Cleaning the camera lens is essential to maintaining the proper function of your equipment.
Without knowing how to clean a camera lens, your images will not be as good as they could be.
A solid lens cleaning kit will prevent your images from getting messed up due to external factors.
Although the knowledge of lens cleaning may sound intuitive, the reality is much more complex.
Since the optics are extremely sensitive, and there is a myriad of ways of cleaning, it
tends to be challenging to clean the lens without inflicting damage.
Fortunately, I have decided to create an in-depth guide on how to clean a camera lens at home.
Does my lens need cleaning?
Before I start explaining the entire process, I feel obliged to point out that cleaning your lens too often could lead to scratching of the protective coat, thus damaging the glass. Protecting the lens before cleaning them is crucial since prevention is the best medicine. With that in mind, you should try to perform a quick test to determine does the lens needs cleaning.
Mount the lens on the camera and take two shots: one on the plain white surface and another on the black surface. This way, you can notice small debris particles, and the surface contrast will allow you to check them in detail.
Turn the focusing ring to “infinity.” From there, you see dust particles in the viewfinder. You can also check the images you have taken recently. They can be a good mark of the condition of your lens. After examination of the optics, you may conclude that the lens doesn’t need a makeover. However, if you reached the point where optics need a thorough cleaning, keep on reading the instructions below.
How to clean the camera lens with the air-blower?
The crucial tool in the cleaning kit is the air blower. Its primary purpose is to blow air in a controllable, removing debris from the glass surface without damaging the coat. My recommendation is to get the manual, compact air blower. It is a safer option compared to pressurized air blowers.
With automatic blowers, you lack control of airflow, thus increasing the risk of damage. Automatic, canned pressurized air can damage the lens glass or sensor. You can slowly and controllably clean the lens with the manual air blower. Please put it on the surface to see the glass coating. Next, blow the air from a safe distance of an inch.
Make sure to use the air blower gradually, blowing in the same direction. It will be most efficient if the lens isn’t covered with grease stains or scratches. I mainly use the air blower for debris residue, and since it is the least invasive option, I practice it most often. Ensure not to breathe into the lens to clean it since the breath acid can damage the coating. Furthermore, the saliva from the mouth could lead to severe problems with the glass surface.
Soft bristle brush
Often, dust particles will remain on the glass, even after air-blowing. To counter the limitation of the air, I use soft bristle brushes. They do a splendid job of removing the residue of the coat. However, not all bristles are created equal. To avoid damage to the lens, I highly recommend purchasing a brush with oat or camel hair. bristles
These bristles are less damaging due to softness, thus eliminating the chances of lens scarring. In the same manner, and keeping the circular motion, clean the glass with the brush. Make sure to apply gentle pressure without moving too fast.
Never touch the bristles with your fingers because that increases the chance of oil transmission. If that happens, there is a higher chance of strands smudging the optics. Moreover, it can shorten the lifespan of the brush itself.
Camera lens cleaner
Despite the popularity of cleaners for various purposes (LCD screens, smartphone displays, etc.), I still prefer to use them as a last resort. If you reach the point where you need to clean the lens with the cleaning fluid, be cautious. Most lens cleaners are alcohol-based. Thus they tend to create micro-abrasions on the surface. Unfortunately, it often comes at the moment when the lens is smudgy and in need of thorough degreasing. I frugally use the lens cleaner.
After dropping one or two (never more) drops on the cloth, I gently scrub the grease off the glass. It is vital to never drop the fluid directly on the glass. Always put it on the fabric and then touch the glass. In this way, you can prevent alcohol from damaging the coat. Equally important, fold the fabric once or twice to create a vacuum space between your fingers and the glass. It will operate more smoothly, and you don’t risk pressing too hard or touching the glass with a fingernail.
In a circular motion, slowly move your hand over the optics. Repeat the procedure until the grease comes off. After you complete this process, using the dry side of the cloth is safe to eliminate the residue. Additionally, you can use the air blower to remove the dust particles.
Cleaning cloth (wet and dry)
Wet cleaning cloths are also alcohol-based, so you must be careful using one. Although they come in handy and offer convenience, I seldom use them to clean the lens. One of the reasons is the lack of wet cleaning cloths made specifically for the lens. Most are “jack-of-all-trades” types of material, meaning they are intended to clean everything, from eyeglasses and LCDs to binoculars and optics. Since the photographic lens is susceptible and quite costly, it is best to avoid washing them with a wet cloth for the reasons given above.
If you don’t have any other kit and need to clean the lens on the spot, fold the wet cloth and gently rub the surface, not more than twice. After that, dispose of the fabric in the trash bin. Reusing damp material can result in scratches and impairment of the lens due to oxidation and furrows that form after the fluid dries up. Microfiber cloth is soft and suitable for cleaning the lens.
However, it lacks the substance or mechanical power to clean the glass. For that reason, I use it with cleaning fluid. It is also essential to wash the dry cloth frequently. Be careful not to use cloth softener because its chemicals can affect its structure. As a consequence, furrows can pop out on the cloth surface, which in turn leads to glass damage. Always clean the microfiber cloth with mild water and natural soap. I apply the same rule for dry and wet material, respectively – use it sparingly.
Hygiene of peripherals
To properly maintain the pristine state of your lens, you need to ensure the dirt isn’t coming from lens peripherals. They include but are not limited to lens caps and hoods, filters, camera bags, and the body itself. The camera is a sensitive piece of equipment; when cleaning it, you need to follow the same principles as with the lens. It would be best if you also were especially careful with the camera sensor, which damages quite easily.
On the other hand:
Cleaning the hard surface of lens caps and hoods could be done more traditionally. I thoroughly clean the lens cap and hood using wet wipes or cleaning fluid. Afterward, I wipe the residue with a clean microfiber cloth and let it dry. If the lens cap is made of fabric, I wash it in mild water and soap, without any additives, and let it dry. I also regularly remove dirt and dust from the lens mount, preventing stains from forming. Another critical piece of advice is to watch the way you switch lenses. Always tilt the body downwards when changing optics, which prevents debris from entering the sensor or the lens glass.
When you mount off the lens, immediately put the lens cap on the body unless you plan to switch to another lens. It would be best to store lenses and cameras safely, away from dust or dirt. I always keep my gear on a clear shelf or in a camera bag, safely keeping them stained and greasing. Furthermore, ensure your hands are clean and not oily before using the equipment. Avoid touching sensors or glass surfaces with your fingers because skin oil could lead to further damage.
Knowing how to clean your camera lens is essential to an overall equipment check. Although I don’t advocate cleaning lenses frequently, regular maintenance must be done.
When done correctly and with the right items, optics cleaning can extend the lifespan of the lens. Furthermore, it can keep its performance at its peak. Often the solid camera body can’t compensate for the optics shortcomings.
With that in mind, apply all the cleaning solutions I have provided for the best results. Remember to maintain the good habits of keeping the lens in good condition to avoid overdoing the cleaning process. Once the moment of truth comes, clean it carefully, and follow the rules of conduct I recommend.
I hope that this article has helped you a lot and that it has provided you with all the information you need. On this site, you can find other useful articles such as How to Choose the Best Camera Lens and Nikon F3 lenses guide.
If you have questions or need additional information on this topic, please feel free to leave a comment, I will be happy to answer any of your questions and provide expert advice.