One of the best camera sensor cleaners is an excellent thing to have on standby for the moment you need it. You can keep your sensor well protected, and take full advantage of the integrated sensor-cleaning systems that come as standard on modern cameras, but if you use any tool long enough, it's eventually going to need cleaning. A camera sensor is no different.
Before we get into it, one thing that's worth saying is that camera sensor cleaning kits should only be used by people are comfortable with what they are doing. A camera sensor is a delicate thing, and needs to be cleaned with care. If you're at all unsure about cleaning a sensor yourself, then it's best to use a professional sensor-cleaning service. It'll cost more, but will be less expensive than a new camera.
• Tutorial: Cleaning a camera sensor (opens in new tab)
How do you know when a camera sensor needs a clean? A good way to check is to take a photograph of a clean background – like a plain white wall, or a piece of white paper – and closely inspect the resulting image. If you're seeing dark spots or blemishes on the image, then there's a good chance they've made the way onto the sensor.
Cleaning a sensor requires a steady hand, but isn't too tricky once you know what you're doing. Using a blower or a brush, you can dislodge loose dust. For more stubborn dirt and smears, a cleaning solution will be required – this is the difference between dry cleaning and wet cleaning. A good sensor cleaning kit will contain all of the items required, as well as a dedicated LED magnification loupe to help you see what you're doing (if you don't have one of these, a good head torch (opens in new tab) and magnifying glass can be a decent workaround).
We've picked out the best sensor cleaning kits and tools for this guide, so without further ado, here's our list of the best camera sensor cleaners on the market right now…
The best camera sensor cleaners you can buy(opens in new tab)
VisibleDust is one of the most well-known names in sensor cleaning, and arguably the industry standard. This kit is relatively basic, containing four swabs, a tiny 1.15ml phial of cleaning liquid, but its real MVP is the SwabLight. This tiny torch slots onto the end of a swap and shines downwards, meaning you can always see where you're cleaning. It also has a grippy casing that is much easier to hold than a swab handle.
Also included in the kit is Visible Dust's Sensor Clean solution, which is designed to handle water-based stains. If you're looking at oil-based stains or residue, then you can also get the VDust Plus and Smear Away solutions, which are sold separately. The Quasar Plus Sensor Loupe is an other additional option, though be aware that it's not cheap.
Ultimately, this is a top-notch kit for sensor cleaning. It just gets the job done, and makes it about as easy as it possibly can be to clean your sensor. Who can argue with that?(opens in new tab)
The Photographic Solutions SensorSwab Ultra kit can be picked up in different configurations, with differently sized swaps to suit different-sized sensors. For small-sensor cameras, it's best to go with Type 1. The Type 2 configuration is best for APS-C, and if you're in full-frame territory, then go with the largest, Type 3. You will not be surprised to learn that they get more expensive as they get larger.
A kit consists of SensorSwab Ultra wands and Eclipse cleaning solution, the latter of which can also be used to clean lenses using the supplied PEC Pad lint-free cloths. It all comes with its own zip-up carry-case, though it's worth being aware that the kit doesn't come with any lighting or magnification tools. Still, once you've figured out a ways to see what you're doing, the kit gives a sensor an excellent clean.(opens in new tab)
A full-on wet clean isn't always necessary for a sensor, especially if it's just a few specks of dust you're talking about. In such cases, where all that's required is a quick overall touch-up, the SpeckGrabber is an excellent choice. It's simply a plastic stick with a 2mm² soft pad on the end, which you dab precisely on the particle that you want to remove. Easy!
The kit includes a couple of cleaning wipes that are used for the grabber, which can also be cleaned with soap and water. It's actually surprising how effective the SpeckGrabber is for something so cheap – particles stick well to the tip without leaving residue on the sensor.
It won't do much for stubborn grime and stains, but this is an excellent tool for quick cleans and touch-ups, especially as a simpler alternative to a wet-clean kit. Just make sure you keep dust off the tip – you wouldn't want to rub it onto the sensor!
LensPen proudly asserts that its cleaning equipment is used by NASA on the International Space Station – a bold claim, but we weren’t able to pop up there to check for ourselves.
This kit includes a range of gadgets for performing a dry sensor clean. Identifying any dust is a cinch, thanks to the SensorKlear Loupe with its LED illumination. The loupe’s focus is adjustable to cover different sensor sizes, and it rests securely on the lens mount of your camera. There’s also a very useful opening on the side so you can clean with the loupe in place.
But while you get a great view, cleaning performance is hardly out of this world. The included hurricane blower will dislodge loose particles, however simply blasting air in this fashion can result in dust from the surrounding chamber actually being blown onto the sensor.
A better tactic is to use the included SensorKlear II cleaning pen. Its hinged tip ensures a good contact with the sensor, though it doesn’t attract debris quite as effectively as the similar Dust-Aid Platinum or SpeckGrabber tools on test.
The Dust-Aid Platinum will easily slip into a kit bag and comes with its own compact travel case. It’s a simple device consisting of a wand with a silicone pad on the end, measuring roughly 10 x 15mm, plus 6 adhesive cleaning strips.
Simply press the pad onto one of the cleaning strips to remove any contaminants, then dab onto your sensor to pick up loose dirt and debris. Dust-Aid claims that the Platinum can be used on all sensors, including coated sensors, and on cameras with a self-cleaning sensor mechanism. No residue is left on the sensor, but you can get a sticky outline if you rock or twist the pad while it’s in contact with the sensor – and this can only be removed with a wet clean.
The Platinum is better at removing stubborn contaminants than a basic blower tool, but more stubborn marks and smears will remain, necessitating a wet clean to achieve perfect results. You’ll also need a separate loupe to really see what you’re doing, as otherwise the cleaning procedure is more of a ‘press and hope’ affair.(opens in new tab)
Delkin’s kit is equipped to remove loose particles and more stubborn contaminants. The SensorBulb blower puffs dust away, albeit in the same uncontrolled manner as any blower, meaning that dust can just be blown around and onto the sensor, not necessarily off it.
Should this happen, you can always switch to the included cleaning swabs and solution. You get 15 double-ended wands and a decent supply of streak-free fluid, but the results are mixed. The wands have a tendency to simply move some particles across the sensor, rather than picking them up.
A LED loupe is included in the kit, and it shines brightly into the camera chamber. However, we found the sensor surface to be slightly out of focus when compared to the LensPen loupe – and, annoyingly, there’s no focus adjustment. Delkin’s loupe also lacks a cutout on the side, so you can’t clean with the loupe in place and it means one hand is always needed to hold the loupe.
A lens cleaning cloth and handy travel bag rounds off this cleaning kit.(opens in new tab)
The Arctic Butterfly 724 Super Bright is essentially an electric brush designed to attract dust away from your sensor via the wonders of static charge.
The brush’s ultra-fine bristles are attached to a rotating shaft, driven by a pair of AAA batteries in the handle. Ten seconds of spinning prior to cleaning causes a centrifugal force that both ejects dust from the brush, and, with the help of the fibers’ nano-coating, recharges the bristles’ static attraction. Then, with the brush stationary again, all you have to do is lightly drag the brush across your sensor to pick up any loose particles.
A pair of effective LEDs light your way, and this is especially important as you don’t want the bristles to contact any areas of your camera directly surrounding the sensor (due to the risk of debris or mirror lubricant being dragged onto the sensor).
As for cleaning performance, loose dust is picked up pretty well. The brush doesn’t hold onto particles as reliably as the SpeckGrabber, however, and this cleaner can’t tackle oily marks. It all makes the high price very hard to justify.(opens in new tab)
A hurricane blower like this are a simple but effective way to remove loose dust and dirt from a camera’s image sensor – and they are also invaluable for getting rid of dust and grit from cameras and lenses
This is a great first-line defense it getting fluff, dust and hairs of a sensor - and should be used with the camera lens mount pointing down, so that any debris falls downwards and out of the camera as you blow. It needs to be used with care – as the tip of the blower could conceivably damage the sensor.
You will need a wet-type sensor cleaner too (like the ones above) to get rid of sticky marks and residues from the sensor.
How we test camera sensor cleaners
At DCW, our team of photographic experts test a huge amount of photographic equipment, including cameras, lenses and accessories such as camera sensor cleaning kits. We test gear in real-world conditions as well as controlled lab settings, in order to assess how well it will perform in different shooting scenarios. For sensor cleaning kits, we test both how easy it is to use the kit, and how effective it is at removing dust and dirt from a camera sensor. Find out more about how we test and review on Digital Camera World (opens in new tab).
5 things to look for in a camera sensor cleaner
1. Wet or dry?
Carefully using specially designed swabs and solution will remove most gunk from your sensor, while a simple air blower puffs dust away for a quick clean. It is good practice to do a dry clean with a hurricane blower (opens in new tab), before moving onto a wet clean.
2. The perfect view
A kit with a loupe and light will really help you see what and where needs cleaning. Some designs also enable you to clean while the loupe rests on the lens mount. See our guide to the best loupes (opens in new tab) for DIY kit options. If you buy a kit without a light, a headtorch (opens in new tab) is an excellent alternative, as it keeps your hands free.
3. Plan ahead
A basic blower will never run out of puff but, if you plump for a wet cleaning kit, the included swabs and solution will only go so far. Make sure that replacements are readily available and don’t cost a fortune.
4. Fit for purpose
Camera sensors are delicate devices, so only use swabs and solution specifically designed for cleaning imaging sensors – not just optical glass.
5. Less is more
Hurricane blowers may be safe for a sensor, but don’t be tempted to up the ante with a compressed air canister. Their high pressure and freezing propellant can cause serious damage!
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