Photo Gear,  Photography,  Travel

How to Clean a Camera Lens that has Rolled in the Mud

It was early in the morning, we had just drove an hour and 15 minutes to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  There was a storm with strong winds over night at the park.  The porta potty was knocked over and the park had no electricity.

Field Lens Cleaning Kit
Field Lens Cleaning Kit

Our goal was to photograph sunrise at River Bend Overlook.  We worked our way as we dare to the muddy slope at the edge of the the overlook to get the best possible composition of the horseshoe bend in the river.

As I turned to navigate back up the slope, my Olympus 9 – 18mm ultra wide angle lens fell out of my pocket.  We watched in horror as the lens slowly rolled 20 feet down the muddy slope.  I carefully retrieved the lens but it was completely covered in mud and wet slimy clay.

But, I was able to completely clean the lens and have it fully functional for the next day’s photography.

Field Lens Cleaning Kit

Here are some items that will help you clean your muddy lens in the field:

  • Paper Towels
  • Soft or Medium Toothbrush
  • Giotto Blower
  • Small Pointed Object (like a Paper Clip)

Tips for cleaning a lens that is covered in mud

  1. Carefully, remove as much of the exterior mud as you can.  Use a moist (not wet) paper towel or cloth.  I used my drinking water to moisten the paper towel.  Let it dry.  Do not remove the front or rear lens cap, or extend the telephoto.  This will allow mud / dirt to get inside the lens.
  2. Let it dry.
  3. Go to a local store and get a soft or medium toothbrush.  Medium works faster, but if you’re worried about scratching your lens, get soft.
  4. Back at the hotel, campground, etc., use the toothbrush, moist paper towel, Giotto Blower, and a small, thin, pointed object (paper clip, cork screw, whatever you have handy) to carefully clean the lens.
  5. Use the Giotto Blower to blow away the dirt and dust.
  6. Wrap the tip of the pointed object in the paper towel.  This is used to clean the cracks and crevices.  Ensure that the point of the object stays covered while working so it doesn’t scratch the lens.
  7. Do not take off the front or rear lens cap or extend the telephoto until the exterior is clean. Use the blower on the lens before taking off the caps or extended the telephoto.
  8. When you extend the telephoto, do it with the lens facing down so the dirt falls to the ground instead of inside the mechanism.

Hopefully, you’ll never find yourself in this situation.  But if you do these tips should help.

Written by Martin Belan

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