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How To Clean Your Lens

How To Clean Your Lens


Cleaning your cameras lenses and compatible lenses are one of the most overlooked aspects of photography.  Even though it doesn’t really have anything to do with skillfully taking a photo, the cleanliness of your lens will greatly affect the result of any type of image or video you’re trying to produce. 

Although it sounds simple enough, cleaning and maintaining your lenses requires techniques and tools that will properly clean your lenses without causing them damage.  Camera lenses are sensitive optical devices with intricate components.  Not to sound scary, but using the wrong cleaning methods and tools can actually cause more harm than good and in many cases scratch the lens or cause the mechanisms to fail.  Cleaning lenses the right way is a must for every photographer regardless of skill level.

Additionally, the lens area is not the only place that needs to be kept as clean as possible from dust, dirt, moisture, and fingerprints, but your camera as well.  The inside of your camera, the sensors, and the area where the lens joins into the camera needs to be impeccably clean.  And, if you have any family pets who shed, you can sometimes find unwanted hair that somehow managed to get in there.  Imagine how disappointing it would be to finally take the perfect shot only to later see one hair strand that somehow got on or into the lens or camera and ruin a great photograph.  A clean camera lens is a happy camera lens. 

How you handle your camera and lenses while in use and how well you store them will both affect the overall cleanliness of your equipment.  Cleaning your lenses is not something you want to overdo, so maintaining a proper handling and storage is key to prolonging your lenses lifespan and ensuring their performance always reaches their potential in every photoshoot. 

Let’s look at a bunch of different things from cleaning tools to advice on how to clean your cameras and lenses.

Tools for Cleaning your Camera and Lenses

You can find a camera lens cleaning kit with all the essential tools you will need, but for the sake of knowledge, here is a breakdown of some of the best lens cleaning tools you can use.

  • Microfiber Cloth for Lenses – One of the most basic and vital tools that every photographer should have in their gear bag. Ensuring that you always a have clean, fresh, high quality microfiber cleaning cloth readily available is a best practice every photographer should accept into their prepping routine and is a considered the best way to clean camera lens.
  • Cleaning Liquid for Lenses – Sometimes, dirt, stains, smudge, and fudge is unavoidable. Anyone who shoots photography outside with natures elements can cause watermarks from rain or snow will agree.  This is when having the right liquid cleaning solution is important.  Some brands will market their cleaning solutions for lenses but contain alcohol.  These will get the job done, but if you want to be extra careful with your lenses, you probably want to avoid alcohol based cleaning solutions as the alcohol can erode any coating your lens has or even cause the coating to bleed and smear.
  • Cleaning Spray – Having the ability to evenly spray a non-alcoholic antistatic cleaning spray can save you a lot of time when you are cleaning all of your photography gear including your camera and lens. This is a great thing to use when your preparing your gear to be stored after a photoshoot.
  • Camera Lens Wipes – For convenience or when you realize that your lens needs a quick rub down, specially designed lens cleaning wipes can make quick work of those smudges, fingerprints, or dirt. Regular towelettes can leave a debris of tiny fibers all over your lens and can also get into the crevices of the lens.  You always want to ensure that you only use wipes designed specifically for lenses.  These won’t leave any filaments on your lens and is the right thing to keep in your inventory of photography supplies.  You can also find these sold “wet” with the correct cleaning solutions you need to remove any oils from fingerprints and other dirt.
  • Lens Brush – A soft brush specially designed for cleaning lenses is a must have for photographers. This is an essential tool for clearing away dust from your cameras and lenses nooks and crannies.  Even when the brush is marketed for camera lenses, you will want to make sure you check that the bristles are soft enough that you wont cause scratches to the lens while cleaning, and well made so the bristles wont accidently fall off and into your lens’s components.  You will realize the importance of this tool when you’re cleaning a zoom lens which expands, making it susceptible to dust and dirt within the crevices of the zoom mechanism.
  • Blower – An alternative way to clean large dust and debris from your lens is by using a blower. You never want to blow air from your mouth.  That would cause moisture and saliva to shoot into the lens which would make your lens even dirtier.  Therefore, a blower is the perfect tool to keep in your arsenal of camera and lens cleaning supplies.
  • Storage for Your Cleaning Supplies – It may sound funny, but you have to keep your cleaning supplies clean. Storing your photography cleaning supplies in a dry sealable container or pouch will ensure that dust and dirt stay away from your brushes, blowers, and cleaning solutions.  You don’t want to be spraying solution from a bottle with a dirty nozzle.  You should make sure your cleaning gear is clean after each use, prior to storing.

Maintaining Your Lenses

Keeping your lenses clean is not rocket science.  It simply takes good handling habits and routines that every photographer should embrace.

  1. Protect your lenses – Keep your caps on. Always ensure you are keeping the front and rear lens caps on when handling.  This is the best way to protect your lenses from dust, dirt, and fingerprint oils.  You can also keep a clean lens UV filter handy which will protect your lens and easy to replace.  You would much rather replace an inexpensive lens filter than have to replace an expensive lens.
  2. Use the Blower and the Brush – The first step to cleaning your lenses is to rid it of loose dust and debris. You don’t want to be smashing dust particles into the sensitive lens when you’re wiping it down, so this step is important.  First use the blower and if it needs a little extra for the tough corners, grooves, and crevices, use the brush.  Be gentle and take your time.

    cleaning lens
  3. Cleaning Solutions / Lens Wipes – When you feel satisfied that you have rid your lens of any loose dust then it’s time to proceed to cleaning away any dirt and fingerprints. Gently wipe the lens in smooth clean wipes and don’t overdo it with too much solution.  Let your lens dry and then inspect it to ensure that the lens is clean from oils and dirt.
  4. Microfiber Cloth – You can use a microfiber cloth in leu of lens wipes for step 3. Once the lens is clean, you can use the microfiber cloth to complete the process.  Keep the cloth folded neatly so it is smooth and flat when you’re giving the lens its finish.  You don’t ever want to wipe down your lens prior to removing dust and debris (steps 2 & 3) or risk smearing it into the lens and components.  Don’t Forget to use the same processes for the rear and barrel of the lens.
  5. Final Inspection – Besides using your keen awareness to visually inspect your cleaning job, you will want to load the lens and run some visual tests through the camera. Some easy ways to check is to set your focus to its maximum range both ways, do the same thing with the aperture by enlarging it all the way and vice versa, taking some photos along the way, and inspecting the images for inconsistencies and spots.
  6. Store & Handle Your Gear like a Pro – Respect your expensive gear by following the cleaning process and ensuring your lenses and camera gear are clean and in perfect condition every time you store them. This way you’re ready for anything.

    cleaning lens
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