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After removing dust with an air pomp and a brush, what are you using to remove stains from the lens and filters?

So far I'm using the liquid from a Giotto's CL 1002 cleaning kit for the lens, but I'm not sure what should I use for the filters, and if there is some better alternative.

Also, what kind of brushes are recommended?

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I've marked this question as "protected" because it was attracting spam answers from sketchy purveyors of cleaning systems. –  mattdm Dec 13 '12 at 16:46

9 Answers 9

up vote 32 down vote accepted

Do not clean your lens (too much). Cleaning marks are by far the most common source of damage to lenses. Shooting under normal conditions, it takes a large amount of dust and grime to have any effect. The same approach applies to filters; good filters use the same type of glass and coatings as your lens (though perhaps not the same absolute quality).

This is the approach I try to take with my various old lenses (some dating from the 50s):

How to clean less

  1. Use a hood. This will protect the lens from accidental finger-marks, light rain and other hazards when you're actually using it.
  2. Put the cap on when you're not using it.
  3. Put it in a case/bag/drawer when it's not on the camera (remember to use a desiccant if you live in a humid part of the world and will be storing it for a while).
  4. Store it lying down. Dust drifts downwards, so don't point the front/back element upwards.

Alternately or additionally to the above, a protective filter. I wouldn't personally recommend it, but many people (particularly camera store sales staff) do, so it may be an option for you.

How to clean best

Materials: I use a camel-hair brush from the local art store. I just picked the softest one. A good camera store will stock similar, or something like a LensPen. For cleaning solution, I use ROR, which is a mixture of dilute ammonia, isopropyl alcohol, and a mild surfactant. Microfibre cloths are pretty easy to get these days, but the oldest cotton t-shirt you own is also a decent choice, particularly if you haven't washed your microfibre cloth recently.

  1. Brush/blow away big dust.
  2. Consider stopping there, it's probably 90% of the problem.
  3. Spray a small amount of ROR on the cloth. It should not be wet, too much will streak.
  4. Wipe gently, try to use a new section of the cloth for each stroke.
  5. Do not rub or scrub, just repeated gentle wipes.

This can take 20 minutes for a lens that's sat in the closet of a heavy smoker for 15 years, but for a lens in daily use is perhaps a 5-minute job, tops. For a bit of context, most of my lenses have been cleaned like this once, when I bought them. Thereafter, just a brushing now and then, and another cleaning only if I manage to stick my thumb on them (or similar).

Credit where credit is due: this is a fairly common approach, but I first saw it in Karen Nakamura's section on Cleaning and Maintaining Classic Cameras which is a great source of information.

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Do people ever get concerned that the ROR liquid may affect/dissolve the coating? I'm interested in cleaning my rear lens element. I noticed that the Giotto's cleaning liquid in the original post is ammonia- and alcohol- free (the opposite of the ROR liquid). –  andrewj Aug 20 '12 at 15:11

A controversial subject!

One tip: don't over-clean. There's no need to keep your lens free of minor dust or worry about minor goop spots or even scratches. For an extreme example, check out this lens.

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I was looking for that link the other day, for a posting on using UV filters as protection, as an example of why paranoia about lens protection is not worth it. –  John Cavan Jul 25 '10 at 21:28

Microfiber cloths are pretty much all I've ever used to wipe off things like fingerprints and smudges.

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+1 - same here. I can't recall ever having used any cleaning fluid on any of my lenses. –  Fredrik Mörk Jul 25 '10 at 17:13
    
The advice I've always had is to never use fluids, as they can damage the anti-glare (etc) coatings –  Rowland Shaw Jul 25 '10 at 17:44
    
Any recommended brand? I have a Marumi and a Giotto's right now. –  alexandrul Jul 25 '10 at 18:16
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Using a cloth on its own risks rubbing dust or grit against the lens coatings; a soft brush first is a very good idea. @Rowland purpose-made lens cleaners won't damage optical coatings, even older, soft single-coated ones. –  ex-ms Jul 25 '10 at 18:30

First off, I don't deeply clean my lenses or filters very often. When I do, I use microfiber cloths or special lens cleaning tissue (a microfiber tissue that is capable of cleaning greasy marks, but does not scratch the glass.) I try to keep this kind of cleaning to a minimum, however, as the more frequently you clean that deeply, the greater chance you run of scratching a lens or filter. I only really ever bring these out if I accidentally put a fingerprint on something.

The tool that I have found most useful is the Lens Pen. This is a small, soft fiber brush that is designed to brush off loose particulate like dust from your lenses and filters, without scratching the surface. It works wonders, and I use it whenever I photograph anything. Just brush your lenses clean with a few light dabbing swipes, and you're good to go.

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I use a lens pen most of the time, just to keep everything clean when it needs it. If I do need to give anything a more thorough clean, which happens maybe once every six months at most, is to use Eclipse fluid and Pec-Pads. I also carry a microfiber cloth attached to my camera's strap, so I've always got it with me, for getting rid of the worst of anything that gets on my lens or filter when out and about. I'd be reluctant to try and shift any large dirt with this, though, and would much prefer to wait and use the lens pen's brush to remove it without scratching the glass.

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Lens pen are simply amazing. Lenses become super clean, although a tad expensive. I even use it to clean my glasses. –  GeneQ Aug 12 '10 at 13:21

Always use a blower first. Then use a microfiber or whatever next. If you skip the blower step, you can wipe a particle across the front element, creating the all-too-common 'cleaning scratch'

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When I need to clean a lens or a filter I've found the best technique is to use a soft brush and blower to remove dust and loose debris. In the event there are more stubborn marks (such as salt residue from the beach) I use Eclipse solution and Pec-Pads.

The technique I use for the wet clean is to clean away any loose debris using a brush. I then 'bud' the pad so much of it is in between my fingers and a smooth (pea-sized) surface is exposed. Then place a drop or two of Eclipse on the exposed surface and starting from the centre of the lens or filter (with minimal pressure), working in a circular motion, spiral out to the edge of the lens using the pad. Repeat the process with a new, dry pad to absorb any excess solution. Rinse and repeat as necessary applying a little more pressure if the dirt is particularly bad.

I've always found this technique leaves my lenses and filters clean and smear-free.

Oh, I should also say that I recommend staying away from cheap lens tissues and cheap solution. Unless you really know what you're doing they're far more likely to scratch something. Pec-Pads are more like disposable microfibre cloths.

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Materials you need
1. Cotton buds (those intended for babies are best)
2. Pure isopropyl alcohol

Technique
1. Be prepared to use several cotton buds.
2. Dip a clean cotton bud in isopropyl alcohol and let the excess run off.
3. Starting in the center of the lens, wipe gently in a spiral pattern, working towards the outer edge of the lens.
4. At the same time rotate the cotton bud to pick up dirt and so that the lens surface is only presented with the clean surface of the cotton bud.
5. When you have completed one rotation with the cotton bud you must replace it. This way you never rub dirt against the lens surface. You will have to use several cotton buds.
6. Never allow the used surface of the cotton bud to come into contact with the lens surface.
7. Depending on the condition of the lens you may have to repeat this more than once.
8. Before you start on the lens you might want to practice on one of your filters.
9. Do not try to 'polish' the lens.

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I picked up a cheap pack of lens/glasses cleaner wipes at Costco, they seem to work well. I think there can be a problem with some filters with them, but I only have UV filters, and they work fine for me.

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Recommending something that you acknowledge might cause problems itself might cause problems. –  vanden Jul 27 '10 at 20:41
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Those are not meant to clean high quality optical equipment. A friend of used one of those and it resulted in : mold. Especially dodgy brands from China. You get what you pay for. –  GeneQ Aug 12 '10 at 13:23

protected by mattdm Dec 13 '12 at 13:25

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