Lens Cleaning in Detail – How to Keep Your Lenses Clean

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Remove dirt with brush, lens paper & bellows

Dust, fingerprints, water drop residue… It’s only a matter of time before the next lens cleaning. But what should you pay attention to? Are there no-go and what cleaning steps are really needed? Here we have summarized the most important information and tips for you so that you can clean and maintain your lenses optimally.

Why is lens cleaning important?

Besides the sensor, the lens (also called “glass” or “lens”) is the most important element for image quality — at least technically speaking. Just as dirt can be visible on the sensor (so-called sensor spots), dirty front and rear lenses of the lens reduce our image quality.

However, it is not possible to avoid dust, fingerprints and occasionally a few drops on the lenses. At some point, these impurities become visible in the picture — either as blurred, dark spots or even as reflections that can irregularly reduce the contrast and create unwanted flares. In the worst case, even dirt from the rear lens lands on the sensor, where it becomes visible even faster. A post-processing on the PC is often laborious and does not have to be! That’s why: Keep your lens clean and ensure optimal image quality in any situation.

why camera lens cleaning is important

When should lenses be cleaned?

Not every grain of dust is immediately visible and it is also up to you how much “dirt” is still acceptable. But at the latest when you photograph all day and find out in the evening that hundreds of pictures have been taken with annoying spots, you will certainly get annoyed. In any case, precaution is better than rework. The lenses are quickly checked in the morning and if necessary blown off before you start taking pictures.

Also changing lenses is a good time for your short lens check. Here you should take a look at the rear lens. This dust is visible in the picture much faster than the one on the front lens. In addition, it is located in the area of the sensor and can loosen by movement or mirror impact and land on the sensor.

If you are a lot of photographing and often change the lens (e.g. on vacation or shooting), daily cleaning can be well worth it. It doesn’t have to be complete with wet cleaning, but blowing off and possibly using the brush over it won’t hurt!

For the “big” cleaning it is best to take a photo of a large surface of the same color, e.g. a white wall or the sky. If you see spots here, it’s time to devote yourself to cleaning. In general, dirt is most noticeable from the sensor, then from the rear lens and last but not least from the front lens. So it is advisable to scrap the dirt in this order.

Note: Lens lenses are high-end optics that are optimized for maximum imaging performance and are usually coated with special coatings. Therefore, avoid these no-go and clean according to the motto “as little as possible and as often as necessary”.

Where is the best place for lens cleaning?

When cleaning lenses, you should avoid dusty environments and windy conditions or rain are also unfavorable. Wind can blow dust or other dirt on the freshly cleaned lenses or even the camera’s sensor if you need to clean the rear lens and remove the lens.

Rain can be annoying because a drop will quickly land on the lens while cleaning (especially if you just want to check and blow off the front lens). In the optimal case, you clean your lenses in an enclosed space, without drafts and with sufficient light source, so that you can easily identify and remove contaminants.

Tip: If you take the lens from the camera while cleaning, place the body with the bayonet down on the table or use the bayonet cap. This avoids getting swirled dust on the sensor. Particularly with mirrorless cameras, the sensor is openly accessible and gets easily dirty.

How to clean camera lenses?

Cleaning supplies

bellows

An indispensable tool for proper lens cleaning is a bellows. Of course you could blow with your mouth, but the fine nozzles of bellows create a much concentrated air jet and you can blow dust away precisely. In addition, there is no risk of saliva getting on the lens, which you need to wipe away again.

They are available in all different sizes and also with different nozzles. Some are short and pointed, for more accurate blowing and others have a long tip, which is convenient when the sun visor is applied or to clean the sensor. In addition, there are tips with applied brush. Practical, but usually the air jet is much weaker. We therefore prefer the separate variant.

brush

1 LA 81K Lens Aid Cleaning Kit Camera Lens Cover Image 300×300 Lens Cleaning in Detail — This way you keep your lenses clean Brushes also release dust that “sticks” to the lens and also clean the transition edges from glass to lens housing. They are also well suited for lens caps. There are “open” brushes and which with lid. For example, extendable like a lipstick. If you want to be safe, resort to the closed version, because when stored in the photo bag, no dirt is collected here and then transferred to the lens.

Most brushes are made of soft synthetic bristles, some natural hair brushes are also used. In any case, make sure that you do not use the same brush for the camera or lens housing and lenses. Grease from your fingerprints sticks to the brush and, if necessary, transfers to the lens.

Wet Cleaner/Wet Wipes

In the area of wet cleaning are different setups. The comfortable solution offers wet cleaning wipes, as you know from glasses cleaning. Unpack, wipe, you’re done. Very convenient for on the go, if you want to go fast!

The second variant is dry cloths (lentil paper, alternatively a microfibre cloth) in combination with a liquid cleaner that you apply yourself. Here you can determine the amount of cleaning fluid yourself and, if necessary, re-dose it. You can spray the cleaner on a Q-Tip, for example, to get better at edges or to clean the viewfinder.

Microfibre Cloths

As a photographer, you always have at least one of them at hand: the popular, lint-free microfibre cloth. Quickly dab a few water stains from the lens, clean the display or used during thorough cleaning, it can be used very versatile. Only you should always keep in mind that it easily transfers dirt and should also be replaced or washed from time to time. For storage it is best to pack it in a bag so that it does not get dirty and you finally get sand on the lens.

One more tip: Fluffy does not always mean better! Most cloths are mechanically roughened during production, i.e. fibers are loosened or pulled outwards. To a certain extent, this is good — looks more fluffy and increases the cleaning surface. However, if exaggerated, the fibers dissolve during cleaning and remain on the lens.

Lens-pen/cleaning pen

Brush and stain remover in practical pen design! The cleaning tip (soft felt pad) is powdered with carbon, which removes fingerprints very well from the lens. The powder is also in the foam in the lid, which repowders the felt tip when closing. This should only be used if the lens is otherwise clean and you just want to remove a water stain or fingerprint.

It is advisable to replace the pen from time to time, as the same surface is always used for cleaning and dirt accumulates in the long term. Otherwise, the so-called lens pen, even if not absolutely necessary, is a useful addition to quick lens cleaning without wet cleaning.

Cleaning Kits

If you don’t want to buy all cleaning utensils individually or you can’t decide, we recommend a cleaning kit. The bottom line is also cheaper than buying a single purchase. Many sets contain everything needed for a thorough lens cleaning and even come with a handy storage box.

Cleaning lenses & filters

Most often, the front lenses and, if used, the filters (UV filter/Pole filter display) must be cleaned by far. Either quick intermediate cleaning or thorough wet cleaning — it depends on where you are, how much time you have and how much the lenses are dirty. With these two cleaning methods, you can effectively keep your lens lenses clean and get an optimal cleaning result:

Quick cleaning —> Cleaning steps 1 — 2

The first two cleaning steps (see below) are often sufficient to ensure that the lenses are clean again. Dust and other loose dirt can be removed quickly and easily by means of a bellows and brush. Ideal for in between!

Tip: For quick cleaning, so-called lens-pens are often used. They are easy to store and offer a soft cleaning pad in addition to the brush to remove fingerprints. Practical for “emergencies”, but be careful: You should replace the cleaning pen from time to time because dirt accumulates here, too, and the lens could be damaged during dry cleaning.

Intensive cleaning —> Cleaning steps 1 — 4

Fingerprints, streaks and stuck dirt are a sign that once again thorough care is necessary. Use all 4 cleaning steps including wet cleaning and you will also get rid of stubborn contaminants. Due to the use of special cleaning liquids with antistatic effect, dust deposits are also reduced after cleaning — longer fun with clean lenses!

It is important that you first remove the loose dirt from the lens (step 1 & 2) before you start wet cleaning, as large dust or sand grains could scratch the lens. With the following 4 steps you are on the safe side and can look forward to crystal clear lenses after cleaning!

Step 1: Blow away dust

Always the first step: by means of bellows, the loose dirt and dust is blown off. The nozzles are usually very fine and produce so much pressure that even coarse dust and sand grains are blown away. This prevents scratching of the lens during later wet cleaning. If there is no bellows at hand, you can also gently blow your mouth. However, make sure that there is no saliva on the lens.

camera lens dust clean

Step 2: Clean with brush

With the brush you can also get rid of the visible dust that cannot be removed by the bellows. It should be soft and fine, so that the edges at the transition to the housing can also be cleaned to the corner. If some dust remains on the lens, it can be easily blown off after brushing.

Tip: After cleaning, you can also blow out the brush yourself with the bellows. This prevents dust from landing on the lens during the next cleaning. And if possible, do not put your fingers in the brush, otherwise it absorbs fat and that in turn could smear the lenses.

Brush Lens Cleaning

Step 3: Wet cleaning

After the entire lot of dust and possibly sand is removed from the lens, it goes to wet cleaning. Here you have several options available. Either you already take wet cleaning wipes, as you know from glasses cleaning. Or you can get a special cleaner and so-called lens papers, which are usually offered as a block. Simply tear a lens paper out of the block, fold 2-3 times and spray 1 with the cleaner.

Then wipe the lens in circular motions. In doing so, not only water stains are removed, but also fingerprints and other deposits are removed. In addition, the cleaner has an antistatic effect, i.e. dust is not attracted by the lens and is also easier to blow off during the next cleaning.

Wet cleaning camera lens - Lens cleaning in detail - How to keep your lenses clean

Step 4: Dry the lens

If there is still some cleaner on the lens after wet cleaning or streaks appear, you can send it to a (clean!) Rub dry lint-free microfibre cloth carefully. This gives you a streak-free and crystal-clear look. Tip: The cloth should always be clean and really only be used for this last step. Also, you should not use the cloth for other parts of the camera as there is a lot of grease and possibly dust/sand on the screen, which would contaminate the lens.

Cleaning bayonet, contacts & gasket

The bayonet is the central point of contact with the camera body and should be cleaned from time to time both on the lens side and on the body. When the lens is mounted, a fine joint is created towards the body, in which dirt can settle over the long term and also penetrate between the contact surfaces, provided there is no sealing lip on the lens.

And if there is a sealing lip, the dirt settles there. Both can be cleaned with a damp microfibre cloth — if necessary, with some cleaning liquid (or rinse water), so that fat deposits can also be removed. This is especially important for contacts that transmit the signal from the camera to the lens.

Cleaning these lens parts not only ensures friction-free function, but also ensures the seal towards the body. You will be amazed at what residues remain in part on the microfibre cloth!

Clean housing, lens hood & lens cap

Often forgotten, but must also be. Especially the lens cap display likes to collect dust and lint, because you land them in your jacket pocket while taking pictures or drive around somewhere loose. If you put it back on the lens, the dirt can get onto the lens. The same applies the other way around from the lens to the lid.

And the sun visor also likes to collect dust or other dirt, e.g. by splashing water when it rains. You can clean everything either dry with bellows and brush or with a microfibre cloth (if necessary slightly moistened).

What works well for lens cap and sun visor display: Rinse with lukewarm water or a little sink water and then let it dry on a tea towel or Zewa. Of course, you should not clean the lens housing under running water or even a water bath, but only with a damp cleaning cloth.

Again, do not use the same microfibre cloth as for the lens to avoid grease and dirt transmission.

Lens Exposure Meter - Lens Cleaning in Detail - How to Keep Your Lenses Clean

Cleaning inclusions in the lens

What to do if there is dust between the lenses? Variable length zoom lenses are faster than fixed focal lengths. But no matter what type of lens: if it does not interfere with the image result, do not pay attention.

If the dust caps affect the quality or simply become too much, you should not screw around the lens yourself. Effectively, you can only clean lenses from the inside when you open them. In any case, we recommend that you contact a camera service. Either via a shop or directly to Canon, Nikon, Sony etc…

Dont’s: This should be avoided when cleaning the lens

You can’t get dirty anyway?? From the hell! With incorrect lens cleaning, you can even cause permanent damage in the worst case scenario. Here is a brief overview of what you should consider when cleaning your camera lenses:

  • If possible, never clean with the T-shirt or any other garment. The temptation is great because it is fast. But you never know if sweat, fat or grains of sand are hanging in the fabric…
  • Generally never clean lenses soiled with dry cloths. Dirt settles in the cloth and makes it look like a sandpaper on your lens.
  • Do not use aggressive detergents. They could attack the remuneration and deteriorate the image quality in the long run. It is best to use one of the available lens cleaning fluids.
  • Never spray or empty cleaning liquid directly onto the lens. Depending on how much comes out, it can flow between the glass and the housing. The safest way is to moisten the cloth/lens paper with the cleaner and then clean the lens.
  • Never use lens paper multiple times! Dissolved dirt from wet cleaning hangs in the lens paper and may contaminate or damage the lens when cleaning again.
  • Never use the same microfibre cloth for the display, housing and lens. Grease could and hard residue can smear/damage the lens.
  • Do not use kitchen paper or tempo to clean as they contain wood fibers and could rub the lens coating.
  • Do not clean if possible in very windy conditions or outside in rain. Especially if the rear lens is to be cleaned and removed from the camera housing.
  • Always blow off loose dust and remove with the brush. Do not start wet cleaning directly.
  • Never remove dirt or stains from the lens with your bare fingers. Usually it’s smeared afterwards, or you have a full fingerprint on it.

Tips for protecting the lens from contamination

Finally, a few useful tips on how to reduce the pollution of your lenses to a minimum:

  • If you are not actively taking pictures, place the lens cap on the lens. Also in a backpack or camera bag.
  • Always use a sun visor. It protects not only from stray light, but also from dust, rain and anything that could hit the lens from the side.
  • UV Filter: Not for everyone, but if you doubt, a UV filter is easier to replace than a front lens and keeps any dirt away from your expensive look. Also useful when shooting extreme sports, such as motocross or mountain bike, where sometimes a little more than dust swirls through the air.
  • Beware of wind and splashing water: coast/surf, rain, sand, dunes (In such situations, the sun visor is worth gold!)

Notes and suggestions:

The information listed here is only recommendations and procedures that we have tested for ourselves and consider optimal. We look forward to your feedback! What experience did you have with camera cleaning and what does your workflow look like? Feel free to write us a comment or a message.

How do I make it less often to clean the lens?

In order to clean the lens less often, the following rules will help:

  • after you have finished taking pictures, close the lens with a lid;
  • Use the lens cover to protect the surface of the lens. The hood not only protects the surface from accidental touch of fingers, but also filters the control light;
  • use a special filter to protect the optics. It is inexpensive (especially for small diameter lenses), but do not take the cheapest filters. They use low-quality glass, which will affect the quality of the pictures.

Follow these simple recommendations and your lens will be clean, and the pictures will surprise with clarity and depth of colors! Learn more about What Does the Number on Camera Lens Mean?

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