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04-16-2016, 09:02 AM   #1
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Lens, filter cleaning with soap and water

In searching around here I see the usual debate about lens cleaning materials, with lotsa recommendations for various fluids.

What I don't see is anyone using soap and water. I have to admit I never used it on lenses either, preferring usually Ziess fluid (alcohol based) and lens wipes. Maybe because I didn't ever have weatherproof lenses, and so fast evaporating alcohol was the pref since it would evaporate quickly.

But now I have eyeglasses that have some quite effective antiglare and oleophobic and/or hydrophobic coatings. I use Dawn and water (preferably distilled, depending on what's available) to clean them and it has worked great over years.

So why not on my lenses? The problem seems to be that unlike with the eyeglasses there's no hydrophobic coating, so you don't get beading's easy to blow or dab off. But with distilled water you can just let it dry, assuming a relatively dust free environment. It does take more water to clear the Dawn, but with a weatherproof lens, so what? I've started using this with my filters, since it's easy to stick them in a stream of water and shake, blow and dab off the water, but I'm sorta reluctant to commit on the lenses themselves.

And speaking of Dawn, has anyone every used it on filters in wet weather to make use of it's surfacant properties to get rid of beading? or even RainX ( would think it might not be as good in fine mist)? Droplets on the filter are really annoying, although sometimes they produce some cool extra-lens like effects.

04-16-2016, 10:24 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Distilled water and isopropyl alcohol is all i use.Very rarely need to clean my lenses but when i do it's with a mix of 70% distilled water and 30% alcohol,as a matter of fact i clean all my tv screens and monitors as well as windows with this mix and never had a problem and i've been doing this for years.No need to buy a cleaner for each piece of equipment.
04-16-2016, 02:18 PM   #3
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I actually use soap and water on the old, 5$-variety UV filters.
I have one that's easy to unscrew, and I usually employ it as a protector when trekking or going to the seaside.
When it gets real dirty, I unscrew it and take the glass right off, I wash it in hand soap and water, rinse and dry.
I wouldn't advise anyone to do that other than on an expendable extra-cheap item, though...
05-14-2016, 06:11 AM   #4
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Funny enough I've never had to clean any of my lenses with anything but microfibre cloths. What do you guys get on your lenses that you need liquids to get it off?

05-14-2016, 06:40 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by FantasticMrFox Quote
Funny enough I've never had to clean any of my lenses with anything but microfibre cloths. What do you guys get on your lenses that you need liquids to get it off?
Sometimes I get rain spots on lenses, but easy to remove, by blowing on it with my breath, and wiping with a microfibre cloth. Generally, I use a Giottos dust blower, then a gentle wipe with a clean microfibre cloth is all I've needed, otherwise. Of course I'm not around salt water spray, etc.
05-14-2016, 06:56 AM   #6
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I've used soap and water. I use Ivory soap. Detergents like Dawn have all sorts of enzymes and stuff in them. You never know what those will do.

I've had to clean off kid's sticky candy, tree sap, smoke residue, sprays from angry/frightened insects, mucilage from sundew plants, nectar from flowers and pitcher plants, salt water spray, dog nose prints, etc.

And yes, I usually use a UV filter to keep these off my lenses.

As Robert Capa is quoted as saying: "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough".

Last edited by Not a Number; 05-14-2016 at 07:17 AM.
05-14-2016, 10:53 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Not a Number Quote
I've used soap and water. I use Ivory soap. Detergents like Dawn have all sorts of enzymes and stuff in them. You never know what those will do.

I've had to clean off kid's sticky candy, tree sap, smoke residue, sprays from angry/frightened insects, mucilage from sundew plants, nectar from flowers and pitcher plants, salt water spray, dog nose prints, etc.

And yes, I usually use a UV filter to keep these off my lenses.

As Robert Capa is quoted as saying: "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough".
We used Dawn for years on glasses because it is a surfactant, and helps defog the lenses or the inside of a diving mask. But so is soap. And soap is a sort of detergent (alkali salt of fatty acid, or so I'm told). Both some soaps and some other detergents have other stuff like whiteners and aromatics and so on. Ivory soap might have less of those; I dunno.

I have had a lot of the same things on my lenses and filters. Salt spray is another, beer, and of course fingerprints. I've been using Dawn on the filters with good results (clean, no residue). Note there are several varieties of Dawn; I don't think all contain the enzymes, which are used to break down organics like lasagna. I doubt they'd have any effect on your lenses. Dawn is rather famous for being the cleaner of choice for birds that swim in oil tanker spills and such. Note that to use it for its surfactant qualities you leave some ON the lens or filter on purpose.

Some say that alcohol in cleaners wrecks anti glare coating, and I've seen some opticians recommend against it. Yet it is commonly used in cleaning lenses with high zoot coatings. I still use it on them. But eyeglasses get cleaned far more often, hence maybe that explains the difference.

Since most of the cleaners aren't required to even list ingredients, or just list some, it's really hard to figure out what's going on. But I agree that if you start with something really simple and well used like Ivory and water, and if it works, why risk other stuff. After all the point is to just get the junk off and if just water does it (like with salt spray) then that should do.

05-14-2016, 04:06 PM   #8
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"Salt spray, beer and fingerprints" could be a Jimmy Buffet song!
05-15-2016, 12:12 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Oakland Rob Quote
Lens, filter cleaning
On the odd occasion I need to use something, I can recommend Solution 30 Lens Cleaner.

Distributed here in the UK by Carl Zeiss, who I believe know a thing or two about lenses.
09-22-2021, 12:03 PM   #10
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Bumping up this old thread!

My lifetime supply of Kodak Lens Paper and Lens Cleaning Solution has finally run out.

Any current brands of Lens Paper and Lens Cleaning Solution that the brain-trust can recommend please?

Just to keep standard lens filters clean. Rain spots tend to be the biggest issue here in Florida.

I made the mistake of using some "lens wipes" that my wife had for her glasses - argh!

Many thanks,

Joel
09-23-2021, 07:50 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by JoelA Quote
Bumping up this old thread!

My lifetime supply of Kodak Lens Paper and Lens Cleaning Solution has finally run out.

Any current brands of Lens Paper and Lens Cleaning Solution that the brain-trust can recommend please?

Just to keep standard lens filters clean. Rain spots tend to be the biggest issue here in Florida.

I made the mistake of using some "lens wipes" that my wife had for her glasses - argh!

Many thanks,

Joel
For the rare occasions I need to clean a lens, I use Zeiss lens wipes. They are pretty cheap from Amazon, and seem to work well. I also use them for cleaning my hearing aids.
09-23-2021, 09:03 AM   #12
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I use either the Zeiss (in the packets) or fluid and Kimwipes, like these: Kimwipes 4.4x8.4 ? CineStill Film
09-23-2021, 10:01 AM   #13
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Thank you both so very much!
09-24-2021, 05:56 AM   #14
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Note: excessive and improper cleaning destroys the coatings on the glass.

I wouldn't use soap (will leave a film) or chemicals such as alcohol, vineger, etc.; I normally wipe with the microfibers, but when washing is necessary, use dishwashing detergent, preferably one like "seventh generation" that doesn't contain extraneous crud like fragrances. then dry the piece immediately with the microfibers, since any (tap) water that remains will have minerals which will leave a fine, abrasive dust on the piece when it evaporates. (Not a problem with distilled water, which contains no dissolved minerals.)
I only use "lens cleaner" products on lenses, since I don't want to run those under the water either to wash 'em or to rinse stuff off.
(Side note: most firearms repairs are necessitated by excessive and improper cleaning, so this is clearly a universal principle. I think too much cleanliness is evil, not even close to "godliness".)
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