Easy Tips to Keep Your Camera Gear Clean

I'm a bit of a neat freak when it comes to my gear. Anyone who has bought any of my used gear has usually told me it looks like new, save for maybe by the tripod mount, which I usually attach a plate to while I'm camped out by lighthouses.

But beyond just being careful, there are a lot of tips you can use day to day to make sure that your gear stays pristine for years to come. Photographer and YouTuber Jalen Oban has a few tips he uses that can help you protect your gear.

There are some big takeaways. I've often told my students that a sleeve is better than nothing when it comes to cleaning a lens, but the first line of defense is a lens cleaning cloth, not unlike the microfiber cloths used to clean reading glasses. While you can purchase these, of course, almost every manufacturer is practically giving these away at trade shows and photo conventions. You could probably make up the price of a ticket just cruising around for these at a show. I've also gotten them after I've gotten my sensors cleaned at Photo Tech in New York City.

While I highly, highly recommend taking your camera to the professionals for a cleaning, Oban does offer some tips to make sure that you do it right, should you undertake this task yourself. Generally, though, whenever I've tried to clean my own sensor, I've invariably made it worse. I'm glad my R-series cameras have the neat party trick of lowering the shutter curtain to keep the sensor relatively dust-free compared to the cameras of old. There are a few additional tips (that I wish I knew years ago) to keep your tripods in tip-top shape. 

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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I was afraid to wet clean my sensor the first time, but I had to because I had lint fibers on my sensor that showed up in images (i clean it only if i have debris that substantially affects images). The lint was too strongly attached to the sensor for the squeeze blower to work. And the blower seemed to even make matters worse by blowing more dirt around - with some of it ending up on the sensor. I tried gently using the brush, but that was still insufficient (you use the blower to blow air across the brush which supposedly electrically charges it and then ever so gently brush the sensor). So I bought a wet cleaning kit. I used new, correctly sized, individually wrapped sensor cleaner wands with an approved cleaning solution. It took me several attempts (you have to keep checking test images, and magnifying viewers help while examining the sensor) before i was satisfied. Occasionally it will even now take me an hour or more to clean to my satisfaction. Key is going easy and using minimal pressure, and making sure your wand is not so wet as to risk getting fluid between the top optical filter and the sensor (possibly a disaster!). Lastly, i will comment that i have been able to reuse cleaning wands after swishing them in 91% isopropanol and letting them dry in a "dust free" environment (the wands are picking up barely anything when used and the alcohol rinse seems to dislodge what they do pick up).

It's worth mentioning that the sensor cleaning might need some extra caution if the camera has IBIS. Some cameras do lock off the IBIS some don't. Depending on what's the case, the camera might need to be left on *while* cleaning the sensor to avoid any damage to the IBIS.

I've had my cameras since 2015 and 2019 and have only used the rocket blower. Some of these videos with the cleaning kits make it look simple, but, I'm too paranoid to touch the sensor.

I have used the wands on my sensor many times. I was glad to hear you state that a layer of glass is between the sensor and the surface the wand touches. Thank you for sharing your tips.

Right? That made me feel a little better too.