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How to Clean Your DSLR Lenses and the Camera Sensor

August 17, 2018 4 min read

A 3 Step Guide on How to Clean a DSLR Lens & Camera Sensor

 

The lens of your camera is the window for your photography. No matter how careful you are with taking care of your camera, dust happens – you’re inevitably going to get dust or smudges on your lens over time.

A dirty lens means smudged, blurry, or occluded pictures, all of which will affect the quality of the images you take. Instead of trying to “Photoshop” out of the dust and smudges, here's how to clean a DSLR lens like a pro.

Pro Tip: While you should clean your lenses on a regular basis, do not clean it unnecessarily (definitely NOT daily) to avoid potential scratches or damages from contact.

STEP #1: USE AN AIR BLOWER TO DE-DUST YOUR DSLR LENS

TOOLS YOU'LL NEED:

  • Air blower ( a must-have lens cleaning tool) 
  • Soft brush / cleaning pen

The first step to cleaning a DSLR lens is to blow off any little particles from your lenses (front and back). The air blower is the ideal tool as it avoids direct contact with the lens, and is, therefore, less likely to scratch your lens. 

Hold the air blower a couple of inches away from the lens and blow a few air puffs across the lens surface. 

Do this to remove any dust particles from the lens surface, as well as the rear element.

Air blower for dusting the camera lens

Do NOT use your mouth as the air blower as you can blow saliva and bacteria onto the lens! 

Sometimes the blower may not be sufficient, and you will need a soft brush as well: gently brush the lens surface to remove dust.

Do NOT touch the brush tips before using it to avoid getting oils from your fingers to smudge the lens, which can be challenging to remove.  

STEP #2 USE LENS CLEANER FLUID TO REMOVE ANY SMUDGES

TOOLS YOU'LL NEED:
  • Dedicated Lens Cleaner (Cleaning Fluid)

  • Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

After removing dust from the lens, you can now use a piece of microfiber cleaning cloth to clean the lens surface and the rear element thoroughly.

Make sure to keep the microfiber cleaning cloths clean, as you will not want to use a dirty cloth on your lens. You can wash the cloth, but do NOT use a softener to avoid leaving behind a chemical residue on the fabric.

Womans’ hands cleaning a camera lens with a fiber cloth

An alternative is to use disposable lens cleaning tissues.

How to choose the right lens cleaning fluid?

When choosing a cleaning fluid, stick with a solution made with denatured alcohol, as detergent/water-based fluid only works with water-soluble smudges - and can potentially make certain smudges much worse. You can check the lens manufacturers’ recommendations, as they often market specially formulated cleaning solutions.

Simply apply a few drops or one spray of cleaning fluid onto the microfiber cleaning cloth – Do NOT spray or pour cleaning fluid onto the lens directly.

Then gently and steadily wipe across the lens surface and the rear side. Finally, let it air dry.

STEP #3 CLEAN YOUR CAMERA SENSOR

If the image still has a smudged spot, you may need to learn how to clean your camera sensor. If you are not comfortable with doing this, please contact a professional for help.

If you want to try it yourself, you can use the following steps – but remember to be patient and careful.

To test whether you have any sensor dust, take some pictures of a blank wall or blue skies with the smallest aperture. Then look at the images on your computer (preferably in Photoshop) to see if there are any “dark spots.”

Cleaning the camera sensor with a sensor cleaning swab

1. Try the camera’s auto cleaning

Many DSLR cameras come with an auto-clean mode. Before you turn on the auto cleaning, make sure that your camera battery is fully charged, because if it turns off in the middle of a cleaning job it may damage the sensor or shutter.

2. Dry Cleaning

Just like we already did to the lens above, dry cleaning is step one to get rid of any tiny particles on the sensor. Again, make sure the camera battery is fully charged. 

To access the sensor, you can usually find the “cleaning mode” listed under settings as “sensor cleaning” or “mirror lock.” When you turn it on, you can hear a flip sound and see the sensor exposed.

Use one hand to point the camera vertically or downward to avoid getting more dust on the sensor and use the other hand to hold the air blower and gently puff a few air bursts.

3. Wet Cleaning

If you have to proceed to this step, make sure you purchase a specialized sensor cleaning kit and refer to the information on the manufacturer’s website about proper sensor cleaning. 

FAQs

1. How To Clean A DSLR Lens Without a Lens Cleaner?

You can use 99% Isopropyl Alcohol diluted with distilled water at a ratio of 50/50 to clean a DSLR lens. 

2. How To Avoid Dust On Your Camera Lens And Sensor

  • Make sure to always put a lens cap on your camera lens when you’re not using it. 
  • Regularly clean your camera to make sure no dust particles get stuck to the lens. 
  • Tilt your camera down before using it so any dirt will fall off, and try to use a camera filter when on rough or dusty terrains.

3. What Not To Do When Cleaning A Camera Lens

    • Do not overuse your microfiber cloth.
    • Do not spray cleaning solutions directly on your camera lens.
    • Do not use heat (e.g. a hair dryer to dust off your camera lens)

    4. Can I Clean My Camera Sensor With a Q-tip?

      No, you cannot clean your camera sensor with a Q-tip. Q-tips will leave behind lint. You will end up with a chamber full of Q-tip residue and tiny fibers.