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From experiments, it seems that lightly-used sensor swabs (that are NOT contaminated with oils or abrasive particles) make reasonably good internal lens element cleaners and dryers (they are actually lint free and not "lint free" at least).

Also, there is always extra cleaning liquid in a sensor cleaning kit - and it appears to work well, albeit being a bit too not aggressive when it comes to certain glass pollutants.

Are there caveats with this that I have not yet noticed, as long as not using that method on soft first-gen coatings?

  • I haven't tried, but I'd expect it to be safe because I'd expect the sensor stack to be more delicate than lens elements. Also, minor damage to lens elements often doesn't noticeably affect image quality. – xiota Jan 16 at 23:11
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I wouldn't clean lens elements with used sensor swabs. Any unseen dust that had been removed by the swab could scratch the coatings/glass of the lens element. Other unseen contaminants could also wind up on the lens element.

I would consider using the plastic part of the swab with a clean Pec-Pad attached to the tip of the swab. Pec-Pads are actually made for cleaning optical lenses and are quite affordable. I even know some folks who use Pec-Pads attached to sensor swab stems to clean camera sensors. The same company that makes one of the most popular sensor cleaning swabs also makes Pec-Pads, and many have theorized that it is the same material.

As far as the cleaning fluid goes, most sensor swabs come with fluid that is a mixture of distilled water and highly purified denatured methyl alcohol. Many lens cleaning fluids are less pure versions of the same stuff. It's just as safe to use as any other alcohol based lens cleaning fluid would be.

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