A Camera Technician's Cleaning Tools

4/15/2013 2 Comments A+ a-

One of the most important steps in the equipment grading process at KEH Camera is making sure the camera gear is fully cleaned in order to achieve the most accurate grade possible.  Every piece of equipment is given a general cleaning before it even reaches a technician's desk.  Some of the cameras and lenses we see on a daily basis are decades old, but with a thorough cleaning they can look as good as new.

Every technician has an air hose at his or her desk to blow dust off of the camera equipment.  For more delicate items, we use a rubber air blower to remove dust and debris.  It directs a delicate current of air to remove dust, and has a one-way valve to prevent dust from spreading back into the equipment.

Giottos® Air Blower

For more stubborn dirt and dust, we use a variety of brushes to clean the camera equipment.  Toothbrushes with soft bristles can be used to scrub certain kinds of equipment. A good way to clean up the rubber on a camera grip or lens is to scrub it with a toothbrush. This cleans off the oxidation, which appears as a white residue.

Variety of Brushes for Cleaning

We also use a product by STP® called Son of a Gun!®, a protective polymer silicone formula spray that will moisturize and renew the rubber commonly used on cameras.  Products like naphtha or lighter fluid can be used to de-grease metal parts or to remove any other material off of metal surfaces.

Cleaning Solvents for Rubber & Metal Surfaces

Some of the equipment we see will have battery corrosion. Heat from general use over time or from storing the equipment in warm or humid areas will cause batteries to expand and leak a chemical paste of potassium hydroxide. When the chemicals come in contact with the spring and terminal of the electronic it is powering, it produces a blue-green powder as it corrodes the metal. The best way to keep this from happening is to remove any batteries while the item is not in use. If we see that a camera or flash has battery corrosion we can use vinegar to remove it. Sometimes the equipment can be saved and sometimes the metal terminals are too far corroded to work.

Eraser Pencil Used to Clean Flash Hot Shoe

Often we will see electric contacts on flash hot shoes, lenses or camera bodies with dirt and corrosion. This can cause the flash to not fire, or the camera to not recognize when a lens is attached. A simple pencil eraser can be used to clean the contacts. We use eraser pencils, which can be sharpened to clean smaller areas.

Eraser Pencil Used to Clean Lens Contacts

Other liquids commonly found on a technician's desk are alcohol and Windex® to clean glass. We use a diluted mixture of Windex®, alcohol, and distilled water on most optical glass, which is great for removing smudges and marks without leaving streaks or residue.

Variety of Liquids Used for Cleaning

To clean optical glass we use cotton Q-tips® and Kimtech® tissues that are gentle and won't scratch the surface.

Q-tips® & Kimtech® Tissues for Cleaning Optical Glass

To clean the front or rear glass of a lens we dip the Q-tip® into the diluted Windex® mixture, gently wipe the lens in circular motions working from the center out, and then wipe it off with the tissue. It is very important to make sure there are no large particles of dust or debris in this process, which can scratch the glass.

Applying Diluted Cleaning Fluid to Q-tip®
Gently Cleaning Front Lens Element
Wiping Front Lens Element With Tissue

A quick cleaning can drastically improve the appearance and picture quality of a camera or lens.  In addition to these tools and methods, the KEH Camera Repair Center offers sensor cleanings and internal glass cleanings for lenses with dust inside.
- Mollie Damon

For your camera equipment maintenance & repair needs, please visit the KEH Camera Repair Center online or contact them by telephone at (770) 333-4210.  

Please note that the nature of this article is to be informative and we do not condone the repetition of  its contents.  If you choose to clean your own camera equipment, you do so at your own risk.  We recommend that cleaning and repair services be provided by a trained technician.   

Camera equipment and photography related information, such as new and collectible items, tips & tricks, fun and useful accessories, troubleshooting, gift guides, events, interviews, useful links, industry news and much more! We post information for all levels of photographers, from beginner to professional and everything in between.

2 notes

Write notes
4/22/13, 10:22 AM delete

Whoa! Very informative blog. Thanks a lot for sharing how it's done. I wouldn't have figured it out myself. I didn't even know that using vinegar can help with the cleaning.
- LensGiant.com

4/28/13, 11:39 AM delete

Thanks for the tips. I was given a Canon T50 with a Canon 277T flash. The batteries had been left in the flash and there was corrosion. I was able to revive the flash.

Thank you.