How do I remove moisture from inside camera lenses?
March 6, 2005 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Recently somebody broke into my car, took my camera equipment, and dumped it in the bushes. The stuff sat there for nearly two weeks before we found it this morning. Everything's there (or seems to be), but I'm worried: all five lenses are cloudy. They seem to have collected moisture inside. How can one effectively remove moisture from inside a camera lens? Will time take care of it?
posted by jdroth to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total)
you can buy desicant (silica gel) - i'd leave the equipment in a warm place with a few bags of that and wait a few days.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:58 AM on March 6, 2005

Silica gel is about the only hope you've got here. It might pull the moisture out. Don't let someone come up with any ideas that involve heating it, the warmth will pull the oil out of the lens bearings and it will end up on the blades of the iris. Hot cars do this all the time. A warm environment would be OK, it should be safe up to 80 or so. I wouldn't wait to see, something might rust in the meantime, if it hasn't already.
Don't forget the bodies, if there were any, moisture is harder to see but probably still in there, and it won't hurt them to sit around some silica gel in a paper bag or something for a bit if I'm wrong
posted by unrepentanthippie at 12:46 PM on March 6, 2005

Well, hrm.. your main concern is probably fungus. Likely your lenses had moisture inside of them on the 2nd day outside. I would not leave them in a warm place. Cool and brightly lit, but not somewhere where additional condensation is going to take place.

Silica gel is apparently sold in multi-pound cans at Arts & Craft stores, + WalMart.

I would: Wrap the lenses in paper towels (well!), and bury them in as much of the stuff as possible, so that very little air remains in the container. I would use smaller, tightly fitting containers over larger shoe-box storage type ones.
You could cut the silica gel with salt or flour, etc.. if it's too expensive.

Good luck.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 1:02 PM on March 6, 2005

Yeah. Silica gel, but I'd put it in a plastic bag rather than paper. Put the bodies, flashes, and any *un-used* film that was in there at the same time. I'd leave it in a warm place for about a week. Remove the batteries from the bodies and flashes during this time.

(Drying out used film is moot, since it'll get wet when you develop it anyway.)
posted by SpecialK at 1:04 PM on March 6, 2005

Ooh, jack's got a good point about fungus. Follow his advice, not mine.
posted by SpecialK at 1:05 PM on March 6, 2005

Silca gel in a sandy form is cheap like dirt (cause that what it is, purifed sand) at places that sell supplies to dry flowers.
posted by Mitheral at 1:48 PM on March 6, 2005

Good point, ziplocs are cheaper than plastic containers, and you can squeeze out the extra air. I suggested wrapping in paper to keep out the silica, while allowing moisture to transfer.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 3:22 PM on March 6, 2005

Seems like adding salt or flour would not be the best idea. Salt can be corrosive to metal, especially in the presence of moisture and flour is going to make a mess and add a nutrient source to fungi and mildew or something. Correct me if I'm wrong
posted by wsg at 4:09 PM on March 6, 2005

You are correct. Bad ideas, I was just brainstorming other absorbent materials, but they're both horrible suggestions.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 6:50 PM on March 6, 2005

Another source of silica gel packs is a moving company. They are always used in international moves.
posted by Goofyy at 7:26 PM on March 6, 2005

I worked at a lab that had a high altitude chamber that was routinely rented out to dry documents that had been soaked by leaks or fire hoses. This did an excellent job.

If you have access to one of those kitchen appliances that packs food into vacuum freezer bags, you might consider using this, along with a bit of silica powder. The vacuum will make the water evaporate out of the camera much faster.
posted by RMALCOLM at 8:19 PM on March 6, 2005

Maybe I'm missing something, but putting the lenses in Ziplocs than burying them in silica seems to defeat the purpose. Silica absorbs water, butting the lenses in plastic will just lock the water in.

I like the idea of wrapping in paper towels, then burying in silica. The entire container should be airtight though, you don't want any outside water sneaking in.

Or you could ask a camera shop, I'm sure this isn't the first time something like this has happened.
posted by Marky at 9:05 PM on March 6, 2005

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