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Who doesn’t love taking pictures by the water? There’s beautiful backdrops, and the lighting and colors frame the shots wonderfully. However, you run the risk of getting your camera wet. What happens when your camera lens gets wet?

If your camera lens gets wet, you have a couple different options, including:

  • Isolate your camera with silica gel
  • Use a bag of rice to draw out moisture
  • Expose the lens to direct sunlight
  • Take it to a professional

These different drying methods have a chance at saving your camera lens. However, there are some steps that you need to take both immediately and in the future to prevent your camera lens from getting further damaged. It's important to protect your photographic equipment, so take advantage of Amazon's sales on waterprof camera lens cases.

How to Clean and Fix a Wet Camera Lens

When your camera lens gets wet, there are a few things you have to do immediately before you even think about trying to dry it off. Odds are, if your lens got wet, then the rest of your camera got wet, so you need to do these things first:

  1. Switch off the camera
  2. Take out the battery and the memory card
  3. Pat it down to dry any outwardly wet areas

After doing all of this, you can start thinking about how to clean the inside of your camera. It’s extremely important to make sure that your camera has no access to electricity. Your camera has a lot of electric power to it, and you can fry the entire thing if there’s any moisture locked in it and it’s hooked up to something.

It’ll also be much easier to tell what’s wet inside your camera when the exterior of it is dry. If you find yourself with a wet camera, the first thing you need to do is take some calm breaths and slow down. You don’t have to make too many quick actions, so don’t unintentionally harm your camera more by panicking and rushing through some of these drying steps.

How to Know if the Interior of Your Lens is Wet

If the exterior of your camera lens is the only thing that got wet, then that’s awesome! There’s not too much else you need to do besides drying it down. Most cameras actually work to waterproof cameras to a certain extent because accidents are bound to happen, and areas by the water are naturally attractive to most people looking to get great shots.

After following the steps above, you can check the inside of your lens by looking through it and seeing if it appears foggy. Go ahead and zoom in and out a few times to see if anything looks unordinary. If you’re in the clear, then great! Your camera is safe.

You might also notice that there’s some residue or a little bit of gunk that you can’t get from the exterior of your lens. It might not look like water, but it more than likely is (especially if you’ve just dropped it into water). You’ll want to dry out your camera lens first to make sure it isn’t water.

If there does happen to be some moisture locked in your lens, then you have a few different options you can try to remove it.

Isolate Your Camera with Silica Gel

If you’ve ever bought new shoes, a purse, or a wallet, then you’ve probably seen the little white packets that come in them that say “Silica Gel,” and they typically also point out that these packets are, in fact, not for eating.

The point of these packets is to absorb any moisture that comes into the item, which is vital when items sit in retail stores or warehouses waiting to be sold. Some people even choose to keep these packets in their purses and wallets to continue protecting against water damage.

If you don’t have any on hand, then check your local arts and crafts store. They typically sell silica gel, and some department stores do as well. You’ll be able to buy a good amount for cheap, and it’s the best method for drawing water out of an object, so make sure to try this before reaching for the rice or throwing your camera in the sun.

What you’ll need to do is put your camera lens into an airtight container with a ton of silica gel and store it in a warm spot. Make sure it’s not in direct heat or beside a vent, and leave it for a few days. The silica gel can work pretty slowly sometimes, so make sure to give it up to a week before checking the lens.

If you’re using this method to dry off your entire camera, then it’s extremely important that the battery and the memory card are not part of this process. You can actually ruin everything because of the power that’s stored in the battery, so make sure to tuck them in a safe place while you wait for your camera lens to dry.

You can use this method to draw water out of any electronic object that’s gotten wet. It’s an extremely safe and easy process! It can work for your phone or any external hard drives that might have been with you and gotten wet at the same time.

Use a Bag of Rice to Draw Out Moisture

If you’ve ever dropped your phone in water, then you’ve probably heard of this common drying method. You can use a bag of rice to draw out water in a similar fashion as the silica gel method!

Just to clarify, this process uses uncooked rice to absorb moisture out of your camera. With the help of an airtight bag, you can successfully pull the moisture out of almost any electronic before it gets ruined.

The way this works is by filling an airtight container with uncooked white rice. You can choose to use other kinds of rice, but just know that you might have to do some exterior cleaning or deal with spiced smells after the process is complete. Then, place your camera lens into the container, sealing it off and setting it to the side for a few days.

Again, it’s similar to the silica gel in the sense that you’ll have to give it a few days before testing it out and seeing if it worked. You can also dry out your entire camera this way, so don’t be scared to put your entire camera in a bag for a little bit.

The rice method works best the sooner you can put the camera in it. If you’re far away from home, or you’re taking pictures somewhere and you don’t have access to your pantry, it is 100% worth it to stop and grab a bag of rice and some freezer bags from the nearest grocery store. This can potentially save you hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars depending on how expensive your camera lens is.

This is a lot more accessible to do compared to using silica gel, and some people trust this method because it’s worked for them before. Just remember that the silica gel method is the first thing you should try, but this will work almost as well as the silica gel will.

This is another good process for anything else that may have taken an unexpected dive into the water. Rice is cheap, so it’s a great way to use up some of the half-open bags you might have in your pantry.

Expose the Lens to Direct Sunlight

This should be the last effort you make, and you should only use this if the other two attempts failed. Essentially, you can try putting your lens out in direct sunlight for hours and hours to see if it can dry your lens.

This is a last ditch effort because it can actually destroy certain lens. If your lens already has moisture in it though, it’s as good as destroyed anyway, so it’s worth the attempt considering it can actually work sometimes.

For this, just leave your lens outside on a really sunny day in direct sunlight. Leave it out there for a few hours, and you can keep checking it to see how the process is going. This isn’t like the other two methods where you need to keep it in an airtight area, so feel free to check on it and see how it’s working.

Make sure that you do this is a safe, controlled environment. You don’t want it to be too humid outside, and you definitely don’t want it to be a day that’s cloudy with potential rainfall. Make sure to pay close attention to the weather if you try this method.

Since it has to be in direct sunlight, this means it can’t be on covered porches or anything like that. Even if you leave it on a spot that’s directly in the sun, the shadows will shift throughout the day. You’ll need to keep your camera out there for at least 5 hours anyway, so more than likely, your camera lens won’t be covered by the end of the day.

Speaking of night, make sure you don’t leave your camera out at night. If you’ve ever walked on the grass in the morning, then you probably know why. Dew will cover everything in just the slightest bit of water, but it will reverse all the progress you’ve made on trying to get your camera dried out.

Just remember to only try this method if nothing else works. You shouldn’t really try this with any other electronics either, especially things that have a battery you can’t get to like your phone. You can expand the battery in the heat, which can give you more of a headache than it’s worth considering this method very rarely works.

Take the Camera Lens to a Professional

If all else fails, or you’re worried about trying any at-home fix-it methods, then take your camera to a local repair shop. You might be able to find some in large cities, and you can always try some pawn or antique shops.

If you can’t find a repair shop, then you can always send it in to the manufacturer. In some cases, you might even have a warranty on your camera that protects against accidental damages, so this is a good idea if you don’t trust yourself.

You can also do this if all of the other methods fail. It might not completely salvage your poor camera lens, but there’s always a chance that it could work. Some of these manufacturers are also really empathetic; they could even give you a discount on another camera if they can’t fix yours.

If you’re unsure about the damage done to your camera, then a professional can definitely help. This is a great idea if you happen to have dropped your camera in really murky water, too, since a professional can take everything apart and clean it correctly at the same time.

Different Kinds of Water Change What Happens

If you get moisture in your camera lens, then you now know how you can dry it. However, that doesn’t mean that that’s all you have to do.

Depending on where you drop your camera, you may have to deal with a few other problems beyond just moisture. Think about it; if you’re by the ocean, then you have to deal with salt water.

While the moisture has the chance to evaporate out, other things like salt or iron don’t vanish. They stay in your lens, and there’s a few things you’ll need to know depending on where you drop your camera about the water.

  • Ocean Water

I totally get it, beach pictures are beautiful. However, if your camera happens to fall in ocean water, then you might have a pretty big problem on your hands.

Besides simply getting the moisture out of your lens (which is definitely no simple process), you’ll have to figure out how to get any salt out as well. This is a much more complex issue, and you can’t ignore it.

The remnants of ocean water include salt, which will rust the internal parts of your camera lens with a quickness.  

It'll take a professional to get this kind of material out. You can either look for a local repair shop near you, but those are few and far between. The best option is to send your camera lens into the manufacturer for a repair/replacement.

It's probably going to cost you heavily, but it's the best way to save your camera lens. It’s also the only way you’ll know that your camera has been fixed, cleaned, and won’t have any future problems because of any oversights you had.

  • Lake Water

A lot of lake water isn't just water, and there are some pretty gross bacteria and algae that can harm your camera lens.

Most of the time, this water doesn't really get deep enough into your lens to damage it. In most cases, your camera will need to be submerged for a pretty long time before anything really gets into it.

However, if you drop your camera into particularly nasty lake water or you struggle getting the lens out quickly, then you may need to clean it. Luckily, this is a lot easier to do compared to fixing a camera lens that’s been dropped into ocean water.

Since the lens is already wet, go ahead and run it under tap water. Try to make sure that every part of your lens has become clean, and then choose a method to dry with that we discussed above. In many cases, this is a great time to use rice since you’re already by a sink.

Although it sounds bad, you’re not going to cause further harm to your camera lens than what it’s already gone through. You’re only going to potentially save your camera lens, so don’t worry about getting it “too wet”; at this stage, it’s already pretty damaged.

  • Heavy Rainwater and Tap Water

For the most part, your camera lens should be ok if it gets soaked from an unexpected downpour or you drop it into some type of tap water. Make sure you dry it out thoroughly, and if you smell or notice any kind of particles on it, then treat it the same way that you do with lake water.

If you know you live somewhere with a lot of air pollution, then you may want to go ahead and rinse your camera off. Sometimes there are things that don’t show up as particles on your lens that can actually cause chemical damages, and the rain water in areas with low air quality can reflect that.

Likewise, if you know your local tap water is full of things like iron, then you should rinse your camera lens as well. Using bottled water is a great alternative for anyone who doesn’t trust their tap water, and it’ll do the job perfectly. Just make sure to rinse it as thoroughly as possible, which will probably take 2 to 3 bottles of water.

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