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Thread: Cleaning lens in ultrasonic bath?

  1. #1

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    Cleaning lens in ultrasonic bath?

    Hello,

    I was just wondering if it's possible to take apart a lens and clean the lens cells in an ultrasonic bath. Would that damage the lens cells at all? I know people use it to clean jewelry and I know a bunch of people who use it to make paintball marker parts look like new again. I was just wondering if anyone has tried this or has any info why it would not be a good idea to do so. I'm curious if it would help clean off fungus or haze off an un-useable lens.


    Not really looking to do this for perfection but if it's possible to save a few lenses and keep them in "decent" working condition floating around the market I would be willing to do this just as a side hobby for free.



    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    Re: Cleaning lens in ultrasonic bath?

    Perhaps I should delete this thread because I just read that fungus etches into the glass? Is that true? If so then cleaning wouldn't do a thing it would need new cells or to be regrinded?

  3. #3
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Cleaning lens in ultrasonic bath?

    Let it ride.

  4. #4
    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
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    Re: Cleaning lens in ultrasonic bath?

    Quote Originally Posted by axs810 View Post
    Perhaps I should delete this thread because I just read that fungus etches into the glass? Is that true?
    Yes, that is true.

    The fungus eats magnesium fluoride, which is the anti-reflection coating applied to the glass.
    The fungus waste product (sh*t) is hydrofluoric acid, which dissolves glass.

    Beyond that, I would worry that the ultrasonic action would damage the lens coating directly.

    IMO, any lens with fungus should be secured in an air-tight bag until it gets to the dump.
    Fungus is highly contagious. One lens can contaminate an entire bag full.

    - Leigh
    If you believe you can, or you believe you can't... you're right.

  5. #5

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    Re: Cleaning lens in ultrasonic bath?

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    Yes, that is true.

    The fungus eats magnesium fluoride, which is the anti-reflection coating applied to the glass.
    The fungus waste product (sh*t) is hydrofluoric acid, which dissolves glass.

    Beyond that, I would worry that the ultrasonic action would damage the lens coating directly.

    IMO, any lens with fungus should be secured in an air-tight bag until it gets to the dump.
    Fungus is highly contagious. One lens can contaminate an entire bag full.

    - Leigh
    You ain't kidding, Leigh.

    I had a lens that had what looked like quite a bit of dust particles in it. I sold it on Ebay with a full description. The fellow received it and told me it had fungus and not dust. He sent me pictures which clearly showed fungus and mailed the lens back to me. By the time I got the lens it was way worse than the pictures he had sent me. I couldn't believe the stuff could grow so fast! I of course refunded the buyer all his money including all shipping cost. He was a good sport and ended up buying another lens from me.

    I checked a lens that I had stored next to the fungus lens and sure enough it had the start of fungus growing in it. I know some people will buy lenses with fungus but I always recommend to have nothing to do with any lens with fungus.

  6. #6

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    Re: Cleaning lens in ultrasonic bath?

    I have cleaned uncoated single elements that were badly (almost total whiteout) hazed, and completely removed it in an ultrasonic cleaner using Simple Green as cleaning medium... But I would avoid cleaning cemented elements, but I might try it on a trashed coated element if the lens (or coating) didn't matter... (It can strip damaged coatings unevenly...)

    Look at the surface of the element with light glancing off it with a loupe, and look for pitting...

    Leave mildewed items in a sealed plastic bag with a rag sprayed with Lysol for a week or two in a warm place, then wipe down with denatured alcohol, and internal cleaning if you can do it, air it out far from other gear, and smell if you can still smell it, and that will usually neutralize it...

    But I would avoid doing this if I didn't know what I was doing...

    Steve K

  7. #7

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    Re: Cleaning lens in ultrasonic bath?

    Some of the worst fungus infected lenses and cameras I have ever seen were owned by a photographer who routinely drank beer in his studio while working with his equipment.

  8. #8

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    Re: Cleaning lens in ultrasonic bath?

    I am currently in test mode on this, so don't ask questions--I don't have answers:

    I recently bought a lens on Ebay that looked bad, thinking I could use the shutter, and when I got it, it was even worse than the photos, with spotted haze over everything. I tried to clean it, using alcohol, which left a now-clean and still-spotted lens. It was really bad. Having nothing to lose, I put some plastic polish that I use around the shop on a paper towel, and went through preliminary and tentative cleaning motions with that. Suddenly every bit of badness was gone, and the lens glowed like it was new from the factory. I did not get to the point of pushing hard, either.

    I am pretty sure that this polish contains a plastic "varnish" that works by filling fine scratches, and that it did something similar to the glass. It is supposed to contain a fine polishing compound, but I did not do enough rubbing to bring that into play. There was a bit of lubricant remaining on the surface, and I used breath and a buffing towel to remove that. This was several weeks ago. This lens still looks glowingly new, and seems to repel dust, too.

    I do not know what the long term effects are. This particular lens was a total loss, so it doesn't matter. But I will be watching. I suspect that at worse, the applied coating will start to wear, and that I will need to renew it. I doubt it is cutting into the glass in any way. I have since tried the same stuff on a couple of old lenses I don't use because they are uncoated and a bit rough, and it did the same thing to them. If this works in the long term, I will consider it a miracle treatment. At this point I would NOT treat any lens that mattered this way!

    This is the polish: https://www.amazon.com/NOVUS-Plastic...dp/B002UD0GGS/ This is the #2 in a set. Don't bother with either of the others--one is an aggressive grinding compound, and the other is simply a polishing creme of very little long-term effect on anything.

    The reason I have it in the shop is that I use it for quick cleaning and polishing of cheap rental violins that come in covered with kid crap. It works just as instantly and perfectly on them, and I have seen no negative effect over the last several years on their varnish, which is much more vulnerable than glass, which is why I thought to try it on a lens.
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format: http://flickr.com/michaeldarnton
    Mostly 35mm: http://flickr.com/mdarnton
    You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear

  9. #9
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Cleaning lens in ultrasonic bath?

    Quote Originally Posted by mdarnton View Post
    I am currently in test mode on this, so don't ask questions--I don't have answers:

    I recently bought a lens on Ebay that looked bad, thinking I could use the shutter, and when I got it, it was even worse than the photos, with spotted haze over everything. I tried to clean it, using alcohol, which left a now-clean and still-spotted lens. It was really bad. Having nothing to lose, I put some plastic polish that I use around the shop on a paper towel, and went through preliminary and tentative cleaning motions with that. Suddenly every bit of badness was gone, and the lens glowed like it was new from the factory. I did not get to the point of pushing hard, either.

    I am pretty sure that this polish contains a plastic "varnish" that works by filling fine scratches, and that it did something similar to the glass. It is supposed to contain a fine polishing compound, but I did not do enough rubbing to bring that into play. There was a bit of lubricant remaining on the surface, and I used breath and a buffing towel to remove that. This was several weeks ago. This lens still looks glowingly new, and seems to repel dust, too.

    I do not know what the long term effects are. This particular lens was a total loss, so it doesn't matter. But I will be watching. I suspect that at worse, the applied coating will start to wear, and that I will need to renew it. I doubt it is cutting into the glass in any way. I have since tried the same stuff on a couple of old lenses I don't use because they are uncoated and a bit rough, and it did the same thing to them. If this works in the long term, I will consider it a miracle treatment. At this point I would NOT treat any lens that mattered this way!

    This is the polish: https://www.amazon.com/NOVUS-Plastic...dp/B002UD0GGS/ This is the #2 in a set. Don't bother with either of the others--one is an aggressive grinding compound, and the other is simply a polishing creme of very little long-term effect on anything.

    The reason I have it in the shop is that I use it for quick cleaning and polishing of cheap rental violins that come in covered with kid crap. It works just as instantly and perfectly on them, and I have seen no negative effect over the last several years on their varnish, which is much more vulnerable than glass, which is why I thought to try it on a lens.
    I know that stuff. We used it for old motorcycle windshields. But they were acrylic or Lexan. Worked great!

    I'll try it.

  10. #10

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    Re: Cleaning lens in ultrasonic bath?

    To me it looks like McGuires #7 in a different bottle. Don't rub!!! I didn't use it as an abrasive.
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format: http://flickr.com/michaeldarnton
    Mostly 35mm: http://flickr.com/mdarnton
    You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear

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