DSLR Camera Maintenance Tips

See if you're cleaning your camera properly with these tips

DLSR Camera

DircinhaSW / Getty Images

DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras include interchangeable lenses and many other accessories, so cleaning this type of camera requires different techniques than point-and-shoot cameras do. Follow these steps to clean and maintain your DSLR camera for optimum performance.

Not every DSLR camera has the same assembly as is described here, so check your user guide for your camera’s specific configuration.

  1. Clean the Body

    Cleaning the body of a DSLR camera requires the same process as cleaning a point-and-shoot camera body. Use a soft, dry cloth, such as a microfiber cloth, to clean the camera body gently of any grime, dust, or fingerprints. For persistent grime, slightly dampen the cloth with distilled water.

    camera body only
    Nikon
  2. Clean the Lens

    Use a small blower bulb and a soft brush to remove dust or sand.

    Don't skip this step. If you don’t remove the grit first, you could scratch the lens when using the cloth.

    A camera cleaning brush with a 'puffer' attachement can be used for cleaning dust before painting.
    Lesley Shepherd

    Then, gently wipe the lens with a dry, soft cloth in a circular motion from the middle outward.

    The interchangeable DSLR lens has two glass surfaces that are exposed to the elements. Be sure to clean both the front and the back elements of the lens.

    To maintain the integrity of the glass on both sides of the lens, place lens covers on both ends of the lens as soon as you remove it from the camera. Keep the lens cap on the front element of the lens whenever the lens is attached to the camera (unless, of course, you're shooting).

  3. Clean the Lens Mount

    To keep the DSLR camera's lens mount and its electrical contacts working as well as possible, keep this area dry and free of grime with a microfiber cloth.

    Pro Chef Microfiber Cloth for Stainless Steel
    Photo Courtesy Amazon
  4. Clean the Mirror and Screen

    A DSLR camera has a mirror mechanism inside the camera that becomes exposed to the elements each time you change the lens. You should see it when you remove the lens and look inside the body. Just below the mirror is the focusing screen. Clean both with a lens brush, taking care not to brush dirt back into the camera.

    These components are quite delicate, so clean them with great care. If you’re nervous about damaging them, consider hiring a camera shop to clean them.

    Sony A33 with translucent mirror
    Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 
  5. Clean the Image Sensor

    Dust on the camera's image sensor shows up as slightly blurry spots in your images, so keeping this clean is important.

    Some cameras have a built-in image sensor cleaning system, usually involving a fast vibration of the sensor. For those that don't, use a swab or a sensor brush to clean it, or purchase an image sensor cleaning kit.

    To maintain the mirror and image sensor in the best possible condition, place the lens mount cover over the lens mount any time you remove a lens for longer than it takes to swap it out.

    Camera image sensor
    DeadDuck / Getty Images
  6. Clean the LCD Screen

Even though the LCD on a DSLR camera might be larger than what you'd find on a beginner-level camera, the process of cleaning the LCD is the same regardless of its size.

Your microfiber cleaning cloth comes in handy once more for this task. If necessary, dampen it slightly, but don't use any cleaners or solvents; these can cause peeling. Use as little pressure as possible.

Cleaning the LCD

What Not to Do

The following methods might seem helpful, but avoid using them altogether:

  1. Never use canned air to clean any part of the DSLR camera. The pressure is too powerful and could even drive dust or sand into the camera body, damaging its interior components.
  2. If you need to use liquid to clean the camera, always dampen the cloth only slightly, and then clean the camera. Never place the liquid directly on the camera.
  3. Never use alcohol, paint thinner, or other solvents on any part of the camera. They're too harsh and can cause damage.
  4. Never use paper towel, tissue, or paper-based products to clean your camera. They "shed" fibers and debris and will scratch delicate surfaces.

Nervous about cleaning your expensive photography equipment? Head to a camera repair center for a professional cleaning.