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How to Clean a Paintball Mask
In any sport, from baseball to tennis and from golf to motor sports, keeping your equipment in top working order is important. In an extreme sport like paintball, where your gear takes a severe beating every time you play, it’s essential. But while you are lovingly taking your marker apart to give each part a thorough cleaning before reassembling it to get ready for the next outing, don’t forget to pay some attention to your paintball mask. During a game, it may have been caked in mud or picked up some irritating scuffs and scratches. If you put it away in that state, the next time you use it, you could find your game suffering because of increased glare, obstructed vision, eye strain and impaired protection. But if you check it over carefully, you can find and eliminate any problems ahead of time. Here’s what you should do.
Inspect the lens
The most popular mask at the lower end of the price range is the JT-Spectra Proshield, and this will last well if properly maintained. But even one of the pricier and more sophisticated masks, like the Empire EVS, is not immune from the wear and tear inflicted on the field. Easily the most important part of any mask is the lens, and a lens won’t last forever. On average, they should be replaced about once a year. You should always check it over for deep scratches and hairline cracks to make sure that cleaning is sufficient and that it doesn’t need to be replaced. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution. For the sake of both your personal safety and your performance, consider getting a replacement.
Gather your cleaning gear
If you’re happy that your mask is fit to fight another day, it's time to prepare to clean it. There are some golden rules to be observed here because your mask is precision made. The only things that you should ever use to clean it are clean water, a manufacturer-approved paintball lens cleaner (or at least one you can be sure is appropriate for the job) and a soft, preferably microfiber, cloth, such as this HK Army Microfiber Goggle Rag. Do not use domestic cleaning products like glass cleaners, detergents or anti-bacterial sprays. These are generally very abrasive products and they can damage the lens in lots of ways, scratching the surface and destroying anti-glare treatments. For exactly the same reasons, do not use paper towels - even for drying - or any cloth that has a rough surface or produces a scouring effect.
Chances are that the outside of your mask will have a fair amount of mud and paint on it. Give this an initial wipe with a soft cloth, then spray it with water or cleanser and take off the rest of it. Spray it again if necessary and buff it until it is clear and free of streaks. The lens from a single-lens mask can safely be removed and plunged into water to clean it more easily, but you must never do this with a thermal mask or you’ll find water seeping in between the lenses and causing irreversible fogging.
Thermal masks with a thick outer lens and a thin inner one are increasingly popular, so make sure you know what you’re doing. You can safely remove the lens in order to clean the rest of the mask separately. Handle the foam around the frame of the mask carefully as it can tear easily. When every part is clean, you can set them aside. Once they are dry, you can reassemble the mask.
Cleaning on the go
Taking time to clean your mask after a game has ended enables you to be systematic and thorough. But sometimes, on the field of play, you may need to carry out some emergency cleaning maneuvers. Drops of sweat may collect inside the lens, temperature changes may cause condensation, mud splatters may have gathered, and you might even have picked up stray splashes of paint from near misses. If your vision is compromised, you risk becoming an easy target for your opponents, so you should make sure you’re equipped with some basics, even if it’s just a small cloth and a water spray. It only takes a few moments to duck for cover, take off your mask and give it a quick once-over. Do not be tempted to tolerate compromised vision because it really could ruin your game.