How to Clean Camera Lens

Whether it’s an oily fingerprint smudge or a little dust, your camera lens is bound to get dirty no matter how careful you are. Dirty camera lenses are not only annoying but also result in poor image quality especially if the dirt is on the back element of your lens. For this reason, you ought to clean your camera lens carefully and using the correct procedure.

Don’t get me wrong, cleaning your camera lens is not an intimidating procedure. If anything, it should take 20 minutes tops! However, if done wrong, you could scratch your lens or damage your camera altogether. That said, below is a simple yet effective procedure on how to clean your camera lens.

Start off with a blower.


Your first instinct might be to blow the dust off your camera lens using your breath. Don’t – this only introduces saliva and condensation to the lens. Using a blower is the safest way to rid your camera lens of dust, which is the common culprit of dirty lenses.

Going straight for a cleaning cloth will press the dust particles against the lens, which might result in scratches.

Before using the blower, clear it of any dust or dirt by squeezing a couple of puffs in the air. You should also be careful not to introduce airborne dust onto your lens by using the blower far away from the lens surface.

If you haven’t yet purchased a blower, go for a relatively large one as it gets the job done much faster and with ease.

A lens brush will get any debris the blower might have missed.

Lens brushes are tiny brushes specially designed with soft bristles for cleaning a camera lens without scratching it. Although different brushes have different materials for bristles, camel hair is favored for its soft and tangle-free nature.

Brushes come in handy when removing stubborn dust particles from the barrel of your lens. Carefully but swiftly, swipe the lens surface with the lens brush to dislodge dust and other debris.

Using a lens brush poses the risk of transferring dirt and oil to your camera lens. For this reason, you ought to avoid touching the bristles of the lens brush. You should also clean it regularly to remove any build up might be deposited with time.

When buying a lens brush, go for the ones that have a cap covering the bristles. Alternatively, you can go for the popular brands that slide out for use and slide back in when you are finished. A great example is the LensPen brush that not only features soft bristles but also comes with a cleaning pad on the opposite end.

Lens cleaning fluid paired with a microfiber cloth.

Typically, lens cleaning fluids are alcohol based to help dissolve oils and other lens contaminants. They also evaporate quickly preventing streaks from forming after cleaning. Packaged in small 8-10 oz. bottles, these fluids come at a ballpark figure of about $10.

While cleaning, avoid spraying the fluid directly at your lens to prevent it from sipping inside the lens or your camera. We all know that no camera is 100% waterproof! Instead, spray the cleaning fluid on a microfiber cloth then wipe the lens.

Speaking of a microfiber cloth, these are soft cloths designed for cleaning your camera lens surface without scratching it. Just like lens brushes, microfiber cloths can also contaminate your lens and for this reason, they should be stored in a plastic bag.

An alternative to a microfiber lens cloth is lens cleaning paper tissues with are disposable hence eliminating the risk of introducing contaminants to your lens. You can do one better and get disposable pre-moistened lens cleaning wipes that are alcohol based.

Don’t forget the outside of your lens.

A quick wipe down using a microfiber cloth and cleaning fluid is often all it takes to clean the outside of your camera lens. However, eventually, there will be buildup between the gaps of your lens surface as well as in between the zoom and focus rings.

This can simply be taken care of by using a toothbrush and some cleaning fluid. Just ensure the fluid does not get into the camera lens while at it.

Important tips to remember.

  • You should clean your camera lens over a flat, raised surface such as a table. This will break the lens’s fall in case your hand slips when cleaning.
  • Avoid transferring dirt from your lens brush and microfiber cloth by keeping them clean and well stored.
  • You should clean your camera lens regularly but not too often. All the polishing and wiping can be harsh on the lens surface causing more harm than good.
  • For this reason, you ought to keep your camera clean for as long as possible. You can achieve this by properly storing it in its case, away from dust and water.
  • Using a lens filter and properly switching through lenses (without touching the front or back element) will also go a long way in keeping your camera clean.

Final touches.

Clearly, there is nothing to cleaning a camera lens. You just have to be careful not to scratch the lens or drop it. While I’m all for doing things by yourself, there comes a time when you have to swallow your pride and seek professional help. This is when dealing with a stain that will not come off or when cleaning sensitive parts such as the lens contact or the camera sensor.

The best part is, getting professional help is as easy as going back to your camera retailer for in-house maintenance services. Better yet, manufacturers such as Canon and Nikon also provide camera maintenance services, cleaning included.

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