How to Disinfect Your Camera Gear During the Coronavirus Pandemic

How to Disinfect Your Camera Gear During the Coronavirus Pandemic


As the world takes drastic measures to slow the spread of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, having good hand hygiene is regarded as one of the key ways to protect yourself and your loved ones. If you’re a photographer, you should consider regularly disinfecting the equipment you use throughout a day.

“Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials,” the CDC warns on its website. “Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.”

Here’s a look at how you can keep frequently touched items virus-free as a photographer.


Perhaps the one item touched the most throughout the day for most people is the smartphone. Phones can generally be wiped down with disinfectant wipes that contain at least 70% alcohol.

Apple updated its online guide for cleaning its products this week, telling customers that it’s perfectly fine to use disinfectant wipes.

Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces. Don’t use bleach. Avoid getting moisture in any opening, and don’t submerge your Apple product in any cleaning agents.

Google tells Consumer Reports that isopropyl alcohol wipes can safely be used on its devices as well.

Cameras and Lenses

You can also use disinfectant wipes to get rid of germs on your cameras and lenses.

“From the camera side there’s nothing that can’t be wiped down with bacteriocidal wipes,” says camera expert and LensRentals founder Roger Cicala, who was formerly a doctor before his gear rental business took off. “Anything that’s 60% or more alcohol should be effective against coronavirus. […] Gear will be virus free once the alcohol has dried, until the next virus lands on it.”

But wiping down your gear regularly will have limited benefit if you don’t take necessary precautions in other ways.

“I’m all for lots of precautions, but the concept of a photographer shooting through the day, coming in contact with people, and his camera equipment being a nidus of infection is pretty amusing to me as a physician,” Cicala says. “The most amusing thing I saw today was someone expressing concerns about coronavirus exposure while at a bar. No, my friend, you are not concerned about exposure, because you are at a crowded bar with lots of people.

“I’m certainly not going to tell anyone that an extra precaution is foolish or not to do it, and alcohol wipe downs are worthwhile.”

Returned equipment has always been wiped down with alcohol at LensRentals even before the days of COVID-19, and Cicala notes that it should be perfectly safe to wipe down the front elements of lenses with alcohol.

“I’m absolutely certain 60% alcohol could not harm [lens coatings],” Cicala says. “[T]here are too many lens cleaners that are largely alcohol (not 60% but close enough).”

It’s less clear how safe it is to use other types of disinfectants, such as peroxide- or bleach-based ones, and you’ll also want to be careful with certain materials on your gear such as the genuine leather used on older/higher-end cameras or dyed products.

The bottom line is that major lifestyle changes such as staying away from crowds is the biggest key for helping fight the pandemic, but photographers can safely use alcohol wipes on often-touched objects as an additional measure.

Image credits: Smartphone photo by ncassullo and DSLR photo by Shutterbug75

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