A dirty lens can affect the quality of your images. While proper care and maintenance is essential, your lenses are meant to be used. Eventually, dirt, dust, and oil is going to accumulate on the lens elements. When that happens, you should know how to clean it properly.
Dust and dirt on the front element doesn’t always show up in images, but when the rear element of the lens gets dirty it’s more likely to affect your pictures. You can’t stop dust from accumulating on the lens over time, but you can avoid touching the lens element and getting oil and fingerprints on it. Some of the coatings on the lens element are sensitive and easy to scratch. Even cleaning the lens too often can damage the coatings over time. Only clean the lens when it actually needs to be cleaned.
Having the proper tools to clean your lens is essential. Using the wrong products can scratch the lens and ruin the coatings on it. Don’t use cheap products or products that aren’t made for optical lenses.
- Dust blower: A small rubber dust blower is cheap and will easily pack in your camera bag. Use it to blow off large pieces of dust in the field and before wet cleaning the lens.
- Liquid solution: Liquid solutions for cleaning your lens off after you blow the large pieces of dust off. These are the two that I recommend.
- Pec Pads: Awesome lint free wipes that come in a package of 100 for around $12. I always have a pack in my camera bag.
- Microfiber cleaning cloths: Great for cleaning off your camera and lens or any other sensitive surfaces.
The cleaning process
Clean the lens body and mount
Using a damp soft cloth, wipe down the exterior of the lens body, lens caps, and lens hood. You can use the lens cleaning solution or water to dampen the cloth. A soft bristled brush (or toothbrush) works great for cleaning off the rubber zoom and focus rings. Make sure to wipe down the lens mount and electronic contacts as well.
Clean the lens’ front and rear elements
Do not use the same microfiber cloth to clean the lens elements as you used on the lens body. Personally, I only use Pec Pads or lint free lens tissue to clean my lens elements.
Take the dust blower and blow off the lens element, removing any large pieces of dirt. Take a piece of lens tissue and fold it over two or three times. Apply 2-3 drops of lens solution to the tissue. Gently applying pressure, place the tissue in the center of the lens and wipe in a circular motion. Gradually moving in bigger circles toward the outside of the lens. When finished, make sure there is no visible dirt or large streaks on the lens. Take the dust blower and blow off the lens again to get anything left behind from the tissue.
Repeat the same procedure with a clean piece of tissue on the rear lens element.
If you use a lens filter on your lens, clean it first before removing it to clean the lens.