What equipment is used for cleaning

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Disinfection of diving equipment

They are called Acinetobacter, Staphylococcus aureus and Granulicatella and accompany almost every dive, but are not found in any logbook as a diving partner. There are only three of hundreds of different types of bacteria and viruses in our diving suits and regulators. Germs such as fungi, bacteria and viruses transmit sometimes serious infectious diseases worldwide. Would you like to inherit this from your predecessor, especially when it comes to rental equipment, or would you even like to constantly breathe through the rebreather from a breeding ground for a wide variety of bacteria? In order to adequately prevent infection with a wide variety of diseases and to neutralize the bacterial and germ environment in diving equipment, you should thoroughly clean and disinfect your equipment on a regular basis.


Basics of microorganisms

The history

Due to their small size, microorganisms were only discovered with the first microscopes after 1676. Louis Pasteur discovered around 1867 that heat destroyed microorganisms. The pasteurization process was named after him. In the same year, the German Robert Koch succeeded in cultivating the anthrax pathogen outside the body and in 1882 found the pathogen causing tuberculosis during his systematic search for microorganisms.

Terms & meaning

Microorganisms are organisms that are smaller than the resolution limit of the human eye of approx. 50 µm. Most species have a diameter of around 0.6 to 1.0 µm and a length of 1 to 5 µm.

At 2m2 About as many bacteria live on the skin as humans on our planet. Humans are made up of around 10 trillion cells. There are about ten times as many bacteria on and in it. About 99% of them live in the so-called intestinal flora, about a trillion on the skin and around 10 billion (over 700 types of bacteria) in the human mouth. 128 different types of bacteria have even been discovered in the lungs, although until ten years ago it was assumed that the lungs were sterile. A balanced equilibrium between the invisible colonists and our body results in the state of "health". Most bacteria are not pathogens, but under certain conditions they can be harmful or even dangerous. Those that cause or transmit serious diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, plague, tetanus are dangerous.

In addition to bacteria, healthy people carry other microorganisms with them: around 70 different amoebas, up to 500 pinworm species and around 1,000 arachnids alone, such as hair follicle mites, live in our faces. Is it already itching?

The microorganisms are divided into four main groups, among others: bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.


Bacteria only consist of a single cell. There are currently around 12,000 known types of bacteria. It is assumed, however, that this only accounts for around 5% of all existing bacteria on our planet. Bacteria can have spherical (cocci), rod-shaped (rods) or screw-like curved (spirochetes) shapes and are mostly dependent on moisture and organic substances. For example, they feed on skin flakes and excretions from the skin pores. Bacteria do not need a host for growth and usually live together in nature in the form of so-called biofilms. There are bacteria that need oxygen (aerobic bacteria), those for whom oxygen is poison (anaerobic bacteria) and those that are tolerant of oxygen. They multiply through cell division under optimal conditions of 30 - 35 ° C, sufficient moisture and the presence of organic substances. This means that bacteria find ideal conditions in our wet suits. The division takes place about every 20 minutes and therefore forms over 16 million bacteria from one bacterium in 8 hours.


Molds and yeasts colonize humans and can also easily multiply in the environment. Mushrooms in particular are survivors, but moisture is always required for this. Molds can form toxins and release them into the environment. The airways are the most important entry points for potentially harmful organisms. They are warded off by effective self-cleaning mechanisms such as cilia and mucus. However, these defense strategies can fail in the event of overload or previous damage, e.g. from smoking.


Another group of microorganisms are viruses. They are the cause of many infectious diseases such as the common cold or dangerous diseases such as hepatitis or HIV. They are smaller than bacteria, but are dependent on a host because they do not have their own metabolism. The host is an infected cell in which the virus replicates. The host cell often perishes with this "forced" assistance. The virus cannot multiply outside of living cells, but sometimes at least survive under favorable conditions.


Parasites live at the expense of another living being. They get food from their host, develop, reproduce and damage the host. Known parasites such as amoebas and tapeworms are usually transmitted through fecal contamination or smear infection.

The cleaning and disinfection of diving equipment

The reasons

Careful cleaning and disinfection prevents microorganisms from multiplying rapidly on and in personal equipment.

With rental equipment, the germ load is usually many times higher. In particular, contact with the predecessor's bacteria and germs via the regulator / mouthpiece / suit is guaranteed if only the classic methods of "rinsing with water" or "washing the suit with mild detergent" are used. Serious, communicable and unpleasant diseases can be virtually eliminated with disinfection alone. Recirculation devices, in particular, usually involve a large investment, the value of which can be preserved for a long time with proper care. Appropriate care, which includes thorough cleaning and disinfection, prevents functional impairments and possible consequential damage to people and material.

A distinction is made between cleaning and disinfection due to a different purpose.


The purpose of cleaning is to remove particles, substances and microorganisms. However, there is no killing / inactivation of microorganisms. The aim is to secure and maintain the function, the value retention and the appearance of an object.

Due to this initial situation, a cleaning agent should not contain any corrosive hazardous substances, should be pH-neutral, material and environmentally friendly. Of course, it has to be kind to the skin and mucous membranes and should have been developed today from a biological and vegan perspective. The cleaning must be uncomplicated and can be carried out without spending a lot of time. If the agent is then diluted sparingly and is inexpensive to purchase, it is also used voluntarily by the user.

Ideally, cleaning should serve as a preparatory step for disinfection. It is used to loosen dirt particles and buildup so that the disinfectant can completely reach all areas and thus develop its effect.


The purpose of disinfection is to eliminate reproductive microorganisms. This is done by killing, inactivating or removing. Thanks to specific chemical groups, the cell structure is destroyed, the cell surface structure hardened or the cell membrane is sealed. The aim is to bring the microorganisms to be eliminated to a stage from which there is no longer any risk of infection. However, there is no 100% reduction in germs, for every 1 million microorganisms a maximum of 10 bacteria may survive, with viruses it is 100. No fungal spores are killed by rinsing in warm water or washing at 30 ° C. Disinfection prevents unpleasant surprises such as fungal infections or bacterial infestation. It also prevents the cultivation of germs when storing diving equipment.

The main differences between the disinfectants are their active ingredients, which have advantages and disadvantages depending on the application.

Alcohols - are usually not compatible with plastics
Phenols - destroy rubber, are partially carcinogenic and hardly biodegradable
Aldehydes - are mostly compatible with materials but are carcinogenic or extremely irritating
Peracetic acids - have a strong corrosive effect, are not stable in storage and are very aggressive
Quaternary ammonium compounds - are very well tolerated by materials and skin, but their effectiveness is slightly restricted in very hard water
Biguanides - tend to have a sticky effect

Disinfectants must not be combined with other agents, otherwise they can be completely ineffective. There is also no universal disinfectant, every field of application (surfaces, instruments, devices, hands) needs its special product, which can only develop its full effect there. When disinfecting diving equipment, surface disinfection is analogous to personal protective equipment in the fire brigade. It is often very astonishing which products you see in use. From alcohol (vodka) to agricultural room disinfection (Virkon S) to mouth rinsing (Listerine) and instrument disinfection from the hospital (Gigasept) or simple hand disinfection (Dettol).

There are a large number of active ingredients that have a disinfectant effect, but some of them are carcinogenic or attack the material due to an excessively high pH value. A modern disinfectant is free from phenol, chlorine, aldehyde and alcohol. The effectiveness of a disinfectant should also be certified by the Association for Applied Hygiene (VAH). The VAH has been the tried and tested reference for effectiveness-tested products for many years. In particular, the disinfectant should be environmentally friendly, i.e. the user solution should be able to be discharged safely into the wastewater.

In particular, material compatibility must be ensured. Sensitive parts such as membranes, counterlungs and breathing hoses must not stick, deform, become obsolete or become brittle. With a good disinfectant in Germany, this is confirmed by a certificate from the Dekra Exam or the Robert Koch Institute. Circuit devices are tested in accordance with the DIN EN 14143 standard. Reliable manufacturers of disinfectants have manufacturer approvals which confirm the compatibility with their products.

A qualified disinfectant also has a broad spectrum of activity, is odorless and low in foam, can be stored for a long time and saves time in use thanks to a short exposure time. The product should be dosed as low as possible in order to relieve the wallet and the environment. The German Society for Hygiene and Microbiology (DGHM) and the VAH stipulate that a fresh solution with a suitable, listed and certified disinfectant is prepared before each use in order to ensure effective disinfection.

When using disinfectants, a distinction is made between energy-saving cold disinfection (+ 15 ° C water temperature) and warm disinfection (+ 35 ° C water temperature). For effective disinfection, the temperatures and exposure times as specified by the manufacturer must be observed. Especially with the Virkon S powder, which is often advertised as suitable for travel, the maximum exposure time of 10 minutes must be strictly observed because of the highly corrosive effect of iron, brass and copper.

For the disinfection of rebreather devices, immersion in a user solution is preferable. Equipment spraying does not reach all locations in the counterlungs and breathing hoses.

However, protective goggles and gloves should always be worn during disinfection. The degreasing effect of the disinfectant damages the skin. Cracks that occur without proper skin care and that serve as entry points for germs into the body.

The right time

Disinfection should take place after every change of user, at least for rental equipment. When it comes to personal equipment, the times are good before long storage, after a stay in warm waters, contaminated or polluted waters or when the equipment no longer smells too good.


What has been the norm in professional respiratory protection and professional diving for 30 years should also affect the rest of the divers. In addition, the risk of infection has become more real due to the increase in diving trips and international migratory movements. Proper cleaning and disinfection with the right means offers effective, reliable protection against infections and does not pollute the environment unnecessarily. The cleaning and disinfecting agents from EW80 (www.ew80-dive.eu) were specially developed for the requirements of divers, fire brigades, police and the military, and are therefore particularly suitable in our environment.

Of course, the cleaning and disinfection activities involve time and additional costs. The added value from personal safety, the feel-good effect (pure, clean, hygienic) and the value retention of the equipment should, however, be worth it to the responsible diver.