Professional photographers don’t recommend using alcohol, or alcohol wipes, to clean a camera lens. That’s because lenses have special coatings, which are invisible to the eye but aid performance and protect the lens from UV light. Alcohol may wear away these coatings.
My name is Caleb, and I have five years of photography experience. My specialty is sports photography, and over the years, I’ve shot several different leagues and teams from the college to the semi-pro level.
In this article, I’ll break down why using alcohol wipes, or other kinds of alcohol, on a camera lens usually isn’t a good idea. I’ll also explain which type of alcohol to use if you don’t have anything else on hand and want to take the risk anyway.
If you need to clean your camera lens and you want to avoid damaging it in the process, keep reading for the full breakdown.
Can You Use Alcohol Wipes on a Camera Lens
While alcohol is good at cleaning many things, using it on your camera lens is not a good idea. This includes both liquid alcohol and alcohol wipes.
The reason has to do with the surface of the lens. Camera lenses have invisible coatings that serve multiple purposes, including protecting the lens from UV light and enhancing optical performance.
Just as alcohol can wash away other substances like skin oil, it can also damage these coatings. Even if you don’t see the damage, you may notice it later in the performance of your lens.
The Best Way to Clean a Camera Lens
Instead of using alcohol wipes, you should clean your lenses with a dedicated lens cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth. It’s essential that the cloth is microfiber, as a regular one will leave tiny scratches on the surface of the lens.
Using these cleaning solutions is simple. Dampen the cloth with the solution, and then gently rub the cloth across the lens with smooth, circular motions. You should work your way from the middle of the lens to the edges.
If you do this right, you’ll have a clean lens without damaging the coatings or leaving behind scratches.
What Kind of Alcohol to Use on Camera Lens
While I don’t recommend it, you might use alcohol to clean your camera lens when you don’t have anything else on hand. In this case, picking the right alcohol is vital for avoiding damage.
You should use a 99% purity isopropyl alcohol, not the common 70%. This is because lower-purity alcohol has other additives which can cause damage.
Don’t place the alcohol directly onto the lens. Instead, dampen a microfiber cloth with it, the same as if you were using a cleaning solution.
The rest of the process is the same. Make gentle, circular motions from the inside out, and let the lens air-dry.
These are some of the most asked questions surrounding alcohol and cleaning camera lenses.
Should I Use Dish Soap to Clean My Camera Lens?
No, using dish soap on a camera lens is a bad idea. Just like with alcohol, dish soap can damage the lens coatings and ultimately does more harm than good.
What Can I Wipe My Camera Lens With?
A microfiber cloth is the best option to wipe down your camera lens. These cloths are specially designed to avoid scratching, which can happen if you wipe your lens with a cloth made from a regular material.
Is 70% Isopropyl Alcohol Safe For Camera Lenses?
No. If you use isopropyl alcohol to clean your camera lens, you should aim for 99% purity. Lower-purity alcohol can have other substances that may damage your lens coatings.
It’s usually a bad idea to use alcohol, including alcohol wipes, to clean a camera lens. However, if you want to do this anyway, you should be sure to use 99% purity isopropyl alcohol for best results.
What’s your method of choice for lens cleaning? Let us know in the comments!