Nikon: "Do Not Breathe on the Lens"

Nikon: "Do Not Breathe on the Lens"

You're in a pinch and some kid who's never seen a camera before just grabbed yours, front element first, leaving a nice handprint just before your shot of the usually stern village chief lifting his kid into the air. There's no time to grab that lens cleaner in your bag, so what do you do? You open your mouth in an 'O' and breathe hot air on the front, and then rub your lens off gently with your shirt, right? Wrong.

Just recently, NikonRumors had an interesting comment from case in which Nikon Support said, "Do not breathe on the lens to fog it for cleaning. There are harmful acids in breath that can damage lens coatings..."

I'm sure it won't kill your lens to do it once, but there has to be a reason that Nikon is saying not to breathe on your lens. I know I've done it a few times before in a pinch, especially while traveling -- who hasn't? In any case, be careful. Now someone's officially warned us all...

Here's the entire text from Nikon Support:

How do I clean the camera lens?

The best way to clean a lens is to use a piece of lint free lens cleaning tissue and a small amount of Lens Cleaning solution. Do not use anything containing abrasives or solvents, only use Lens Cleaning Solution.

First we recommend taking a small blower brush to blow off or brush away loose dust or debris.

Next, place a drop or two of cleaner on the tissue (never directly onto the lens) and then wipe the lens in a circular motion, beginning in the center and working your way outward, removing any marks or smear.

If the above supplies are not available a clean, dry, soft, lint free cloth can be used to clean the lens. Do not breathe on the lens to fog it for cleaning. There are harmful acids in breath that can damage lens coatings. Just use the blower bulb, then brush, and wipe the lens in a circular spiral from the center outward.

The same method can be used to clean the viewfinder eyepiece of Nikon cameras.

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well damn....whoops...

although I havent noticed anything wrong with my B&W UV MRC filters 

Mike Philippens™'s picture

This gives a whole new meaning to Belkers' catchphrase 'barfbreath'...

I don't think I've ever really cleaned my lenses. They have to be really, really dirty for it to have any effect on the image.

Kim G. Brown's picture


Why is that sad? Have you ever actually looked at some of the demonstrations about how little the front element actually changes the image. You can literally use a cracked lens and still get perfectly useable images depending on the lighting and aperture.

This also assumes you shoot at relatively wide apertures.

All I'm saying is that there seems to be too much paranoia about lens/sensor dust, when in fact it's not as terrible as some people would have you believe.

It's also assuming you don't use any UWA lenses at smaller apertures.

I am lucky I use Canon :D LOL

Canon lenses also have coatings. So until someone from canon tells us otherwise, its equally much  an issue for Canon shooters as it is not an issue for Nikon shooters. In other words: yeah, it's not really an issue for anyone, apparently.

I just throw a UV filter on every single lens I own. Lens caps? BAH HUMBUG!! Cleaning cloths, blowers, and fluid? Negative... Rub it with your shirt... Thats how I roll.. 

Adam's picture

Unfortunately, I'm kinda there with you...I can't really ever tell in the pics, so....

Anyone who uses lenses without a filter must be brave, I've nearly always got a uv/skylight on just in case, better to wreck a fairly inexpensive filter than an expensive lens anyday :)

I see that my family tree is quite brave, my grandpa didnt had any cloths, my dad was to lazy, i cant find a reason, but hopefully my grandsons will find a good reason to clean that damn AI-s lens which still looks like new at the moment :)

What a bunch of crap - you know how many harmful elements are in the air? What's next, don't use your lens outside?

You can use it, just keep the cap on to prevent any damage.

George Socka's picture

You mean your supposed to take it off? no wonder my pictures are underexposed.

It's not a great idea, but it's not terribly dangerous. Plenty of legitimate lens specialist do it, but I can't name names lol.

Drihan's picture

@Brian Allen, sometimes using a filter can even be worse! The filter can break in wards and give your lens a nice deep scratch! It all depends on what happens!

If you ever end up in a situation where your filter breaks in a way that causes harm to your front element, you can be pretty damn sure that the incident would have harmed your front element anyway.

Paul's picture

This advice goes back to the 1970s. I thought everyone knew about the acid affecting lens coatings. I've seen examples years ago of what happens. It doesn't depend on the make; all brands suffer the same fate.

Jonathan Molina's picture

Appreciate the info, although, like someone commented before, I prefer the good-old UV filter, so I can protect the lense from smacks and dust, and don't feel guilty while I fog it to clean it.

Jason Langley's picture

 Did I read that correctly? Nikon is on the record saying that Nikkor is vulnerable to ass breath? Hell of a testimonial. 

I find it odd that there's no comment about using a LensPen.  For those mentioning using UV filters for protection, you need to keep in mind that filters rob light, can cause ugly reflections, and they often don't have as good of coatings as lenses do to begin with.  I don't doubt that it's true that breathe has harmful acids in it but I'm inclined to believe that the quantity, duration, and frequency with which any such acid will be in contact with a lens coating is so small that it will be of very little consequence.  Sure, proper cleaning materials are best practice but when in a pinch... Come on, give me a break.

Well there is another reason not to buy Nikon.

Kim G. Brown's picture

To quote the ever quotable Chicken Little:
"The sky is falling!
"The sky is falling!

Sounds like a "fixing" something that doesn't need fixing. The lens pens dry up with time... and damn, I really feel very sorry for those sports, wildlife, or photo-journalists in the middle of Africa, desertic or sandy areas with a lens and no liquid, or pen. Guys it's time to go home and stop shooting, breathing might damage your lens.

Interesting that this info comes out just before Xmas... hint for new presents and shopping list ?

Mike Dunckley's picture

I've always used my breathe to clean my lenses...never noticed a problem...I use UV/clear filters to protect the main lens....certainly not going to carry around cleaning solution and lint free tissues everywhere...

Marko Einfalt's picture

Maybe you have to drink large amounts of alcohol, so that concentration in exhaled air is high enough ... :)

good marketing catch to sell some lens fluids :) I'm cleaning my lenses this way for over 10 years and have never seen any issues on image quality... this is BS

Joe Russo's picture

 Starting out in photography, I used to use protective filters, just like i used to shoot jpeg.
I grew out of that stage once i realised that i could yield better looking photos without them. I took em off and never looked back.