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04-24-2018, 01:13 PM   #1
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Pointed "Q-tip"-style swabs for lens cleaning?

Folks, I'm after a product that I suspect exists, but I don't know for sure.

What I'm looking for is swabs with a pointed end that would be suitable for use on lens elements, when combined with an appropriate lens cleaning fluid.

Occasionally, I need something like this to clean the outer rim of an element where it's held in place by the retaining ring. It's especially useful on old telephoto primes where the rear element can be quite significantly recessed, even at the infinity focus position. This kind of product would allow me to clean the outer edge of the rear element without having to partially dismantle the lens (as I currently do).

I know there are cosmetics and auto-detailing products of this nature, but I'm looking for something that's safe to use on lens glass.

Thanks in advance

04-24-2018, 01:42 PM - 1 Like   #2
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I shy away from cotton swabs on lens elements. Cotton scratches more than you think. I have used the other end of the wooden stick from long swabs, angle cut, then used to gently guide a piece of folded, moistened lens cleaning tissue around the edge margin of the element, but I’ve only needed to do that once.
04-24-2018, 02:01 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
I shy away from cotton swabs on lens elements. Cotton scratches more than you think. I have used the other end of the wooden stick from long swabs, angle cut, then used to gently guide a piece of folded, moistened lens cleaning tissue around the edge margin of the element, but Iíve only needed to do that once.
I agree, I don't use cotton buds (or cotton anything) on lens elements... only lens tissues or Pec Pad equivalents. Like you, I've used a piece of lens tissue on the end of a swab stick or cocktail stick, but keeping it in place is tricky - especially with a deeply recessed rear element
04-24-2018, 02:04 PM - 1 Like   #4
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I've seen foam swabs that might work for what you want. The foam will squeeze into things like lens threads better than cotton but I'd be a little careful with foam as well because some plastics can be abrasive similar to cotton as monochrome mentioned. The foam swabs are available through electronic parts mail order houses.

04-24-2018, 02:04 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
This kind of product would allow me to clean the outer edge of the rear element without having to partially dismantle the lens (as I currently do).
I use cotton tipped applicators that I got from microtools. Mine are 6" long with a low lint end that is significantly smaller and more compact than typical cotton swabs used for removing makeup and such.

Applicator, Low Lint, 6?, 100 Low Lint ? Micro-Tools


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04-24-2018, 02:05 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I've had decent luck taking a small square of microfiber cloth (what ye olde Englishmen call microfibre clothe), folding it in quarters and using the folded point to clean the edges of recessed elements.

The other trick is to use the retractable brush on a LensPen with the brush about 75% retracted so the bristles splay more stiffly into a recessed lens-retainer corner.

Those aren't genuine official off-the-shelf pointy-swabs but if they work, they'll save you a few quid to go toward a Raspberry Pi or old lens.
04-24-2018, 02:06 PM   #7
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Have you tried Amazon? I have some of those around and got them either from Amazon or Midway. Something like this: https://www.amazon.com/G-Tip-Cleaning-Swabs-Pointed-100-pk/dp/B008ITZ4A6/ref=sr_1_32?ie=UTF8&qid=1524604045&sr=8-32&keywords=Pointed++swab
04-24-2018, 02:23 PM   #8
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Thanks for the responses, everyone!

QuoteOriginally posted by Bob 256 Quote
I've seen foam swabs that might work for what you want. The foam will squeeze into things like lens threads better than cotton but I'd be a little careful with foam as well because some plastics can be abrasive similar to cotton as monochrome mentioned. The foam swabs are available through electronic parts mail order houses.
I've seen those, too. The form factor is perfect - but that foam worries me

QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
I use cotton tipped applicators that I got from microtools. Mine are 6" long with a low lint end that is significantly smaller and more compact than typical cotton swabs used for removing makeup and such.

Applicator, Low Lint, 6?, 100 Low Lint ? Micro-Tools
Those look interesting. I wonder if the tips are suitable for optical elements? The term "applicator" bothers me a little, but I'm probably being paranoid

QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
I've had decent luck taking a small square of microfiber cloth (what ye olde Englishmen call microfibre clothe), folding it in quarters and using the folded point to clean the edges of recessed elements.

The other trick is to use the retractable brush on a LensPen with the brush about 75% retracted so the bristles splay more stiffly into a recessed lens-retainer corner.

Those aren't genuine official off-the-shelf pointy-swabs but if they work, they'll save you a few quid to go toward a Raspberry Pi or old lens.
Ha ha

Good ideas... I think those would work in some situations, but trickier perhaps in others. The kind of cleaning I'm talking about would really need more than a brush, although I see what you mean about stiffening the bristles by limiting the length. I don't know what some folks do with these lenses I acquire... how they can manage to get recessed rear elements so mucky is beyond me

QuoteOriginally posted by Quartermaster James Quote
Have you tried Amazon? I have some of those around and got them either from Amazon or Midway. Something like this: https://www.amazon.com/G-Tip-Cleaning-Swabs-Pointed-100-pk/dp/B008ITZ4A6/ref...=Pointed++swab
Those look great. Again, I'm a little apprehensive about how suitable they'd be for lens glass... both in terms of the abbrasive properties of the material, and the environment they're manufactured in. But useful, nonetheless

04-24-2018, 06:44 PM   #9
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Just form the tip into a point or a chisel with your fingers through a plastic bag or wrap so you won't get oil on the cotton.
04-24-2018, 10:40 PM   #10
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I have used cotton tipped applicators many times to clean lenses. Not a Number's suggestion works. Don't push too hard and there won't be any problem. If there is crusty junk, use lens cleaner on the swab and gently rotate the swab so that dirt doesn't get rubbed onto the lens. You may use many swabs.
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