Lens will inevitably get dirty. Below are our tips on how to clean a camera lens.
As photographers, a dirty lens is something we all gotta deal with.
Dust is everywhere, and no matter how careful you are, it ends up sitting on the front or back of the lens. Other substances, such as the oil from your fingers, food, or natural elements, can also find their way onto your camera gear.
Fortunately, cleaning a camera lens is pretty simple and risk-free, as long as you are using the proper tools and techniques for the job.
In this article, I will show you the correct way of cleaning a lens. I’ll also discuss the dos and don’ts to minimize the risk of damaging your lens further.
Let’s jump right into it!
Why Clean a Camera Lens?
Before I share my essential cleaning tips, I would like to discuss why it is important to clean your camera lens.
Obviously, you should clean it because it is dirty. If you ignore all the dust and other particles, you’re just letting them accumulate in your lens. This can affect the “seeing” ability of your lens, which leads to a “cloudy” appearance in photos. It also poses a serious issue for some photography types.
For instance, HDR photography requires stacking images on top of one another to create the final result. So if you take a photo with a dirty lens, you will just amplify all the dust within it.
Another reason you should clean a camera lens is to save time in editing. No one probably wants to post an image with specks of dust and dirt. So you do your best to minimize their appearance during post-production.
However, it takes at least several minutes to fix each photo, meaning you’ll end up spending hours to finish editing. You might as well clean the lens—which requires only a few minutes tops—instead of trying to edit all the images.
What Are the Tools Needed to Clean Camera Lenses?
I know you probably think that you don’t need tools to clean lenses. All you really need is your t-shirt and breath, right?
Well, as a novice, I thought that too. I ended up smudging my camera lens and leaving scratches all over its surface. So my advice is: to use the proper tools to clean lenses.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to invest in a cleaning kit to clean your lens. The following items below are usually more than enough to keep your lens spotless.
- Air Puffer
An air puffer, or blower, is a simple yet effective tool to remove dust or dirt on your camera lens. The Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster is one of the best cleaning tools you can get on the market. It’s large and powerful enough to blow any particles stuck on your lens.
- Soft Brush
A soft lens brush also does the trick. Its bristles can sweep away the dust or dirt clinging to your lens. A notable example of this tool is the Nikon 7072 Lens Pen. It features a retractable design to ensure the brush stays clean when not in use.
- Lens Cleaning Solution
For more stubborn gunk, a lens cleaning solution might be helpful. A drop or two of the Photographic Solutions Eclipse can clear away oil or other particles stuck in your camera lenses. It also dries quickly to ensure that it won’t leave any residue.
- Microfiber Cloth
You will also need a microfiber cloth to spread the cleaning solution and wipe away the dirty particles on the camera lens. Consider getting the MagicFiber Microfiber Cleaning Cloths. This pack of cleaning tools can remove finger smudges and lift stubborn oil spots for a thorough lens cleaning.
- Pre-moistened Cleaning Wipes
This tool is an excellent alternative to microfiber cloths and cleaning solution. As their name suggests, pre-moistened cleaning wipes are already soaked in the fluid. Thus, they allow you to clean your lens instantly. We highly recommend the Zeiss Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Wipes for its gentle alcohol solution and individually wrapped swabs.
How To Clean A Camera Lens?
By now, you’re probably aware of the importance of camera lens cleaning and the tools required to do so. It’s time to get on with the actual cleaning!
Below are the most effective methods to get a spotless camera lens. Make sure to do them in the following order to reduce the risk of making the problem worse.
Step 1: Use a Blower To Remove Dust
Before you do anything else, get an air blower to remove the dust off the camera lens. Sometimes, a quick puff of air is more than enough to get all the particles out of the camera gear.
I recommend getting a larger air blower from the get-go. It covers a large area and is easier to use than smaller ones. It’s also one of the safest ways to clean a lens since it wouldn’t leave any residue.
However, avoid using your breath when cleaning the lens. Doing so can bring condensation and saliva onto the glass, no matter how careful you are. You should also refrain from using air compressors and freon-powered air cans as they produce condensation and oil residue.
- Use a blower before trying any other cleaning method.
- Squeeze the air blower a few times to remove potential dust from it.
- Hold the blower close to the lens without touching it to avoid airborne particles onto the glass.
- Blow a few puffs on the lens surface to clean it.
- Do not use your breath because you can introduce saliva and condensation onto the lens.
- Avoid air compressors and freon-powered air cans to prevent condensation and dripping oil.
- Skip a small blower since it’s less effective than bigger ones.
Step 2: Use a Lens Brush
If a blower fails in removing the dust, a lens brush might do the trick. Its brush tips are available in various materials. However, I recommend getting one with fine, soft hairs to prevent scratching the lens.
Do also note that a lens brush is riskier than a blower since it can pick up small particles. And instead of lifting them away, it can end up just moving these substances across the lens surface.
You are also more than likely to touch the lens brush with your fingers. Thus, you can unwillingly transfer oils and other contaminants on the glass. And if you didn’t already know, any greasy substance can be difficult to remove from both the lens and brush itself.
One way you can avoid this problem is to get a brush with a cap or retractable design. It will help keep the bristles clean when not in use.
You may also consider investing in a carbon-soaked polishing tip. This tool is designed to remove oil from your fingertips and various sources without damaging the camera lens.
- Get a brush with fine, soft bristles to prevent scratches.
- Gently brush the lens surface to clear away contaminants.
- Consider a carbon-soaked polishing tip for cleaning oil and stubborn substances.
- Cap or retract the brush after use to keep it away from dust and other particles.
- Do not squish the bristles onto the lens as it can scrape the surface.
- Avoid touching the brush tips with your fingers or anything other than the lens.
Step 3: Spray Cleaning Fluid on the Lens
If you find your lens smeared with oil or any stubborn particles, you can try a lens cleaning fluid. It uses a non-aggressive ingredient, usually alcohol-based, to remove almost all contaminants. It usually comes in 2 oz or 8 oz sizes, ranging from $5 up to $20 per bottle.
However, do not spray the solution directly on the lens as it can leave streaking. If this occurs, don’t panic!
Simply spray the cleaning fluid onto a microfiber cloth, then wipe the lens surface. Repeat these two steps until there is no liquid residue on the lens.
- Spray the fluid onto a lens microfiber cloth or tissue, then gently wipe the lens to remove dust, oil, and other particles.
- Make sure only to use a denatured alcohol-based cleaning solution.
- Do not spray the fluid directly onto the lens since it can get inside the glass.
- Avoid a cleaning solution that mainly uses detergent and water because it can make the problem worse.
Step 4: Wipe Lens with a Microfiber Cloth
You can also try wiping the lens using a microfiber cloth without a cleaning fluid.
It is best for removing finger smudges on the lens since it features tiny fabric strands thinner than those found on silk. These materials make the cloth soft for effectively wiping any moisture. At the same time, they can lift dirt, oil, or any particles on the lens surface.
On top of these benefits, microfiber cloth is pretty inexpensive and costs around $0.05 per sheet. It’s also easy to bring anywhere with you, perfect for travel photographers.
However, make sure to wash the cloth after use. Re-using it can trap contaminants in the fibers and drag them across your lens, ultimately leaving a scratch. You should also store it in a plastic bag in between uses to avoid contamination.
If you want a disposable option, consider getting pre-moistened cleaning wipes. Look for a package with denatured alcohol fluid to prevent further problems.
- Keep the cloth in a plastic bag when not in use. This way, you can prevent contamination.
- Gently wipe the microfiber cloth on the lens surface by following a circle pattern.
- Use pre-moistened cleaning wipes as a disposable alternative to a microfiber cloth.
- Avoid using shirts, paper towels, or tissue papers to clean your lens because they can be abrasive.
- Do not re-use cloth or wipes to avoid scratches on the lens.
Dust and other small particles are every photographer’s nightmare. They leave a cloudy appearance to our photos, which affects the overall image quality.
Fortunately, cleaning your camera lens is a pretty straightforward task. Just make sure to follow the four easy steps I have shared with you today to remove all contaminants. These include using a blower, brush, cleaning fluid, and special wipes.
However, if you encounter stubborn particles, it’s best to send your lens to a professional for cleaning.