How Often do I Need to Clean my Camera Sensor?


There is nothing more irritating than to come back home after a photo shoot with stunning photographs only to see blotches on your photos. When magnified those pesky dust spots can definitely ruin a photograph. Even the tiniest of specks loom large when you enlarge a photo.

So how often should you clean your sensor? The quick answer is – whenever you need it. If you take your camera out for a spin every day or once a week and switch lens regularly then you might have to do it once a month. If you are the occasional photographer then perhaps every few months or so. You may also consider where you shoot the majority of your photographs – a landscape photographer who is outdoors will pick up more dust and dirt than someone who never ventures out of the studio.

Here are a few good rules of thumb for all types of photographers to keep in mind while shooting with or cleaning your camera: 

Make sure you keep your camera pointing downward when swapping out lens to prevent anything from entering the camera body.

Wipe down your camera and lens with a soft microfiber towel especially designed for photography equipment to remove any dust or debris from the outside of your camera.

Be particularly gentle with your lenses and wipe clean in a circular motion. The last thing you want to do is scratch the outside coating of your very expensive lens!

As for the sensor, most DSLRs have an internal sensor cleaning feature in the menu. Most camera manufacturers use an ultrasonic vibration to shake the dust free from the sensor and trap it. This is probably the safest and pain free way to clean your sensor.

But there are times when you must manually clean the sensor. While you can always take your equipment to a camera store to have it cleaned, it really isn’t too bad to just get in there yourself.

Here’s how to clean your camera sensor: 

I'll give you a quick rundown of how to clean your sensor here, but I highly recommend watching the video above, or better yet reading my full post on how to clean your image sensor on your camera.

First, do a sensor check to make sure it’s necessary. To do this set your camera to the lowest ISO it can go – 100 or 200. Then pick the smallest aperture (f/16, f/22, f/32) and focus on a clean white piece of paper. Enlarge that photo to 100 percent and check for smudges or black splotches or even a squiggly line which means there is a piece of lint. You can always remove these blemishes in post-processing but that will get annoying, tedious and time consuming after a while.

Then if you happen upon something foreign on your lens, you will need an air squeeze bulb and a sensor scope. The sensor scope is a magnifying glass with a light to shine on the sensor.  Hopefully if you turn your camera downwards without any lenses attached and flip the mirror up in cleaning mode, a quick burst from the air blower will dislodge any dust.

Where can I find the cleaning supplies?

There are kits available that have all the pieces in one easy package but make sure you carefully read the instructions before proceeding. There are also cleaning swaps and solvents for those hard to remove specks. For more information on the specific tools in a cleaning kit and where to buy one click here. As always, when dealing with your sensor, be careful and gentle.

1 thought on “How Often do I Need to Clean my Camera Sensor?”

  1. Hi,

    I read in the Youtube comments that the way you cleaned the sensor is a parody / joke? Can I use my finger on my sensor? As I live quite far from a Nikon service centre I am contemplating cleaning my D5100 myself. How hard is it to scratch the sensor?

    Thanks for all your very informative articles and videos 😀 I am a big fan!

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