How to clean a DSLR camera sensor at home?

I came back from San Diego trip. Eagerly I looked at my trip photos.
First two days were great weather, lots of fun at Balboa park and San Diego zoo. Last two days driving around bays and walking around Coronado island was great too. I had splendid time.

Nothing like seeing old friends Gaye and Neal Lange, taking photos, having lots of conversations.
I was happy as much as I can be until I saw last day photos. Lots of tiny dots last 100 photos!
Don’t you hate it when that happens to you?
Here is a great photo, blue sky, lush green trees, sandy beach and dots all over the image!
It was a bit sandy at the beach, but I did not think it would get that dirty my DSLR camera.
Lucky it was the last day. I just decided to enjoy my day and take a break of behind camera for a while.
When I came back to Portland I could clean my sensor anyhow.

Camera stores clean the sensor very well, but they also charge a lot.
After I paid $80 to clean once, I decided to learn to do this by myself.
It is not too difficult, but you should be careful when you are doing it.

How do you know your camera is dirty?

When you look at a 100% magnification of one of your photos in any photo editing software like Photoshop, GIMP or Lightroom you may wonder  “Where did that dust come from?

Anywhere. Any environment a bit polluted can cause these ugly spots on the photo. Especially beach sand is the worst. Sand loves sensors!

You can give your camera to a camera store to clean it up or you can do it yourself. I do it with Rob’s help regular basis. I take photos by Pacific  Ocean and many Oregon forests, so my sensor gets dirty quickly.

If you want to clean your camera on your own, you can try it.

You need some tools to do that.

  • A sensor inspection device ( sensorscope ), or a magnify loupe will work too, if you trust your memory and eye sight go for it!
  • A Sensor Cleaning Tool , SensorSwabs ( I made my own from a rubber spatula, I hold it better )
  • An air-blower
  • Eclipse sensor cleaning fluid or you may choose other liquid brands

With a sensor inspection device (sensorscope a magnify loupe) inspect the sensor. Look at where the dust located. I use time to time a magnifier to see the dust  in the sensor. An  illuminated loupe  (with LED light is bright to see details) is better though.

Take a several photos of blank light color wall, pale blue sky or white paper. You can see where the dust spots are, so accordingly you can clean it. Try Setting – Aperture to minimum f/22,  with manual focus set to closest focus setting  or shooting the blue sky, use  infinity.

Start the cleaning  with air blower in order to remove  “loose” dust off the sensor. If that is not sufficient, try wet cleaning method.


Prepare your sensor swap ahead of time. Use gloves when you wrap tissue on the spatula or sensor swab. When you wrap the tissue I use rubber band to make it tight.
never touch tissue with bare hand. Always use gloves. It does not matter how much you wash your hands , the oil of the fingers will be placed on the tissue immedietly. So wear gloves during cleaning process.

  1. Remove the lens from the camera
  2. Put the camera in it’s cleaning mode
  3. Use air blower to blow dust off the sensor
  4. Then use a fluid and pads to wipe the surface with your sensor swab ( put only a few drops of liquid on the tissue )
I use PecPads as soft, absorbent, and lint free tissues to clean my sensor
  5. Wait to dry the wetness of the sensor

Here is the important tips: do not use too much liquid, it can leave a streak behind. Two or three drops are enough. Try to follow the instructions that come with the fluid you use and never overload the tip of the swab.
Do not use air blower after you clean it up with wet spatula. It will bring back some dust if you do it.
Always clean your sensor in a clean area like kitchen table, without any dust around rather than on the floor, especially avoid carpet rooms. I clean my Sony DSLR a550 often without a problem. The hardest part to remove the dust on the sensor with holding the camera one hand. So Rob helps me by holding the camera when I am cleaning it!

More info you can read at this website: