My lens was flooded by a salt water wave. It is a 55-200 lens and now there are little water drops on the inside of the front element and some salt around the body. Is there anything I can do to remove both the water droplets and the salt? Perhaps put it in distilled water or something similar?

It is still working but the salt blurs the view.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I had my Canon 17-40F4 damaged by salt water. (Yeah, L glass that ISN'T weather sealed.) It was only slightly more than $100 for Canon to open it up and clean it out... \$\endgroup\$ Mar 29, 2012 at 13:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Depends on the L-series lens whether it is sealed or not, and all of the sealed ones require a front filter to be screwed in nice and tight to actually get full weather sealing. Also, for everything Canon offers that has any kind of weather proofing, they clearly and explicitly state that it is NOT submersible sealing...it is weather sealing, designed to keep out dust, rain, and snow. You could spend $6800 on a 1D X and $14k on the EF 600mm f/4 L IS II, and it STILL won't handle submersion in a salt water wave. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Mar 30, 2012 at 5:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ This may sound selfish, but could you update us when you find/execute a solution to this problem? \$\endgroup\$
    – Bill
    Jul 27, 2012 at 4:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bill: I could not recover the lens. Since it wasn't an expensive lens, bringing it to a professional repair shop wasn't worth it. \$\endgroup\$
    – juergen d
    Jul 27, 2012 at 5:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ "All" L series lenses do NOT require a filter on the front to be weather sealed. Only the ones with front elements that move in/out as they are zoomed/focused require a filter. Most do not. Only 3 of the 28 L lenses on this list require front filters to complete weather sealing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 4, 2018 at 8:50

3 Answers 3


Washing it thoroughly in fresh water is better than doing nothing.

I have "saved" a cellphone that was dropped in a bucket of concentrated water/chlorine solution and a radio pager that was dropped in salt water - in each case by very very very thorough washing in fresh cold water with no cleaning agents and long slow drying. A lens MAY respond to the same treatment BUT optical surfaces may be left with a film that affects operation and lubrication may be affected. Some parts may be directly damaged by water but usually these would be auxilliary parts (tape etc). Power must be removed asap if there is electrical connection - voltage + salt water causes rapid corrosion and a powered electronics board in contact with salt water MAY die in seconds to minutes. Some may not.

Best approach is professional attention immediately.

If you take a lens off a camera (removes power) and fresh water rinse it until all salt is gone IMMEDIATELY after it gets salt water contaminated then you MAY save it. Leave it a day and it is probably dead without careful work. Longer again is worse.

A lens repair expert MAY agree to work on the lens but some will decline to do so because they cannot guarantee the result. (Ask me how I know :-) ).

If you cannot afford to get it repaired you MAY be able to get it working by:

(1) Dismantling the outer but not touching the mains lens assembly and washing it very thoroughly in clean cold water. Do not use detergent etc. For some lenses you can find detailed disassembly instructions on the internet. If you dismantle the core of lens elements that do not usually move relative to each other you will about 99.99% certainly need professional alignment assistance to restore functionality. It MAY help to lubricate gear drive track and cogs etc with a recommended lubricant if you can find instructions and the right lubricant BUT cold fresh water has a reasonable chance of not displacing at least some lubricant.

If that is too challenging, you could try...

(2) Washing it many many many times in clean water so water enters it well on each occasion and then drains out and then leaving it in a warm dry place for as long as it takes to dry totally - weeks probably MAY work.

Overall the chance of long term success is not good.
But, just drying out the salt water is even more likely to be fatal.

What do I know: I'm a professional electrical engineer and inveterate tinkerer with things electomechanical. I have experience with corrosion protection and have cleaned salt water damaged lenses and other things with variable success. Caveat Emptor / All care no responsibility / YMMV.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Would distilled water not be the ideal water to be using if you took that approach? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 29, 2012 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VianEsterhuizen - Distilled, deionised and Oxygen free best of all :-). ie - yes, every little bit helps, but I think the main thing is getting rod of the salt, and lots of fresh tap water would be very suitable for that in most cases. Even Calgary, probably :-). Our water (Waitakere, Auckland, New Zealand) is especially good wrt solids and general softness. Suitable for car batteries. Others may care to add a final few rinses of something btter - any bottled water would probably be adequate. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 29, 2012 at 23:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah alright. That's what i figured. All I know about our water is we just recently got rid of fluoride :P \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30, 2012 at 2:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Russell McMahon - Wouldn't oxygen free water be hydrogen gas? \$\endgroup\$
    – Fake Name
    Mar 30, 2012 at 6:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, FWIW, I dropped a solid-state MP3 player in the ocean once. I took it apart, rinsed it with clean water, padded it dry with paper towels, and let it dry overnight. It then went on to work for another two years (until I upgraded) \$\endgroup\$
    – Fake Name
    Mar 30, 2012 at 6:50

Don't use that lens because in that case, there will be chance that water enters in the camera body and make a fatal damage.

  1. Stop using it immediately to avoid short circuit and/or ruining your camera body (and ruining this lens permanently)
  2. Take it to a nearby camera service center. If you still have warranty, then better contact them first.

Best of luck in getting it back in a good condition.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Dried salt may also cause damage to the mechanical parts if they're moved. This kind of damage isn't covered by warranties. \$\endgroup\$
    – Blrfl
    Mar 29, 2012 at 14:12

Is it the throw away lens that comes with the camera? Might be time to throw out if it wasn't already. The salt exposure probably ruined your lens coating and will cause corrosion at some point. There are tons of issues that the exposure has setup, electrical, mirror/ glass. Just think how tough it is to keep your lens clean, imagine how tough it will be getting the salt scum off the glass. Added is salt is abrasive and may cause other issues. Recommend replace the lens..

  • \$\begingroup\$ You know salt dissolves in water, right? As in, water will take it right off the glass. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fake Name
    Mar 30, 2012 at 6:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @FakeName - :-) - I wasn't intending that to be done at the molecular level. | It will mke no significant difference in the vast majority of cases but, water dissolves or entrains a small amount of air. Boiling water will drive out dissolved air. ... \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2012 at 4:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @FakeName - ... This can be used to spectacular and dangerous effect in a microwave over. Boil water once, leave to cool somewhat, boil again. In the "right" circumstances the water will "explode" out of its container when moved or when eg coffee powder is added. The original air added nucleation sites for boiling initiation which are now absent. Success is dependant on container snoothness, otther contaminants and some "luck". I have NEVER been able to cause this to happen despite trying on various occasions but i is widely reported. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2012 at 4:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @FakeName - I understood your point. I think my original comment was OK enough in its context. British Standard [tm] mineral water from most places is not liable to be too too unsuitable. Evian on down. Advice aimed at people who are not likely to think that flavor, coloring, minerals etc can be included and have the product still count as water in this context. // I recently used coffee with milk added to "clean" something 'in the field' as I deemed the likely result to be superior to not doing it. It did the desired job. I'd not recommend that mixture for most cleaning purposes :-). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2012 at 10:36

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