Digital Camera Sensor Cleaning

Ron Niebrugge Alaska, Chugach, How to, Miscellaneous, Photos 7 Comments


This was from last Saturday in the Chugach National Forest, about 12 miles from Seward, Alaska.  I used two graduated neutral density filters – one on the mountain, the other for the reflection.

Sensor dust can really show in images like this where you have a uniform color as you do with the sky, and when you are stopped down, because the increased depth of field helps to show your dust spots.

I have been asked on numerous occasions how I clean the digital sensor in my camera, but have been reluctant to write about it because frankly, it is a giant pain in the butt.  Well yesterday, I just tried a new product for cleaning my sensor, and I’m happy to report that many of my headaches have been eliminated!

In the past I purchased lint free wipes, wrapped them around a rubber spatula that I had carved into a shape to fit down into the sensor, I then would wrap the wipes around the spatula with tape, apply some Eclipse fluid and then would awkwardly wipe.  I would then check for dust by photographing the sky with the lens fully stopped down, and then would repeat, and repeat, and repeat… 

Eventually I would get the sensor clean after sometimes as much as an hour of work.  But for me, the hardest part was buying the Eclipse fluid.  Air restrictions prevent it from being shipped this way, and no one ships via ground to Alaska, so I would have to load up on it anytime I, or a friend drove to the Lower 48 and hoped it lasted.  I still remember the day I lost an entire bottle when the cap came off in the camper!

So yesterday I tried a sensor cleaning product made by Dust-Aid.  And no, Dust-Aid isn’t a Willy Nelson concert raising money for those with messy living rooms. 🙂  Dust-Aid was created by Ross Wordhouse out of frustration over the existing sensor cleaning methods.  By the way, Ross Wordhouse is also an outstanding photographer.

The product I tried was the Dust-Aid Dust-Wand Kit.  This method for cleaning the sensor is virtually the same as what I did in the past, but the tools are vastly improved.  The kit comes with three wands which fit into the camera far better then my spatula.  The included wipes are truly lint free, and have a clip that nicely attaches the wipes to the wand.  And it all comes in a convenient carrying case. 

But the biggest improvement is the cleaning fluid.  Dust-Aid uses a non-flammable, very fast evaporating fluid that can now be shipped via air.  The fact this arrived in the mail is going to be huge for Alaska, Hawaii and over seas photographers!

I won’t go into details in the cleaning process because Ross has an excellent little video on his website that walks you through the steps in easy to follow detail.  Yesterday I was able to clean my sensor in about 5 minutes – a big improvement!

Comments 7

  1. Thanks for this link. I just got back from a trip and will need to clean some images that have obvious dust in them. I haven’t found this to be as much an issues with the self-cleaning sensors, but my Canon 5D is still a bit of a pain. I’ve not considered using two ND-grads this way either. Great image an info.

  2. Good to know Ron. The weird thing is that when I look at my sensor I cannot see anything on there but it shows up on the computer. I wonder if its possible to get dust inside of the lens.

    Hadn’t thought of the double GND’s either. nice.

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    Hi Paul,

    Yeah the self cleaning sensor is a big plus. This was the first time cleaning my sensor, and I have had the camera for 9 months now. Thanks.

    Hi Richard,

    I can’t ever see the dust on the sensor either, it must be really small specs showing up. I’m sure it is on the sensor because I can move them and remove them eventually. Lens dust doesn’t seem to show up. Thanks.


  4. Hmm, I’ll have to give that a look. I have dust on the sensor of my primary body and will have to deal with it sooner than later. I am currently adjusting my shooting to work around the dust and it hasn’t been a big problem, but I would still prefer a squeaky clean sensor.

    Here are my thoughts on some of the other options available to people suffering from dust problems:

    Thanks again for the post and I’ll have to give Dust-Aid a look.

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