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Photography

How to Safely Clean Your Camera and Lenses

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:

In this tutorial, we are going to show you how to effectively and safely clean your camera, lenses and sensor. We are going to break down all the needed tools to take care of your equipment and explain how to properly use them in order to achieve the best results.

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Photo equipment is expensive and you need to take care of it and be very careful when it comes to cleaning it. In the following steps, we are going to show you how to clean your lens and camera body as well as removing dust from your sensor.

Most of the things are pretty easy to do and you don't need special skills to clean your camera. However, cleaning the sensor of the camera requires special care and not everyone can do it. If you have an older camera around, it's best to practice on that.


The Lens Cleaning Kit

A great way to get started is to buy a lens cleaning kit. Most of the time, they contains four items: a microfiber cloth, lens cleaning solution, a blower and a brush. Older kits may contain a blower brush, which combines to last two tools. It's more effective to have the two things as items.

Air Blower

The first item we need to start with the cleaning of the lens is the air blower. The basic idea of lens cleaning to remove fingerprints or other type of dirt from the front lens or filter. For that purpose, we are going to use the lens cleaning fluid and the cloth, but before we reach to this stage we need to get rid of the dust in order to avoid scratching the lens when rubbing it with the cloth.

Because of this, the first step is to use the air blower which will come in handy later on when we clean our sensor as well. Blow a couple of times to remove most of the dust so you have a good starting point to continue cleaning.

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Lens Cleaning Brush

After using the air blower, there is a big chance that some dust will remain on the surface of your lens. That is where we need the help of our lens cleaning brush. It is made by very soft materials to ensure that we are not going to damage our lens surface.

Start brushing from the center with circular movements so you remove all the dust. If needed use the air blower again. Once the lens is clean from dust you can move on to the next stage and actually clean your lens.

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Lens Cleaning Fluid and Cloth

This is the final step of the lens cleaning. Before I explain how to clean your lens, I need to explain some really important things. First of all, make sure you use only quality lens cleaning materials. Keep in mind that you can't use any type of cleaning brush or cloth as well as fluid, using a wrong item may damage your lens.

The cloth is made from super soft microfiber material which is also "lint-free," meaning it won't leave any particles behind, though in practice it might not be perfect. Lens cleaning fluid is also important to consider. Some are better than others, but buying one from a reputable brand is always safe. There are alternatives, you could research, but I always stick with the name-brand stuff, so I can't vouch for any homebrew methods.

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With that said, we can move on and start actually cleaning our lens. First, open the cleaning fluid. After that take the cleaning cloth and put your finger in the middle of the cloth. After that wrap the cloth around your finger. Take the fluid and put one or two drops onto the cloth. Now you're ready to clean your lens.

Start from the middle with circular movements moving towards the sides of the lens. You can repeat the process if the dirt is still there. Most of the time a single cleaning will do the job. Once you clean the lens either take a dry part of your cleaning cloth or another cleaning cloth and with the same movement clean the lens just like we used to do with the cleaning fluid.

Now we are going to move on to the cleaning the camera body, which is easy and quick to do in most cases.


Camera Body Cleaning

It is very important to remember that you need to clean your camera body regularly so it is relatively clean all the time and you don't need to spend a lot of time doing it. It all depends of what you are shooting and in what conditions as well.

Most of the time you are going to have dust on your camera body. That is why I suggest using the lens cleaning brush and air blower to remove the dust and after that use soft wet wipes to clean the body. It takes no more than a minute or two. Make sure that your wet wipes are 100% alcohol free.

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Sensor Cleaning

This is something that most people are really scared to do, because they think the sensor is way too sensitive and easy to damage. While it is true the sensor is fine piece of technology, it doesn't mean it will break if you try to clean it the right way.

The most important thing here is the same as I mentioned above about the lens cleaning. Getting the right tools will ensure that you are going to effectively clean your sensor and not damage it. Sure it costs money to get the right tools, but if you think about it in long term you will see that you are going to save a lot more if you buy your own sensor cleaning kit instead of sending your camera to professional to clean it up which usually costs around $70-$80 per cleaning.

The first thing you need to do before you start cleaning is to take a reference shot so you can see where are the biggest dust particles. To do that put your camera on a tripod pointed at white wall or background. Close the aperture to its maximum, for example f/22. You should then shoot a slightly overexposed image, around one stop over. You can now use your computer or even the back of your camera to see major spots. Just remember that the image will be flipped.

You need then need to look up your mirror so you can freely reach your sensor. You can use a special sensor loupe to see the dust particles better on the sensor. It costs around $40. If you are on a budget you can save some money by using a regular loupe and a very strong light.

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No-Contact Sensor Cleaning

If you are really scared to clean your sensor the first approach would be no-contact cleaning using the air blower you already have from your lens cleaning kit. Just hold the camera downwards so the lens hole points toward the ground and blow the dust using the air blower and let the gravity do its job.

You can effectively remove most of the big dust particles. However, this almost never removes all the dust from your sensor, so the next step would be to approach the sensor with special sensor brush to remove some smaller dust particles.


Dry Sensor Cleaning

The next step is very similar to lens cleaning. Though, you'll need to get a sensor brush for the job. Using the brush slowly and very carefully try to wipe out all the dust particles that remain on the camera sensor after using the air blower. After finishing this step, you can put your lens and take another photo like before, just to see how it looks now. If the result is good enough and there is no visible dust particles, you are ready to go. If there are still dust spots on the image, you need to proceed further by using a special lens tissues and fluid cleaner.

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Wet Sensor Cleaning

For this task, you'll need three additional supplies. First, you'll need sensor swaps. This are disposable and lint-free. Next, you'll need sensor cleaning fluid. Finally, you'll need non-abrasive wipes, often called PEC pads. I suggest buying these as a kit as well. There are many available labeled as "digital camera sensor cleaning kits."

To start cleaning, you'll need to open the sensor swab pack and drop some sensor cleaning fluid and carefully wipe out the dust from your sensor with slow moves. The whole process of sensor cleaning takes time and you have to be very patient.

You may need to repeat a few times in order to completely remove the dust. After that you might want to take a dry swab and wrap a dry pad around it to clean the sensor again after the fluid and make sure it is 100% dry.

After finishing this step you should be ready to go. Now you can put your lens and take another test shot to see if there are any dust particles left on the sensor. In such case, you might repeat the last step again to ensure your sensor is 100% clean. A nice tip to avoid dust on your sensor is to change your lenses in dust free environments with your camera pointing downwards so the dust can't go inside so easily.

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All Cleaned Up

As you can see, there is nothing to be scared of when it comes to cleaning your camera. All you need is a lot of patience, the right tools and some high quality cleaning kits. You don't need specials skills to take care of your camera. The key is to avoid letting dirt onto your camera body and lens. However, dust will reach your sensor at some point, so don't be scared.

I suggest taking ten every month or so to clean your camera body and lenses. The more you clean these items, the shorter your cleaning sessions will be. I only clean my sensor when I think it needs it. It's a sensitive, tedious process, so the less chances I have to slip up, the better.

Everything you need to clean your camera will cost you around $80-100 and it will be enough to take care of your photo equipment for years. You'll save a lot over the cost of a professional cleaning.

Share your tips for cleaning below in the comments.

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