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How to clean your camera lens

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by David Em
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Dust and debris can lead to camera lens damage or dirtiness, which affects image quality. Learn how to properly clean a camera lens.

Close-up of a person using a microfiber cloth to wipe a camera lens.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

The glass of a camera lens is well-built. It’s difficult to damage it. However, it’ll get dirty as you use it more often.

Dirt, dust, debris, and fingerprints can build up on the lens, affecting the image quality.

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While it’s important to keep your camera lens clean, cleaning it too much can lead to accidental scratches.

Light dust on the front of your lens won’t be noticeable. However, dust on the back will stand out more.

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So, it’s essential to learn how to clean a camera lens and only do it when necessary. A clean camera lens leads to the best quality photos.

Photographer with text overlay.

How to know if a camera lens is dirty

How do you know when it’s time to clean your camera lens? Perform the dirt test. Take the following steps to see if your lens needs a cleaning:

  1. Set your lens to manual and turn the focus ring to infinity.
  2. Take a photo of a plain surface, such as the wall or blue sky.
  3. Look at the photo and inspect it for spots.
  4. Turn off the camera and remove the lens to check the rear for smudges and debris.

If you find spots in the photo or smudges on the rear part of your lens, it’s time to clean it.

It’s best to check before every use to make sure your lens is in great condition. Check ahead of time so you can clean the lens if necessary.

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Tools you need

To properly clean your camera lens, you need to have the right gear. The following are the best tools to use:

By having the right tools, you can safely and effectively clean your lens.

If you’re not able to get all of the tools and don’t have time to wait, use a microfiber cloth to wipe your camera lens.

However, order the tools so that you can clean your lens the proper way moving forward.

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Steps for cleaning camera lens

The following is a simple step-by-step guide to properly and effectively clean a camera lens. Make sure you follow the same steps for the front and rear parts of the lens.

1. Use an air blower to remove dust

The first step to cleaning a camera lens is to use an air blower to remove loose dust and debris.

Avoid blowing on it with your mouth because your saliva and leftover food can damage the coating, lead to condensation or smears.

Also, don’t use compressed air or freon-powered air cans because they can drip oil or damage your lens.

When you’re using the air blower, squeeze it a couple of times before using it on your lens because there may be a small build-up of dust.

Then, hold it as close to the glass as possible when you’re using it. By holding it close, you’ll prevent blowing other particles onto the lens.

Squeeze it three times, and you’re finished with step one.

2. Use a lens brush for a second round of dust removal

The air blower won’t remove all dust and debris. So, use a lens brush when the air blower isn’t sufficient.

A soft-bristled brush prevents your camera lens from getting scratched. Camel and goat hair are the two best options to use.

It also ensures that you’re not touching it with your fingers, which have oil and can leave smudges.

To use a lens brush, gently brush the glass to remove specs and dust. You may not be able to remove everything but remove as much as possible.

3. Add a drop of lens cleaner to a microfiber cloth

The air blower and lens brush remove a lot of dust and smudges. However, it may not get everything. Step three is the key to a spotless camera lens.

Add a drop or two of lens cleaner to a microfiber cloth.

Be sure not to spray or drop the cleaner directly on the lens because it can get into the lens or damage it.

Also, the use of microfiber cloths is essential. Paper towels can scratch your lens and tissues can leave debris.

4. Wipe the lens in a circular motion starting from the outer part

After adding a drop or two of lens cleaner to a microfiber cloth, wipe the camera lens in a circular motion starting from the outer part of the glass.

Be patient and gentle. After a few seconds to a minute, you’ll see that the lens is free of fingerprints, dust, oil, debris, and smudges.

5. Wipe the barrel

Aside from the glass, the barrel of your lens needs some love, too. So, use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe the exterior of the lens.

If there’s dirt or debris that’s stuck, dip the cloth in water and rub it off.

You can also use an old or soft-bristled toothbrush to scrub the dirt off of the lens barrel.

Keeping your camera lens clean

Your lens will get dirty, but you don’t have to deep-clean it all the time. Instead, clean your lens as little as possible.

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A little dust won’t ruin your lens or the photo. However, proper maintenance ensures your camera lens remains clean and in good condition.

The following are the best practices for keeping your camera lens clean:

  • Always put the lens cap on before putting away the lens.
  • Store your lenses in a dry, covered, and dust-free place, such as a camera bag or dry cabinet.
  • Avoid touching the glass.

By following the best practices, your lens will remain clean and you’ll prevent it from getting damaged.

Frequently asked questions

How do I remove moisture from a camera lens?

If there’s moisture inside your camera lens, place it in a container filled with uncooked rice. You can also use silica gel, as they both absorb moisture. If it still doesn’t work, take it to a camera repair shop.

Can I use rubbing alcohol to clean a camera lens?

Yes, you can use rubbing alcohol to clean a camera lens. Be sure to dip a cotton swap in it or add a drop to a microfiber cloth instead of applying it directly to the lens. A cotton swab or cloth gives you more control.

Can I use hand sanitizer to clean a camera lens?

No, don’t use hand sanitizer to clean your camera lens because it can damage your lens.

Conclusion

Dust, dirt, debris, and smudges are inevitable. So, you must know how to clean your camera lens.

A clean lens produces the highest quality images possible.

However, you can’t take any paper towel or cloth and start wiping it. Use the right tools to clean your lens without damaging it.

The process is straightforward, and after a few sessions, you’ll have it memorized.

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Featured image courtesy of Canva.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.

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