What You Need to Know About Cleaning Your Camera Sensor

One of the most sensitive parts of your camera, the sensor, is bound to get a little dirty. Here's how to clean it without causing damage.

If you're like me, the idea of cleaning a camera sensor induces the nervous cold sweats. It's not because cleaning one is particularly difficult, but handling such a precious part of a camera can be intimidating, as well as disastrous if done improperly. However, in this step-by-step tutorial, Tony Northrup shows you how to clean your DSLR's sensor correctly using swabs and a specialized cleaning solution.

See? It's really not that tricky. Just grab a clean swab (don't fuggin' touch the swabby part), add a couple of drops of the cleaning solution, and then give your sensor a nice, careful swipe. One tip, make sure your camera has enough battery life before sticking a swab in there. If by some tragic malfeasance of fate your camera shuts off while you're cleaning the sensor, the mirror will come down on the swab, potentially causing some damage. (This obviously isn't a problem with mirrorless cameras.)

If you want to be super thorough and have an extra $50 lying around, a camera sensor loupe will help you locate any contaminants. What the hell is a camera sensor loupe? Well, it's basically a magnifying glass that you throw over your sensor that has little red and white LED lights that make spotting dust and dirt a lot easier. 

Or, if you don't trust your clumsy mitts to clean your sensor properly (I don't blame you), you can always shell out $50 or $100 to have your camera manufacturer clean it professionally. Of course, this option won't help you much if you're out in the field.     

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Before using a swab on the sensor, I suggest blowing loose dust away with canned air or a "rocket" blower.

January 31, 2018 at 11:40PM

David Patterson

Mirror? What mirror? ;-)

February 2, 2018 at 5:57AM


wow! perfect article. The other guides I found didn't even mention how to clean the mirror. After reading this I was able to find a "clean manually" setting on my Canon DSLR to be able to clean where the dust had gotten to. Thanks for helpful share!

February 20, 2020 at 6:51AM

Ann Moon