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How To Clean DSLR Sensor using Sensor Swab

Last Updated on September 22, 2021 by PixelPluck

Taking good care of your camera gear is as important as shooting photographs. Sometimes even a grain of dirt on the sensor may destroy the whole photoshoot. There is every chance of dust getting onto the sensor if you work in a dusty environment or outdoors. This generally happens when you don’t use the correct method to change lenses on your camera. Make sure that your camera faces downwards while changing the lens. In this blog post, we will discuss how to clean the sensor of the camera.

A lot of photographers face the issue of random soft or dark spots appearing on their photographs. This may be anything on your front or rear lens element and in the worst case on the sensor itself. First, make sure your lens is clean. Follow the steps mentioned here to clean your lens.

Here is a step-by-step guide to diagnosing the issue of random black spots or soft spots appearing in each of your photographs.

Diagnosing the Problem

The spots on photographs may be either because of dust on the lens or the camera sensor. Usually, these spots appear at the same location in each photograph. This confirms that the dust particles are stationary.

Dust on Lens vs Dust on Sensor

First, you should try blowing air on the front and rear glass elements of your lens. Never blow air with your mouth as you will be spraying fine water droplets on the glass element which will leave marks when dry. It may also corrode the inner parts of your lens due to moisture.

Always use a Rocket blower to blow air on the lens or the camera itself. Rocket Blower ejects high-speed air through its nozzle on a specific part and mostly blows away all small dust particles. If the dust particle is sticky then it may not be of any help and you will have to use a microfiber cloth to wipe the dust from the lens.

Once you are done cleaning the front and back glass element on the lens, check again for the soft spots by taking a photograph of white paper or wall. If you still get spots on photographs then it indicates the presence of dust particles on your camera sensor.

Using Camera Settings to Clean Sesnor

Most DSLRs have an inbuilt electronic mechanism that cleans the sensor automatically. The camera sensor vibrates ultrasonically to shed any particle present on the sensor. Check your camera manual or leave a comment below for additional help.

Using camera settings to clean your sensor
Using inbuilt camera settings to clean your sensor

Cleaning the sensor is very tricky as it is one of the most sophisticated electro-mechanical parts of the camera. Use maximum precautions while cleaning the inner parts of the camera.

Step by Step Guide to Clean Camera Sensor

  • Remove the lens from the DSLR.
  • Switch on the camera and use the lock mirror-up option in the menu.
  • Check your camera manual on how to use the lock mirror-up option. When the mirror is up the sensor of the camera is exposed.
  • Hold your camera in such a way that the exposed part is facing downwards.
  • Use a rocket blower to blow air on the sensor. blowing air on the sensor will not damage your sensor in any way and is highly recommended while fixing dust issues.
  • Ensure that the tip of your rocket blower does not touch any of the physical elements present inside the DSLR.
  • Blow air all over the sensor area.
  • Do not touch the sensor with your hand or anything.
  • Never clean the sensor with the microfiber cloth as the wiping pressure may damage the sensor.
  • After blowing air release the mirror to its normal position and switch off the DSLR.
  • Mount the lens and take a photo of a white surface.
  • In most cases, the issue should be resolved but if it persists then it may be a sticky dust particle or oil.

Check All-in-one DSLR Cleaning Kit here. It contains everything you will need to keep your camera clean and healthy.

Removing sticky or oily particles from Sensor

If these steps do not help you to resolve the issue then additional steps need to be taken. At this stage, it is highly recommended to take your DSLR to the nearest authorized service center to get the sensor cleaned by professionals. It’s routine work for them and it’s inexpensive.

However, if you are a do-it-yourself type of person then read on to find out how to clean your sensor using Sensor Swabs. It is a fairly simple process but requires precision and practice.

What is a Sensor Swab?

Sensor cleaning swabs are a non-alcoholic water-based tool to clean the camera sensor. The sensor swab ensures minimum friction and static build-up. Micrometer-level fiber cloth absorbs and sweeps invisible particles while super thin and flexible cleaning-tongue spreads pressure evenly for safe and complete cleaning. There are different sizes of sensor swabs for different types of cameras.

Using sensor swabs to clean sticky particles from camera sensor
Sensor Cleaning Swabs
  • Set the camera to sensor clean mode (make sure your camera’s battery is fully charged).
  • Remove the lens.
  • Use a professional air blower to blast the dust from the sensor.
  • Remove the sensor cleaning swab from its vacuumed package and drip 1-2 drops of Cleaning Liquid on the head of the swab.
  • Gently drag the swab from the left of the sensor to the right. Turn the swap around and drag the clean side from the right of the sensor to the left.
  • Exit clean mode when cleaning is finished. Turn off the power and mount the lens.
  • Take a photo to confirm if the problem is resolved.
sensor swab method
Sensor Swab

Note: You will need 35mm sensor swabs for full-frame cameras and smaller ones for crop sensor DSLR.

Check Sensor swab For crop sensor DSLR: UES for standard APS-C
Check Sensor swab For full-frame DSLR:  UES for Full Frame

Avoid changing lenses in dusty environments. Get yourself a good DSLR Backpack and use it as a cover to change the lens when you have to.

Let us know in the comments if you have any specific issues or queries. We will try our level best to help you. Feel free to share the post if you found it useful.

Also, read Tips on How to maintain DSLR Lens.

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