Posted by: David Vernon | November 3, 2008

Cleaning Your Camera

Haney Silo SunriseWe’ll spend a few sessions talking about cleaning your camera – the outside, the inside, and the reallllly deep inside – the infamous sensor cleaning. Do not be frightened. We touched on cleaning your lens with a lens pen many weeks ago. This is still the best way in my opinion to clean the glass at both ends of your lens. The older way of using a lens cleaning kit ain’t bad – but there’s a lot more stuff to carry around. For now, let’s leave discussions of the lens out and focus on the camera body itself.

To clean the outside of your camera body, I recommend that you remove the lens and place the body cap over the opening where the lens joins the body. Don’t remember where you put that cap? Well – proceed more gingerly in the next few steps. When I actually worked in a situation where our camera bodies got very dirty, we’d clean our camera exteriors with an air compressor set at 20psi. This would get an amazing amount of dust and dirt off the exterior of the body. You can certainly use canned compressed air on the exterior of the camera – and a good blower or blower/duster is always fine. You can even use a little soap & water on stingy dirt – just be cautious about letting that water go anywhere but where you want it. Be sparing. There are two interior compartments worthy of a little dry air: your battery compartment and your memory card slot. Both can get dirty and both respond best to blown air because of the unique constraints of the space they occupy. Your memory card slot has metal contacts at the business end of things – and you want to avoid putting anything in there that can damage those contacts. Avoid any liquid in those compartments.

Let’s talk about those cans of compressed air. The air is driven out of the can by a propellant. And that propellant can “spit” bits of itself so you need to keep those suckers away from anything electronic. Don’t shake those cans either – that just stirs the propellant up. One thing they are great for – if you have a brush that you use to clean things – the canned air is excellent for blowing debris off the brush.

Let’s also talk about micro fiber cloth. I think they’re better then your shirt when it comes to cleaning something but I also think they get dirty and they stay dirty after enough use. I always prefer to use a brush or a clean lint-free cloth or towel when I’m cleaning things – it’s just a way of making sure you’re not transferring something smudgy back to the camera. I think they’re also almost a choice of last resort for cleaning your lenses. There are coatings on those lens that would probably like it better if you used a very light and clean cloth to do your cleaning.

Don’t forget to clean the viewfinder “rear window” and the LCD. You can actually use a glass cleaner on those. There’s usually a lot of gick (technical term) on both – but the LCD will have oily noseprints and fingerprints galore.

Let’s cover one more thing NOT related to the sensor. When you do finally venture into the cavity of the camera, you will encounter two other things that need infrequent help: the mirror and the interior part of the viewfinder prism. The mirror rides on a fragile housing so again you may be best off using dry air. If you must remove a smudge on the mirror, a Q-Tip with a little Windex isn’t bad. Just keep the Q-Tip fairly dry and the tension fairly light. The same goes for the viewfinder. Access to that point is also delicate so it’s best to use the Q-Tip. Remember, neither the mirror or the viewfinder matters when it comes to taking the picture – they only exist to let you prepare to take the picture.

Tomorrow – we go inside, deep inside – to make your sensor a happy and clean place.

Also – as an FYI – I’m not advocating or NOT advocating Amazon as a photography reseller. They just seem to have decent images of most products so… they’re my common reference point. We’ll actually take a moment to talk about reputable online mail-order photography companies shortly.


  1. One thing about the mirror…..unless I’m mistaken, the mirror *is* used during focusing. So, you definitely don’t want to upset it’s seating. As you said, keep the tension fairly light….as in as light as possible to get the job done. 🙂

  2. […] Some time back, we did some articles on cleaning your camera. They can be found here, here, and here. But mighty Moose Peterson has taken it a step further – he’s got four articles on […]

  3. Thanks for the interesting and detailed information about camera cleaning. I hadn’t thought of using compressed air. FYI, We wrote a general post about microfiber cleaning cloths:
    There is some information about caring for the cloths themselves, namely don’t use fabric softener as it will clog up the fibers.

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