July 29th, 2013
I remember when Roger Werner introduced the first pee valve at a Cave Diving Workshop back in the 80′s. Back then it was a revolutionary concept. It had a simple design; a threaded, o ring sealed bolt you loosened to urinate. You had to be careful not to unscrew it all the way and take a chance of losing it, but still it was better than nothing. In the mid 90′s, Benny Altkorn of Germany designed a hands free model, the basis for all the modern valves. He was looking beyond diving to aerospace for the design by adding an equalizing valve to the pee valve. The equalizing valve would balance the internal pressure of the pee valve with your internal dry suit pressure so the connection point would remain comfortable at depth. He used a duckbill style one way valve and a stainless steel body in the design. We carried the stainless steel model for a number of years and other companies copied Mr. Altkorn’s design. After a few years we discovered the stainless steel model had a couple of design concerns to be addressed. The primary concern was the weight. The pee valve was fairly heavy and could damage a suit from the impact of throwing the suit around. The second concern was the material. While stainless steel was considered a good selection for seawater, we discovered it would not hold up to urine as well as it would to seawater. It required much cleaning for sanitary maintenance. We addressed these by changing to Delrin, which has good corrosion resistance and light weight. The duckbill valve was still the weak link since it was a three part assembly, it required care when installing to not crush the opening and deform it to a constant open position which would leak urine into the suit when the valve was used.
Our latest design uses two simple one way umbrella valve ; one to equalize, and one for the exhaust valve. This simple design is easy to maintain and clean. While there is no maintenance on the valve it needs to be cleaned regularly. Not cleaning the valve can cause it to leak and worse can lead to infections. You clean it with soap and water or use Steramine, a product used by CCR divers to disinfect their loop. It’s cheap and is proven to kill bacteria. The key is to find a way to clean the valve without taking it apart or off the suit. Constant removal of the valve will lead to leakage around the gaskets and o rings between the suit and valve. The most effective way I have found to clean the valve is to use a squeeze bottle and squirt it down the hose into the valve until it flows out the exhaust valve, no need to rinse it out. Quick and simple. After cleaning, check the back of the valve for wetness. If it’s dry your equalizer valve is doing its job. If you are getting wet, check the installation seals, condom size and drain tube connections.
If you need to return a valve to us because you think it’s leaking, please clean it first, we will not touch it if it hasn’t been cleaned. Would you?