5 Ways to Stop a Scuba or Snorkel Mask From Leaking

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Cressi Nano Freediving Mask product shot

If you’ve spent a lot of time diving or snorkeling, then you’ve likely encountered a leaky mask.

There are few things more frustrating than this.

While having water inside of your mask doesn’t pose any real danger it can cause added anxiety and discomfort. Plus it’s generally annoying and distracting. 

As a PADI Divemaster, with almost 10 years of scuba diving experience, I’ve learned how to deal with leaky masks.

While the leaks can be the fault of the mask itself, a lot of times there’s a few changes we can make on our end in order to help.

Before you buy a new mask or throw away a mask that won’t stop leaking, check out my list of the five best tactics to stop water from entering your mask.

1. Ensure The Mask Fits Your Face Properly

The first thing to check for when attempting to prevent mask leaks, is if the mask fits properly. Not everybody’s face is the same size or shape. Therefore not every mask is going to fit your particular dimensions.

The best way to test a mask in a dry environment is as follows:

  1. Without applying the strap, press the mask against your face.
  2. Gently inhale through the nose and let go of the mask.
  3. If the mask drops, the seal isn’t good. If the mask stays in place as you inhale, you’re good to go. 

We advise doing the test more than once just to make sure. If the test fails the first time, then maybe you’ve just positioned the mask incorrectly. Equally the test may work the first time but it’s always worth a second or third try just to be sure.

Testing the mask underwater is the best way to make sure it fits.

Some dive centers or shops will allow you to try before you buy. If not then try and find the same model somewhere else to either rent or borrow and give it a test run. 

2. Make Sure That The Mask Is In Good Condition

The first thing you are going to check is that the mask is in good working order. So follow these steps to give the mask a quick once-over.

Firstly check that the mask frame is intact and that the lenses are solidly in place. 

Then make sure that the strap looks sturdy and that there are no splits along the entire length of the rubber. 

Lastly and maybe most importantly when thinking about leakage is checking the mask skirting. Check that there are no tears or irregularities and be sure you take a peek under the area where the strap attaches to the mask as on some masks this is the first place to go.

Ok so now your mask looks good. Now let’s see if it fits properly!

3. Proper Positioning Of The Mask

Couple snorkeling close to the beach in the Maldives

One of the most common mistakes when fitting a mask is putting the strap on first and then pulling the mask down over the face. Although this sometimes works out fine, there is also a chance that the skirting will fold in on itself. As a new diver or snorkeler, you may not notice and the water will come flooding in as soon as you dive down. Not ideal!

So our advice is that when fitting a mask. Always rest the skirting against your face first and then follow that up by pulling the strap down over your head.

Also, make sure the strap isn’t positioned too high or too low. It should be placed directly behind the mask on the rounded part of your head. When the strap is positioned too high or too low it can pull on the mask skirt causing it to leak.

4. Don’t Make The Mask Too Tight

Another beginner mistake that will cause your mask to leak is to make the mask too tight. Normally when a trickle of water makes its way into the mask the response of the diver or snorkeler is to tighten up the straps to try and increase the seal. It seems like a logical solution. 

But actually, it’s often the wrong thing to do. When you over tighten the mask straps it tends to warp the mask skirt which then allows water to enter more easily making the problem worse. 

someone loosening a mask strap

So if you’re struggling with a leaky mask, try loosening the mask a little. This will allow the skirt to move into position and sit more naturally on your face, hopefully putting an end to your problems. 

As a side note, the mask skirt should always be left with at least a little room to move as it is designed to absorb the pressure of air compressing your mask as you descend underwater. This will also help to prevent mask squeeze.

5. Make Sure There Are No Obstacles

Something else that may cause your mask to leak is anything that breaks the seal between your face and the skirting of the mask. This can be as simple as a few stray hairs or your diving hood sitting in the wrong place. 

So be sure to pull all your hair back before putting on the mask just to make sure all those stray hairs are out of the way. If you have long hair the best thing is to use a hair tie. Give yourself a ponytail or even an underwater man bun – whatever style you prefer.

When it comes to a mustache or a full-grown beard, this one can be a little tricky. Getting rid of at least the mustache would of course be the best solution but we also understand that many of you just aren’t happy with that idea……So the next step is to pull out the Vaseline! Just apply it gently to the hair directly under the nose and push the hair in a downward position before applying the mask.

If you’re a diver/freediver and use a hood. Then just make sure the mask goes on first and then place the hood over the top of the skirt. This will prevent the hood from getting in the way of a good seal.

Frequently Asked Questions

If water does trickle or flood into the mask then the first thing to remember is to stay calm and not to panic. Water is just water and it’s not going to hurt you.

If you are already at the surface then just make sure the mask is above the water line, then use your thumbs to lift the lower part of the mask frame away from your face and the water will escape.

If you are underwater then you will need to clear the mask before you continue. The best way to do this is to place your hands on either side of the mask with your thumbs towards the bottom of the frame. Now look up whilst gently exhaling through the nose. Use the thumbs to gently assist by lighting the lower part of the mask slightly away from the face. This will allow the escaping air to push the water out from the mask.

If this still doesn’t work, stay calm and make your way to the surface in a safe controlled manner.

If you are on a budget and are looking for a cheap mask, we would advise you not to go too cheap. It’s always worth paying for a recognized brand. That way you will be sure you are getting what you have paid for.

Very cheap masks tend to look like masks but may not function as they should. Normally due to substandard materials, they will be prone to leaking and won’t last you very long.

In our opinion, we suggest you purchase a recognized brand that will last you a long time and function as it should.

As we have previously mentioned it’s not really about having a tight seal. It’s way more important to have the right mask that fits you along with good placement and positioning with no obstructions between your face and the mask.

If you have a particularly narrow face then it may be a little more challenging to find a mask.

The best thing is to make sure you try it before you buy it.

A good option (even for scuba divers) if you have a narrow face is to buy a freediving mask. They are smaller than scuba masks and therefore will fit better. The only downside is that you may lose some field of vision but if you go with a model similar to the Aqualung Micromask you shouldn’t notice too much difference.

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