How to clean your DSLR sensor

Picture of how to clean your DSLR sensor
Although good DSLRs have sealed bodies and often a sophisticated ultrasonic cleaning mechanism on the sensor, you'll anyway run in dust problem after some time. This time interval could be very long, since dust enters when you change lens, and many people use always the same zoom. But if you have many lenses, and you take many outdoor pictures, dust will inevitably lay down on your camera sensor.
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Step 1: The swarm of flies

Picture of the swarm of flies
Effects of this bad attitude of dust are not much noticeable, but when a bigger dust grain will come to keep company to his fellows, you'll notice it and you'll probably want to close aperture to 22 or more and take a shot to the sky. Then you'll become frighteningly aware of the affair magnitude!
I knew dust was becoming a serious matter for my dslr, but I took this shot for curiosity during my last travel on mountains, you can imagine my astonishment when I've seen a swarm of flies around the sky in my picture!

Step 2: The ingredients

Picture of the ingredients
I've already cleaned with success my Canon 1D APS-H sensor, which is bigger than the APS-C sensor of my 40D. The bigger is the sensor, the more easy will be the cleaning process. Of course you can bring your DSLR to the nearest photography shop and pay for a professional service. That will be undoubtedly the easier and safer way.
If you decide to go through the diy way you'll need a few tools:

  • a phial of ethyl ether
  • some paper tissue free from silicone to clean optical glass
  • a dropper
  • a lancet handle
  • a plastic card like a credit card
To choose the right type of card, you have to check that ethyl ether will not melt that material. Indeed ethyl ether is a very powerful solvent, and it will dissolve many plastic and rubber types. The reason why you need this solvent is because it's very volatile and, if you'll act wisely, it will not submerge your sensor and the circuits below.
zorwick8 months ago
Nice instructable...but I would not dare to touch mine ;) - okay its not true :)
andrea biffi (author)  zorwick8 months ago
lol :-)
carl winter9 months ago
execellent article---be extremely cautious of ethyl alcohol-
i h ave used a cotton ear bud --trimmed flat ---+ tiny drop of-
methylated spirits---yes---that purplish type----very light pressure on sensor-circular
movement ----watch out 4 static dust!!---
good results--my eos 550 has self cleaning mode however--let it do the job if
u got butter fingers-----
manufacturer knows best---
nb--my first camera was a leica m1--circa 1958---older & wiser-
keep your digital away from RAIN1----THE ultimate destroyer of integrated micro
regards--- carl---
_SarahC_9 months ago
Thank you for writing this!

It is a really great help!
andrea biffi (author)  _SarahC_9 months ago
I'm glad for that! :-)
bpark10009 months ago
When cleaning optics, the best procedure is to make one pass only with the lens paper, and then discard, after each wipe. I would use ethyl alcohol. It evaporates more slowly (an advantage). As long as you follow your procedure of not allowing a drop of liquid to fall (shake off the tool before wiping), you need not worry about getting liquid in the electronics. You don't need lightning-fast evaporation. Do not touch the lens paper where the alcohol is applied. That will dissolve finger oil and deposit it on the sensor.
andrea biffi (author)  bpark10009 months ago
Yes, ethyl ether evaporates really too much fast...
I forgot to mention about not to touch the paper, it's indeed very important! Thanks, I'll add that.
CyAnShaDoW9 months ago
.........or (for $12) you could get the cleaners that are specific to your sensor size, and not handle volatile solvents
trophygeek9 months ago
Very clever solution to make the squeegee!

Many modern camera have an IR/UV Cut filter / dither filter over the actual sensor. They also might include a mechanism dust removal mechanism that shakes this filter.

My recommendation is to first try using an anti-static brush and canned air before falling back to solvents. But for an older camera that's really dirty, this technique is awesome.

Search for "BrushOFF Sensor Cleaning" for the anti-static brush. They are crazy expensive though.
brunodiaz209 months ago
bella andrea ho appena fatto ed è venuto ottimo!
andrea biffi (author)  brunodiaz209 months ago
fantastico! :-)
ynze9 months ago
EXTREMELY useful! Thanks for sharing!
andrea biffi (author)  ynze9 months ago
Thanks ynze! :-)

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