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Take Care of Your Sammy

Dry and Crusty Is Not Good


Kai Qin of China

Kai Qin of China

Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

If you had to pick one item that a diver could not do without, what would it be? Undoubtedly it would have to be a shammy. Known by many names such as sammy or aqua towel, and coming in various sizes and colors, a shammy is a vital part of a diver’s equipment.

Shammys are not just valuable from a functional standpoint – as in drying off between dives, but also from a mental aspect. It’s like the blanket that no one will get rid of.

Being that a shammy is so valuable, how do you treat this prized possession? Do you toss it your bag or throw it on the car’s floorboard after practice, or do you meticulously fold and dry it after every practice.

However you treat yours, here are a few tips that will help your Sammy keep you dry and provide emotional comfort season after season.

Keep It Moist

Unlike a towel, shammys are meant to be kept moist. If they dry out every time you use it, the towel will begin to loose its effectiveness and will stick together when you pull it out of your bag, even if you soak it in water before practice.

If this happens, don’t just chuck it into the pool and hope for the best, soak it in warm water for about 10 minutes and be careful when pulling it apart. Even after soaking, the sides will still have a tendency to stick and a new shammy is a terrible thing to waste!

Another reason to keep it moist is that a shammy is not just for the pool. If your shammy is a vital part of your diving DNA, it probably goes with you to any workouts outside of the pool such as a dryland center.

There is nothing worse than wiping off sweat with a hard crusty shammy, or better yet, if you like your skin to be that perfect wetness before dives, then you probably want that same feeling in the dryland center.

Ughh, What’s That Smell

Just like any piece of clothing or apparel, if the shammy is kept moist (remember the part about keeping it moist?) it may begin to develop mildew. Not only will the mildew give it an unpleasant smell, it can discolor your pristine towel with black and brown spots or ruin that lovely tye-dye pattern.

So what is the solution? If you have a single-color shammy with mildew spots, soak the towel in a solution of five-parts water, and one-part bleach and then wash as normal. This will kill the mildew, make your shammy last longer, and keep your teammates from running for cover when you break out towel.

If it is a tye-dye, don’t use the bleach as it will discolor the specific dyes used to create that really cool pattern. First, let your Sammy dry completely (okay, this is the one time you don't keep it moist) and then wash it like you would normally.

Use the Container

Shammys come with a container, and the container is there for a reason. Outside of the obvious reason that it is sold in a package, the container helps to keep the towel moist and pliable.

A key word here is moist, not soaking wet. Always squeeze the excess water out of the towel before you store it. Another tip is when folding or rolling the towel before putting it in the container, make those folds loose – don’t roll it up as tight as you can. Give that shammy a little room to breath!

The tighter you package your shammy, the more chance that you will develop mildew. And if you have a break for the holidays or at the end of the season, don’t allow the shammy to sit for weeks at a time. Before you put it away for an extended period of time, give it a go in the washing machine.

One more container tip; take your shammy out and then put all your rings, earrings, watches and other items you do not dive with in the container. When you put your shammy back into the container, there are all your personal items!

Clean it On A Regular Basis

Just like any other type of clothing, a shammy should be washed on a regular basis. This keeps it clean and smelling fresh. That can be more important than you think. It’s really no fun wiping your face before a big dive and getting a whiff of three-week-old stale chlorine!

Shammys can be washed like any other laundry, just drop it in the machine with liquid detergent. Or if you prefer, hand wash it in the sink with that same detergent.

Now here is the key; do not put it in the dryer, as this can be the kiss of death. The high heat from a dryer can ruin a Sammy quicker than you can say reverse 3 ½ tuck.

And a word to the wise, don't wash your new tye-dye shammy in hot water with white clothes. You will not be happy with the results. Wash it in cold water by itself or with dark colors.

Know When To Let Go

Everybody loves their shammy, often times bordering on an obsession. I know you have seen them; Sammys that are tattered and torn, looking like they are held together by a single thread.

But all good things must come to an end, and at some point that beloved shammy will loose its ability to absorb water, the reason you bought it in the first place. So don’t be afraid to let it go. Keep it if you must. Put it in a place of honor, but remember; a shammy is there to do a job.

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