Tip: How to Clean your gear

Cleaning the Sensor_001A lot of you send me an email asking if it would be possible for me to elaborate the way I do my cleanings since I did not express to well on my previous post concerning the Butterfly cleaning.

When I decided to wrote about sensor cleaning it was not my intention to write this follow around tips since there are already so many places to look for this, just google around and you will see them but I wanted to help you and show you the method I'm using to clean my gear as a solution to all my dust problems.

I tend to think more like - "If I clean my teeth everyday then why shouldn't I clean my photo gear regularly?"

Keep in mind that I also take my cameras and lenses to Canon, once every 6 months or so, to do a full checkup, calibrate the lens and do some deep cleaning of dust inside the lens and more lately inside the cameras viewfinder, this sucks.
Normally you get them inside the viewfinder underneath the prims because you blow inside the chamber so they get there and you cannot remove them unless by Canon technicians because they have to tear the camera apart just to get there. It will not affect the sensor or pictures but for me is very disturbing having a small hair in the middle of the viewfinder or a dust spot on one corner .

So what you are about to see here are just the simple steps I make so that my cameras can continue giving me the full support and not fail me when I have something really important to photograph. And believe me sometimes when you really need them that's when they tend to fail (Murphy's Law).

On the above picture you can see my cleaning table. If you click on the picture you can see the comments for better understanding what is on it.

Some words of advice:


I also would like to advise you that this may not work for you, but this is the way I do my cleanings successfully for quite some time now.

So after all this warnings I hope you are still there and if you want to proceed just keep reading ;)

Cleaning the Sensor_002

Let's start with lenses. I use the Giottos BIG blower to remove any dust particles that maybe on the front lens filter and on the lens itself. I also ALWAYS use the best filters I can get on the market to put in front of my lenses.

I have tried almost any kind of protective and UV filters from Roddenstock to Hoya Pro but the best, so far, has been the Canon Protect since they do not cast a Magenta when I'm capturing my concert pictures, maybe this will have to do with the actual curve of the filter also noticed that the photos would come out more sharp than previous ones.

And NO I'm no Canon fanatic :)

Cleaning the Sensor_003

Next I will apply some neutral lens liquid bought at photo shop for that purpose and sometimes I use a little of Eclipse liquid when that stains are difficult to remove from the front filter.

Try and avoid to clean your lens too much as I've been reading that the coating could come out by cleaning them so much. I'm actually talking about the lens and not the filter because the filter you can buy another one and would for sure be less expensive than having to change the lens.

Cleaning the Sensor_004

With some optic paper I clean the filter and remove all the dirty stains and spots.

Cleaning the Sensor_005

Also do the same procedure on the back part of the lens.
Afterwards with another clean and dry paper I dry it out nicely and always cleaning in circles from the center to the edge.

Cleaning the Sensor_006Cleaning the Sensor_007

I use Eclipse liquid on the cotton buds to clean the metal part and the contacts of the lens.

Cleaning the Sensor_008

I have this kind of sponge pac that I just use to clean the outside of the viewfinder also embedded with Eclipse liquid.

The eclipse liquid is very good for this kind of cleanings since it drys almost instantly and leaving no residue.

And here done with the lens cleaning. Just that Simple ;)

Cleaning the Sensor_009

Now the camera.

Is never too much to warn you about this procedures here, so be very careful with everything you do and clean.

I always use the camera with its opening down but for the purpose of illustrating this picture I had to put it up so you can really see what I'm talking about.

So, always blow inside the camera chamber with the opening down this avoids the flying dust to land again inside the chamber.

I will open the screen viewer and and will blow inside the viewer and also blow to remove some dust from the mirror.


Now you are warned. I had one time to ask for a mirror replacement due to the cleaning with eclipse. I had somehow a stain on the mirror that was so stubborn that won't want to come out and I decided to apply my killer stains (Eclipse) while brushing it I noticed that instead of cleaning the mirror I was actually removing that small silver cover and when you do this the camera will lose some of his ability to focus too well.

So whatever you have to do on the mirror be careful since it's actually not a mirror ther but a layer of shinny silver film that comes out easily.

Cleaning the Sensor_010

Because I do not have an extended Manfrotto arm I just put the Manfrotto super clamp on the edge of the table and use my Manfrotto ball head on top of it to give me a more firm camera.

But has I said before I try to clean with the camera opening to the downside to avoid, as much as possible, to avoid any flying dirt to get inside while I do the cleaning.

Cleaning the Sensor_011

I also use a fixed lens, in this case my old 85mm, this would give me more depth of field and also I would not have the zooming pulling the dust inside the chamber while cleaning.

But if you do not have a fixed lens you can do it with a zoom also. Just keep it at end zoom position and you will be fine. Try not to move it so it won't put more dust inside the chamber.

Cleaning the Sensor_012

I use the lowest JPG for faster downloading and viewing on the computer. The increase of the JPG will not make your dust looks better anyway ;)

So I just take it to S and use the SD card since my computer has an SD port. I just slide the card there and download the images using the Downloader Pro by Breeze Systems, in fact I use the all Breeze Systems suit for a fast viewing, IPTC and web page creation.

This suite is really incredible I think that all cameras should come with it check out the Breeze Browser Pro and the Remotes for DSLR and Point and Shoots unfortunately is only for the PC platform :(

Cleaning the Sensor_013

Next I set my camera to Low ISO in this case I have set it to 100 I believe that 50 would do also great then set your aperture to the lowest you can get on your lens, mine is Av22.

I also put the camera on Av mode so I wouldn't have to worry about the shutter speed.

00-Sensor w Dust

Then I point it at the sky. I like to do my cleanings on a bright day sky rather than to some white paper because you can get much better contrast. Unfortunately while I was witting this the weather did not helped me :(

But I took the picture and made, on Photoshop, some round dots around some of the biggest and noticeable spots so you could have at least a reasonable viewing on the dust spots.

Here is the shot of the sensor after first sky shot.

Cleaning the Sensor_014

Next procedure is to go into the camera menu and select the sensor cleaning option.

Cleaning the Sensor_015

Choose OK and then the mirror will lift and the sensor will be showed.

I always choose OK with my camera opening facing down.

Cleaning the Sensor_016

I then lift the camera up high and above my head and start my first procedure that is blowing those dust spot off.

Of course some loosen ones will eventually will be removed but some others may not.


Let's take another shot of the sky after blowing. You can see that a lot of dust still remains on the sensor. It's always good to start with the blower since if you do not have many dust on the sensor and chamber then you will not need to proceed even further with the cleaning.

So that's why I always start with the blower fist.

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

Next I will use my next acquisition the Arctic Butterfly 724.

This dust magnet will get almost all the dust specs on the sensor and since I bought it my cleanings turn a lot easier and sometimes I do not need to make the final wet cleaning.

You can see the full review of the product here.

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

I will use the Sensor Loupe, from the VisibleDust package, to look inside the chamber and for better viewing the dust particles inside.

Unfortunatly this only has 5x magnification which leaves you with no space to put and use the brush inside the chamber while looking through the loupe.

But besides this it's a great help for better look inside.

Cleaning the Sensor_027

A good friend and fellow photographer from Luxembourg gave me another tool that I find also useful to look inside the chamber.

It's the inexpensive stamp loupe from Kaiser.

Cleaning the Sensor_028

With this one you can actually work inside the chamber while looking through the loupe. The magnification is very good but unfortunately this is also not the perfect loupe tool because it causes too much reflections on the sensor making it only useful for some sensor parts or for cleaning the chamber.

Arctic Butterfly 724 Kit for Cleaning the Sensor

I spin the Butterfly brush brush for 2 times for about 10 seconds to remove any dust particles that could be in it and then brush the sensor again.

I do 5 or 6 passages before I can proceed to my next and final step. Sometimes I even brush it over specific parts of the sensor just to get them really nice and clean.

Pay close attention to the following things to watch out, they are pretty much common sense:

Avoid touching the brush bristles with your fingers unless you want oil smears on your sensor. Keep the sensor brush dedicated to cleaning sensors only; I keep a separate brush for chamber cleaning, and brushing dirt off lenses and filters. Finally, they recommend cleaning the brush head every few cleanings with pure Isopropyl Alcohol, pure Ethanol, or their Sensor Brush Wash product.

DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT under any circumstances use your Arctic Butterfly 724 for any other thing like cleaning the chamber, playing with it over your hand or use it has a fan, DO NOT let your friends play with it because it an get some oil and instead of cleaning the sensor it could DAMAGE IT.

THINK OF the Arctic Butterfly 724 AS A CIRURGIC TOOL!!


The final result and best, at least for this time, I could get with the brushing.

It's time to remove those dust spots that seem to be "glued" to the sensor.

And that's when I start the wet procedures so let's see them.

Cleaning the Sensor_017

Click on the picture to see the names of each of the products that I have in here.

I bought this all package from Copper Hill Images a long time ago, I think I bought them when people start to mention dust particles on the sensors.

Choose the right Pac size to match your sensor.

--- Update 11/02/2008 ---

It came into my attention that Eclipse has created a new liquid fluid (Eclipse E2) to clean the "sensor" (i.e. Sensor Protective Cover) of the new cameras that now are shipped with tin oxide coating on the front of the AA filter.

So pay attention to this extensive list to find out what will be the best Eclipse liquid for cleaning your cameras and gear.

This is very important because if you use the wrong liquid you can damage the sensor filter and leaving you with lots of money for the repair or replace.


I remember that Canon by that time were not planning on releasing electronic dust cleaners on their cameras and also mentioned on several articles that their sensors would not collect dust because they did not produce enough static to attract them. Can you believe it ?

Only after Olympus started to implement the Sensor Cleaning on their cameras Canon realized that this would be a BIG problem for users and that one day they need to put this on their cameras. Then Nikon came out with their news digital SLR with sensor cleaning system and Canon followed.

Now Nikon is getting a 2 way system cleaning (Image Sensor Cleaning function & Nikon’s exclusive Airflow Control System) with their new D60, Canon will have to come with something to fight them back. Unfortunately we consumers are caught in this duel.

How many of you have cleaned the chamber of your old film cameras and they last a lifetime ?

Anyway... that's another thing ;)

Cleaning the Sensor_018

I use the PecPad of 100 wipe units and cut them in half so this would help me when putting them on the chamber since they will not be too big and bulky.

Cleaning the Sensor_019

How to fold the PecPad wipes to be able to clean the sensor?

First I fold them by the middle part like in the above picture.

You can get the full assembly instructions here.

Cleaning the Sensor_020

Then without touching the middle part, this will be the part that touches the sensor, I bend it cross to the other side.

Cleaning the Sensor_021

Then from right to left.

Cleaning the Sensor_022

Use some scotch tape to glue it together.

Cleaning the Sensor_023

Here is the final.

Cleaning the Sensor_024

I put one 1 drop of Eclipse liquid on each side and that's it. Do not moisture too much the pad or you will end up with too much liquid on the sensor, although it will dry fast but it won't dry fast enough if you put too much liquid in it, and have to remove it later on.

Just 2 small drops is enough.

Cleaning the Sensor_025

Brush from left to right then turn the Pac around and

Cleaning the Sensor_026

Brush from the other side.

Only use one PecPad and wipe per passage. Do not brush it 2 or 3 times with the same pack because this could bring more dirt and moisture into the sensor.

After it shoot into the sky and see if there are more specs in there if there are still some there repeat this procedure until you have cleaned them all.

Clean them all sounds quite exaggerated because you cannot actually clean it completely but try to clean the biggest one and don't be to annal about it.

Normally the small dust specs are not visible under f8.0 so shoot the sky at f22 and then at f8.0 to check for results and when you feel happy it them stop cleaning.

Too much cleaning may damage your brains :)

05-Cleaning_Wet Final

Here is my final result after 15 minutes cleaning one of my cameras.

Now I will have to do this all procedure with the other one ;)

Once you get to know how to clean them you can improve the cleaning speeds timings.

But I do prefer making it slowly and carefully than to have some surprises while doing it.

Sensor w Dust Cleaning_all

Here is a compiled version of the steps I have taken on this particular cleaning.

4 Brush passages and and only 1 wet need, sometimes , depending on the previous assignment I have to wet clean it more than one but this time it was easy because the camera I used to make this was parked :)

Final notes:

This is a simple procedure to do, you can make it yourself without having to take the camera to your shop and pay a lot of money to have somebody to clean it for you also you will never know when it comes back from cleaning if it's really well cleaned. By experience they normally never come well cleaned and you still have to pay :(

So take your chance and start cleaning yours even with the new super duper cleaning technologies dust will always be a problem on the sensors.

I cannot be held responsible if you damage your sensor by following my procedures. As I mentioned before they work for me don't mean they are the correct ones for you or even that they will work for you and your cameras.

Hope this will bring you a new perspective on how to clean sensors, oh well at least this is how I clean mine.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the detailed info!

Unknown said...

Hi! That's a really interesting read, thanks for posting! Just one thing tho, the compiled picture is marked as private on flickr.

Thanks again,


Really great writeup, i will be sure to use this as a reference when i go to clean my gear next. Thanks alot!

JOTA ENE ✔ said...

Yes, I fanatic by Canon.

A good article.

JOTA ENE ✔ said...

À posteriori, consegui ir ate ao Flickr e atraves do teu profile vi que eras cá dos nossos (tuga) :-)

Este teu artigo é excepcional, pena não estar em português (dava um jeitão), necessito de fazer umas limpezas às minhas máquinas e lentes e tenho receio de mexer nos sensores.

Um abraço!

ille Photography said...

A better method than photographing white paper is to open a blank document in Photoshop or other program, making it full screen. Now photograph the blank white screen.

After you import the picture you can do some simple contrast adjustments in Photoshop to make the dust even easier to see.

With this method you wouldn't even need to circle anything it is THAT obvious. :)

Vitor Fonseca said...

Never apply the liquid directly into the lens element. Apply the liquid into the tissue instead. By placing the liquid into the lens element some portion of it can enter the lens.

Jungle Local traffic Ltd said...


I just want to add following warning from
Photographic Solutions Inc:

"PEC*PAD is not recommended for cleaning the CCD. It is not the same material used in the Sensor Swabs. PSI does not approve or warranty the CCD or any camera part from any damage caused by using non approved products."
– http://www.photosol.com/padproduct.htm

"Sensor Swabs™ are designed for cleaning CCD chips and other delicate or hard to reach optical and imaging surfaces."
> http://www.photosol.com/swabproduct.htm

The choice is your's. But be careful.


Jungle Local traffic Ltd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.