[Guide] How To Clean Valve Index (Face Gasket)

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How To Clean Valve Index
How To Clean Valve Index

Virtual Reality headsets are, to put it simply, fantastic. If you haven’t already tried game playing with a VR headset, then you need to. There are several VR headsets on the market today, allowing more people to experience the fun of VR.

But, you’re going to need to know how to clean the Valve Index if you want to keep using your VR headset.

There is little doubt that this is the future of gaming. After all, who wouldn’t rather feel they were in the game instead of observing and moving through it? Even Hollywood is already on the bandwagon, films like Total Recall, Tron, Ready Player One, and, of course, The Matrix, all have virtual reality-based storylines.

These films demonstrate how Hollywood was ahead of its time, but now it’s our turn. Virtual Reality is here to stay. Today it’s headsets, in the future it may even be possible to be digitally uploaded to a mainframe, just make sure you can get back again!

The Valve Index Face Gasket

Of course, not every aspect of VR is perfect, it’s a developing technology. The biggest problem today is when wearing the headset for an extended period, you’re going to end up sweating.

This is partly related to the VR experience and partly connected to the pressure on your face.

The Valve Index has foam where the virtual reality mask connects to your face, this is known as the face gasket. Unfortunately, everyone’s face has an array of sweat glands, these are designed to help you stay cool when necessary.

The face gasket can be made from a variety of materials but foam is a popular choice, simply because it is comfortable.

The Issue With Your Face Gasket

The sweat from these glands will trickle down your forehead and onto your VR mask. Sweat will even be produced where your VR mask connects to your face. The sweat then soaks into the face gasket of your VR headset. This attracts bacteria which causes the mask to start smelling.

Alongside this, the bacteria can be transmitted to other users of the mask, or even into your own skin the next time you use it. Potential issues can range widely depending on what bacteria you’ve picked up.

In effect, the sweating involved in a 30-minute gaming session could leave your face gasket a soggy mess and you developing skin problems, or worse.

How To Clean The Valve Index

There are several methods which work when cleaning your valve gasket, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with all of them and then work out which is best for you.

It should be noted that replacing it is an option, there are some great valve index covers and replacement foam products on the market. My preference is the stylish, yet effective, offering by vrcover.com.

These accessories will make your headset more comfortable but it’s not generally financially viable to replace the face gasket every time you use the mask. They should be seen as upgrades or replacements when you’re have been worn out. 

Protection First

This is a good motto to live by!

The most obvious step is to avoid getting your sweat on the mask, or face gasket, this prevents the problem from arising and could save you a lot of hassle

Clean Face

This is definitely an important step toward minimizing the essential cleaning of your face gasket. You’ll need some face wipes, preferably antiseptic ones. You can then wipe your face over before you start gaming. 

In the process, you’ll remove most of the bacteria on your skin that could cause issues. Of course, this won’t stop you sweating while you’re playing your game.

Covering The Gasket

The next option is to cover the gasket on your VR mask. Most manufacturers make a waterproof cover which slots over your mask, this prevents the sweat from getting to the foam on your mask.

The waterproof cover will keep the foam gasket on your mask dry, helping to prevent bacterial growth. It will also ensure your foam lasts longer. 

Although at first, the waterproof cover may not seem as comfortable as the foam, it is more comfortable than foam which is soaked in sweat.  Of course, this doesn’t stop you sweating, it simply means you’re sweat is not collecting in, or on, your equipment.

It should be noted that any waterproof covering should be designed to fit your specific VR mask, this will ensure they are effective at comfortable.

If you’re going to choose this option you should invest in a couple of covers, this will allow you to wash one, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. At the same time, you’ll still have at least one available for gameplay.

Throwaway Mask

A final point to consider is that you can purchase a temporary facemask instead of the waterproof cover.  As the name suggests, this is a slim gasket that sits between your face and your mask, preventing the sweat from getting to the VR foam.

Of course, it’s a one-use-only product, you’ll need to throw it away afterward, although the good news is that it’s recyclable. 

Alternative Cover

Instead of purchasing a cover or temporary gasket you can select your own layer of protection. Any material, such as a bandana or scarf, can be placed between your face and the mask and will reduce the amount of sweat that gets on the valve index face gasket.

The garment you use can then be washed regularly to ensure it is clean, you’ll need a couple to keep playing without having to wait for your alternative cover to dry. 


Wipe Your Headset

In the battle to prevent you from sweating or that sweat from going onto the mask, it’s easy to forget the importance of wiping your headset. This is a good idea whether you have a waterproof cover or not.

If you pause for a moment when gaming and focus on your hand movements you’ll quickly realize how many times you touch your face and your mask, running a wipe across the surface of the headset, but not over the lenses, will help to keep germs away.

Soap & Water

One of the easiest ways to clean your valve index face gasket is to wash the foam in soap and water.  However, you do need to proceed with caution. 

It’s best not to submerge your mask into the water, instead remove the face gasket and make sure the water is warm, not hot. You can then gently massage the foam with your soapy water. Ideally you should use a sponge or clean microfiber cloth as this will prevent the cleaning process from damaging the face gasket.

The important thing is that you only use a small amount of detergent, you want to sterilize the valve index foam cushioning and allow it to keep its shape, the wetter it is the harder this will be.

You should also consider adding a drop of fabric softener to your water, this will help to prevent the gasket from stretching or going wrinkly.

There are two important parts of washing with water.

  1. Rinsing

It is important to gently rinse the foam in fresh warm water, this will ensure the detergents are removed. If you don’t rinse, you’ll have a buildup of detergents which can be both an irritant and cause the foam to go hard.

A good rinse eliminates this issue.

2. Drying

It’s also important to dry your face gasket properly. You should never put it in the dryer, instead leave it in a place that doesn’t have direct sunlight but does have good airflow. 

This will allow the face gasket to dry naturally and retain its shape.

Using Wipes

You’ll hear people recommending the use of wipes to clean your face gasket, specifically antiseptic wipes. This is an option, however, you must choose your wipes carefully.

It is important not to use wipes that contain alcohol or any other potentially abrasive substance. The harshness of these compounds will damage the foam, even if the damage is not visible.

You’ll quickly shorten the life of your Valve Index.

Use antibacterial, non-abrasive wipes and gently run them across the surface of your VR mask, including the foam gasket. 

You may need to leave the mask somewhere to dry naturally before using it again, this will depend on how wet the wipes were!

You should also be aware that some wipes are strong enough that they will actually damage the anti-microbial foam on your mask. This will stop it from offering you any protection.

Sun Power

Another option which, in theory, works, is to leave your mask in the sunshine with the gasket facing towards the sun. The principle is that the ultraviolet rays of the sun will kill any bacteria while its heat evaporates any sweat.

While it is true that the sun can neutralize bacteria, this is also likely to damage the foam layer, causing premature wear and brittleness. 

In short, you’ll be replacing your Valve Index much quicker than you thought you’d have to. But, if no other option is available to you, this will, at least, ensure the mask is clean before being used. 

Bicarbonate of Soda

Bicarbonate of Soda is actually an effective way of cleaning your clothes without using traditional washing powders. 

By itself, it is not a cleaning product but it is very effective at removing smells, using bicarbonate regularly from the moment you’ve purchased your VR will help to ensure it stays odor-free.

Simply put a teaspoon of bicarbonate into 100mls of water and mix thoroughly, it should dissolve. You can then place this into a small spray bottle and, after removing your face gasket from your VR mask, spray it lightly with the bicarbonate mixture.

Lave it for 2-3 minutes and then soak a cloth in cold water and run it up and down the gasket, to rinse the bicarbonate mixture off. 

It’s a good idea to dab it with a kitchen towel and leave it lying on a piece of kitchen towel, this will help it to dry faster as well as properly.

That’s it, odors eliminated. 

Blotting

It’s not just your sweat that attracts bacteria. In fact, the oils in your skin are much more damaging to the foam on your VR mask than anything else.

Before you wash your face gasket it’s a good idea to dab the foam on your VR mask with kraft paper or something similar, this will absorb the oils from the foam.


Don’t Forget The Lenses

It’s easy to overlook the lenses when considering the bacteria that your face gasket can absorb. However, if you have a lengthy gaming session your sweat can reach the lenses and you may also inadvertently leave marks on them when gaming.  You’ll be surprised at how many times you touch your face and the headset while gaming.

In order to maintain your headset properly, you’ll need to clean the lenses when you clean the face gasket.

This is another 2 stage process: 

  1. AirPower

The best way to remove small pieces of debris from the lenses is with a stream of air, this will dislodge them and blow them off the lens. Using a brush, or cloth is likely to create tiny scratches in your lens, which will affect the quality of your vision when in virtual reality mode.

2. Wipes

Once you’ve blown all the minute pieces of debris away from the lens, it is always a good idea to wipe them over with an anti-bacterial wipe. Again, you’ll need to let them dry naturally to avoid smears. 

You can also use an anti-fog spray to help ensure the vision is as good as possible right through your gameplay.


Final Thoughts

Which method of cleaning you choose for your Valve Index is a matter of personal preference.  The important thing is that you choose one of these methods and do it on a regular basis. Ideally, your face gasket should be cleaned after every use, this will help to prevent bacteria buildup.

It will also ensure the foam stays in great condition, allowing you to be comfortable every time you use them. Let’s face it, VR is great, you don’t want to ruin it with an uncomfortable headset.

When I say every use, it means doing it as soon as you finish playing, not waiting until you’re ready to play again. The sooner you remove the sweat and oils from your face gasket the easier it is. 

 In fact, once you create a routine regarding how to clean Valve Index face gasket, you’ll quickly find it’s automatic and takes very little time. 

Don’t forget, this is also a good opportunity to give your whole VR mask a clean. You’ll need to pay particular attention to the earbuds as your ears are another great place for oils and bacteria to collect.