2020 saw a farewell to that earthy dive boat staple, the mask bucket. Kirsty Andrews ponders whether we will mourn its demise.

In the past year, diving risk assessments have grown by a page or two. Those of us who have been lucky enough to be able to dive in 2020 have done so with added care and precautions. Taking a closer look at diving habits, there’s one trend that is not likely to continue into 2021: the mask bucket.

With 2020 vision, it seems a dubious practice to voluntarily submerge an item that is due to be placed on your face, into a bucket of liquid consisting even partly of other people’s spit. Even before the spectre of a specific viral infection, it seems like odd behaviour. Try explaining it to a non-diver… the convenience is difficult to justify.

Chemical fog-removing substitutes are available. From baby shampoo to specific diving-branded mask defoggers, there are suitable alternatives for non-spitters. Personally, I’ve always turned my nose up at these: none of them seemed as effective as spit on my mask, and why purchase a plastic bottle of strong-smelling chemical goo when I have a limitless supply of effective defogger in my mouth? Having said that, I have, not necessarily by conscious effort, avoided mask buckets for some years by bringing my own reusable bottle of water on the boat and part of my pre-dive routine was to have a drink and use that water to rinse out my mask as well. I’d not been motivated by hygiene so much as laziness, as I wanted my water supply immediately to hand.

This year I have wanted to be extra careful and so I’ve been doing the spit bit either on the water’s surface, or by jumping in without rinsing my mask and clearing it on the way down. I’m more comfortable than most at mask clearing, so it’s really no bother but I appreciate not everyone would be sufficiently relaxed to do that.

There are a variety of approaches to the mask bucket, of greater and lesser delicacy. Some divers thoughtfully splash water from the bucket into their mask without contaminating it, though this is by no means the norm. On a recent charter expedition, the bucket came with a jug for pouring water into masks - a sophisticated addition. On liveaboards, there is often a hose arrangement. So maybe mask buckets may survive in some form or other.

Discussing this mask conundrum with other divers of my acquaintance, some surprising behaviours have emerged. I nearly spat out my drink (another Covid-era no-no) to hear one buddy confess to being a ‘mask-licker’!  It sounded peculiar and probably looks so too, but I suppose this is no more problematic than spitting.  

In fact, this could be a great solution if one’s mask fogs up mid-dive… a tip to remember.  Imagine my surprise when, on hearing this, another diving friend admitted that he too was a regular mask licker!  His partner and usual dive buddy was also shocked and had never seen him do it, so perhaps this is a covert tactic only employed when no-one’s looking.

Let’s face it, everyone – diving is not the most glamorous of sports, and spitting in masks is just one small piece of the puzzle.  Whether you’re a mask licker or a tentative mask bucket splasher, dive happily and safely, one and all. 


BSAC has released guidance to help members and the wider diving community prepare for a safe return to the water. Check it out.

This column article was originally published in SCUBA magazine, Issue #110 January 2021. For more membership benefits, visit bsac.com/benefits.

Images in this online version may have been substituted from the original images in SCUBA magazine due to usage rights.

Preparation for a return to diving and snorkelling

It is a common part of diving and snorkelling in the UK that we promote the need to get ready for an approaching diving season. Whether you have been out of the water for the winter or for a few years, this section will help you prepare to get back out there.

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