silt to the interior.
Over time, the dirt and silt can settle along the bladder's interior walls, which means it needs to be rinsed regularly.
It's best to clean the inside after a dive, as all of the silt should be less caked-on.
Once you're finished diving, dump all of the hidden water out of the bladder by holding your gear upside down. Make sure you press the deflator button to let everything drain correctly.
The next step is to fill the bladder using a hose with fresh water, shaking the bladder so that the water moves around. You can then dump it out again.
Be sure to repeat this step up to three times until the water runs clear.
Step 5: Drying Time
By now, your BCD should be thoroughly cleaned and will look brand new. You'll want to make sure you give it plenty of time to dry off the ground, either on a hanger or a rack.
Let it dry in a cool and shaded place; otherwise, excess UV rays could damage your gear.
Inspecting Your BCD
Every time you dive, you should be inspecting all of your gear, particularly your BCD.
As it's the primary piece that allows you to have controlled ascent and descent, inspections are vital.
You'll especially want to do this before cleaning to make sure you won't make any problem areas worse.
1. Look for Signs of Damage
First, you're going to want to check your gear to determine if there are any noticeable signs of damage.
Damage could include lifted seams, loose threads, holes, or tears.
It's best if you're able to resolve any problem areas as early as possible to prevent further issues when you go diving.
2. Check for Leakage
One of the most dangerous things to be faced with is a BCD that doesn't inflate, especially if you need to resurface quickly.
Ensure you check your rig for any leakage, which every diver should do before getting out onto the water.
First, you'll want to inflate your BCD until the OPV (over-pressure valve) releases itself.
Let the rig sit for 30 minutes and then check to see if it appears more deflated than before. If so, you could have a leak that needs to be addressed.
3. Inspect the Inflator
The last part of your inspection should be your inflator. You'll want to attach the power inflator to your gear, pressurize it, and then deflate the bladder.
As the BCD sits overnight, you can see if your gear re-inflates itself.
If you've noticed any re-inflation, it means the power inflator could be dribbling gas, and it needs to be replaced.
Learning how to clean a BCD is easily one of the most critical parts of diving, as your equipment needs regular maintenance.
Fortunately, you can quickly get rid of any dirt by rinsing the entire rig down with fresh water.
Alternatively, you can invest in particular products to add extra sanitization to the best BCDs available.