Welcome to a guide on how to remove scratches on camera lenses. But first, a gentle reminder that a few minor scratches will not affect the optical quality much. Please do not attempt any “repairs” unless you have a pretty banged-up lens, as the wise old saying goes – If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. But otherwise, here are some “Internet home remedies” that may help repair the lens scratches.
- Use rubbing alcohol.
- Use a “polishing” or “whitening” toothpaste.
- Rub Vaseline (or any petroleum-based product) on the lens.
- Use a windscreen glass polish.
- Rub the lens with a soft eraser.
- Apply very fine sandpaper to remove light scratches.
- Use banana and baking soda.
While I have tried a few of these personally, there are no guarantees that they will 100% work. Do it at your own risk… Read on if you need more details!
METHOD 1) USING RUBBING ALCOHOL
Risk: Medium, may damage the existing lens coating instead.
Clinical-grade rubbing alcohol should be easily available in any pharmacy. Damp (not wet) a piece of a microfiber cloth with rubbing alcohol, and try to remove the scratch mark with it. Personally, I do know that alcohol can “micro melt” plastics and recover minor scratches.
But I doubt that the rubbing alcohol does anything good to repair scratched glass… Although it is exceptionally good at sanitizing and killing some germs. Also, alcohol has a pretty bad reputation for causing damage to the lens coating. Use this method at your own discretion.
METHOD 2) USING TOOTHPASTE
Risk: Medium, may be able to repair, but removes the lens coating.
Toothpaste is known to be slightly abrasive and is one of the most common “homemade DIY methods” for removing scratches on glasses, smartphones, and watches. Personally, I have tried this on my eyeglasses before, and it actually worked out pretty well. Not too sure how this will fare on camera lenses, although my gut feeling tells me that it will remove scratches at the cost of a layer of lens coating.
METHOD 3) USING VASELINE
Risk: Low, should work pretty well for the minor scratches.
Vaseline (or any petroleum-based product) is an old-school method that we techies use to repair scratched laptop screens. I must say that it works wonders for plastic surfaces, and I have restored countless monitors with Vaseline. Not too sure about how well it will perform on glass lenses though.
METHOD 4) GLASS WINDSCREEN POLISH
Risk: Low-ish, may be able to repair and even restore lens coating.
There are plenty of good car windscreen polishing products out there, so why not try it on the lens? I actually heard this method from a certain photography forum, and that someone is crazy enough to polish an old camera lens already stripped of all lens coating – It worked miracles, restored the old lens to its former glory, and even gave it a new layer of lens coating.
Not sure if that is credible, but if you want to do it, try it on a cheap old lens first. Also, don’t just use any of the “normal” glass polish, use the ones that have “advanced formula nano-coating protection”.
METHOD 5) ERASER
Risk: Low, may work… No harm trying.
This is another old-school method that we techies use to remove scratches on tablets and smartphones. Never tried it on lenses… But I am guessing that it will work still for minor scratches.
METHOD 6) FINE SANDPAPER
Risk: High. Can potentially ruin the lens.
This is not for the faint-hearted, and only for lenses that are badly scratched. Apply a wet piece of fine sandpaper to the lens in a circular motion to get rid of the scratches. But take note, this will also strip the lens of its protective coating.
So follow up with windscreen polish (as above) to add a new layer of protection. This method does require quite a lot of elbow grease and patience, but the result can be really satisfying when done correctly.
METHOD 7) BANANA AND BAKING SODA!?
Risk: Low, makes the lens smell like a banana at worst.
Welcome to the strange side of the Internet. This is the weirdest fix that I have ever seen, and I have absolutely no idea how effective this will be. Add some baking soda to a piece of banana, and use it to “wipe” the scratches off. Remember to clean the lens later and not eat the banana… But maybe it will be fun to bake it.
EXTRA) THE LENS COATING
For you guys who are new to photography and wondering why it might be a bad idea to do DIY repair – Modern lenses are not “simple pieces of glass”. They have a layer of lens coating that will enhance the optical quality and protect the glass from damage. When handled incorrectly, that will remove the lens coating altogether and damage the lens even more.
Assess the damage and determine if it is worth the risk of doing self-repair. Sending the lens back to the service center is still the safest way to repair a scratched lens… Although it will cost some money.
No idea where to get some of the supplies? Get them online, check out my list of recommendations:
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
With that, we have come to the end of this lens scratch removal guide, and I hope it has been useful to you guys. So far, I am proud to say that I have never scratched a lens (really badly) before – Because I attach a UV filter to all my lenses.
Prevention is always better than cure, and I will highly recommend spending a few bucks on a UV filter. Save yourself from the pain of a scratched lens in the future. If you tried any of these methods, please share your experience. Also, let us know in the comments section below if you have any better alternatives. Good luck, and happy shooting!