How to Clean an Image Sensor: The extreme test!

In Photo Basics by Jim Harmer


If you are noticing dust spots on your photos, it's probably time to clean the image sensor on your camera.  Some photographers pay $70 for Canon or Nikon to clean the camera, but I personally think that's a gigantic waste of money.  Cleaning an image sensor is very easy, and if you follow the directions and use the right materials, you won't have any trouble.  I've cleaned my image sensors dozens or hundreds of times without issue.

Materials You'll Need

Most photographers who clean their own image sensors purchase expensive kits to do the job, but I have never found that to be necessary.  I can easily remove the dust with far less expensive materials, and the process only lasts a few minutes.

  • Pec Pads – These things are amazing!  I have been recommending cheap Pec Pads for years.  A pec pad is simply a disposable lintless cloth that is soft enough for use on camera equipment.  I like that you can get a pack of 100 of them for $10 on Amazon.  They work great for wiping your lenses as well, so I always have a pack of Pec Pads in my camera bag.  Always.
  • Cleaning Solution – Frankly, most of you can skip this.  Almost every single time I clean my sensor, I just use a dry Pec Pad wrapped around my finger and it does the job.  Most of the time, when I teach someone how to clean an image sensor with the “wet method” using cleaning solution, they end up using too much and leave streaks on the image sensor.  Unless you have an extremely dusty Nikon D600 or some other sticky substance on the image sensor, you really shouldn't need the cleaning solution.  Most of you should just get the dry pec pads and call it a day.  But if you are going to use cleaning solution, this is the stuff I use.
  • Blower – This is another one that most of you can skip.  A blower can be effective at helping you to remove some of the dust from the image sensor.  But every time the dust is bad enough that I need to do a cleaning, the blower never does the complete job.  So if you're going to have to use pec pads and touch the sensor anyway, you can skip the blower.  But most people like them.  A photography cleaning blower is different because it has an air intake at the back so that the dust does not circulate in the camera as the bulb sucks and blows air.

That's it!  Don't get fancy and spring for an expensive kit.  I've used these materials many times without issue.


About the Author

Jim Harmer

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Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. He blogs about how to start an internet business on IncomeSchool.com..