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Cleaning Binoculars

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#1 EdZ

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Posted 01 March 2004 - 10:23 AM

CLEANING BINOCULARS

A recent post on the Yahoo Binocular Astronomy forum describes a cleaning guideline for binoculars as written by Cory Suddarth, a well- known binocular repair specialist for 30 years. I'm sure Barry Simon, moderator of the Yahoo group, and Cory Suddarth would have no problems with my sharing this valuable information with another block of the AstroBinocular Community.

In a message dated 2/27/04 8:21:01 PM Pacific Standard Time,
Barry Simon writes:
>
> Maybe Cory Suddarth can chime in with his guidelines on cleaning
> binocular optics when they absolutely must be cleaned.
>

Hi to all,

Okay Barry, I'll chime in on this one. Some correct points have been made
about which end of a binocular is less forgiving when it comes to being dirty. If
you take a 7x50, stick a 1 inch solid black rubber suction cup to one of the
objectives lenses and hand it to a friend that wasn't watching, it will be a
while before they even notice that there is a difference between the good side
and bad (unless you're handing it to Ed Z)! On the other hand, a good finger
print on the eyepiece and Dang! What a mess! Rule one has been established, and
that is, keep em covered when not in use! I get a fair share of "window sill
" binoculars. You know, the ones used to view the bird feeder in the back
yard. They sit on the objective end, so in essence, they're covered, but the
eyepiece end, the one that counts, sits up collecting everything! (I know
astronomers know better!)

Any grit, lint, or dust should be removed with minimal contact to prevent
scratching the coatings. I recommend canned air first. When you use it, don't tip
or shake the can! In fact, first shoot a spurt into the air to make sure you
aren't going to get the liquid propellant in the can on your optics. Next,
use lens cleaner. I prefer Edmund's Scientific "Lens Luster." You can apply this
with a Q-tip, but I prefer to use the medical cotton tipped swabs with the
wooden shaft you find at the Doctor's office, it has no adhesive under the
cotton. After you have covered the lens using circular motions, dab the wet area's
with a dry swab, or a high quality paper towel. Go easy! The coatings
(evaporated metal) are harder than glass, but are only a few millionths of an inch
thick.

I've used the Lens Pen, and find it does okay. It comes with a brush to
remove grit, but there again, I prefer canned air for this. Same goes for those
micro cloths which I would use as a last resort, or not at all because if you
miss any grit, scratch city! They also do little but smear finger prints.

What I do not recommend under any circumstances is "lens paper." Lens paper
is designed to be lint free, well, it is. It is also very harsh and dry which
has an even greater potential to scratch, besides, with canned air, who cares
about lint.

I omitted the final step in the method above. It uses acetone. I omitted it
on purpose. Some binoculars use plastic components at the eyepiece (and
objective) end. Acetone melts plastic! So please don't run down to the hardware store
just yet.

What I'll do is send Barry a copy of a pamphlet that I published years ago,
let him go through the entire procedure, and share with you all his results.
For the most part, the steps above should be helpful.

I've heard of many methods and chemicals for cleaning optics. Denatured
alcohol is one of them. I've never tried it personally. After professionally
cleaning several acres of coated glass, I've stuck with what works for me. The
acetone part comes from the US Navy Opticalman 3&2 manual, NAVEDTRA 10205-C. But like I said, I'm sticking with what has worked very well for a long time.

Cory Suddarth
Suddarth Optical Repair
Servicing Optics Since 1975

You can reach Cory at Binofixer at AOL.com

thanks,

edz


#2 sftonkin

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Posted 01 March 2004 - 11:55 AM

I'm a puffer-brush, Lens Pen and OptiClean man. My oldest eyepiece is a 12.5mm Ortho that I've had for over 20 years, and used it a lot in that time; no scratches.

I concur with everything EdZ posted (I find puffer-brush does OK -- never tried canned air), but am surprised at the absence of any mention of OptiClean (http://www.caliope.c.../opticlean.html). This stuff is absolutely magic -- you paint it on, let it dry, and peel it off, and away comes all gunge on the eyepiece. On big surfaces I use an IPA/distilled-water mix, and rolling swabs. However, a big surface has to be truly and disgustingly filthy before I can be bothered to clean it.

#3 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 01 March 2004 - 01:29 PM

Thanks for posting this information. I know eventually I will need to clean my binos...properly.

#4 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 01 March 2004 - 02:14 PM

Many years ago I tried Opticlean on a camera lens, and accidentally discovered that if you are not careful it can seep between the lens element, and the surrounding metal lens cell. Once there, it's pretty much resident for life.

It does the job very well if used properly, and is probably the safest way to clean an optical surface, but it is EXPENSIVE. I suppose it is worth it if you have a very expensive eyepiece and don't trust yourself to use the cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol route.

I'm surprised at the lens paper remarks. I wonder if this is the same stuff as those thin translucent lens tissues that come in little packs? I was shown how to use them by a trained optical technician. The secret is to lay the tissue on the surface, drop some fluid on, and then pull the tissue across the surface by its edge (after first blowing away any grit of course). I prefer the cotton swab approach.

By the way, you will find that some pollutants are not soluble in isopropyl alcohol. A good example is dried on salt from sea spray and sea water laden air. Distilled water will get this off. Someone I know in passing who works for Zeiss advises against tap water, and recommends the distilled stuff instead. I think this is because tap water will leave drying marks and might contain some impurities that attack coatings.

#5 sftonkin

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Posted 01 March 2004 - 05:36 PM

...if you are not careful it can seep between the lens element, and the surrounding metal lens cell. Once there, it's pretty much resident for life.


Not necessarily (read the Opticlean FAQ).

but it is EXPENSIVE.


All relative; it's not much more than a LensPen here. I have a tiny bottle of the stuff that I bought years ago -- still more than half left.

#6 Rusty

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Posted 02 March 2004 - 12:05 AM

This link may be useful:

http://www.arksky.org/asoclean.htm

#7 lighttrap

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Posted 02 March 2004 - 09:11 AM

I recommend canned air first. When you use it, don't tip
or shake the can! In fact, first shoot a spurt into the air to make sure you
aren't going to get the liquid propellant in the can on your optics.


I've got some reservations about using "canned air" on optics. For starters, it's not "air". In fact, "canned air" used to generally be R12 (a previously common refrigerant used in household appliances and autos). With the Montreal Protocol, and other crackdowns on ozone depleting chemicals, "canned air" switched over to being any number of supposedly less harmful, definitely less tested chemical cocktails.

In my shop right now I've got 2 different brands of "canned air". One contains R134a (the most common replacement for R12). The other, put out by Techspray, is called Envi-ro-tech 1671 Duster. Oddly, despite the name, it contains 1,1,1, & 2-Tetraflouroethane. If you look through a range of other "canned air" products, you'll find other chemicals occasionally marketed as "air" as well. All of these essentially use a temperature/pressure related chemical concoction (aka. a refrigerant)to produce brief burts of pressurized gas. It's not air.

Sometimes it comes out as gas, and as Mr. Suddarth noted above, sometimes it comes out as liquid. One doesn't even always have to tip the can to get a shot of liquid. An overly warm can will often spurt liquid refrigerant globs mixed with the gas. In any event, what you're getting isn't "air", since the cans don't contain air. It's some form of refrigerant, in either a gaseous or semi-liquid state.

What with the variety of very soft broadband and other coatings, and what with the wide array of plastics, rubber compounds and other such stuffs that currently make up binoculars, I'm just not too sure about a blanket endorsement of "canned air" for optics.

The other consideration that I have is whether or not hard grit like sand particles couldn't damage very soft broadband coatings if an overly forceful blast of pressurized gas hit it at the right angle. I've never yet seen that, and certainly have seen lots of optics coatings ruined by mechanical cleaning attempts with cloths and papers. So, perhaps that's not as much of a concern as it might be. But, it still is a potential concern.

What's of more concern to me, is that I've rarely seen "canned air" able to do much of anything with dirty optics. Often, you can hit the optic with a blast of "canned air" and have little effect at all except for some sleaking. Then, you've still got to float off the gunk with your optical solvent of choice. (I use a custom mix that Rusty has already posted a link to.)

Most techs in the camera and microscope industries advise using a very soft, natural bristle brush in lieu of any pressurized products. And most then follow that with a very gentle solvent (alcohol, etc.), prior to a super gentle cleaning with appropriate wipes.

Just another viewpoint.
Mike Swaim



#8 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 02 March 2004 - 04:59 PM

...if you are not careful it can seep between the lens element, and the surrounding metal lens cell. Once there, it's pretty much resident for life.


Not necessarily (read the Opticlean FAQ).

but it is EXPENSIVE.


All relative; it's not much more than a LensPen here. I have a tiny bottle of the stuff that I bought years ago -- still more than half left.


I guess for normal sized binoculars (~40mm) it would last a long while. I tend to clean binoculars no more than twice a year. Still, each to their own I guess.

Oddly enough Leica recommend cleaning their spotting scope's objectives with a clean soft cloth. They are said to be hard coated, persumably with CaFl IIRC, so maybe they are much more resilient to wear. I wonder if the eyepieces are also hard coated?

#9 craig_oz_land

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Posted 03 March 2004 - 12:32 AM

My experiences are.

1) Canned air. Tried it once, dont use it anymore. It puffed out some liquid onto the lens which then required other cleaning solutions to remove. To me it is not worth the gamble whether gas or liquid is going to come out of it.

2) After some lengthy research into cotton wool (Australian term) I found that the manufacturers do not guarentee it to be grit free. Johnson and Johnson. Could not found out about medical grade cotton wool. Not clear if there is such a thing.

3) After some lengthy research into specialist cleaning cloths designed for clean rooms I found that there is still no guarentee of "grit" free but there is a statistical guarentee on particulate size and quantity. I purchased some and found they were not pliable enough to clean assembled optics. Anyone want to buy the unused 47 sheets.

My method.

I use a thin cotton t-shirt. To ensure it is clean it is washed in hot water to remove grease and rinsed a couple of times to remove any soap suds. Finally it is put through the clothes dryer to dry and hopefully remove any grit.

The other item is a photographic puffer bulb. For my Fujis I wash with neutral ph washing detergent and rinse with tap water followed by ditilled. I then use my clean cloth and lens cleaning solution to finish.

For my telescope I use the puffer bulb first followed by soft sabre hair paint brushes and then the puffer bulb. Then my clean cloth with lens cleaning solution wiped dry. Then evaporated steam from ditilled water followed by the clean cloth to remove lens cleaning residue.

My experience is that cotton wool scratches.

Hope this helps but my experience is reading all this stuff just confuses. I found out the hard way after trying severall different recomended methods.

Final word. The non-contact way with water and soap and solvents is the best, like that used for newt mirrors. But it can't pratically be applied to binocs and other scopes easily.

#10 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 03 March 2004 - 08:09 AM

All of this proves there is no proven standard convention for cleaning. I hate the thought of unknowningly choosing the wrong technique or material and then...scratch! It is a one time deal. Let me ask this...a small piece of soft lint cloth came with my Obies. Is it trust worthy?

I like the idea of using a thin cotton t-shirt..one that's old and broken in well.

#11 Remy Bosio

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Posted 03 March 2004 - 09:02 AM

Night, I have that same little cloth that likewise came with my 15 x 70 Obies. These cloths are not the best quality and I guess they are put in there just to say "we gave you a cleaning cloth" I find it deposits more of itself on the lens surface than it takes off. :foreheadslap:

For that matter most "cloths" that come with a lot of other binos are just as useless. I too have used old well washed "cotton" T-shirts for years as a tool to not only wipe glass surfaces but to wax my car, etc. I have tried "microfiber" material, but it's best to blow the surface off before using these as they do a good job of grinding the glass with whatever dust or grit is on the glass or cloth.

In the long run, I have found that it's best to just blow off your optics with dry air prior to capping. Remember, the more you "wipe" optics the more you degrade the outer coatings. My motto is: "No toucha de Glassa" (unless the dirt on same is causing noticeable effects on image presentation).

#12 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 03 March 2004 - 11:58 AM

After my last post I was starting to think the same thing Remy. The token lent cloth is probably just like you said. I guess huffing and puffing will have to do along with being vigilant about the dust caps.

#13 KennyJ

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Posted 03 March 2004 - 01:02 PM

Night watch says :

" - - - along with being vigilant about the dust caps"

To me most lens caps are little more than oversized jokes !

They FALL off every time I hang the binos from my neck.

Zeiss don't even supply any with their 7 x 42 ClassiCs !

The idea with these is to leave them in the case at all times when not in use -- the lanyard goes through the sides of the case then threads into the sides of the bino so in theory you just lift them from the case as and when you are ready to view.

Because I like my binos to hang against my chest as opposed to bouncing around my beer -inflated belly , I need to keep the lanyards adjusted accordingly short.

This presents a further problem of the soft leather case catching my chin every time I use them this way.

I have thus taken to keeping the binos with strap INSIDE the case and using a different strap for the case to hand from my neck.

The one -piece rainguard for the oculars is another obstacle
I can do without , so I do "do without it".

Zeiss DO supply one of those little cleaning cloths but I don't like the material they are made from neither.

To be honest I have owned these Zeiss binos for two years now and have never cleaned them yet.

I gave them a quick blast with that chemical "air" once.

The more of these interesting posts I read , the more frightened I'm becoming of ever taking the **** thing out of the case any more :-)

Regards -- Kenny






#14 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 03 March 2004 - 02:43 PM

The dust caps for my obies practically need a crowbar to take off and a sledge hammer to put on! Figuratively speaking of course. I am fortunate with those binos, but my Vistas...ah...those fall off all the time.

Yep, with all this talk about scratches, dirt, and cans spewing liquids....my binos are never wanting to come out again.

#15 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 04 March 2004 - 01:59 PM

Leica state that their spotting scope objective is hard coated, so I contacted them to ask if this also applied to the eyepieces. They informed me that "our optics are quartz" coated. Wow. I beleive that the exposed optical surfaces of their binos are also hard coated.

I seem to remember that 20 years ago quartz coating was all the rage among amateur astronomers. Is this still a current practice?

Anyone know how hard quartz is compared to glass?

#16 CharlieT

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Posted 04 March 2004 - 02:36 PM

I spent a couple of years going around flea markets buying up moderate quality binos for $10-20. They were dirty, miscollimated, but generally sound and complete. I ended up with a half dozen pairs of knock around binoculars to keep in the car, hang by the back door, give to kids, etc. More to the point, I got to learn how to clean and adjust binoculars without risking a good pair. I'd recommend everyone go this route before starting in on the Leicas.

#17 KennyJ

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Posted 04 March 2004 - 02:49 PM

Whilst reading up on the Baadar Contrast Booster which I am considering purchasing for my 102mm f5 achromat refractor I noticed this description with regard to the surface coating.

< Ionbeam hardened coatings on both faces, absolutely scratch resistant - may be cleaned any
time without fear >

If this is true, then is there any reason why such a coating can not be used on binocular lenses ?

Curiously -- Kenny.



#18 EdZ

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Posted 04 March 2004 - 03:28 PM

I would ask these questions.

What is it's cost?

What is it's light tranmittance?

Is it used instead of MgF or in addition to it?

What ease / difficulty is associated with the application process?

I'm sure they've all been asked by the designers.

edz

#19 KennyJ

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Posted 04 March 2004 - 04:47 PM

Well Ed ,

I just asked my wife and one of my daughters and they didn't have a clue about ANY of your questions.

Who do you suggest I ask next ?

Regards --Kenny.

#20 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 04 March 2004 - 04:59 PM

Well Ed ,

I just asked my wife and one of my daughters and they didn't have a clue about ANY of your questions.

Who do you suggest I ask next ?

Regards --Kenny.


The milkman? (Note for American readers: in the UK it used to be customary for a man to visit the house each morning and leave full bottles of milk outside the front door, and take away the old empty bottles. Some decades ago Blue **** learnt to peck through the silver foil top, and to drink the cream from the top of the milk. Oddly this learned behaviour is disappearing for some reason, with less milk bottles suffering attack.)

Good questions from EdZ. A shortage of answers though!

I wonder why Leica seem to be the only manufacturer of birding bins that use hard coating of optical surfaces? Also I remember hearing some reports of defects in some Leica spotting scopes, namely a bubbling or cloudiness of the front surface! Maybe the quartz coating can react with chemicals, or perhaps it is very sensitive to manufacturing errors? But then why have there been no such reports relating to binoculars which surely recieve more use and hence abuse?

#21 Remy Bosio

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Posted 04 March 2004 - 06:21 PM

Cat can't scratch it!

Quartz is a very hard mineral. It is up there in the top 5 with Sapphire, Topaz and Diamond.

It can cut a coin,has no cleaveage, hard to chip and is low in expansion.

Back in the 80's I had a quartz diagonal in a 10" scope that was considered "hot" back then.

I really think that Quartz is a nice rock, but in lenses,mirrors and coatings, it has lost favor to the newer synthetic/atomic/metalic coatings and ceramics. :smash:

#22 sftonkin

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Posted 05 March 2004 - 01:16 AM

Some decades ago Blue **** learnt to peck through the silver foil top, and to drink the cream from the top of the milk. Oddly this learned behaviour is disappearing for some reason, with less milk bottles suffering attack.)


It was more a house-sparrow thing than a bluetit thing. House-sparrow numbers has been in decline for decades. See:
http://www.songbird-...k/hsdecline.htm

#23 werewolf6977

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Posted 29 March 2004 - 09:11 AM

Thc lens caps for my Skymasters are like Night Watch's. The objective caps take a determined effort to remove, and re-install. They have a one-piece ep-cap like Kenny J was talking about. While I'm here, what is the best way to remove dew from the ep's?:question: The "cleaning cloth"? A Hair dryer? I've tried both now, and like the Hairdryer idea better. Help me please, O good and noble friends. Pete

#24 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 12:14 PM

I use Pre-moistened lens cloths that I got from Astronomics. They really work great.


I ordered some of the Zeiss branded ones. I'm interested to know what people think of these. Seems like a great item to toss in the bag and always have handy.

I do already have a SIMA lens pen, and really like it, and I do keep Tiffen photography UV filters to protect the objectives during times of active outdoor daytime use / rough handling (15x50 Canon IS).

Cheers,

Dave


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