Cleaning and storing lenses

It’s easy to become obsessed with keeping a clean lens, doing everything you can to keep even the smallest speck of dust off of the glass. However, while it’s of course advisable to keep lenses reasonably clean of dust and certainly devoid of oily smudges such as fingerprints, in reality a bit of dust isn’t going to affect your image. Additionally, the wider angle the lens, the less likely you are to see any of the dust in the image because you’re compressing a much larger surface area into the same imaging space on your image sensor.

You can remove most dust with a bulb blower and a specialized camera lens brush, or a dust-free microfiber cloth. Even an eyeglass cleaning cloth, such as that available from an optician, works very well. Lenses are coated with a delicate, protective optical film that you do not want to harm in any way, and fingerprints are one of the worst things for them.

The first thing to ascertain is whether you actually have something on your lens that you need to clean. Many photographers have mistaken dust or smudges on their viewfinders or mirrors for something on the lens; of course, anything on the viewfinder or mirror isn’t going to appear in your image!

If you do get a smudge on the surface of the lens, follow these steps:

  1.  Blow and brush the lens to get rid of any larger particles that could potentially scratch the glass when you clean it further.
  2. Place a drop of lens-cleaning fluid on a special lens tissue (available at any camera store) and gently clean the lens with the damp tissue. Be careful not to squeeze any liquid from it that would flow onto the lens. Wipe in a circular, even motion.
  3. Wipe the lens with a dry tissue to remove any remaining dampness or residue.

How you store your lenses largely depends upon the type of shooting you do. The primary issue for storing your glass is to keep it away from the elements as much as possible. If your lens came with a storage case or bag, use it where practical. Some studio photographers keep lenses in garage-mechanic-style metal cabinets designed to hold tools. If you’re on the road with your gear, often the original storage cases can be unwieldy and ill-fitting in a camera bag, so you’ll want to just store them as-is in the bag — protected, of course, by the soft, cushioned compartments in your camera bag.

I like to keep desiccant packs with my lenses, especially if I’m shooting somewhere humid. Desiccant (which is silica gel) is available in rechargeable packs from most professional camera equipment stores and suppliers (see 7-8).

This small, vented plastic case contains several hundred tiny blue silica balls. You simply place the case into your camera bag, and after a few weeks to a month or so, the balls will saturate with humidity and turn pink. You then place them into the microwave for about 15 seconds, which recharges them by removing the moisture they've absorbed.

And the final word on lenses is to keep and use your lens caps! If you’re traveling frequently, have some extra lens caps, both front and rear, handy in case you lose one.


Never apply the liquid directly to the lens. It can seep inside of the lens and affect the optics and mechanisms.

Category: Lens accessories

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