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  • Optics Cleaning

    Hi all:
    I have gotten several questions from folks here on how to best clean their optics, so I thought I would put all the info in a post so everyone could benefit.

    Supplies:
    1) Camel's hair brush with blower bulb. You can get these at any camera store. Some folks like to use canned air, but this can get you in trouble. If you get the can a little bit too close to upside down, the liquid air will come out, and this stuff usually leaves a stain on your lenses when it dries that you will then have to clean off. Keep the brush in a ziplock, and periodically wash it with Ivory soap, allow to air dry, then rinse out with your lens cleaning alcohol and allow to air dry.

    2) Good lens tissue. I don't like the Kodak lens tissue, it's too rough for my liking. The best ones are the Pec-Pads from Photographic Solutions. The 4x4 inch size works great for tactical optics. In a pinch, plain white (no printed designs and not special in any other way) Bounty® brand paper towels will work fine. These have been tested by the Steward Observatory mirror lab and were found to have very, very little grit (which will scratch your optics). No matter what you use, keep it sealed in a ziplock and only open the ziplock long enough to take out one sheet of tissue at a time. Also, don't take a sheet out, lay it down on something, then pick it up again and use it to clean your optics. The tissue will pick up dust and you will scratch your lenses. This seems obvious, but it's the easiest thing to forget, and we all have done or will do it at some point.

    3) 100% isopropyl alcohol. I like Eclipse, also from Photographic Solutions. Any other 100% Isopropyl will work fine, though. In a pinch, you can use 90%. Don't use the 70% commonly found in drugstores, as it will leave water spots. Alcohol absorbs water from the atmosphere very well, so keep your alcohol for lens cleaning in small, tightly sealed containers to minimize this. It's not a danger, but if the alcohol absorbs enough water, you might start to see water spots on your optics after cleaning them, once the alcohol has evaporated away.

    4) Camel's hair artist's brush. A chisel tip one about 1/4 -> 1/2 inch wide will work well for cleaning off dried mud spots. Keep sealed in a ziplock also, and clean like you would the blower/brush above.

    How Often to Clean:
    In cleaning, more is decidedly NOT better. I recommend that unless you have finger prints, big water spots, or dried mud splatters on the scope that you just blow/brush off the dust and leave your optics otherwise alone. The coatings on your lenses are the most fragile thing in the whole works. Military-grade coatings have to pass a "cheesecloth" test where the coating is rubbed with, you guessed it, a cheesecloth until the coating is damaged. The important point here is that coating damage from rubbing is cumlative. I have seen many pairs of binos, a few rifle scopes, and lots of telescopes where the user, in their zeal to keep their optics clean, had literally rubbed the coatings off.

    Cleaning Procedures:

    NEVER attempt to disassemble your optics to clean the insides. If your optics need internal cleaning, you need to send them back to the manufacturer to be cleaned.


    1) Dust Removal:
    If you need to clean your optics, first use the brush to get all the dust off the lens. Gently brush from one side of the lens to another until you can see no more dust on the lens. Most of the time, this will be good enough, and you can stop right here.

    2) Fingerprint & Water Spot (and the like) Removal:
    If you have fingerprints or water spots on your lens, you will have to go further. If you have dried mud splatters, do Step 3) below first.

    Take a piece of lens paper and dampen (do not soak) it with alcohol. Never directly spray or pour alcohol or any other liquid onto a lens, as this can lead to the solvent wicking around the edges of your lens mounts and to the inside of your optic. Tactical optics should be sealed, but why take the chance?

    Now, gently brush the alcohol onto the lens by pulling the lens paper from one side of the lens to another, using ONLY the weight of the lens paper itself to press the paper against the glass. The idea here is that the solvent (alcohol) is supposed to do the work of removing the stain. The paper is only a vehicle for safely applying the solvent.

    After one pass, discard this piece of lens paper and repeat with a new one. This will prevent any dust you missed with the brush that was picked up by the first piece of lens paper from being drug back across the lens, possibly scratching it. If you have a stubborn fingerprint, it is ok to use slightly more pressure than the weight of the paper to try to remove it, but in no case should you grab the scope, stick your thumb on a piece of lens paper, and commence to scrubbing the lens. I guarantee such a procedure will scratch your lens .

    Once you have gotten the lens as clean as you want it, allow the alcohol to evaporate. Don't wipe the dry lens, even if the alcohol leaves behind a couple of water spots. They will not hurt anything.

    3) Mud/Stubborn Stain Removal:
    At this point you really should be done, unless you have dried mud splatters on your scope. If you do, dampen your camel's hair artist's brush with alcohol and gently work on the splatters until you have dissolved them and carried all the grit off the lens. Once you have done this, do Step 2) above, but only after you are certain that you have gotten all the grit off your lens. If you need to, wash out the camel's hair brush periodically to remove the grit from it, too. Once you are done, either wash the camel's hair brush out, or discard it.

    That about covers it. To recap, the cardinal rules are:
    1) Less is more in lens cleaning. Only do what you have to.
    2) Keep your alcohol dry and your lens paper sealed away from dust.
    3) Only use each piece of lens paper for one pass across your lenses.
    4) Never, ever pour or spray a liquid onto your lenses.

    By following these procedures, you should be able to safely clean your optics without damaging them.

    If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask!

    Regards,
    --Hawk
    There are few problems a well-placed 308 cannot cure. --- Hawk

    Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the War Room! --- President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove

    Rocket Science is much more fun when you actually have rockets! --- USN Recruiting Commercial

    A little revolution now and then is a good thing --- Thomas Jefferson

    Only the dead have seen an end to war --- Plato

    "In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine & Berkeley, Patty Hurst, heard the burst, of Roland's Thompson gun & bought it!!!" --- The Late Warren Zevon, Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner

    In the 1500's, the Roman Catholic Church sold indulgences to forgive sin. In the 21st century, we call these carbon offsets. ---Hawk

    �Fight like a man, so you will not have to die like a dog� --- Calico Jack Rackham's Mistress

  • #2
    Great post Reb. Thanks.
    "Do the right thing even if it means dying like a dog when no one's there to see you do it." Vice Admiral James Stockdale, NAVY PILOT

    "Honor, Integrity, Commitment to core values. When they become abstract concepts or "ideals", all is lost." Me.

    "Character is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking." J.C. Watts

    "I have never seen a projectile turn in flight and come back at the ship that fired it, I cannot however make that same statement regarding missiles." Me.

    Deus lo vult! = "God wills it!"

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    • #3
      Thanks Hawk,

      And it was great meeting you Saturday at the gunshow. I took the liberty of saving your tips to my computer and tried out the mount too. Worked just fine. Thanks for all your help here.

      Jet
      Isshin Ryu Student

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks for the info. I might add-Use Butler Creek scope caps when not using your scope.

        Tom
        T.Bruner

        Comment


        • #5
          What about reagent acetone? By reagent I mean the pure stuff if you will, not sure if that is the proper term. Will it take off flouride and other coatings that are put on optics now?
          "Give me an army of West Point graduates and I'll win a battle. Give me a handful of Texas Aggies and I'll win a War!" George S. Patton

          Everything I needed to know about islam I learned on 9/11.

          Comment


          • #6
            Tip: When brushing your "glass", have the lens pointing toward the floor. That way any dust or dirt dislodged falls off the lens or into the brush, rather than just being moved around within the objective ring.
            Scott Berish, Owner
            Liberty Optics LLC
            An Official Vendor of Sniper?s Paradise
            "See Better, Shoot Better"
            www.libertyoptics.com

            Phone: 406-890-2714
            If no answer: 352-572-1469 (cell
            Fax: 763-431-5015
            Email: Scott@LibertyOptics.com

            Secure snail mail payments:
            Liberty Optics
            PO Box 2554
            Kalispell MT 59903

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            • #7
              [quote]
              What about reagent acetone? By reagent I mean the pure stuff if you will, not sure if that is the proper term. Will it take off flouride and other coatings that are put on optics now?[/b]
              I understand that John Williams of USO recommends acetone, as do some other folks, but I don't. It will remove paint from the inside of your objective bell, and can attack some types of o-rings. If it seeps past the o-rings on your objective, it can then attack the optical cement that some of your scope lenses may be put together with (some optical adhesives are affected by acetone, some aren't, but there is no way to know which type is used in your scope). None of these things are good. I don't know about its effects on MgFl coatings, so I can't comment on that. I guess another question is why use acetone? More expensive, reagent grade isn't exactly a drugstore item, and I doubt it works any better than Eclipse or 100% isopropyl.

              Regards,
              --Hawk
              There are few problems a well-placed 308 cannot cure. --- Hawk

              Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the War Room! --- President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove

              Rocket Science is much more fun when you actually have rockets! --- USN Recruiting Commercial

              A little revolution now and then is a good thing --- Thomas Jefferson

              Only the dead have seen an end to war --- Plato

              "In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine & Berkeley, Patty Hurst, heard the burst, of Roland's Thompson gun & bought it!!!" --- The Late Warren Zevon, Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner

              In the 1500's, the Roman Catholic Church sold indulgences to forgive sin. In the 21st century, we call these carbon offsets. ---Hawk

              �Fight like a man, so you will not have to die like a dog� --- Calico Jack Rackham's Mistress

              Comment


              • #8
                Wow that makes is real tough decision the way you put it! Thanks!
                "Give me an army of West Point graduates and I'll win a battle. Give me a handful of Texas Aggies and I'll win a War!" George S. Patton

                Everything I needed to know about islam I learned on 9/11.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I read where lens paper wasn't the best thing to use because of wood fibers in paper. Lens cloth is supposed to be better, so that's what I use.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    [quote]
                    I read where lens paper wasn't the best thing to use because of wood fibers in paper. Lens cloth is supposed to be better, so that's what I use.[/b]
                    How do you store your lens cloth? How often do you wash it?

                    The problem with lens cloth is that it accumulates dust and dirt (even if you don't see it, it is there). Thus, unless you are throwing away your lens cloth after each and every use, or washing it in a neutral detergent after each and every use, and then storing it in a ziplock, you are running a very big risk of scratching or at least "sleeking" (sleeks are tiny microscratches) your lenses. It is true that Kodak lens paper is pretty much crap. The lens "paper" I specify above feels much more like cloth to the hands, and is, in fact, not made from wood at all.

                    Feel free to use what makes you comfortable, but be aware that a lens cloth is usually a very poor choice, based on my 25+ years of experience in cleaning optics.

                    Regards,
                    --Hawk
                    There are few problems a well-placed 308 cannot cure. --- Hawk

                    Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the War Room! --- President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove

                    Rocket Science is much more fun when you actually have rockets! --- USN Recruiting Commercial

                    A little revolution now and then is a good thing --- Thomas Jefferson

                    Only the dead have seen an end to war --- Plato

                    "In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine & Berkeley, Patty Hurst, heard the burst, of Roland's Thompson gun & bought it!!!" --- The Late Warren Zevon, Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner

                    In the 1500's, the Roman Catholic Church sold indulgences to forgive sin. In the 21st century, we call these carbon offsets. ---Hawk

                    �Fight like a man, so you will not have to die like a dog� --- Calico Jack Rackham's Mistress

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      IF it was ME, ba-50, I'd listen to what Reb is telln' ya......

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        RebHawk,

                        Thanks for the reply. You know more about it than I do. At the time it seemed to make sense. I will try to find some of that special paper. ba_50

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          RebHawk

                          Great article.Myself I'm a semi-pro photographer and would like to share a bit of info as well. In the photography arena the number 1 cleaning solution to date is from Copper Hill. This what I use on my kit which is worth more that my rifle set-up, so I'm very concious and nervous when cleaning.

                          You could all check this out:
                          http://www.pbase.com/copperhill/ccd_cleaning

                          Myself I am using the #10 - MEGA Kit

                          Andre
                          Live Long & Prosper
                          To Go Where No Man Has Gone Before.

                          http://inukshuk.smugmug.com/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            [quote]
                            RebHawk

                            Great article.Myself I'm a semi-pro photographer and would like to share a bit of info as well. In the photography arena the number 1 cleaning solution to date is from Copper Hill. This what I use on my kit which is worth more that my rifle set-up, so I'm very concious and nervous when cleaning.

                            You could all check this out:
                            http://www.pbase.com/copperhill/ccd_cleaning

                            Myself I am using the #10 - MEGA Kit

                            Andre[/b]

                            Andre:
                            Note that the solution and wipes they specify for "Sensor Cleaning" are the same ones I specify for optics cleaning. From looking at their products, the lens paper they specify for "lens cleaning" appears to just be the same rough stuff as Kodak lens paper. I recommend you use the Eclipse solution and Pec-Pads for all your lens cleaning. Those two items and a camel's hair blower brush should be all you need.

                            Regards,
                            --Hawk
                            There are few problems a well-placed 308 cannot cure. --- Hawk

                            Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the War Room! --- President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove

                            Rocket Science is much more fun when you actually have rockets! --- USN Recruiting Commercial

                            A little revolution now and then is a good thing --- Thomas Jefferson

                            Only the dead have seen an end to war --- Plato

                            "In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine & Berkeley, Patty Hurst, heard the burst, of Roland's Thompson gun & bought it!!!" --- The Late Warren Zevon, Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner

                            In the 1500's, the Roman Catholic Church sold indulgences to forgive sin. In the 21st century, we call these carbon offsets. ---Hawk

                            �Fight like a man, so you will not have to die like a dog� --- Calico Jack Rackham's Mistress

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I recommend you use the Eclipse solution and Pec-Pads for all your lens cleaning. Those two items and a camel's hair blower brush should be all you need.[/b]
                              +1. After reading Hawk's initial post, I bought pec pads and Eclipse solution. Very happy with it. I use it on my cameras and rifle scopes.

                              James
                              "Ever since I was a kid I've had snakes as pets. They're clean and quiet. You give them rodents and they give you pure, unconditional indifference." Carl Hiaasen

                              "The Constitution is NOT and instrument for the government to restrain the people, it IS an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests." - Patrick Henry

                              "War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner." ? Cormac McCarthy

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