Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath

Started Apr 17, 2013 | Discussions
andyit
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Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
Apr 17, 2013

Hi, I would like to know your opinion about these sensor/lens/fungus cleaning fluids for our NEX.

What is the best, the cheapest, the exact grade to consider and where to buy on common sites like ebay or amazon...

I'd like to make here for a definitive guide to clean:

1)the sensor

2)the lens when it's very dirty, after a good air blowing

3)the lens with fungus

My experience: For the sensor I've read a lot about Eclipse (100% methanol?) with pec pads, but also using methanol, some prefer ethanol and others pure isopropyl alcohol. There are some wet swabs on ebay, I used them and all I have to say it's... avoid them. I tried wet first but they left traces, then dry ones to remove them... no way. I ended by breathing to remove damn wet swabs traces, not perfectly. With wrong tools you clean and actually make the sensor...dirtier. Watch out

As for the lens some people say it's better to avoid using fluids if it is not so dirty and to use air blower, synthetic brush and simple breath+pec pads or cloths. Some use cigarette smoking papers (me too) but even smoking papers are very different... which is your prefered brand-type? Some suggest microfibre cloths with lens cleaning fluid, but what is the best, cheapest and "easy to find" fluid for lens cleaning? I forgot to say that you have to choose and use fluids very carefully, use a safe one not to ruin multicoating layers.

Fighting versus fungus: I've read to use q-tips in a 50/50 mix of Ammonia (pure) and hydrogen peroxide (how many volumes?). Or cold cream followed by water+mild soap. Or Uv-c lamps (how long and what wattage?) to kill it and avoid spreading, but is seems to be harmful for eyes and skin (do use sunglasses!). Remember to protect plastic parts shielding everything but the lens with aluminum sheets, and expose the lens from the back because front elements may have uv filtering coatings.

Please add your suggestions, this could be useful for everyone. thanks,

Andrea

dannytang
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to andyit, Apr 17, 2013

I don't know about the other methods, but never use your breath.

http://petapixel.com/2012/12/07/your-breath-contains-harmful-acids-that-can-damage-camera-lenses/

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andyit
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to dannytang, Apr 17, 2013

hi Danny, thanks for your post. I read at the end of the article "Update: Nikon has updated its support page to remove the acid reference discussed in this post." Maybe they realized this could be really funny for someone.

I quote some interesting comments:

Stephan Zielinski: "According to Exhaled breath condensate: methodological recommendations and unresolved questions, what one gets when exhaled breath condenses has a pH in the range of 7.4 to 8.8. This not only is not acidic, it is slightly basic."

and when they talk about a water + CO2 reaction...

madmax: "The reaction is correct: CO2+H2O= CO3H2, but CO2 is all around us. Then better don´t put your lens near plants, animals, cars, motorcycles and factories. And better don´t use your lens in our atmosphere as it also contains CO2..."

Honestly I think since Nikon try to sell their cleaning fluid they won't ever say that breathing could be enough, in any case.

Danny, do you have some other scientific proof that breathe is acid and can seriously ruin lenses?

thanks again

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Cailean Gallimore
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to andyit, Apr 17, 2013

I'm a member of the "the less you mess around with your lens, the better" school, but a little bit of breath won't hurt your lens. I have great results using the Lenspen products, and rarely need to breathe on a lens - maybe twice in 2 or 3 years. I've never needed to use any solvents whilst using the Lenspen.

Here's a pdf that mentions using breath on a lens.

pdf

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dark13star
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to andyit, Apr 17, 2013

I've never had a fungus problem, even after rescuing lenses from our basement after the house burned down and they were soaked. I just dried them out (note, this was back in 1984 and the lenses were 1967 Nikors).

For lenses, I carry a lens brush all the time. It is my preferred method. However, sometimes you need wet cleaning, so I also carry microfiber and Zeiss lens cleaner. For years, I used the old tissue and still have tons of it, but I like microfibers and they are washable.

For sensors, I've been using the Eclipse/pec pad method on every one of my digitals since the D70. I started with the Copper Hill kit for APSC and now also have the kit for FF. I really like the lighted loupe that is included in the kit. It is great for inspecting the sensor for streaks or residue after wet cleaning, or finding one stuck bit of dust.

I've only had one bad experience with wet cleaning and it was on my Nex-7 after returning from a very dusty trip in Africa. I cleaned the sensor as usual and it immediately dried to a has across the whole sensor. I think my Eclipse was old. I read that it will take on water from the atmosphere and stabilize at 80% concentration instead of the pure 100% at packaging. I opened a new bottle and got to scrubbing, quite literally. I had to scrub carefully around the whole sensor to remove the haze. I went through several pec pads and abandoned the swipe method until I got it fairly clean with scrubbing. Removing the haze from the corners was difficult and the loupe was essential.

The sensors (or really the glass filters) are really far more rugged than people make them out to be. Sensor cleaning is not like microsurgery. I think it would be hard to actually damage one unless you were really scrubbing some rough grit and scratched the glass. The more likely damage would be too much liquid that leaks out below the filter. I use one drop per side of the swipe.

Cheers
Rich

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KM Legacy
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to andyit, Apr 17, 2013

I would avoid using solvents like various alcohols on a lens. They could damage the cement holding some of the elements together. They could also seep down, dissolve oil,  and move it onto the diaphragm blades. I recommend lens cleaning fluid; there is a good brand marketed by Schneider (IIRC). But put a little on the tissue, not directly on the lens. I recommend lens tissue, although toilet paper works well as a substitute. Fogging with breath, then wiping with tissue or microfiber, gets rid of the last traces. The advantage of paper is that you throw it away, and don't spread dirt around as you can with a cloth, unless you wash it carefully.

I would never use ammonia on a lens. It's alkaline, and alkalis can etch glass. An optician told me never to use Windex on my glasses, which are plastic, because it could damage the coating.

You should be able to beam UV light at a lens without exposing your eyes and skin. Anyway, once fungus is cleaned off, the key to keeping it from coming back is to keep the lens dry, i.e. in a place with low humidity. You don't have to sterilize a lens to keep fungus from growing.

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D Cox
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to Cailean Gallimore, Apr 17, 2013

Cailean Gallimore wrote:

I'm a member of the "the less you mess around with your lens, the better" school, but a little bit of breath won't hurt your lens. I have great results using the Lenspen products, and rarely need to breathe on a lens - maybe twice in 2 or 3 years. I've never needed to use any solvents whilst using the Lenspen.

Here's a pdf that mentions using breath on a lens.

Breath is OK on lenses, but I would not use it for a sensor. I think Isopropanol is the safest bet for cleaning the glass in front of a sensor.

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LifeIsAVerb
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to andyit, Apr 17, 2013

The only liquid cleaner i've ever used to clean exterior surfaces of lens glass is ROR/Residual Oil Remover™. A small bottle lasts forever, unless one regularly takes pictures in really dusty/dirty places.

My typcial lens cleaning procedure: A couple of rounds of alternate brushing and blowing. Put a drop (maybe two) of ROR on the end of couple of pieces of wadded lens tissue. Apply to lens in gentle, swirling motions, covering the lens surface thoroughly. Go back over the lens with a couple of pieces of dry tissue. Brush and blow some more to get rid of any fibers from the lens tissue (there are always a few). I do the same with my filter, and put it immediately back on.

For the sensor, so far, i've been getting away with using the camera's vibration cleaning function and a small blower. Pretty much what Sony recommends.

I'll probably pick up some Eclipse materials just to have on hand for the inevitable dust that won't come loose from the above procedure.

I found this which seems pretty authoritative and complete as far as sensor cleaning goes.

I think if i had internal lens fungus, i'd take the lens to a camera repair shop.

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GodSpeaks
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to andyit, Apr 18, 2013

I would avoid ammonia at all costs.  In addition to being potentially harmful to the materials used in your camera, it is also very harmful to your health.

I would also avoid hydrogen peroxide as it too has the potential to be harmul to the materials used in your camera and is quite reactive.

You cannot buy pure ethanol, so that's out, unless you plan to raid the liquor cabinate.

That leaves isopropyl and methanol.  Either is fine for cleaning as they are both quite mild.  Methanol will evaporate faster than isopropyl.

Isopropyl is the most readily available.

I use very high purity methanol for when I need to do a wet cleaning of my sensor, which, thankfully, is not often.

It should be pointed out that ANY solvent has the potential to harm or react with some of the synthetic materials used in the manufacture of your camera, so I would advice caution in whatever cleaning agent you do choose to use.

You can buy purpose made cleaning solutions for lenses and sensors, and that is what I would recommend.

As for fungus, if you live in an environment where fungus is likely, then store your equipment in a dry cabinate.

Lenspens are also a very useful item to keep with you at all times.

I also find that a damp cloth will work wonders for cleaning the camera body or exterior of a lens.

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GaryW
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to andyit, Apr 18, 2013

If I have to clean a lens, I use a fluid made for the purpose (not sure its contents) and Pec Pad wipes (although, I prefer some softer wipes that I got years ago at a camera store, but I have not found those kind again )  Dust on t he front element isn't really visible in photos, so I try not to get too OCD about cleaning.

For the sensor, I only use a rocket blower.  I hope to not ever have to touch the sensor.

For fungus, I hope to not have this in my lenses.  I'm wary of buying used lenses and so far have not gotten any with fungus.  If it has grown a while, I have read that it can eat at the coatings, so even if you clean the fungus, it could still be a mess.  Plus, you have to open the lens, because you know it's not going to be convenient.  

So, really, my strategy is "less is more".  Just try not messing with things that are working.  

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davect01
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to GaryW, Apr 18, 2013

GaryW wrote:

If I have to clean a lens, I use a fluid made for the purpose (not sure its contents) and Pec Pad wipes (although, I prefer some softer wipes that I got years ago at a camera store, but I have not found those kind again )  Dust on t he front element isn't really visible in photos, so I try not to get too OCD about cleaning.

For the sensor, I only use a rocket blower.  I hope to not ever have to touch the sensor.

For fungus, I hope to not have this in my lenses.  I'm wary of buying used lenses and so far have not gotten any with fungus.  If it has grown a while, I have read that it can eat at the coatings, so even if you clean the fungus, it could still be a mess.  Plus, you have to open the lens, because you know it's not going to be convenient.  

So, really, my strategy is "less is more".  Just try not messing with things that are working.  

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Gary W.

Agree.  I have specific lens cleaning liquid.

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bill hansen
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to andyit, Apr 18, 2013

Lenses and sensors are such expensive things that I can't see any reason to use bulk products to clean them. I agree with the advice to avoid ammonia, peroxide, etc at all costs. The various sorts of alcohol can work, but as noted, the good kinds are not easily available - and you do not want to use solutions which have been stored for a long time!

Another lenspen devotee here - for the sensor. For lenses, I've used a brush or blower, rarely breath and a very gentle wipe with lens tissue.

I agonized for weeks about cleaning the sensor of my Canon DSLR. It was a *big* job the first time, because I had waited so long before daring to clean the sensor. (I thought I could easily damage the sensor - not so, as has been noted above.) After that first time though, using the Copper Hill method and pecpads, cleaning the sensor has always been easy - not always quick, but always easy.

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andyit
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to bill hansen, May 7, 2013

Thanks a lot for your feedback, sorry for my late answer!

I use Lenspen too, and Eclipse fluid with pecpads to clean sensor

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Grumpyrocker
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Re: Cleaning: Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropyl, Alcohol, Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, breath
In reply to andyit, May 7, 2013

I rarely clean my lenses other than with a rocket blower - I just don't seem to get them very dirty. The exception being occasional stormy weather at the coast. And then I use a filter to protect the lens from salt/sand.

Where I do have a cleaning issue is on my the viewfinder of my NEX-6. That seems to get greasy quite easily. I don't know if it's tears or the various chemicals I use with my contact lenses. And I find the viewfinder rather difficult to clean. Any tips for removing the rainbow film of dirt?

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