The Different Cleaning Methods

Sensor Swab™ and Eclipse™ - Eclipse/Methanol is the chemical of choice by the engineers and optical specialist of Nikon, Kodak, Fuji and Leica. You use a swab of one type or another, put a couple (2-3) drops of chemical on it and wipe the low pass filter.

  • Pros: This is the most widely used method and when done correctly will clean the sensor 99.999% of the time. The manufacturer of these products have a guarantee against damage to the sensor. This is the ONLY physical contact method endorsed by any manufacturer. Recommended by Kodak, Fuji and Leica! Dries extremely fast.
  • Cons: The chemical used here (Methanol) is flammable and cannot be shipped by air. Methanol is also illegal to possess in certain countries without a license.

SensorWand™ or Sensor Swipe or HomeMade Swab and with Pec*Pad™ and Eclipse™ - This method was originally developed as an economy version of the Eclipse™ and Sensor Swab™ although it is similar to the method used in-house by Nikon USA. An applicator devise is made or bought and wrapped with a Pec*Pad then Eclipse is applied for cleaning.

  • Pros: This is the 2nd most widely used method and when done correctly will clean the sensor 99.999% of the time. Price, this is the most inexpensive method (that works).
  • Cons: The chemical used here (Methanol) is flammable and cannot be shipped by air. Methanol is also illegal to possess in certain countries without a license. Not guaranteed* by its manufacturer to not damage your sensor.

Digital Camera Cleaning Kit - Deluxe - American Recorder Technologies A wet method similar to above, with a methanol based solution and pre made Digiswabs. This kit also comes with a CO2 nozzle and 3 canisters of CO2 in a nice case.

  • Pros: Methanol based cleaners are the choice of most and work the best. The Digiswabs appear to be of good quality. The nozzle for the CO2 is very controllable, allowing you to get even just a whisper of air out if that is all you need.
  • Cons: The chemical used here (Methanol) is flammable and cannot be shipped by air. Methanol is also illegal to possess in certain countries without a license. Too few swabs for the $70* price tag. Three swabs will only get most through maybe 1 cleaning. We are not a fan of CO2 around sensors but when they come out in the future with their nitrogen version, that will be much better.
    * American Recorder Technologies does offer a $30 kit that excludes the CO2 and nice case. The $30 kit still only has 3 Digiswabs

Sensor Clean™, Smear Away™, VDust Formula™ & Visible Dust Swab - A wet method similar to above, but with a non-alcohol based cleaners.

  • Pros: Travels well and can be shipped by air.
  • Cons: Designed to remove "Water Stains" only, the manufacturer recommends you buy their second chemical Smear Away™ to complete the task. Smears from a contaminated sensor cleaning brush and non-water stains will cause a film to be left behind that will require an additional chemical to clean. Dries Slow. Very expensive when you consider that you need to buy 3 different chemical and 2 different types of swabs. Not guaranteed* by its manufacturer to not damage your sensor.


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Wet Swab & Dry Swab Sensor Cleaners - Green Clean USA™ A wet method similar to above, but the swab is of foam and pre wetted.

  • Pros: Travels well and no need to carry a bottle of chemical with you.
  • Cons: The wet swab is too wet with potential of leaving enough cleaner behind that it could get under the low pass filter. The dry swab was damp right out of the packet and wasn't able to absorb the cleaner. I reported my findings to the manufacturer and sent them some of my unopened packages. I was told that I had defective ones and was resent more that were guaranteed to be good. The replacement were just as bad as the original. Not guaranteed* by its manufacturer to not damage your sensor.

SensorScope System - This kit combines a couple of already discussed methods along with an inspection device. This offers a wet and dry method of sensor cleaning. For the dry method it offers you mini vacuum called SensorVac with a brush tip they claim can be used directly on the sensor. The wet method enclosed is a SensorWand and SensorSolution.  The Sensor Solution is a non alcohol based chemical. The SensorScope itself is an inspection device will help you see the dust on your sensor.

  • Pros: The best part of this kit is the SensorScope as it will help cut down on the number of tests you have to do while cleaning your sensor. The SensorSolution is travel friendly.
  • Cons: The SensorSolution is water based which makes drying very slow with great potential for residue needing to polish off after cleaning. Vacuums do work sometimes but you really need to see the dust to vacuum it. SensorScope's lens caps will not stay on. Price $185. If you have one of the first 2 versions of this kit where they used heat to seal the edges of the swabs, please return the swabs for replacements as the heat sealed ones leave a sharp edge that might scratch the sensor.


Sensor Cleaning Brush The term sensor brush is a generic term just like hair brush, tooth brush and scrub brush and there are multiple manufacturers of sensor brushes. Sensor Brush™/D-SLR Brush™/Arctic Butterfly™/Sensor Sweep™ - A brush used to sweep and extract the dust. The brush is energized to attract dust by blowing air through it creating a static charge, this effect is called the triboelectric effect. Dust that has attached itself with moisture, (to use Thom Hogan's coined term) "Welded Dust" or pollen, will not be removed with this method.

  • Pros: No liquid required and works 99% of the time on non-welded dust. Safe for travel (OK to fly with).
  • Cons: The drawback to this method is that you are using the same surface to physically touch the low pass filter over and over again. With this in mind it is very important that you keep the brush and mirror chamber free of contaminants. Does not work on "Welded Dust". Not guaranteed* by its manufacturer to not damage your sensor.

BrushOFF™ - Similar to the other brushes listed above but where they work with Static, this is Anti-Static. The brush is used to remove the existing static charge from the sensor which in turn releases the hold on the dust that was held by static. The bristles of the brush are used like a conventional broom to sweep away the newly freed dust.ed with this method.

  • Pros: No liquid required and works 99% of the time on non-welded dust. Safe for travel (OK to fly with). The manufacturer of this product has a guarantee against damage to the sensor.
  • Cons: The drawback to this method is that you are using the same surface to physically touch the low pass filter over and over again. With this in mind it is very important that you keep the brush and mirror chamber free of contaminants. Does not work on "Welded Dust".

Blowing - This is the method you will see described in your owners manual from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax & Sigma. They don't want you touching the low pass filter for liability reasons., None of these manufacturers use this as their exclusive in-house method to clean the low pass filters. Yes, blowing should ALWAYS be part of your ritual, but using it as your only method and hoping the dust will leave is a waste of time in most cases.

  • Pros: Blowers are cheap to buy and can be carried most anywhere. This is a non- physical contact method so chances of damaging the sensor is nill.
  • Cons: Will not remove pollen or dust that is attached with moisture. Dust attached with a static charge is also hard to remove with this method.

Blowing with ionization - is a big leap forward over just blowing with regular air. Dust, dirt and other particles in the camera body come from many sources, and can become attached to interior surfaces of the camera body, mirror and shutter. These particles are attracted to the sensor and can be held in place by electrostatic charges.

The FireFly uses a Giotto “Rocket” air blower bulb and advanced ionizing technology to direct a burst of anti-static air onto the sensor. Once the non-fixed dirt and dust particles lose their electrostatic charge, they simply fall off the sensor.

  • Pros: Works much better ten a standard blower. NO physical contact with the sensor. Easy to use.
  • Cons: Price $199, Like all other dry methods, this will not remove welded dust. Only sold direct, not through dealers.


Sucking - Green Clean USA™ MINI VAC removes loose dust and abrasion particles from the sensor and the camera body both contact- and residue-free.

  • Pros: It works on non-welded dust.
  • Cons: It doesn't work on welded dust and you have to be able to see the dust to know where to place nozzle.

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Sucking - Using a standard mini-vacuum cleaner. I must mention here that Sigma, does have a special vacuum provided from Japan for cleaning their cameras.

  • Pros: These vacuums are cheap.
  • Cons: They just won't get those clinging particles of dust, not to mention what could happen if you hit the low pass filter with the nozzle.

Canon's SCK-E1 - is an adhesive based digital single lens reflex camera sensor cleaner. In the kit you get a reusable rubber stamping devise along with sheets of 3M adhesive and rice paper. You place the rubber stamp onto the rice paper to clean it then you place it onto the 3M adhesive sheets, now you are ready to remove the dust.

  • Pros: Works on dust that is held on the sensor by static. Easy to use. Material included will do 50-100 cleanings.
  • Cons: Officially only sold in Japan but it can be found in the USA for sale. Like all other dry methods they do not remove welded dust.

Dust-Aid - is an adhesive based digital single lens reflex camera sensor cleaner. The newes version has an articulating head.

  • Pros: This kit is very similar in concept to the official Canon SCK-E1 (only sold in Japan) and it works on dust that is held on the sensor by static. Easier to use then the SCK-E1.
  • Cons: Compared to other "Dry Methods" this is one of the most expensive. Like all other dry methods they do not remove welded dust.



Scotch Tape

  • Pros: Tape is real cheap.
  • Cons: You might get that piece of dust, but what about all that adhesive goo left behind. Not only no, but heck no!



SpeckGRABBER™ - is a unique tool designed to remove individual contaminant particles from delicate and sensitive surfaces without danger of damaging or causing additional contamination.

  • Pros: Not too expensive
  • Cons: Users love to touch the tip which contaminates it and then you start seeing smudges left behind afterwards.

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Supersonic Wave Filter™ - Olympus has a cleaning mode that energizes a Supersonic Wave Filter™. This attempts to vibrate the dust off the filter. If the dust is successfully knocked off, it is suppose to be caught by a piece of double stick tape mounted in the lower portion of the mirror cage just next to the CCD. Many other manufacturers have added similar sensor shaking devises to help try to dislodge dust.

  • Pros: Built In.
  • Cons: It is only better than nothing.

Cotton or Polyester Tipped Applicator - Dry or Wet with a solution. The applicators I'm talking about are not the ones you would find in a normal bathroom but those found in a doctors office. In this industrial/medical variety, there is sterile and non-sterile. The only advantage in the sterile over the non-sterile is that they are usually packaged individually or in pairs, they have same amount of lint. There are 3 common types within these groups and that is cotton, low lint cotton and polyester. The polyester is the lowest in lint but if you're using it in a wet environment, it has lower absorption properties than cotton. The low lint cotton has just a little more potential for lint than the polyester but a much higher absorption rate. There is also the choice of wood or plastic handle. There have been some that are afraid the wood handle might release some flakes of wood that would then fall onto the sensor. We prefer the comprise on the SLIGHT possibility of a speck of wood/dust coming off the handle over the flimsiness/lack of stability of the plastic handle.

  • Pros: They are very inexpensive.
  • Cons: Even the tightly wound medical grade version as shown here, have fibers that can be left behind. As porous as these are, a piece of dust or grit can get trapped in them and scratch the low pass filter. Time consuming, much less work and cleaner to use a device that covers the full width of the sensor.

LensPen/DigiKlear™ - This technique has been seen being used by Canon Techs, although it isn't their official policy. Due to the fact that the LensPen can't be cleaned, it should be disposed of and replaced on a regular basis.

  1. Clean the Low Pass Filter with a foot or hand blower.
  2. Wrap a dry kimwipe or Pec*Pad™ in a pair of tweezers making sure the wrapped product sticks out much farther than the tweezers tip.
  3. Wipe the Low Pass Filter clean with the wrapped tweezers. This is more of a brushing than a rubbing exercise, do not put any force from the tweezers onto the Low Pass Filter.
  4. Polish off the Low Pass Filter with the pad end of the LensPen NOT the brush end.
  • Pros: Inexpensive, travels well and light weight.
  • Cons: You are touching the sensor over and over again with the same surface and you can't clean it.

Mirror Cage/Chamber Cleaning - This is not a sensor cleaning technique but a preventive measure. Some cameras need it worse than others, over all it is a good idea for all camera models on an occasional basis. This also helps keep the stray lubricants from contaminating a brush when using the brush method. There are currently 2 major methods of accomplishing this task, both of which use a foam swab (DO NOT attempt this with a cotton or polyester swab). We said methods but what we really meant are chemicals, one being ChamberClean™ by Visible Dust and the second being Eclipse™ by Photographic Solutions. Both work the same way and that is that you put a couple of drops of the chemical on the foam swab and you clean the 3 walls of the mirror cage/chamber and the bottom side of the mirror.

  • Pros: Eclipse™ dries fast, keeping it from straying into unwanted places. ChamberClean™ is travel friendly
  • Cons: Eclipse™ is flammable and not travel friendly. ChamberClean™ dries much slower in comparison

Sensor Inspection Loupe Kit - This is not a sensor cleaning technique but an inspection device. Using a lighted magnifier to see or not to see dust on the sensor. This kit comes with 3 different magnification Loupes 4X, 5X and 10X. The stronger the magnifier the closer you are to the senor.

  • Pros: Flexible magnifications 4X-10X. Light weight and Travel Friendly. Inexpensive. Easy to make your own from products in your local hardware store.
  • Cons: Not hands Free. With one hand holding the loupe and 1 holding the camera, you truly only have an inspection devices. You would need a 3rd hand, PanaVise or Tripod to hold the camera to to be able to use this while cleaning.


MiniBrite™ / SensorView - Again this is not a sensor cleaning technique but an inspection device. Using a lighted magnifier to see or not to see dust on the sensor. This magifier has a 3X square lens and a single LED. Rebadged by Copper Hill Images as the "SensorView"

  • Pros: Compact Design Light weight and Travel Friendly. With an MSRP of only $12 this is inexpensive.
  • Cons: Not hands Free. With one hand holding the loupe and 1 holding the camera, you truly only have an inspection devices. You would need a 3rd hand, PanaVise or Tripod to hold the camera to to be able to use this while cleaning.

Optivisor & Light Set - This again is not a sensor cleaning technique but an inspection device. Using a lighted magnifier to see or not to see dust on the sensor. This setup gives you an 8" working distance, enough room to get a SensorSwab™ in there and see what your doing versus cleaning blind.

  • Pros: Hands Free. Enough working distance to actually see while cleaning. This has 50 million other uses in your daily life. Optical Glass lenses. Light weight and comfortable to use.
  • Cons: Too bulky to throw into the camera bag. Magnification is only 2.5 without accessories.


Sure there are many methods to cleaning low pass filters, some better than others. Some will do well some of the time, and some most of the time, but what you need to protect your investment is a method that you can count on all of the time.

The Manufacturers In-House Methods

Only Kodak, Leica and Fuji support the consumer in using the same method that they themselves use for cleaning the low pass filter. All the others manufacturers only support the non-physical contact use of a hand blower. If Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax or Sigma, can tell that you have touched the low pass filter, your warranty is void. On the other hand, Photographic Solutions Inc., guarantees that you won't damage your camera, if you use their Sensor Swabs™ and Eclipse™.

  • Canon - Blower and a Kimwipe, held by tweezers. They do not like to use fluid but when necessary they use either 90% isopropyl alcohol or a 50/50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and Windex.
  • Fuji - Photographic Solutions Sensor Swabs™ and Eclipse™
  • Kodak - Photographic Solutions Sensor Swabs™ and Eclipse™
  • Leica - Photographic Solutions Sensor Swabs™ and Eclipse™
  • Nikon - A commercial grade lens tissue wrapped around a chopstick style piece of wood with medical grade methanol. Several forums have posts where readers have been to Nikon Service outside the USA and reported seeing the technicians using Sensors Swabs and Eclipse.
  • Olympus - A Kimwipe held by tweezers and Olympus Proprietary Solution (dries quickly without streaks and is bio-degradable).
  • Pentax - A special lint free cloth (provided from Japan) folded into a small square and held with a pair of tweezers as a swab moistened with a freon derivative.
  • Sigma - Uses a special vacuum cleaner that was provided by Japan.
  • Sony - Uses Sensor Swabs™ and Eclipse™ by Photographic Solutions.


* As for the "Not guaranteed" statement, this is only meant to emphasize that other products of the same type do offer a guarantee and that these don't.