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Repair / Camera Care This is a good place to discuss the care and repair of your photo gear. You can share Do-It-Yourself repair and maintenance, as well as your recommendations for pro repairs. This new forum was created 4/1/07. PLEASE title your thread wisely, so others searching for a certain make of camera or repair person can find your thread easily!

View Poll Results: The ultimate solvent!
Isopropyl alcohol 34 29.82%
Lighter fluid / ronsonol / naptha 58 50.88%
Ethyl alcohol 8 7.02%
other 23 20.18%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 114. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 11-22-2010   #41
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Originally Posted by FallisPhoto View Post
Isopropyl alcohol for removing tar (pine pollen, cigarette residue, deteriorated light seals, and etcetera).
Naptha for removing grease and oil (CLAing shutters and fingerprints on lenses, and etcetera).
50/50 mix of drugstore hydrogen peroxide and grocery store ammonia for removing lens fungus.
Acetone for removing paint, some glues and really heavy dried grease (not on plastic).
Distilled white vinegar for removing mold.
Distilled water for pretty much everything else.
Excellent, I think I'll copy this and carry it in my wallet.
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Old 12-18-2010   #42
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At a former employers place, we used a spray cleaner called E-63. It was a replacement for Inhibisol, which we were forbidden to use under any circumstance. You could knock insects out of the air with the stuff. Killed them dead, right now. And it cleaned anything off of what you were working on.

One day, we got a case of Inhibisol from supply, who didn't know about the ban for some reason. After checking the back of the can, I found it was chemically identical to E-63 (1,1,1-triclorethane). We'd been using the stuff for years! What an uproar that caused with the safety department.

We were told one of the thing it does is damage the central nervous system. Now, quite a few years later, I have trouble some nights getting to sleep due to spasms that keep me awake for an extra 2-3 hours after I go to bed. So don't scoff at any warnings on labels, and keep the place well ventilated.

I like the smell of citrus on a camera.

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Old 03-12-2011   #43
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I was trained years ago as a chemical engineer and worked in the petroleum industry and well as engineered plastics. I know more than the average guy about materials and solvents. Frankly, I think most of the suggestions I see here are nuts. Trichlor, benzene, toluene, naptha (these last 3 are major components in gasoline), etc. would be hell on your lens. The only thing I would let these things touch is 100% metal component such as a mounting flange AFTER the lens was disassembled and far away from all of my photo equipment and film. Even the vapors are bad. Also, over the counter isopropanol and ethanol have enough impurities in them that you should NEVER use them on optical elements and that includes viewfinders too. Alcohols are OK for cleaning exterior parts, but use a specially formulated lens cleaner for your optics. I think the byword here is stupid is as stupid does. Be VERY careful, this is a dangerous game.
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Old 03-12-2011   #44
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No one is suggesting to use these solvents as a general cleaner for optics. This is the repair forum, and this poll is with regard for a solvent for grease.

I use Ronsonol.

It works.
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Old 03-13-2011   #45
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I've used lab grade Acetone on a Q-tip, followed by a drop of liquid dish washing detergent in a quart of distilled water also on a Q-tip for years to clean my lenses w/ zero problems.
My images of a strange land-So. Korea:
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Old 03-19-2011   #46
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Well, I keep a number of solvents on hand so that I might suit the solvent to the job. Not all greases and oils are that: some are complicated mixtures that respond best to unusual solvents. Then there is the matter of the fact that some solvents will readily dissolve some plastic parts and one needs to be careful of that.

Then there is the matter of WD-40. I do not know what is in that stuff, but if left to dry out and polymerize, it forms an exceptionally sticky goo that will gum up anything. The cure, I have found, is more WD-40 to loosen the goo and then removal of the residual goo mechanically.

If I really want to strip the oil from a part, and I am talking about what amounts to a normal petroleum-based oil, then I use TCE, or Trichloroethyene (the environmentally safe alternative to my favorite 1,1,1-trichloroethane). A clean dose of that stuff will leave an oily surface bone dry and squeaky clean, and the solvent can be reused many times.

Most greases will respond to normal non-polar solvents like naphtha, or benzene (yuk), mineral spirits, petroleum ether, etc. They can work better if one can soak the part for some time. Many soft greases are really only heavy oils or mixtures that approximate such. Some greases are soaps that act as carriers for the oil they contain, e.g., lithium automobile grease--where it is a lithium based soap carrier.

Occasionally one needs a little more polarity in the solvent and that gives the solvent some water compatibility. Things like methanol (yuk), ethanol, isopropanol, or acetone.

Acetone and methyl-ethyl ketone (MEK) are really good for some things, but can eat plastic in a hurry. One can glue plastic eyeglass frames back together using only acetone as a solvent. Nail polish remover works in a pinch, too, but then it is mostly acetone.
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Old 04-20-2011   #47
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What? No love for the Toluene?
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Old 04-20-2011   #48
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MEK cleans ups sticky adhesive residues, methel ethel ketone. Auto dealership stickers & price tages, and foam light seal adhesive come to mind.

Use outside or very small quantities.

I keep laquer thinner, alcohol, naptha, MEK, and a few other basic solvents. Something always works.
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Old 05-14-2011   #49
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I tried to buy Isopropyl alcohol at the local pharmacy here in New Zealand and they don't sell it anymore, seems you can make bad drugs with it or some such.
So Naptha it is! I only use it when replacing light seals so no big deal really, all other repairs i leave to someone who knows what they are doing.
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Old 05-29-2011   #50
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Here is a list of what I use for servicing my cameras as well as other things:

Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) Soft, weak like many other usual alcohol sorts however is best and safest for cleaning lenses, prisms, optical surfaces. Buy at least 99% pure to not leave any traces when dries up.

Acetone: Aggressive.. cleans perfectly, rather for metal surfaces, not for optical, plastic, rubber or painted surfaces. Dries in seconds. For quick use. Buy over 99% pure for best results. (For those who could not find pure acetone, paint thinners having toluene can be a weaker substitute)

Trichloroethylene (or the solutions based on it; to be used in very small quantities and by wetting q-tips for example) : Aggessive, your dry-cleaner stinks like it. Cleans perfectly, rather for metal surfaces, not for optical, rubber, plastic or painted surfaces (or to be used with great care and least possible quantities). Cleans gum, oil and residues on metal parts. To unscrew stuck optical retainer rings, flanges around lenses apply it carefully with the tip of a 1.5mm screwdriver and let settle for minutes then try to loosen. Use to clean body surfaces before sticking your new vulcanite (acetone also can be used for this.)

Lighter fuel: Best for cleaning your camera parts and safer than trichloroethylene. Leave your parts in it for some hours and then clean with a small brush or toothbrush. It leaves a very faint residue as a film, so better clean the surface with acetone for example, in case you are to stick/glue something on it again.

Mix of oleic acid + ammonia + aceton + liquid dish soap: For those having small ultrasonic cleaning devices it works wonders but can be used also for plain tray cleaning with brush. Leave your body parts in it for some hours and then brush away the dirts deposited since decades. Heating to around 50C helps.

For all other cleaning purposes isopropyl alcohol seems to be a handy and safe way including the optical surfaces. (Certainly not to "wash" the optical surfaces as it may creep into the lens rings; just wipe with q-tips soaked in it and after drying wipe with microfiber... )

These are what I was using since decades..


Last edited by BobYIL : 05-29-2011 at 05:50. Reason: more explanation..
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Old 08-31-2012   #51
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Originally Posted by BobYIL View Post
Mix of oleic acid + ammonia + aceton + liquid dish soap: For those having small ultrasonic cleaning devices it works wonders but can be used also for plain tray cleaning with brush. Leave your body parts in it for some hours and then brush away the dirts deposited since decades. Heating to around 50C helps.
... or metallic shutter parts...
With kind regards, ed.
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Old 08-31-2012   #52
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I checked isopropyl alcohol because that's early on in what I try. I don't use any one solvent; I start with the least aggressive solvent (and thus least likely to dissolve the surface as well as the stain) and escalate.

Typically, the escalation goes something like: water, soap and water, alcohol (usually isopropyl, sometimes ethyl), naphtha, acetone. And I'll almost never even try the latter one on any sort of plastic. It's amazing how many things will come off with the first two on the list.
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Old 08-31-2012   #53
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Originally Posted by Ronald M View Post
MEK cleans ups sticky adhesive residues, methel ethel ketone.
Yikes! Talk about overkill... I've found that 90% of the various kinds of price tag gunk out there comes off just fine with alcohol.
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Old 09-05-2012   #54
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Acetone can also drastically discolor many paints so be careful.
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Old 10-08-2013   #55
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My 2 cents:

- I have not found alcohol to be a very effective cleaner. It does a great job removing Sharpie pen ink, but it doesn't do much on oil and grease. Paraffin solvent (Naphtha/Ronsonol/Coleman fuel) is a much more effective degreaser.

- 1,1,1-Trichlor is an almost incredibly effective degreasing solvent - just the fumes of it will dissolve the toughest grease and oil. It has 2 disadvantages, though: first, it is no longer available in the USA due to its toxicity as a carcinogenic, and second, it is a very powerful stress cracking agent for plastics. Ronsonol is somewhat less effective as a degreaser, but it's quite good, and it's safe with plastics.

- The only other solvents that I have come to trust are Heptane (a lighter cousin of Naphtha, if you can find it it will be in an aerosol can) and CRC "QD" Electronics Cleaner (also an aerosol)... I'm less fond of the latter because it's a blend, but in practice I have never had any problem with it on plastics and it is an effective degreaser. Both of these dry much faster than Naphtha and are good for cleaning assemblies in place where the solvent can take a long time to dry out.
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Old 10-14-2013   #56
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When I started cleaning and relubing some of my Sinar Norma cameras, it was recommended to use Electronic Contact Cleaner. I wear nitrile gloves and have alot of ventilation when using this stuff. For even more stubborn residues, I use acetone.
Has worked very well for me.

Ronsonol Lighter Fluid, and Isopropyl alchohol are also around in my workshop. As well as Goo-Be-Gone.
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Old 10-18-2013   #57
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A combination of chemicals is necesary for a variety of repairs. The most useful chemical would be lacquer thinner. This is the best chemical for removing old light seals, softening and removing glue, and for removing leatherette pieces.

For light seals, soak the seals with lacquer thinner applied with a cotton swab. Do not scrape out excess gluey or dried seal material before applying thinner, the extra foam material will soak up more, and will let the chemical work without eveporating away.

Lacquer thinner is also good for removing oil from aperture blades, etc. naptha/lighter fluid is good for freeing stuck up mechanisms which cannot be easily accessed or removed.

Alcohol contains water, which can produce thin oxidation, even if you can't see it.

For optics, ether is the best cleaner.
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Old 06-20-2016   #58
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A niche product with niche uses, I find that eucalyptus oil is great for removing certain sticky residues, stickers etc (a lot of people use it to remove those horrible stickers put onto white-goods by manufacturers because of laws about energy rating such products which otherwise refuse to come off). It's non toxic (or near enough) produces no horrible fumes but is a little oily and this may need removing if used on cameras.
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Old 06-21-2016   #59
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There is no ultimate solvent.

Solvents are tools. You pick the best tool for the job at hand.

Hydrophilic solvents (primarily alcohols of one form or another) work well for some cleaning tasks. Practically all hydrophilic solvents will not damage or affect plastics. However hydrophilic solvents are ineffective at dissolving hydrophobic substances (oils and grease). All hydrophilic solvents absorb water from the atmosphere. Even in a well-equipped chemistry lab, it is difficult to exclude water from hydrophilic solvents.

Hydrophobic solvents (lighter fluid, ronsonol, naptha) will damage many types of plastics and rubbers. However they are very effective at dissolving grease and oils. In some cases they can leave a residue behind.

Some solvents are amphiphilic. The can dissolve both soluble and water insoluble contaminants. Soaps are a simple example of amphiphilic solvents.
"Perspective is governed by where you stand object size and the angle of view included in the picture is determined by focal length." H.S. Newcombe

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Old 06-21-2016   #60
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Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
Hydrophilic solvents (primarily alcohols of one form or another) work well for some cleaning tasks. Practically all hydrophilic solvents will not damage or affect plastics.
I would not rely on that, for solvents other than water. Alcohol will for example fog acrylic and damage many types of rubber, and ketones (acetone) are among the best solvents for a wide range of polymers.

Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
However hydrophilic solvents are ineffective at dissolving hydrophobic substances (oils and grease).
Nope, acetone is both a powerful de-greaser and strongly hydrophilic - and it even is fairly polar, so it will dissolve some salts, its salt solubility is limited by its molecular structure more than by its polarity. There are many additional factors that may make a solvent more or less suitable for a given task - it is not as simple as polar vs. non-polar or hydrophilic vs. hydrophobic.
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Old 06-21-2016   #61
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Spittle for lens fungus. Wash afterwards with water, to prevent regrowth. Rosenol does not seem to help the Canon L3 or L1 slow speeds...but have found letting the camera sit overnight..the slow speeds will work again a few times...is this dirt or a weak spring in the works?
As an aside, I used to inspect chemical laden barges in The Port of Baltimore , Maryland, to ensure regulation compliance, including installation of flame arrestors, never a warning from any Coast Guard "superiors" about what was on the barges being unhealthy. Of course common sense told you not to inhale sulfuric acid or benzine fumes (if you could avoid it), and to avoid tettraethyl lead in leaky barrels as well as partially refined uranium....what to do..call CG HQ. I was a reserve officer but my brother Jim had gone to the Academy and was a year ahead of me in service. Lucky he had made so many friends while at the Academy. Hell bent on getting orders to Navla Flight Training, I turned down a command, as a Lt(jg) of a "boat"[ with a CWO of course], what was I thinking?; and an XO position with one of his class mates at remote station needing security for an LNG off-loading facility on the Chesapeake. [My CO sent me out to see if the tennis court was in need of repair!] This was during the coldest winter in 50 years...so off to Pensacola....after 4 first flights in a radial engined T-28 and barfing all over, the fifth was a charm...at least I thought so. Love.
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Old 06-21-2016   #62
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Windex for fungus. For some reason people have an absurd aversion to using the stuff on lens glass, but I've found it'll take fungus off pretty much instantaneously.
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Old 07-05-2016   #63
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Believe it or not I use on metal body shutters Gumout spray after using lighter fluid. The spray has enough force to loosen up what is stuck and cleans better than all other solvents combined
Acetone is in Gumout so no wiring or plastic parts in shutters if used
I only do this first to see if my results are good enough to use
If not then the shutter must be takens aparts
I get a 90 percent result of good working shutters that were not taken apart after this type of cleaning
Of course no oil will be present so results may vary on the timing of these shutters but not much
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Old 07-05-2016   #64
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I just use Rubbing Alcohol
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Old 07-05-2016   #65
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Fuelite (white spirit) as a general solvent, and glass cleaner (the local one is called "Mr Muscle") for lens glass.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #66
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What I use:

ethyl alcohol:
for general alcohol bathe and wiping. solvent for most glues and threadlocks on Nikkors. usually works on moulds.

naphta (Zippo oil):
for petrol cleaning and solvent. general lens wipe before final wiping with chamois. usually works on moulds.

for tough grease, learned this from my apprenticeship at my family's watch repair shop. very potent.

for caked grease on helicoids.

ammonia,hydrogen peroxide (1:1):
fungus remover.

lacquer thinner:
for removing tough, dried adhesives that alcohol and the rest won't touch.

enamel thinner:
for lettering retouching with enamel paints, removal of glue marks. cheap high

bayonet mount screws, epoxy-like stuff that Japanese camera makers loved to use in the '70s.

used in place of acetone at times, much stronger. very good for those tough bayonet screws.

  • MEK
  • lacquer thinner
  • kerosene
  • benzine
Armor all is used by some people but I avoid it. our family sells them because of the car accessory business that we have but for personal use, I would never even put this on my dashboard leatherette, so it won't be used on vulcanite or rubber.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #67
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post
That's why the solutions used for cleaning watches and clocks (not too different from mechanical shutters) are blends of dirt/grease fighters: ammonia, oleic acid and detergent.

If using a cleaner with a significant water content (which describes most alcohol solutions and 'environmentally-friendly' wath/clock solutions)... careful drying is very important.

Ultrasonic cleaning is another method not considered in the survey, but should be in the repairman's repertoire.
Try CDA. It Will absorb water.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #68
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I've used Isopropyl alcohol and 70% ethanol to clean up some of my cameras. I preferred the ethanol because it dries quickly, but the Isopropyl seemed to do a better job with less elbow grease.
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