Does cleaning solutions deteriorate lens/filter coatings?

Started Mar 9, 2013 | Questions
sumasage New Member • Posts: 11
Does cleaning solutions deteriorate lens/filter coatings?

A few of my friends said that they advise me not to use cleaning solution when cleaning lens and filters because it might "wipe" off the coatings.  They said just to damp the micro fiber cloth with water and clean that way.  I am not sure if this is true or not so i decide to ask the experts here.

I recently gotten into photography so i dont know too much. Thanks for any insights.

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hotdog321
hotdog321 Forum Pro • Posts: 19,406
Re: Does cleaning solutions deteriorate lens/filter coatings?

I'm a photojournalist and most often I see lens damage because newcomers clean their lenses too often, often creating micro scratches in the multi-coating or allowing lens cleaning liquid to seep into the joint. A bit of advice:

1. Unless you see some serious grubbiness on the lens, leave it alone!

2. If you need to clean a lens, use a clean lens brush, then a microfiber cloth. (Personally, I just blow away any grit, breathe on the lens and use the cloth.)

3. Only as a last resort do you use lens cleaning liquid. I don't even own a bottle.

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ARShutterbug
ARShutterbug Veteran Member • Posts: 8,973
Use what you need to

I know that water is sometimes better than stronger chemical cleaners, but I use whatever I need to get the lens clean.  In the end, who cares?  Just use a standard optics fluid and lens paper.  It's not going to make much difference if you have some fancy coatings or not.  You can have scratches all over your front element without noticing anything wrong from your photographs.

apaflo Veteran Member • Posts: 3,854
Re: Use what you need to

ARShutterbug wrote:

I know that water is sometimes better than stronger chemical cleaners, but I use whatever I need to get the lens clean. In the end, who cares? Just use a standard optics fluid and lens paper. It's not going to make much difference if you have some fancy coatings or not. You can have scratches all over your front element without noticing anything wrong from your photographs.

The lens doesn't need to be "clean"!   Removing dust is nearly meaningless.

But don't kid yourself about how important the coating is, or that scratches have no effect. Wearing off the coating with solvents or excessive cleaning causes the same effect as scratching the lens surface.  The lens loses contrast due to the flare that results.  Tiny scratches cause reflections, as does a lack of the coating.

Dust or dirt on the lens tends not to cause reflections, but rather to just block light transmission.  Your lens, if literally half of the surface is blocked by dust and dirt, will be almost as high in contrast and as sharp as if clean, but it would lose about an fstop of light.  A lens with a large scratch can actually be "repaired" by filling in the scratch with flat-black paint to prevent reflections.  But the tiny scratches from excesssive cleaning can only be fixed by replacing the front element with a new part that has the original coating intact.

Lenses rarely ever need cleaning.  Blowing dust off is quite sufficient.  Finger prints, however, should probably be cleaned to avoid corrosive etching of the lens coating.  Pure water or a very mild cleaning fluid is adequate.  The main thing is to use a brush first and then a liquid to remove all dust and avoid abrassion (scratching) of the lens coating when wiping with any tissue or cloth.

JessieJ Junior Member • Posts: 37
Re: Does cleaning solutions deteriorate lens/filter coatings?

sumasage wrote:

A few of my friends said that they advise me not to use cleaning solution when cleaning lens and filters because it might "wipe" off the coatings. They said just to damp the micro fiber cloth with water and clean that way. I am not sure if this is true or not so i decide to ask the experts here.

I recently gotten into photography so i dont know too much. Thanks for any insights.

I recently bought a rocket blower and lenspen, I also bought a microfibre cloth for absolute emergencies. Unless I have something seriously wrong with the lens I'm only going to use the blower. A bit of air isn't going to do much harm, and I doubt the lenspen will either. Of course I'm going to be more wary using the cloth so I doubt it will ever come out of it's packet.

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Jen003 Regular Member • Posts: 106
Re: Does cleaning solutions deteriorate lens/filter coatings?

It was a good question to ask and I have learned something also.

Good luck with your photography Jessie. Jen

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OpticsEngineer Veteran Member • Posts: 6,351
Re: Does cleaning solutions deteriorate lens/filter coatings?
1

30 years ago lens coatings were quite soft and even incidental contact was something to be avoided at all cost.  Cleaning was advised only in the most dire situations.   Coatings are a lot harder now and can withstand cleaning with materials designed for that purpose.   But things like paper towels and Kleenex actually contain small particles that are harder than the coatings.  Cleaning with things like that can put on some scratches pretty quickly.

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trekkeruss Veteran Member • Posts: 3,899
Re: Use what you need to
1

One thing not mentioned so far: if you do use fluid, do not apply it directly on the glass. Put it on the cloth/tissue/paper.

Julio Sánchez Contributing Member • Posts: 516
Re: Does cleaning solutions deteriorate lens/filter coatings?

I use an UV filter to keep the lens clean.

May it add some reflexions but my lens is clean and if the filter has scratchs I rreplace it.

I think is another option

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Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
greasy marks..

sumasage wrote:

A few of my friends said that they advise me not to use cleaning solution when cleaning lens and filters because it might "wipe" off the coatings. They said just to damp the micro fiber cloth with water and clean that way. I am not sure if this is true or not so i decide to ask the experts here.

I recently gotten into photography so i dont know too much. Thanks for any insights.

I use "Residual Oil Remover" on a lens tissue. It is superb.... far and away the best lens cleaner I have encountered in decades of removing greasy smears from other people's lenses.

http://www.ror.net/

(available on Amazon)

The lenses I need to clean these days are those of the family P&S's, which don't have lenshoods and are very prone to getting finger marks on.... (sigh)
--
Regards,
Baz
"Ahh... But the thing is, these guys were no ORDINARY time travellers!"

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Jirka- Regular Member • Posts: 497
Re: Does cleaning solutions deteriorate lens/filter coatings?

Strong solvents like isopropyl alcohol or aethe/alcohol mixture can damage the lens mounting. By itself they do nothing to a modern coating since the upper layer is silicone dioxide which is quite chemically resistant and harder than most optical glass.

Still if you need to wet clean a lens more often than say once a  year you are either doing something wrong or you are removing some miniature stains which have no effect on the optical performance.

corneaboy
corneaboy Contributing Member • Posts: 565
Re: tissues for cleaning

You are certainly right about how Kleenix tissues will scratch a lens coating and even scratch plastic lenses that have not been coated.  Strangely enough, however, toilet paper is not abrasive and can be used safely.

OP sumasage New Member • Posts: 11
Re: tissues for cleaning

So the general consensus is i dont have to clean the lens/filter that often unless there are finger print or really bad smudges.  Some dust on the lens/filter does not show up on picture, effect quality, or lights.

I will try to get the ROR for when i really need to clean it.  Thank you for the feedback guys.

OpticsEngineer Veteran Member • Posts: 6,351
one time you should clean

All the comments before about dust, etc generally not mattering are correct.

But I did have a situation on my Canon SX260 that I was getting a bright disc dead center in the pictures if the sun was anywhere within 90 degrees of the direction I was pointing the camera. It was particulary disturbing when I was taking pictures of my black dog. It had me confused for a while because I am so used to thinking that we rarely see problems with dirty lenses. But in this case, a cleaning was needed and it cleared up the problem. So that is something to remember.

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