Ew, Sticky Stuff: How to Remove It & Other Substances

by Tom on

Lens Pour. Image by Flickr user

We have talked at great lengths about how to properly clean your camera equipment and the best strategies to maintain its general health. Sand, water and dust are pretty common causes of equipment damage but one thing we haven’t gone into much detail about is other foreign substances. Substances like soda, sap, oil, grease, food, various <cough> biologicals, inks, tape residue, and the list could go on and on… the bottom line is these are very common, they don’t come off too easily and if you use the wrong materials to remove them it can make it even worse. No matter the substance or cleaning liquid, for the best results it is recommended you use lint free disposable wipes. Always apply your cleaning fluid to it and never to your equipment directly. You will also want to wear latex gloves to prevent any of the materials from getting on your skin and to keep the unit clean. Before you start any cleaning job gently blow and brush off debris.

Soda or Pop (as you East-Coasters call it) is probably the most frequently seen substance we experience. All it takes to mess up your camera is that little spray when you pull the tab on the can. When it dries it leaves behind sticky sugar that can gum up your equipments functions. Common household window cleaners (usually blue in color) are composed mostly of water which is best for removing any water soluble substances. Many tree saps and foods are water soluble. Do not use plain water, glass and surface cleaners have chemicals that aid in cleaning and make it evaporate quickly. Always use it very sparingly because you don’t want it seeping into your equipment shorting things out.

A substance called naphtha removes grease and oil substances. Cooking oil, animal fat, car grease and the like are a total pain to remove. Just wiping it off runs the risk of scratching (especially on your glass surfaces) because there are usually other bits of stuff mixed in with these substances. Using a little naphtha on your lint free wipe and carefully wiping it off should do the trick. Use this stuff sparingly as well; take care it doesn’t find its way inside your gear. You will definitely want to use latex gloves with this cleaning material.

The best all around cleaner is isopropyl alcohol. It evaporates very quickly and leaves no residue. For any cleaning job performed on your equipment it would behoove you to finish it off with a quick rub down. For your optic surfaces the proper way to clean them is to start by wrapping your index finger with your wipe (or CLEAN microfiber cloth) and dabbing it with the alcohol. Begin wiping in a circular motion in the middle gradually spiraling outward until you reach the edge and smoothly lift away leaving no residue.

If you are unsure which cleaning fluid will work, if you can, try contaminating a similar surface that’s on something you don’t care about with the same material(s) and experiment with that first. As long as you are using a CLEAN microfiber cloth it will work just fine but getting all the crap you just cleaned off of your equipment out of the cloth may be more of a headache than it’s worth. Cotton swabs are another useful tool for getting into groves, nooks, crannies and those hard to reach spots; just remember to use your cleaning fluid sparingly. Places to watch out for are buttons and especially LCD windows. Liquids love to bleed right underneath them and can cause all kinds of havoc.

Title image by Flickr user saturn ♄

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