Dust-Free or Bust: How to Clean a Camera Sensor

May 1, 2014

Dust-Free or Bust: How to Clean a Camera SensorSpots, squiggly lines and hazy areas on your photos are all indicators that it’s time to clean your camera sensor. It may seem intimidating at first, but knowing how to clean a camera sensor is a basic skill all photographers should learn. With the right supplies, it’s easy to do at home or in the field, and saves you money over having your camera professionally cleaned. Here’s how to clean a camera sensor correctly:

Gather Your Tools

There is no “one-size-fits-all” tool when it comes to cleaning camera sensors. It’s good to have a variety on hand depending on how dirty your sensor is and what substances are on the sensor. The following are common camera sensor cleaning tools:

Preparation

Begin by making sure your battery is completely charged to prevent the mirror and shutter from snapping closed on you while you are cleaning. Find a room with calm air, turn off any fans or air conditioners and close the windows to prevent more dust landing on the sensor. Finally, make sure you have all your supplies ready to go so you don’t have to leave the sensor exposed any longer than needed.

The Cleaning Process

Once your preparation is complete, start by removing the lens or body cap and entering your camera’s cleaning mode (consult the manual if you don’t know how to do this). This will raise the mirror out of the way and open the shutter, exposing the sensor.

Take the blower, hold the end safely above the sensor so you don’t accidentally touch it, and give it a couple good squeezes while moving it around the sensor. This will loosen up the dust for the next step.

Next, take your cleaning brush and gently draw the brush across the sensor, moving in only one direction, not back and forth. Don’t mash the brush against the sensor as this may cause damage. Use only very light pressure and let the brush’s static properties pick up the dust. Take care not to let the brush touch anywhere else inside the camera, as it may pick up lubricants that can be transferred to the sensor.

If there are still stubborn bits of dust or smudges after these steps, it’s time to use the sensor swab. If yours didn’t come with cleaner, carefully apply only two or three drops of cleaning fluid on the swab and wait one minute for it to soak in completely. Then, draw the swab gently across the sensor, moving it in only one direction. Turn the swab over to the unused side and repeat. Apply no more pressure than you would to write with a felt-tipped marker.

Wrap it Up

Take a few test shots to verify you’ve cleaned the sensor thoroughly. If you still see debris in the images, repeat the steps above until the images are clean. Once you’ve done this a couple times, the process will become second nature and you will be able to clean your camera sensor in just a few minutes.

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