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I got a free lens-cleaning kit with a lens I bought the other day. It has a small bottle of alcohol lens cleaner, but I'm not sure how to use it, should I apply it directly to the lens, or onto a cloth or tissue? Should I use tissue/cloth or is either ok?

  • photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1408 also addresses cleaning lenses (and, in the answers, not cleaning lenses), but is more general that this specific how-to question. You may also find the answers there helpful, though. – mattdm Mar 28 '11 at 19:19
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I have cleaned some very dirty lenses (acquired from careless friends) and this works every time.

You need:
a) a bottle of pure isopropyl alcohol
b) a box of good quality cotton buds of the type used for babies.

This is the procedure:
a) dip the clean cotton bud in the isopropyl alcohol, let the excess drain off.
b) apply the cotton bud at the center of the lens and gently wipe in a spiral motion that works towards the outer edge of the lens.
c) at the same time rotate the cotton bud so that a fresh clean surface is always presented to the lens. When you have rotated the cotton bud once discard it so that you don't re-use the dirty portion of the cotton bud.

In this way dirt is picked up by the wet cotton bud but never rubbed against the lens surface. In the same way you can gently polish off any drying marks that may form by using a dry cotton bud. Altogether you will use several cotton buds for just one lens surface.

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First, Get a light ultra-soft brush. My favorite is the Lens Pen.

You goal is to use the brush to remove ALL particles from your lens surface. The last thing you want to do is rub a particle of something hard over your lens while trying to clean it.

If the lens is still dirty, then comes the wet-clean. Spray a little liquid on the lens and use the supplied lens tissue to wide the glass in circular motion. Repeat as needed, discard the tissue after each use.

Most Lens Pen linked above have a special liquid (more like moisture, it does not make anything wet) with a micro-felt opposite the brush, use it after the brush and only go for the wet-clean if that did not work either.

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