Cleaning Rubber Lens Grips

Posted on September 17, 2014 by Sean MacDonald
Yesterday I bought a lens on trade that looked terrible. The rubber grips were full of dirt and grime and made the whole thing look like junk. In the past I would have been very cautious to even purchase it, but on closer inspection I realized the glass elements were perfect due to a UV filter being on it since new. I also looked for scratches and scuffs on the body of the lens and did not see many. It was simply just dirty.

Since it was fresh in my mind, I thought it would be good to do a quick post to show how we clean rubber lens grips and make them look new again. It is relatively straight forward and easy, but still may intimidate some. We will do it for you for $15 if you are apprehensive or simply do not have time. But if you have the time, I have seen cleaning the rubber grips can increase your resale value sometimes by 10% on eBay. Its definitely worth the 10 minutes it takes when you are talking about a $1500 lens.

There may be two reasons you need to do this. First, you may do a lot of outdoor shooting and just get your gear really dirty. Such was the case with a customer yesterday who traded in the lens.

The second reason may be due to oxidization of the rubber over time, which leaves a white residue. This is super common with older L series lenses, specifically 70-200's for some reason. If you do a quick search on eBay or Craigslist, you will see about 1/4 of the used 70-200 lenses have this. It does not harm the lens at all, but it does make it look very old and unattractive (which is important if you are trying to sell it).

So lets dig in. The supplies you will need are as follows:

1 old toothbrush
1 squirt of dish soap
1 sink or bucket
1 plastic bread tie, or old sensor swab stick

That's it! Its pretty much free if you have a sink, brush your teeth once in a while, and eat bread.

The first step is to take pictures of the before so that you can impress your photo geek friends!

Second step is to take your plastic bread tie, or sensor swab stick and gently start prying to get under the rubber grip. They are not glued on or anything and simply are a friction fit. (I was really surprised the first time I realized this)

Work it around the lens so that you can slowly slide it off. Be careful to not cut the rubber, or stretch it too much or it could tear. Just be careful and all should go well. This is also why I use something plastic and not metal.

Third, fill up your bucket or sink with soapy water. One squirt of soap should do the trick, no need to go overboard.

Fourth, take the rubber grip (which is off the lens now) and start scrubbing it with the tooth brush in the soapy water. I find it better to scrub with the grooves so that the bristles go in between the grooves and get the gunk out.

Make sure to scrub all the way around a few times. You can rinse it and inspect it, but if you are removing the white residue, you will not be able to see if you got all of it until it is dry again. The first time I did it, I thought "awesome, that was easy"! Then the rubber dried and it looked the same as when I started. I was also only using straight water to begin with, and not soapy water.

Once you are done scrubbing, rinse the rubber in water very well.

Let it air dry, and do not use a paper towel. This will get small flakes in the grooves. Sometimes even a cloth rag with get lint in the grooves. The best way I have seen is to simply let it air dry.

When dry, slip the rubber back on the lens into its original position. Some lenses have a tapered end towards the front, so be sure you do not put it on backwards.

And your done! Don't forget to take your after pictures to share with your friends :)

If you are not familiar with our camera store, we are located in Dubuque Iowa, and specialize in new and used camera equipment, as well as camera rental, lens rental, and photography classes and photography workshops. Feel free to contact us at (563) 845-7207, or visit our website at www.everyphotostore.com 
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