Photo Contest Insider Blog


How to Clean a Camera Lens at Home

December 7, 2018

Every photographer knows a single speck of dirt or spot of water on a camera lens can ruin any picture. That’s why every photographer must know how to clean a camera lens. For best results, you need to use the proper tools. It’s a good idea to have essential items on hand to ensure a clean camera lens whenever the need arises.

7 Tools Needed to Clean a Camera Lens at Home

  1. Gentle Air Blower
  2. Soft-Bristled Brushes
  3. Lens Cleaning Solution
  4. Microfiber Cloth
  5. Cleaning Wipe
  6. Cleaning Tissue
  7. Distilled Water

You can purchase a lens cleaning kit that contains many of the items you need to keep your lens free of dirt, grime, oils, and dust particles. Even if your camera lens isn’t showing any signs of being dirty, performing some simple camera cleaning tasks regularly is a smart move. If you gain expertise in Lightroom or other photo editors, you can’t fix all the imperfections a dirty lens can cause. When you clean your camera lens, you can rest assured that you’ll achieve the best image quality possible for every photo.

Cleaning a Camera Lens

A clean camera lens allows you to take clear, crisp photographs. And if you don’t take care of a dirty lens, you can damage your lens and shorten its lifespan. You definitely don’t want to neglect an expensive camera lens! Whether your shooting pictures in your home photography studio or on location, you should always camera lens cleaning supplies readily available. Learning how to clean a camera lens the right way is essential—since it’s easy to make mistakes that can harm your camera equipment.

There are a few things you should never do during lens cleaning. First, never use glass cleaning products on your camera lens. These solutions can remove your anti-glare lens coating. Another mistake people may make when first exploring how to clean a camera lens is using store-bought acetone. While acetone is an excellent cleaner, it can have an adverse effect on your lens. Specifically, it can harm the paint and plastic of the lens barrel.

Also, never used canned air. Although this product can successfully remove dust and dirt particles, it uses too much force. Canned air can actually force dust particles into lens housings and cause unwanted damage.

Even if you are an amateur photographer with entry-level equipment, you should know how to clean a camera lens correctly. While some specialized tools are helpful, you likely have several of the items you need to ensure a clean camera at home right now.

1. Gentle Air Blower

If you have been taking pictures in a dusty environment, you likely have a dirty lens. You want to remove dust particles before wiping the lens. If you wipe the lens first, you may create scratches on the surface of your camera lens that can be impossible to remove.

For best results, use a gentle air bulb instead of compressed air. An air blower or air bulb is an essential dust cleaner for your personal camera cleaning kit. This easy-to-use manual tool applies air to remove particles from your lens surface. You should carry one with your camera supplies, especially if you know you’ll be working in an area where your lens might get dirty.

Your air blower should be the first tool you use when cleaning your camera—even if you’re just performing regular maintenance. Before moving it near your lens, make sure the air blower is clean by squeezing it a few times. Then place it close to the lens—but don’t touch the camera lens surface. This prevents blowing any particles into the air on to the lens. Now you are ready to squeeze the bulb and blow a few puffs across the surface of the camera lens.

When learning how to clean a camera lens, it can be tempting to just blow on your camera lens to remove dirt. If you do, you risk projecting tiny saliva particles onto your camera lens. This isn’t a good idea since your saliva contains acids that can damage your lens coating. If you’re in a bind, blowing on your lens to clean it can be a reasonable thing to do. Don’t do it all the time, however. Instead, make sure you have an air blower to help keep the lens of your camera clean.

2. Soft-Bristled Brushes

At times, an air blower may be all you need to remove dirt and grime during camera cleaning. However, a fine-haired brush is one of the best defenses against a dirty lens Look for brushes made of fine goat or camel hair.

Since your camera lens is very delicate, you’ll need to handle these brushes with care. Never touch the bristles to avoid transferring any oils from your fingers on to the brushes. Also, put your brushes into a container when not in use to prevent any contamination.

When removing dust and dirt from your camera lens, brush dirt gently from the middle of the lens to the sides. Next, hold the camera upside down to let any particles fall away from the lens towards the ground.

3. Lens Cleaning Solution

Lens cleaning solutions can clean your camera lens quickly—but they can also be messy if not used with care. Most often, you’ll find cleaning fluids in 1-oz, 2-oz, or 8-oz bottles. Typically, a lens cleaner evaporates quickly to help prevent streaks.

Always look for a cleaner made of denatured alcohol. Some people use store-bought isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab as a camera lens cleaner. However, this approach poses a risk to your delicate lens coating. Using a cleaning solution designed specifically for camera lenses is a safer bet.

You should never spray cleaning solution directly onto your camera lens. If you do, the solution can seep to the edges of the lens and leak into the lens body. Instead, add cleaning solution onto a clean microfiber cloth or a cleaning tissue and gently clean the lens.

You may only need a drop or two of the solution to your cleaning tissue or cloth. If you add too much, the cleaning fluid can harm your camera’s optics or enter the lens body. This is an important thing to keep in mind when learning how to clean a camera lens.

4. Microfiber Cloth

A clean microfiber cloth is an essential element in your personal lens cleaning kit. Once purchased, you can use your microfiber cloth again and again. They typically cost a few dollars and can endure multiple uses before being discarded or washed. Since microfiber cloth can vary in quality, look for one that is durable but doesn’t pose any risk of shedding unwanted fibers.

You can wash and reuse most microfiber cloths. If you do, be sure not to use fabric softener when you wash them. The chemicals in fabric softener can cause unsightly streaks to appear on your lens. Between uses, keep your microfiber cloth in a plastic bag to protect it.

When using your cleaning cloth, start from the center of the lens. Wipe in concentric circles to remove any dirt, grime, smudges, or fingerprints. Only apply the amount of pressure you need to remove smudges or dust particles.

When you’re first learning how to clean a camera lens, you may question whether specialized items like microfiber cloths are truly necessary. Yes, they are definitely worth the investment! If you use any other types of cloth or fabric, you risk exposing your camera lens to scratches or contamination by tiny particles or fibers.

5. Cleaning Wipe

Another option for a clean camera lens is a pre-moistened cleaning wipe. You’ll typically find these in packages of 100 to 200 wipes. The best camera cleaning wipes include alcohol, so stock up on those.

It’s important to remember this type of lens wipe is a single-use item. The grime you remove from your lens stays on the wipe—so never reuse one.

When cleaning with a wipe, follow the same process you use with a microfiber cloth. Start in the center and move towards the side using a circular motion.

6. Cleaning Tissue

Not to be confused with normal facial tissue, a lens cleaning tissue is similar to a cleaning wipe. However, cleaning tissues are not typically pre-moistened. They are intended for single-use—but are usually quite inexpensive. You simply need to add a few drops of your favorite cleaning fluid to a tissue and rub gently to keep the lens of your camera clean.

Cleaning tissues have been in use for decades in laboratories and clean rooms. You can trust that any product used in these sensitive environments will protect your delicate camera lens during cleaning.

When learning how to clean a camera lens, don’t make the mistake of using facial tissues. These types of tissues often contain fragrances, lotions, or other additives that can destroy a lens coating. And don’t use cleaning fluids or wipes intended for eyeglasses. Eyeglass cleaning products can destroy your camera lens.

7. Distilled Water

You can use water to clean camera lenses. However, you should avoid using tap water since it can contain tiny particles and contaminants. Instead, opt for distilled water or de-ionized water.

The downside to using water as a cleaning fluid is that it will only remove water-soluble substances. It can work well for removing fingerprints but may not work on other types of smudges or grime.

The main benefit of using water is that it is easily accessible. Distilled water is available at nearly every grocery store and many convenience stores. If you find yourself needing to clean your camera lens, but lack access to other supplies, distilled water is a good choice.

A Clean Camera Lens is a Must for Great Photos

Every photographer—from newcomers to the most experienced professional—wants their photos to be the best. After making the investment in equipment and training to grow your photography skills, you should not neglect taking care of your camera. It’s worth your time to learn how to clean a camera lens the right way.

You can get your camera lens professionally cleaned, which may be the right choice on some occasions. And you can also buy a pre-packaged lens cleaning kit that contains essential supplies. However, many photographers want to know how to clean a lens without a kit to keep their options open.

Your best bet is to keep several key supplies on hand for cleaning lenses at any time. These supplies include an air blower, soft-bristled brushes, and a lens cleaner or pre-moistened cleaning wipes. You’ll also need a microfiber cloth or cleaning tissues to apply your favorite cleaning fluid. And distilled water or de-ionized water can be useful—especially if other cleaning supplies aren’t readily available.

The good news is that many of the supplies you use to clean your digital or DSLR camera work on your phone camera as well. For a clean phone camera, wipe the lens gently with a microfiber cloth. Or dip a cotton swab into distilled water and rub the lens carefully.

After you know how to properly clean a camera lens, you can feel more confident and adventurous in your photo-taking. You won’t feel concerned about visiting dusty environments or getting down into the dirt to capture that perfect image. Instead, you’ll have the knowledge and tools to keep your DSLR or digital camera clean wherever you go.

Cleaning your lenses is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the highest image quality possible. You can relax knowing that your investment in your camera equipment is safe—and focus on taking standout pictures that help you make your mark in the world of photography.


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