How To's

How to Clean a Camera Sensor

Published April 2, 2010

We have a new YouTube video up, showing how Scott does a thorough sensor cleaning:

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in How To's
  • Edward Crim

    VisibleDust has a ph balanced detergent specifically for cleaning their brushes. They recommend mixing it in distilled water.

  • Edward Crim

    Using a small aperture reveals more of the dust on the sensor, and it reveals hairs and fibers in the mirror box, and dust on the rear element of the lens (it will appear as large, light dots rather than the small dark dots of dust on the sensor).

  • Roger Cicala

    Thank you, Silke, I needed a laugh today.

  • silke h.

    after seeing the video a second time…. honestly i think you are paid by the companys for this product placement.

  • Michael Delman

    Regarding taking a test shot, if we’re looking for debris on the sensor, not on anything in front of the sensor, why does it matter what aperture is used? If anything, it seems like using a small aperture would result in being able to see more debris that’s in or in front of the lens, which might obscure debris on the sensor itself. In fact, wouldn’t it be better to take the test shot with no lens on the camera?


  • Bernd

    I have my doubts in this method.
    Sensor brushes are prone to touch the lubricant edges and deploy a nice oily smear across the sensor which is worse than any of the dust particles in a picture.
    Furthermore I was never able to remove a particle that did not blow away with the rocket blower with the brush either.
    I find a wet cleaning with commercial swabs and an appropriate liquid pretty easy and quick.
    I use a different method for checking the cleanliness of the sensor
    Simply take a white paper illuminate it, get it in full frame, focus manually to infinity, aperture 22 or higher.
    ISO at 100 results usually in a quite long exposure of say 1 sec.
    Move the cam slightly when taking the shot.
    Now you have a much better picture of the dirt than pointing towards the sky.

  • Has anyone tried this?

    I purchased some but have not used it yet. Interesting concept but somewhat scary at the same time 🙂


  • Daniel Bliss

    If you’ve got junk, e.g. oil, in a VisibleDust brush, how do you clean the brush?

  • Philip Agur

    Have you looked at blowing out with ionized air?

    Static can play a major role in keeping particles stuck in place and ionized air can quickly dissipate any charge on non conductive surfaces dropping particles free.

    More expense than a single photographer like me would invest but you might find it’s a big time saver.

    Humidity play a big role in controlling static so you might see variations based on geographical location.

  • Don’t you offer sensor cleaning service?

  • I think something important to add at the start is the battery must be fully charged.

    You don’t want the mirror snapping closed whilst you are busy cleaning.

    With wet cleaning, I have two spatulas, one for the wet clean, and the second to do a drying pass to remove any tiny fluid droplets left by the initial wet clean.

    I have cleaned over a thousand sensors using the wet cleaning method, but with full frame cameras, I use the wet clean as a last resort. The brush and blower usually get 98% of the dust particles out.

  • Thanks for that tip Lee. That seems easier and cheaper than the other methods I’ve seen and I don’t see the harm in trying it. I guess I’ll do it first with my d3100 before trying on the d600.

  • That loupe is fine for inspecting. You need a good fluid for cleaning. To dissolve any oil and release contaminants safely from the sensor.

  • I can’t imagine that LensRentals gets it’s eclipse sensor cleaning fluid in the $10 2oz bottles … $40 a cup, $80 per (US) pint, $640 a (US) gallon. It’s much less than that to buy it from the chemical companies, but who needs a gallon, or even a pint? But $10 for 2 oz is an insult

  • I can see the sensibility of this approach for cleaning. However you would likely cringe at my method, which quite honestly has served me well now for at least the last dozen years. I have also NEVER had an issue with my method. It fly’s in the face of the so called common wisdom that has been spread out there for years now regarding pressurized canned air. But here goes.

    *1st I take the camera, place it in cleaning mode with the chamber facing down as is always prescribed. I then take a can of Falcon brand canned air from Costco, with it’s extension tube in place, and without shaking or moving it aim it in a angle upward (not near the camera) and expel several puffs of air to make sure no propellant is coming out.

    *2nd I then place the canned air’s extension tube just inside of the mirror box, and very slowly while pressing for sequential puffs of air move is very slightly to circulate around the entire mirror box area INCLUDING the exterior areas where dust can and will get trapped (not just on the sensor area). I also try to make sure to move slowly across the sensor area from left to right top to bottom migrating slowly until I’m done puffing air (probably no less than at least 20 puffs.

    3rd* Then I take a properly sized sensor swab with a few drops of Eclipse cleaning fluid on it and starting at the upper left corner go across the sensor lifting it off when reaching the other sides edge. I start once again lower on the sensor where it has not been cleaned and repeat till all for corners are cleaned.

    4th* I then repeat the puffing action marked as the 2nd thing I do.

    This has typically resulted in NO FURTHER action when confirming a f22 open sky shot examined in photoshop for debris. I’ve done this for myself and others with nearly 100% perfect results.

    I know this disturbs some folks that don’t trust canned air and consider it a NO NO. I have NEVER had propellant expelled due to my care taken. It has also blasted all the crud out and allowed it to be a perfect result. This entire procedure from start to finish takes no more than maybe 4 minutes. I’ll stick with this as it works for me with a LOT less fuss than the method shown in this video above. To each his own I guess, and it just works for me every time.

  • Roger Cicala

    Yes, that’s the one!

  • Is the sensor loupe used in this video this one by Visible Dust?

    Many thanks,


  • It is actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I am satisfied that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  • Roger Cicala

    The brushes, cloths, etc. are available at any online camera store of reasonable size. stocks everything we use for us. The blower is available at

  • John Luke

    Get info on the “How to clean a camera sensor” video.
    Were can I find the tools used in the video?

    THXs, John

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