Industry Experts Weigh In: Can You Clean a Lens with Vodka?

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Seriously, go Google, “Cleaning a Lens with Vodka.” You’ll see a mixture of horror stories and mostly good insights. But besides the waste of precious liquid that can otherwise be consumed with some freshly squeezed OJ, there are reports that it can clean your lens. However, we’ve always used Isopropyl Alcohol instead.

To check in on this and clear the myths up, we asked industry experts from nearly every lens and camera manufacturer out there, and most of them got back to us on deadline. Here’s what they had to say.

 

Fujifilm

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm X Pro 1 35mm f1.4 X Series lens review (6 of 7)ISO 1600

The premise here must be that alcohol is the preferred method of cleaning since it evaporates quickly.

I would run my vodka first through a Brita or similar filter system 2x to remove any of the impurities that exist in cheap vodka.

Vodka is good but not great since it is lower in sugar content than say dark rum and less residues. The impurity is what messes up the cleaning process of course. don’t want sticky fingers or sticky lenses.

Overall I’d say it is a less than ideal option compared to isopropyl/rubbing alcohol – but the benefit is that when in a pinch you can drink your lens cleaner.

I’d say it’s totally safe – but have no real evidence – except that if you like I’ll start using it instead and see if there are any long term effects – I cannot imagine how there would be if cleaned properly.

– Brandon Remler

National Account Director of Fujifilm North America

Nikon

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 32mm f1.2 lens (4 of 4)ISO 8001-50 sec at f - 7.1

Our Nikon reps pointed us here, which concludes that alcohol is not recommended.

Canon

“We can only recommend conventional lens cleaning fluids for lens cleaning.”

– Chuck Westfall

Pentax

It is not something we would recommend. We typically recommend isopropyl alcohol as it is pure and evaporates quickly. While Vodka does have similar properties, unless very expensive vodka is used, it still has impurities that could leave a residue. 

John Carlson, Sr. Marketing Manager.

Panasonic

Hi Chris,

I have not heard of that at all and would assume it to be a myth. Without checking further, I’d think it is safe to say that we do not support this practice.

Thanks! 

Tom Curley

Business Development Manager

LUMIX Professional Services

Panasonic North America

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 product photos (5 of 5)ISO 1001-80 sec at f - 5.0

Kenko/Tokina

Hello Chris,

Thank you for your question. First, that is a horrible use for Vodka because it leaves you with less for drinking! For that reason alone we do not recommend it.

Actually while it is not going to harm the optics or the multi-coatings it is NOT the best cleaner. Because as we all know Vodka is about 80 proof which means it actually only 40% Ethel-alcohol by volume. Good cleaners like Eclipse from Photographic Solutions is almost 100% methanol (which is anhydrous Ethel-alcohol) we have found work the best.

On a side note, our service technicians use straight ether for cleaning optics but you usually have to get a city permit to store it.

Thank you and Best Regards,

Michael E. Burnham

Marketing/Advertising

DAIWA Sales Manager

Kenko Tokina USA, Inc.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 35mm f1.8 OSS product image lead (1 of 1)ISO 16001-200 sec at f - 4.0

Sony

Talked a little bit with my guys here and they say it could certainly be true. Depending on the level of impurities in the vodka, it could very well be a good solvent for lens cleaning. (Name removed) said he saw something cool on Mythbusters recently about “the power of vodka” which was really neat – apparently it can be used to kill bees, as a key ingredient in cleaning detergent, and a bunch of other wild stuff.

– Our Sony Rep, who wanted to remain anonymous

Zeiss

“Pure alcohol could be safe for cleaning optical glass surfaces and should not damage the coating. But the additional ingredients of vodka might leave a smear on the surface, or might even damage the coating. So we do not recommend to try this out!”

Bertram Hoenlinger, Customer Support

Carl Zeiss Lenses

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss Touit Beach Wedding (1 of 1)ISO 1001-320 sec at f - 2.8

Leica

Hi Chris,

I’ve never heard this before and I would not try it….don’t believe everything you read on the web.

Best,

Kelsey Fain

Leica S System Product Manager

 

Sigma

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 product photos (1 of 7)ISO 2001-60 sec at f - 5.0

Ha- thats an awesome question- made my Wednesday!

Yeah I have heard of this- people cleaning with Vodka- rubbing alcohol- you name it. It’s probably a good cleaner because of its alcohol base, maybe even mixing it with some sort of Windex type cleaner would be interesting, but I personally have never cleaned any of my own lenses with it. Vodka is one thing, just as long you’re not wasting whiskey 😉

Patrick Santucci

Public Relations

 

Tamron

I spoke with one of our technicians and he stated that while vodka contains methanol alcohol (also known as methyl alcohol), the solution we use to clean lens elements is 99.9% methanol, whereas vodka contains only approximately 50% methanol and we do not recommend using vodka as the other substances in the vodka may damage an element.

Thanks

Stacie Errera

Chief Marketing Officer

Editor’s Correction: Vodka has ethanol alcohol and you should never ingest methanol alcohol at all.

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