Restoring your regulators

The importance of ensuring that your diving equipment is as clean as possible cannot be underestimated. Ocean View Diving have found that ultrasonic baths from Ultrawave provide efficient and effective cleaning of important diving components and parts.

Diving is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding hobbies or professions around. Some of the sights seen while diving are among the most inspiring and breathtaking in the world. It can be a highly rewarding profession or hobby but it is also a dangerous activity with quite a high risk factor. Where the equipment used is concerned attention to detail is vital in terms of both operation and reliability.

The equipment used in diving must be maintained to the highest standard to avoid potentially dangerous situations such as regulators clogging or becoming defective in their operation during use due to build up of dirt and salt deposits. Other vital components include valves, hoses and compressor outlets. Although not exposed to the sea water as much as some parts of the equipment they are equally as important parts to ensure are clean and operating at 100%. A regulator or valve ceasing operation mid dive would be the last thing that you want to happen, whether an experienced diver or a beginner.

There are a number of different ways which people approach the subject of cleaning their diving equipment. Many recommend using a mixture of pool cleaning fluid and water. After all, if it manages to keep a swimming pool clean then it should certainly be capable of cleaning a small mouthpiece. The diversity of methods is somewhat surprising and range from using everyday mouthwash, which is clearly going to taste a lot better than chlorine, to using an ultrasonic cleaner. Many of the methods used require a time consuming manual process which does not always produce just rewards for the time it takes. Some of the intricately shaped items are difficult to clean manually. Here we look at the last of these options, ultrasonic cleaning, and why it is the best method for cleaning regulators.

In simple terms ultrasonic cleaning uses inaudible sound waves to create a process called cavitation. The ultra high frequency waves are transmitted through the liquid contained within the ultrasonic tank by piezo ceramic transducer assemblies which are bonded to the base of the tank. As the sound waves compress and rarefract the liquid they create microscopic bubbles. The continued compression from the sounds waves forces these bubbles to expand until they become unstable, causing them the implode. Cavitation is the name given to these implosions. This gives the process its cleaning ability as when the bubble implodes a shockwave is created which then drags the surrounding fluid into the remaining space. This is happening millions of time every second within even the smallest ultrasonic tank. As this occurs it creates a scrubbing action within the fluid. The continuous implosion of the bubbles means that any item which comes into contact with them will be subjected to these shockwaves and therefore the cleaning action. This process can be further intensified by the addition of an ultrasonic detergent. The detergent will act as a surfactant, reducing surface tension and multiplying the cleaning process.

This is especially useful when cleaning small and intricately shaped items such as a regulator or a valve. Providing the item is completely immersed in the cleaning liquid then the entire surface area will be subjected to this cleaning action. The sound waves pass through hard surfaces such as plastic and metal meaning even the internal channels of valves will be cleaned to the same degree as the external surface area.

One company which has adopted the use of ultrasonic cleaning for diving equipment is Ocean View Diving based in Lancing, West Sussex. In 2001 they invested in a pair of Ultrawave U300 benchtop ultrasonic cleaners. At 2.5 litres these units are the ideal size for regulators and valves and require only a small area within a service workshop. Prior to buying this unit all the cleaning and servicing of diving equipment was done through a means of manual cleaning. A hot water and citric acid mix was used to remove the contaminants and residues which remained on a number of diving components. These included regulators, hoses, inflator units, cylinder valves and compressor outlets, all of which require precision cleaning in order to ensure optimum operation. The manual cleaning process took in the region of twenty minutes and involved the items being placed into the water-acid mix, left to soak for a sort while and then completed by a manual scrub.

After attending an Asset Technical Training course Ocean View Diving proprietor Den Tennant was made aware of ultrasonic cleaning and its effectiveness for carrying out cleaning of regulators and other equipment. After the first cleaning cycle using the ultrasonic cleaner Den instantly noticed an improvement in the cleaning results. The results showed a far more thorough clean had occurred and it had reached the very small spaces which occur on items such as valves and the internal channels of hoses. Coupled with this was the benefit that unlike the time consuming manual process an ultrasonic clean took a mere five minutes. At a quarter of the manual cleaning time this represents a significant saving in terms of time and resource. This allowed for more items to be cleaned to a higher standard and in the same time as a single manual process. Five years on from the initial purchase and Ocean View are still using the Ultrawave baths to carry out their cleaning and with no reduction in the efficacy achieved, highlighting the durability of these small benchtop units.

Den Tennant had this to say about ultrasonic cleaning. As a dive company we service around 1200 regulators a year. For the recreational dive industry ultrasonic cleaning is the most thorough and professional method available for cleaning diving equipment. So far we have found ultrasonic cleaning to be the most efficient and cost effective method to reprocess these components and I would highly recommend it to anyone not currently using it, whether for business or personal use.

Ultrawave offer a range of ultrasonic cleaners which cater for both business and private use. The standard range of benchtops are sufficient for home use where cleaning is carried out on a weekly basis, while the industrial range of benchtop units are more effective for business as they are designed for more constant use associated with the servicing sector of the diving industry.