Keeping the front surface of a lens clean is essential if you are to avoid spots, flare, and other degradation of the images you work so hard to collect. But wiping away the grime with your shirt-tail isn't the recommended method. Here are a few tips from the lens laundry.
- Remove dust particles with a soft brush of very fine bristles such as sable or camel’s hair. You'll find them at photo equipment stores, art supply houses, and in the women’s makeup section of any department store. Holding the lens above your head while you gently brush across the surface of the front element allows gravity to assist; the newly loosened debris should float down and away from the lens.
- Directing a gentle stream of moisture-free air across the optics’ surface is an effective alternative to the brush. One of those red rubber ear syringes (like your mother used to have) is a good way to deliver the perfect puff.
- Don’t just pucker up and blow; you'll risk replacing the dust with spit-spots. And use canned air with extreme caution. One mis-directed blast can drive those tiny bits of debris deep into the lens, perhaps to another optical surface, where they can't be retrieved without major disassembly.
- Stains and deposits, such as saltwater residue, that resist both brush and blow must be dissolved with lens cleaner. The trick here is to apply the cleaner – a mixture of alcohol and distilled water – to an ultra-soft cleaning cloth or tissue, not directly to the lens where there's always the chance that excess fluid will migrate beyond the front element.
- Wipe gently and always straight across the lens. Round lens elements invite multiple circular wiping movements, always a mistake (unless you are trying to damage the factory-applied anti-flare coating) since a single swipe is usually all that’s required.
- Always use a fresh piece of lint-free lens tissue, never those silicon-coated sheets sold for cleaning eyeglasses. Reusable microfiber cloths offer the opportunity to burnish your lens with the residue of the previous cleaning task. Never use solvents or household cleaners.
- While these techniques are also applicable to LED viewfinders, extra caution must be taken to avoid damaging the soft film surface.