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When to Replace Paintball Mask Lens: 7 Signs It’s Time

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The maintenance of your paintball gear is of paramount importance. This is true whether you’re a paintball veteran or a novice who’s still getting the hang of the game. If the lenses in your paintball mask deteriorate due to dirt, dust, and smudges, it could affect your performance on the field. In this article, we will answer the question, “When to replace a paintball mask lens?”

As a general rule, you should buy a replacement lens for your paintball mask once every year or when the tint scratches off and the lens starts to crack, whichever comes first. Most players do this at the beginning of paintball tournaments, but this only applies if you’ve taken great care of your paintball mask.

The Importance of Cleaning Paintball Lens

Paintball masks are used to protect the eyes, nose, and mouth. They not only protect you from incoming paintballs but also other attacks. Without a proper functioning paintball mask, accidents may happen. After all, your eyes are one of the most sensitive of your face and need to be properly protected.

The lifespan of a paintball mask depends on various factors such as how often you use it, the damage it sustained from fast-approaching paintballs, and how often you clean it. It is imperative to inspect your mask and clean it properly if you want to extend its lifespan. Check for any holes or small tears that could be a sign that your mask is about to crack open.

7 Signs You Need to Replace Your Paintball Mask Lens

You’ve had your paintball mask for a while and you still think you can perfectly clean it after all this time. Although you may think the lenses are completely fine, your gameplay performance could be affected in subtle ways that you haven’t noticed yet. Here are 7 signs you need to replace your paintball mask lens.

1. Eye Fatigue

If your eyes feel fatigued or strained after extended periods of gameplay, you may be experiencing one of the clearest signs that your lens needs to be changed. Do keep in mind that the eye fatigue could be a result of several factors, such as the amount of sleep you’re getting or any seasonal allergies you may be affected by.

However, eye fatigue as a result of allergies should only last a few days. If you continue to experience eye fatigue, you may need to replace the lens.

2. Cracks and Abrasions

First, thoroughly inspect the lens for signs of obvious damage such as cracks or abrasions. If you see any such damage, it’s time to replace your mask.

3. You Are Squinting too Much

If you find yourself squinting excessively to improve focus and clarity on the field, the culprit could be the paintball mask lens. Although squinting is a natural response to poor vision, it can cause eye strain if done for longer periods.

4. The Lens Fogs Up too Soon

If you’ve been playing paintball for a long enough time, your mask is going to fog up. For the most part, it’s just a big nuisance and doesn’t impact your gameplay… until it becomes so bad that you can’t see in front of you. It is recommended to take preventive measures to minimize fog build-up, but if you see it happening too soon, it’s a sign that you need lenses for your paintball mask.

5. Old Lens

If you’ve had the same paintball mask lens for years, it’s probably time to replace it with a fresh pair of lenses. Your accuracy on the field will get worse over time, which is why you should replace the lens on an annual basis.

6. You Are Having Trouble Cleaning Your Lens

If you’re having trouble cleaning your lens and struggle with fog during gameplay, that’s the surest sign that it’s time to replace the lens. In some cases, the condition of the lens is so bad that even after you’ve applied a fog-resistant coating and anti-fog spray, your vision continues to get obstructed.

7. You Took a Shot Up Close

Despite the structurally sound design of most paintball masks, the lenses remain fragile and therefore, prone to cracking. If you take a direct hit to the lens at a close range, say 15 yards or less, it is recommended to replace it immediately even when there is no visible scratch or crack. The direct impact from the paintball pellet this close can weaken the structural integrity of your lens. This means you may not be able to take another hit of this kind. It’s much safer to just replace the lens.

How to Replace Paintball Mask Lens

This step-by-step guide gives a general overview of how to replace a paintball mask lens. You may need to refer to the instructions booklet that came with your paintball mask for specifics.

1. For Paintball Goggles (Eyes-Only)

  • In some cases, you can simply pull apart the frame as long as it is flexible. The lens should be able to pop right out.
  • Take your new paintball mask lens and start by inserting it into the top right corner of the lip.
  • You’ll know you’re doing this right if the notches in the lens meet the notches in the mask’s frame.
  • Simply slide the lens in until it hits the notch and goes into place. Now continue pushing the lens along the frame of the mask to make each notch on the lens fit right in place.

Repeat this for the bottom portion of the mask. Be careful because the lens may end up popping out of its notches from the upper frame. This is a simple fix and only requires you to put it back in place.

Here’s a YouTube video to demonstrate this.

2. Full Face Mask  

Most paintball masks make it simple to replace older lens out in place for another. Most models have grooves along the frame of the mask. These grooves hold a hinge that secures the backstrap and lens in place. These grooves typically run top to bottom, left to right.

  • To loosen the grooves, you need to push down on the backstrap on both sides of the goggles.
  • Now that you have pushed the backstrap in, it’s going to be relatively simple to push the lens out.
  • Take your new lens out and replace it with the new one, this should be snug fit provided you bought a compatible lens for your mask.
  • Now simply pull at the backstraps to push the grooves in place to secure the lens.  

Most masks utilize different methods of securing the lens in place. These differ from model to model. Make sure to refer to the instruction manual for your mask.

Here’s a video on YouTube showing how you can remove the lens in an Empire EVS mask.  

The Importance of Keeping Your Paintball Mask Lens Clean

Keeping your paintball mask lens isn’t about making it look shiny and new, it has some tangible benefits.

1. Improves Your Accuracy

A dirty paintball mask with smudges and dirt will cloud your vision and hinder your performance on the screen. Nothing beats good vision on the field. Besides, how are you going to keep track of your opponents if your lenses are covered up with paint, fog, or dirt? Having a clear, wide-angle vision allows you to keep track of everything on the field.

2. Clean Lens Keep You Safe

All the dirt and smudges on the paintball mask lens make it difficult to identify deformities and damage that may have occurred during gameplay. It is not unheard of for paint and other debris to hide cracks on the lens, and that is never safe for you because you’ll never know of the damage until it’s too late.

 3. Clean Lens Last Longer

If you clean and maintain your paintball mask lens regularly, it will last longer. This also applies to the rest of your paintball mask, because all the paint is going to break down other parts of your mask such as vents, straps, and padding overtime. Do you want to buy another paintball mask just because the older one got worn out quickly since you never took care of it?

When Should I Clean my Paintball Mask Lens?

It is good practice to clean the lens on your paintball mask after every game. When you keep on doing this, it will become a part of your routine and you wouldn’t want to put it off for later and say, “I’ll do this later,” because we both know you’re just procrastinating and would probably forget about it.

Products You Need to Clean Your Lens

The good news is that you only need a few products to properly clean your paintball mask lens, these include:

  • Cleaning cloth (microfiber)
  • Lens cleaner (try buying them from paintball stores instead of general stores)

There is no need to find harsh cleaning products because they could damage your paintball mask and lens.

Cleaning Items You Should Never Use on Your Paintball Mask

  • Avoid household cleaners such as the ones that are used to clean glass. They use powerful chemicals that are too strong for your paintball mask lens and could degrade the material. These chemicals could also strip away at the anti-scratch, anti-fog, and anti-glare coatings; worse still is that you wouldn’t even notice it.
  • Don’t use coarse clothes such as towels because they will act as abrasives and scratch the smooth layer of the lens.

How to Clean Paintball Mask Lens

Inspect the Lens

For this part, you would want to remove the lens from the paintball mask. Now hold it up to a source of bright light and see if any defections or deformities are immediately apparent. Take a closer look at the edges because they are the first part of the lens to crack.

As we said earlier, if you find any deformities in the lens, discard the whole of the lens immediately. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a tiny crack or a deep fracture. Just a single hairline crack is enough to compromise its durability, which means you need to replace it immediately.

Clean the Excess Dirt, Dust, or Paint

The next step is to remove any debris or paint splatter on the lens and mask. If you see excessive amounts of dust lodged on the mask and lens, simply wash them off against running water. You could use the faucet in your kitchen sink to get the job done. Just remember not to apply excessive pressure to the lens or you could damage both lens and the mask.

Careful: Do not submerge the entire mask in the water. Some thermal lenses are made using a dual-pane lens, which means that water could get in between the layers, ruining the lens in the process. If you have a cheaper lens, you probably won’t do as much damage.

The paint splatter from paintballs is soluble in water, this means it will fade away as soon as it comes in contact with water. Try using a stream of water at low to medium pressures. Once you have cleaned the lens and mask, make sure to set them aside for a few hours to air dry them before moving to the next step.

Now that the excess debris is removed and the mask and lenses are dry, you can start removing anything that remained with a paintball approved lens cleaner and a soft cloth (or microfiber cloth). Use a few droplets of your lens cleaner and then gently wipe it with the soft cloth in slow, circular motions.

Cleaning the Inside of the Paintball Mask

Now that the outside of the mask and lens is clean, it’s time to move to the inside. This should be easier because not much paint and debris should make its way in. The only difference is that now you need to be extra careful with the inside than with the exterior. The inside of the lens is made using sensitive coatings that could be damaged easily. Just don’t an abrasive cloth and you’ll be fine.

Once again, spray the lens cleaner on the inside of the lens and gently wipe it with the soft cloth.

Now that you’ve cleaned your paintball mask, you can put it together again for use on the field!

Reducing Fog Buildup in the Middle of the Game

The fog collecting on the inside of your paintball mask is essentially water vapors collecting against the surface of the lens. Air contains water vapors, and the more humid the air, the more water droplets you will have to clean. As the water vapor comes in contact with the lens, it changes from gas (vapor) to liquid. This layer of liquid is what you identify as fog. Depending on the extent of fog build-up, it could disrupt your gameplay.

The best thing you can do to reduce fog buildup in your lens is to take preventative measures before going to the field. Here are a few ideas.

Apply Fog Resistant Coating

Fog resistant coating is a thin layer of coating that reduces fog buildup. Good quality masks already have a fog-resistant coating applied, but this isn’t foolproof all of the time. Regular wear and tear will eventually reduce remove some of this coating, and every time you clean the lens. Unfortunately, even the best coating solutions are only temporary and will come off after some time.

The solution is to use an anti-fog spray that can be purchased from any paintball store. This spray has to be applied before every game for the best results. Although the anti-fog spray isn’t perfect, it does go a long way in helping you. It’s simple to use, just spray some on the inside of the lens and carefully wipe it with a soft cloth.

Good Ventilation Helps

The biggest culprit for fog buildup is the lack of air circulation. Good paintball masks come with excellent ventilation to keep your head and face cooler. They also help circulate air to prevent the buildup of fog. Make sure your paintball mask has good ventilation throughout the mask, and not just around the ears and mouth.

Some paintball masks use fans to significantly improve air circulation. But some paintball veterans claim that they are a hassle to use and often get in the way of gameplay. They have to be kept running for the entirety of the game and are often noisy. Whether you want to use fans in your paintball masks or not is a matter of preference.

Use a Thermal Lens

Thermal lenses, although more expensive than single-pane lenses, are designed to prevent the build-up of fog. They do this by preventing the temperature difference between the outside environment and your breath and sweat. The outer lens is bigger and thicker than the lens on the inside. A tiny layer of air acts as a cushion between the two lenses, insulating the air near your face from outside temperature conditions.

Thermal lenses are expensive and are not 100% efficient. If you are on a budget, you can always buy a single-pane lens and use anti-fog spray for fog prevention.

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