Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

Here you can discuss all microscopy-related accessories and equipment (microtomes, filters...)
Post Reply
Message
Author
PeteM
Posts: 1295
Joined: Tue Dec 06, 2016 6:22 am
Location: N. California

Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

#1 Post by PeteM » Fri Oct 12, 2018 12:23 am

I've been using various foam and cotton swaps and lens tissue for cleaning optic -- having scores of microscopes to clean for a kids' program. Finding good (soft) cotton swabs has been difficult. Foam seems generally OK, but the last batch not so much.

Have hesitated to buy cotton wool or rolls, assuming it may contain bits of dirt. Has anyone found a source of super clean cotton? How does it work for lens cleaning?

User avatar
75RR
Posts: 7449
Joined: Sun Oct 12, 2014 2:34 am
Location: Estepona, Spain

Re: Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

#2 Post by 75RR » Fri Oct 12, 2018 4:09 am

This is what Zeiss' The Clean Microscope says on cotton:

"High purity cotton (e.g. that used in ophthalmology supplied by KERMA, Germany)"

There will most probably be one or more local producers supplying ophthalmologists in the US.
Might be an idea to visit an ophthalmologist and ask what they use and where they get it. You might even be able to buy in bulk.
Zeiss Standard WL (somewhat fashion challenged) & Wild M8
Olympus E-P2 (Micro Four Thirds Camera)

apochronaut
Posts: 3633
Joined: Fri May 15, 2015 12:15 am

Re: Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

#3 Post by apochronaut » Fri Oct 12, 2018 12:56 pm

PeteM wrote:I've been using various foam and cotton swaps and lens tissue for cleaning optic -- having scores of microscopes to clean for a kids' program. Finding good (soft) cotton swabs has been difficult. Foam seems generally OK, but the last batch not so much.

Have hesitated to buy cotton wool or rolls, assuming it may contain bits of dirt. Has anyone found a source of super clean cotton? How does it work for lens cleaning?
The reason foam works is because it is firmer than many swabs. A light wipe with soft cotton doesn't clean well, neither does soft foam. The firmer the swab is packed on the stick the better. I've always relied on tightly packed swabs, with cardboard sticks. After I clean the lens as best as possible and have blown everything off I can with air pressure, I cut the cotton swab off the stick, sharpen it with a knife and use it to pick up random bits of debris left over , under a stereo mic.
I've never been concerned about dirt in good quality cotton swabs. Some of the swabs out there are very poor, too soft and they unfurl and disintegrate easily.

User avatar
75RR
Posts: 7449
Joined: Sun Oct 12, 2014 2:34 am
Location: Estepona, Spain

Re: Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

#4 Post by 75RR » Sat Oct 13, 2018 7:02 am

Was looking around the web to see if I could find some High Purity Cotton (that did not come from India) when I came across this interesting thread:

http://confocal-microscopy-list.588098. ... 75236.html
Zeiss Standard WL (somewhat fashion challenged) & Wild M8
Olympus E-P2 (Micro Four Thirds Camera)

Hobbyst46
Posts: 3018
Joined: Mon Aug 21, 2017 9:02 pm

Re: Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

#5 Post by Hobbyst46 » Sat Oct 13, 2018 7:40 am

75RR wrote:Was looking around the web to see if I could find some High Purity Cotton (that did not come from India) when I came across this interesting thread:

http://confocal-microscopy-list.588098. ... 75236.html
Having read this thread, and opinions expressed on this forum and others, I find it amazing that there are contrasting opinions about some lens cleaning accessories.

Examples of the controversial issues:
1) Cotton swabs - how clean and soft are they, do they leave fibers behind, given that cotton is a natural product
2) Lens tissue - some claim that this tissue, which has been specifically invented for cleaning optics, is too tough on the coating
3) Solvent to use - a world-known authority on microscopy has recommended xylene, others object to it
4) Kim-wipes - the same world authority has recommended Kim-wipes for lenses
And I suspect that most of the opinions and counter-opinions, although each of them seems reasonable and justifiable, were never been statistically tested... in a proper statistic method...
The manner of using - gently, sparingly etc - may count more than the specific brand of cleaner...
Zeiss Standard GFL+Canon EOS-M10, Olympus VMZ stereo

PeteM
Posts: 1295
Joined: Tue Dec 06, 2016 6:22 am
Location: N. California

Re: Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

#6 Post by PeteM » Sat Oct 13, 2018 4:28 pm

Thank you, all, for the responses.

Curious if anyone has a definitive take on Kim Wipes (the smaller ones said to be good for delicate tasks)? I tried a variety of more expensive lens tissues and Kim wipes and didn't find any difference, except some of the lens tissues were less absorbent.

I've bought some sterile cotton balls and aim to try Pete-made swabs on plexiglass (vs. foam swaps, wipes, tissues) and see if they scratch more or less than the others.

User avatar
wporter
Posts: 352
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2015 10:18 pm
Location: United States

Re: Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

#7 Post by wporter » Sat Oct 13, 2018 4:57 pm

The manner of using - gently, sparingly etc - may count more than the specific brand of cleaner...
I agree with that completely. Proper technique counts for a lot.

I think that the photographic field is to blame for much of this angst. There is a certain percentage of photographers that mistreat their cameras in general, and clean their camera lenses by rubbing off the dust with the tail of their shirt, dry, while preparing for a shot, and only once in a blue moon, if ever, would use a liquid lens cleaner and cotton swabs. We've all seen the results of this: a rubbed-off coating and a multitude of fine scratches on the glass. And that's before the modern softer multicoatings. The simplistic conclusion is that the lenses have experienced too much cleaning, when really it was just bad cleaning.

As microscopists, we dread the same thing happening to our prized objectives, so we get all in a dither about how to prevent this, and the rumors fly:

1. Cotton is good/bad; Kim-Wipes should never be used, they contain silica particles; or is that just shop rags, or paper towels, or Kleenex? Microfiber is good (it's absorbant and soft), or bad (it holds abrasives). Never rub in a zig-zag motion, only in a circular one (presumably so the inevitable scratches are in a neat circular pattern...)

2. One should not be satisfied with only a hand lens and penlight to inspect the cleaning job, OMG; you have to use a Bertrand lens, or a stereo microscope and a sophisticated lighting scheme to inspect it; really, the only way is to examine the lens with an SEM. (Of course, the lens will be ruined by the overcoating, but heck, at least you know it's clean before you throw it away.)

3. Cleaning fluids: not too long ago, a thread had some claiming that Zeiss lens cleaner should never be used: it contained alcohol (horrors!); it was now made in China; the formula had been changed, it would now eat the sophisticated multi-coating right off your lens, etc., etc. Other solvents will do the same (Windex window cleaner with ammonia, zylene, alcohol, naphtha), plus your lens elements will fall apart. Since all solvents are suspect, none should be used; we should only use those expensive molecular peel-off coatings. Oh wait, those (a friend of someone my cousin knew said) have ruined coatings, delaminated lenses, put a giant hole in your wallet, etc.

PeteM, I've used Kim-Wipes for years for cleaning off immersion oil and telescope mirrors, and have never noticed any damage. But again, it comes down to technique. If your objective end has dirt and crud on the metal around the lens, you can easily wipe this across the lens; or your mirror is covered with fine dust/sand and you don't prewash it, under running water say, before a final cleaning with cleaner and the Kim-Wipes, you again can wipe grit across the surface.

(for the record, I use canned air, Q-Tips (made in the US), Kim-Wipes, and Zeiss lens cleaner, and have never scratched a camera or microscope lens, nor a first surface mirror (he asserts wildly.)

polri12
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Nov 21, 2020 12:07 pm

Re: Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

#8 Post by polri12 » Sat Nov 21, 2020 12:10 pm

Hi, I am from Australia, earlier I clean lens with cotton sheets and then with cotton but you can order a lenspen.

They are cheap, do a great job, and last forever.

Blow any dust off your lens. Everything is crystal clear and you haven't damaged anything.

Element 56
Posts: 295
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2016 3:48 pm
Location: Lancaster County, PA

Re: Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

#9 Post by Element 56 » Sun Nov 22, 2020 4:09 am

Kim wipes are only optic safe when wet. I use Kim Wipes all the time and I clean optics ever day. The wipe doesn't scratch lenses but people do.

Regarding swabs it's got more to do with technique. When cleaning a single element I may go through 6-12 swabs depending on how bad it is. A tightly wrapped swab is more likely to scratch a surface than a loosely. Why? Because of the natural tendency to push the swab into the glass to cover more surface area . The cleaning action is best when the cotton is loose and used like a brush. A sufficiently saturated loose swab will cover more surface area and pick up more dirt on the first pass. It should conform to the glass as much as possible with a single pass then throw it out. Always twist it as it moves across the glass so the glass is never exposed to used swab. Also less pressure is needed when cleaning with loose cotton swabs which decreases the likely hood of scratching the surface.

Personally I don't like foam for cleaning optics. I have seen foam swabs scratch Haynes 25 high cobalt steel after polishing. The surface is very delicate but cotton doesn't scratch it. Microfiber is good but always be conscious of the weld or seam because it can and will scratch many delicate surfaces.

Just my two cents

Kirby

MicroBob
Posts: 2244
Joined: Sun Dec 25, 2016 9:11 am
Location: Northern Germany

Re: Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

#10 Post by MicroBob » Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:48 am

Hi together,
here in Germany "Augenwatte" is seen as a good lens cleaning material, would around a stick. You get a cotton stick of known cotton quality.
https://kerma.de/verbandwatte/

This is one of the topics that can lead to heated discussion as there are several working methods and scratches don't often result when using one of them in a sensible way. I think it is most important to understand that before the start of the cleaning fairly abrasive stuff could be on the lens. So getting this of with the lightest pressure will be a good starting point.

Bob

Chris Dee
Posts: 188
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2019 1:02 pm

Re: Cotton rolls for lens cleaning?

#11 Post by Chris Dee » Sun Nov 22, 2020 7:21 am

Same method for me as my camera lenses. Foam buds with isopropanol, repeated with distilled water, dried with a makeshift blower (a large hand-pumped plant sprayer). Trick is not to over-wet, anything with fibres is a no for me.

Post Reply