Camera lenses can get dirty very quickly. Since lenses are some of your most expensive photography investments, keeping them in tip-top shape is worth your time. In this post, we will be discussing how to clean a camera lens, discussing the best methods, and letting you know some things not to do.
(By the way, these tips will also work for cleaning filters.)
You probably know that your camera lens’s cleanliness significantly impacts your pictures’ quality. Keeping your camera lenses clean from dust and fingerprints helps produce sharper and clearer images. You won’t typically see the dust or fingerprint in your photo, but they affect the light and focus in your pictures.
If you have an interchangeable lens camera, like a Sony, Canon, or Nikon, you know that the lens has glass elements on both ends, front and rear. When you change lenses on your camera, you can get dust or fingerprints on the end of the lens that attaches to the camera. You also have to clean this element so you don’t get dust on your camera’s sensor.
There are many ways to clean a camera lens, but some methods are more effective than others. We will also be discussing the pros and cons of each technique.
Let’s get started learning how to clean your camera lenses:
1 – Use a blower bulb
When you see some dust on your lens, the first thing you think of is to blow it off. However, that is one of the least recommended methods. Blowing on your lens can put saliva or condensation on the lens. Instead of your mouth, start by using a blower bulb.
My favorite blower is the FocusFoto PRO 6.6 Inch Rubber Rocket Blower. I have it attached to my camera bag at all times.
Check out this rocket blower’s customer reviews.
What is a blower blub?
A blower bulb is a simple device with a rubber or plastic bulb on one end and a thin straw on the other. You can send a jet of air out of the straw by squeezing the bulb. This air is at room temperature and contains no moisture, so it’s a safe way to blow air across the lens surface and remove dust particles.
Never use canned air.
There is one worse method than blowing with your mouth, which would be to use canned air. While this seems like a great way to clean a lens, it’s pretty dangerous for your equipment.
Typically, canned air is used to clean dust from computer equipment and comes with (at least) two significant disadvantages. The compressed air sprays out very cold and can damage your camera lens. Two, some brands of canned air contain a little lubricating oil, and again, this will damage your lens. So never use canned air to clean your camera equipment.
2 – Use a microfiber lens cloth
Another inclination we all have when seeing dust on our lenses is to wipe off the element with your shirt or coat. The fibers in clothing are not as soft as you think and could have more dust and dirt in them as on the lens. You could end up scratching the lens rather than cleaning it. What you need to reach for is a microfiber cloth.
If you don’t already have a stack of these in your drawer or just want to pick up some fresh ones, get a great deal on a 12 Pack Assorted Colors Microfiber Cleaning Cloths here.
Check out these cloth’s customer reviews
What is a microfiber cloth?
A microfiber cloth is made of many tiny fibers woven together to create a soft texture. The fibers in microfiber cloths are much smaller than those found in your shirt, so they will never scratch your lenses. These little squares of soft fabric are great for cleaning your lenses and other pieces of equipment. When you wipe down your lens or filter with these little magic cloths, you clean the lens without scratching it.
The fabric has a slight positive charge, attracting negatively charged stuff like dust. So it pulls in the dust particles and traps them in the fiber. Trapping it prevents you from just pushing the dust and dirt around the surface of your lens.
Microfibers are also incredibly fine, measuring about 1/100th of the width of a strand of hair, so the cleaning cloths can wipe down delicate surfaces without scratching them.
Additionally, microfiber cloths are very good at wiping up the oils left behind by fingers – aka your messy fingerprints. The fine fibers trap the oils and remove them from the glass surface of your lens.
Never use a paper towel or toilet paper.
Never use paper towels, napkins, tissues, or toilet paper to clean your lenses. These paper types are not that clean and can leave your lens covered with lint or worse if the paper contains lotions. This is kind of the opposite of how to clean a camera lens.
3 – Use a lens brush
When you see tiny bits on your lens, you may be tempted to brush them away with your finger. Instead, reach for a lens brush. Wiping your pudgy digit across the lens is a recipe to add more fingerprints to your lens or perhaps even scratch the glass by rubbing the dust or dirt across its surface.
The bush I keep around for tough dust and gunk is a Matin Camera Lens Cleaner Brush.
Read the Matin Brush customer reviews
What is a lens brush?
Camera lens brushes are designed to clean off your lenses without scratching them. These round-headed brushes look like the brush you might use for applying makeup. The heads on these brushes are usually about the size of a pencil eraser and made out of synthetic fibers that can wipe away dust or dirt. Like a microfiber cloth, the fibers of the lens brush are positively charged. This way, the brush can move the dust from the glass surface of the lens.
Some lens brushes are packaged into a lens pen. This handy device has a brush on one end and a small, slightly concave-shaped microfiber pad attached to the other. The pad on a lens pen is excellent at getting smudges off the curved surface of your lenses.
Avoid using makeup brushes.
Any brush not explicitly created to work with the glass elements of your lens runs the risk of damaging your camera gear. Plus, I’d worry about any residual fine makeup powder that could still be in the brush getting into the mechanism of your lens.
4 – Use a lens cleaning solution
If you have excessive smudges, fingerprints, or grunge on your lens, you might be inclined to put a little water on a microfiber cloth to clean it up. Water, however, is not the best solution for that type of mess. Instead, reach for some lens cleaning solution.
I always keep this product around to clean my lens, one in each camera bag. Pick up a supply of CamKix Lens and Screen Cleaning Kits.
See what customers are saying about these cleaning kits – customer reviews.
What is lens cleaning solution?
Cleaning solutions for your camera’s lens are specially formulated to remove the dust, oils, and other types of gunk that build up on your lenses. There are many different cleaning solutions for camera lenses, and they are typically alcohol-based.
These cleaning solutions loosen the bond between dirt or dust particles and clear glass. This allows you to wipe the gunk away without scratching the surface of your lens.
Keep a microfiber cloth and a bottle of the cleaning solution near the area where you store your camera gear. This way, you can grab them quickly if an oil spot appears on your lens while you’re shooting.
A convenient tip for how to clean a camera lens is to get premoistened lens cleaning cloths. I find the ones sold for eyeglasses very convenient to keep in my camera bag.
Never use rubbing alcohol.
Although there is some alcohol in the lens cleaning solution, it is diluted. Straight-up rubbing alcohol might be OK for the glass elements but can damage any plastic parts on your lens. So please keep it away from your gear.
This blog post on how to clean a camera lens has summarized four different ways to clean and maintain your lenses. We recommend using a microfiber cloth, a lens brush, a lens cleaning solution, or a microfiber cloth. I hope we have also convinced you to avoid using water or canned air.
Cleaning your lenses is important because it can prevent dust and other particles from building up on the front element of your lens. And as we all know, a dirty camera lens can affect your pictures’ appearance. Finally, keeping your glass clean will help maintain the value of your gear over time.
And, by the way, these tips can come in handy if you’re trying any of the bubble or water drop techniques mentioned in my Indoor Photo Projects post over here.
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