Cleaning the camera: This is how you keep the lens, sensor and housing clean

Cleaning the camera: This is how you keep the lens, sensor and housing clean

If dust, fingerprints, and raindrops settle on the lens, it can ruin your recordings. We show how you can clean the most important parts of the camera such as the lens, sensor and housing.

From Claudia Frickel

What you need to clean the camera

  • a clean and bright workplace.
  • a mini bellows especially for cleaning work.
  • a lens brush with soft bristles on one side and a curved velvet surface with special fibers on the other.
  • a simple soft brush.
  • a microfiber cloth or chamois leather.
  • possibly an old toothbrush.
  • some soap and water.
  • Display cleaner for LCD.
  • special cleaning cloths for lenses.

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Clean the housing of the camera

Whether compact, system or DSLR camera: you should also clean the housing of all models. The camera will last longer if you take good care of it. Grains of sand and coarse dirt must also not get inside the device, for example when you change the lens. Even small granules could scratch the lens.  

You should especially clean the camera after using it outside in the rain, by the sea, or on a sandy beach.  

sony alpha 1 camera

You can easily clean the housing with a brush. Image: © Sony 2021

Remove dust with a soft brush. Move it back and forth with light strokes. The best way to blow away coarser dirt or sand is with a cleaning bellows or enema ball. This is also helpful in places that you cannot easily reach with the brush, for example around buttons, on edges as well as on viewfinder, memory card slot or connections.

If sticky dirt has adhered to the case, you can carefully wipe it off with chamois leather or a microfiber cloth. If necessary, moisten it with a little water and a mild detergent. If the surface is textured and the dirt is stuck in it, use an old toothbrush and some soapy water. You can use it to carefully rub off the stains. You can also use the brush to scrub the lens covers.

You can clean the LCD screen with a soft microfiber cloth or a special display cleaner for LCD. You can use it to remove fingerprints and other traces. Never spray the product directly onto the surface, rather onto a cloth.

Cleaning the camera lens: how to do it

Lens lens reflex camera

When cleaning the lens, you need to be extra careful not to scratch the lens. Image: © Pexels 2017

To prevent the lenses of a DSLR camera from getting dirty, you should always cover them. If you are not using it at the moment, protect both sides with a protective flap. Then keep them in a dust-proof box or bag.

Always be careful when cleaning the lens so you don't scratch or damage it. Clean both sides of the lens, even though the front glass is usually dirtier – and make sure that you don't touch the glass when cleaning.

  1. First, take the cleaning bellows and use it to blow loose dust and dirt off the glass. Under no circumstances use compressed air from a can: it is too strong and can leave traces.
  2. If you still discover particles on the lens, take the bristle side of a lens brush. First blow over the bristles with the bellows so that there is no dirt on them. Then carefully stroke the lens glass with the brush.
  3. Now turn the lens brush over and remove the lid from the tip. The carbon on the surface picks up greasy and oily residue, but does not damage the lens. Place the tip on the center of the camera lens to clean it. Move them in a circle to the edge. Don't forget to put the lid back on after use.
  4. Finally, use the bellows to remove the carbon particles that may be on the lens.
  5. If you still see dirt, you take a special cleaning cloth for lenses and wipe over the glass.

Tip: If you protect your lens with a UV filter, you kill two birds with one stone – the filter also protects the lens from dirt and dust.

This is how you clean the sensor properly

Cleaning the sensor of a DSLR or system camera is more complicated than cleaning the lens. As a rule, it is only rarely necessary – when you see small gray dots on your pictures. There is probably dust on the sensor then. Be especially careful because this part is the most delicate and expensive part of your camera.

Here are some things to look out for before you get started:

  • With a DSLR, the battery must be charged, otherwise you cannot fold up the mirror.
  • Work in an environment that is as dust-free as possible. Under no circumstances should you have vacuumed or dusted beforehand. For example, a good place is in the bathroom after the shower has been on. Wait for the water vapor to clear.

Then proceed as follows:

  1. First activate the camera's own cleaning program for the sensor. This helps if it is only slightly soiled. You can find the settings in the camera menu. The sensor begins to vibrate and shakes off the dust.
  2. If you can still see points afterwards, you can use the bellows. Put your camera in cleaning mode via the menu. With a DSLR, the mirror in front of the sensor then folds up. Remove the lens and hold the camera with the opening facing down. Gently blow up with the bellows. This prevents the dust from settling again directly in the housing. Do not touch the sensor with your fingers. Then lower the mirror in the menu again and attach the lens.
  3. If the dirt is still there after these steps, you should get professional help. It is better not to try to clean the sensor yourself, as there is a high risk of damaging something. Camera manufacturers or photo shops offer sensor cleaning as a service.

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Summary

  • You should clean your camera regularly so that it lasts longer and you can take good pictures.
  • You don't need a lot of special equipment for this. A small cleaning bellows and a special lens brush are important. You also need a microfiber cloth.
  • You can remove dust from the housing and the lens with the bellows. Then clean the outside of the camera with a cloth. With the lens, you use the two sides of the lens brush to remove streaks or residue.
  • Sensor cleaning is more complicated. First try out the camera's automatic cleaning function and manually blow away the dust. You should leave further steps to experts.

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