How to Clean Your Digital Camera

Regular cleaning helps keep your camera in top working order

An effective cleaning of your digital camera addresses all the key components. For example, cleaning the digital camera lens helps ensure sharp photographs. Cleaning the LCD allows you to preview each photo in the best possible quality before deciding which shots to delete. You can even troubleshoot some camera problems simply by learning how to clean the camera properly.

The step-by-step instructions here are primarily intended for users of point-and-shoot digital cameras. Those with digital SLR-type cameras should clean the image sensor occasionally, too.

Using a DSLR camera.
Ida Jarosova/Getty Images

Supplies You Need

You might not need every supply listed here to clean your camera's various components. The first item is essential, though; it will clean all parts of your point-and-shoot digital camera safely. You should be able to find everything you need at a camera or electronics store or online.

  • Anti-static microfiber cloth (free of chemicals and oils; stored in a plastic, re-sealable bag for protection)
  • Lens-cleaning paper or a clean, soft, cotton cloth
  • Lens-cleaning fluid (may substitute a few drops of clean water)
  • A small, soft-bristle brush

Supplies to Avoid When Cleaning

Don't ever use these items to clean your lens or LCD screen under any circumstances:

  • Canned air (it expels the air so forcefully that it could drive dust and particles into the camera housing if it isn't airtight)
  • Paper towels
  • Paper napkins
  • Any cloth with particles on it
  • Any rough cloth
  • Excessive liquid
  • Coarse-bristle brush
  • Any type of liquid cleaning agent, unless your camera store or manufacturer specifically recommends it

Cleaning the Lens at Home

Cleaning your lens properly takes a bit of time. Here's how:

  1. Turn on the camera, if needed, to open the lens cover.

  2. Turn the camera so the lens faces the ground. Gently blow on the lens to free any stray particles.

  3. If you still notice particles on the edges of the lens, very gently dislodge them with a small, soft brush.

    Cleaning the lens
  4. Gently rub the lens with the microfiber cloth in a circular motion. Start in the middle of the lens, and work your way to the edges.

  5. If the microfiber cloth doesn't remove all of the grime or smudges, use a few drops of lens cleaning fluid or clean water. Place the drops onto the cloth, not onto the lens. Clean in a circular motion, first using the damp part of the cloth and finishing with the dry.

    Cleaning Digital Camera Lens on the Go

Cleaning the Lens on the Go

At times, you'll need to clean your camera or your lens while you're out and about. If you know you'll be using the camera outdoors, pack your cleaning supplies in your camera bag and follow the steps above. If you forgot your cleaning supplies, and you absolutely cannot wait until you return home to clean the lens, try these substitute steps:

  1. Turn on the camera, if needed, to open the lens cover.

  2. Turn the camera so the lens faces the ground. Gently blow on the lens to free any stray particles. If you continue to notice particles, blow with a little more force.

  3. With the lens free of grit, find the softest and cleanest cotton cloth that's available, such as an all-cotton handkerchief or a clean cloth diaper. Be certain the cloth is free of chemicals, oils, and perfumes. Wipe the lens very gently in a circular motion.

    Don't use a cloth on your lens without first performing step 2.

  4. If the cloth alone doesn't clean the lens, add a few drops of clean water to the cloth before gently wiping the lens again. After using the damp area of the cloth, use the dry area again.

  5. If no soft, clean cloth is available, use a facial tissue. Use a few drops of water with the tissue.

    Use a tissue only as a last resort. Make absolutely certain the facial tissue is free of oils and lotions, or you'll smudge your lens far worse than it was before.

Cleaning the LCD

Cleaning the LCD screen is important, too.

  1. Turn off the camera. It's easier to see smudges and dust against the black background of a powered-down LCD.

  2. Use a small, soft brush to remove dust from the LCD. If no brush is available, blow gently on the screen. (The latter method doesn't work well on a large LCD.)

  3. Use a dry microfiber cloth to gently clean the LCD, moving it back and forth horizontally along the screen.

    Cleaning the LCD
  4. If the dry cloth isn't removing all the smudges, slightly dampen it with a drop or two of clean water before wiping the LCD screen again. Better yet, if you have an LCD TV at home, use the same damp, anti-static, alcohol-free electronic cleaning wipes on your digital camera LCD that you use on the TV.

  5. As with the lens, avoid using rough cloth or paper products, including paper towels, facial tissues, and napkins, for cleaning the LCD.

Cleaning the Camera Body

Cleaning the Camera Body

The camera body can get grimy over time. Here's how to clean it:

  1. Turn the camera off.

  2. If you've been shooting outdoors, where wind may have blown sand or dirt onto the camera, first use a small brush to sweep away any grit or tiny particles. Pay close attention to the seam where the digital camera body comes together, the camera's connectors, the battery and memory card doors, and the areas where the camera's dials and buttons extend from the body. Grit in these areas could cause problems down the road by entering the camera body's interior and damaging components.

  3. Clean the viewfinder and the front of the built-in flash, if applicable. Use the same method you used for the glass on the front of the lens: First, use a dry microfiber cloth, and dampen the cloth only if necessary for stubborn smudges.

  4. Clean the body with a dry cloth. You can use a microfiber cloth, but you might want to save the microfiber cloth for only the lens, viewfinder, and LCD. Use care when using the cloth around the camera's buttons, dials, and connectors. If the camera's zoom lens extends from the camera body, turn the camera on and gently clean the external housing for the zoom lens.

  5. If the dry cloth doesn't work on a particularly dirty area of the camera body, dampen the cloth slightly. You can use a little more force when cleaning the camera body versus cleaning the delicate lens or LCD.

Final Cleaning Tips

Here are a few ideas to make cleaning your camera easier and more effective;

  • Never touch the lens with your skin. Your fingers could leave difficult-to-remove oils on the lens. Try to avoid touching the LCD for the same reason, although this can be difficult to avoid.
  • Try a lens-cleaning pen. This helps remove grime and fingerprints from the lens and LCDs. Some cleaning pens have a soft brush on one end of the pen, too. A lens-cleaning pen is a much better option than a t-shirt or a facial tissue when you're away from home.
  • Check your camera manufacturer's website or user guide for specific instructions and tips. You might find some specific tricks for your particular brand or model.

Some lens and LCD problems will require professional cleaning from a repair store, and you won't be able to do this safely yourself. Obtain a quote for the cleaning ahead of time; a professional cleaning might be too expensive to justify for an older camera model.

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