How to clean photo lenses

Dirty lenses cause flair and unsightly effects on your photos. So how do you clean your photo lenses? The best thing is to keep them clean in the first place.

Truly. I am not joking. If you look after your photo lenses in the first place you will need to spend less time cleaning your camera's lenses. Always keep your lens cap on even if the lens is on the camera. And when it is not on the camera make sure you use a lens hood.

When changing camera lenses in the middle of a photo shoot keep your fingers from touching the front element. There is nothing worse than trying to take photos through smudges on your lenses.

28-85 mm lens

28-85 mm lens

Cleaning your Photo Lenses

There are a lot of products on the market that advertize their use as a lens cleaner and most are best left on the shelf. Most of them are little more than water or so strong they will take the top coating off your lens.

Look for a cleaner that is specifically formulated for cleaning camera lenses and coated optics. And, don't buy the first cheap bottle of cleaner you find, a good quality cleaner will last you for a long time.

You will also need good quality camera tissues. Again do not buy the cheap ones as they can scratch your lenses. Keep all your cleaning gear in a plastic bag with your camera gear.

How to clean you Lenses

To clean your photo lenses get out a lens cleaning tissue (not just any old tissue or else you can scratch your expensive lenses) and put a couple of drops of lens cleaning fluid on it. Starting from the center of the lens, use a circular motion and work your way out to the outside of the lens. Here are some things to remember when cleaning your camera's lenses:

  • Don't wipe the lens with a dry tissue as you can scratch the lens.
  • Don't apply the cleaning fluid directly on to the lens as it may run down and get inside of the lens.
  • Don't use more cleaning fluid than you need as it will leave a hazy film on your lens.

If you have stubborn grease spots on your lens then use a residual oil remover. Only use it when absolutely necessary as it is strong and may damage your lenses if used regularly. After using residual oil remover, breathe on the lens and wipe it clean with a microfiber cloth.

But, if you look after your lenses you should not have to clean them very often. Don't be obsessive about cleaning your lenses; be obsessive about keeping them clean.

cleaning digital camera lenses

cleaning digital camera lenses

Ways not to clean you Photo Lenses

Here are some things not to use and some others you can:

  • Window Cleaners. Don't do it. Glass cleaners have ammonia in them which will destroy the coating on your lenses. Other glass cleaners use vinegar but unless you know what the ingredients are in the products, why experiment with glass cleaners when it is just as easy to buy a good quality cleaner at your camera store.
  • Soap and Water. Don't do it. Soap is far too harsh to be used on optics that has a special optical coating.
  • Ethyl Alcohol. As long as you use diluted laboratory grade alcohol rather than rubbing alcohol this can work. Don't use rubbing alcohol as it leaves a film of residue on your lenses from the glycerin.
  • Vodka. You can use diluted vodka in an emergency but I would avoid it if you can. Have your lens cleaning kit with you at all times when doing photo shoots.

Seriously, good, quality lenses are expensive so it is going to cost you a lot of money if you damage them. Prevention rather than regular cleaning you photo lenses will always be your best option.