How to Clean Your Tripod

Lanai Kai, Oahu, Hawaii (HI), USA

After shooting in salt water and sand during our trip to Hawaii, our tripods were badly in need of cleaning. Since it’s important to clean your tripod now and then, we thought we’d share the process on our blog. We try to clean our tripods about twice a year – more often if we’ve been shooting in sand, salt water, or swamps. Grains of sand can work their way into the grooves and threads of your tripod – you’ll know they’re in there if you hear a grinding or grating sound as you turn the knobs or make adjustments to the tripod. (Cringe!) Salt water can corrode some metals – so you should rinse your tripod after shooting at the beach. And swamp water – well, the bacteria that grows in swamps can climb right into your tripod legs and just hang out there… multiplying happily until you open your tripod and discover that it really stinks! Cleaning the tripod isn’t particularly difficult… though it can take some time. Jay and I usually clean both tripods at once, so we set aside a morning to do it. We’ve done it many times, so we’ve got it down to a science, and we can complete the task quickly.

The first step is to take the tripod apart. Each tripod will be different – Jay and I both have Induro’s CT113 Carbon Fiber Tripod. The important thing is to keep track of where all those little pieces go, so that you can put it all back together when youree done. If you’re worried about putting it all back together, take some photos for reference as you work. You may find that there are more pieces than you expected. Here is a video that show you how we clean our tripods:

The frequency with which you’ll need to clean your tripod depends upon how you use it. If it never leaves the house, you probably don’t need to clean it at all. If you are shooting on the grass or a muddy path – just rinse the feet when necessary and you’re good to go. Rain won’t hurt your tripod – though prolonged exposure to moisture can cause some parts to rust… so take the time to dry it off when you come in and leave it open until it’s thoroughly dry. Always rinse your tripod if you use it in salt water – salt can cause corrosion as well.

Take simple precautions to help keep your tripod clean a little longer. When we are shooting in sand, mud, or water, we always extend the lowest leg of the tripod at least a few inches beyond the mess. That simple action keeps the joint up out of the muck. If you can avoid it, don’t immerse the joint in sand or salt water. But don’t worry too much if it does get into the joints. Just take some time to clean it up and you’ll be good to go!

 

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.

  • Gerrit van Pletzen

    I always carry a soft cloth and some WD40 or G96. When my tripod gets soaked I end up by spraying all the parts, since these products are moisture dispersants. I then dry with the cloth. Nothing works better, since it also lubricates.

  • George Norkus

    For things in your bags, I always try to be safe but “it” just might happen. You reminded me about medical things. Thanks.

    As a favor, try this. Carry a cheap toothbrush.

    Should you happen to drop or bounce your equipment in or on dirty or muddy things, the cloth you talked about will do most of the cleanup but a toothrush will get in and around the tiny parts of your camera and around the lens seat before you swap lenses.

    The lens brush you mentioned is too soft. Besides, you really don’t want to use a “muddy” brush to clean the glass.

    (Please don’t ask how I found that out.) LoL

    • Good advise on the tooth brush. There were times when I wished I had one. I wont ask this time…but can I guess? Dog poop?

      • George Norkus

        That’s sickening! Thank goodness your guess was wrong Jay!

        Having setup for a wireless remote shot about 200 yards away, I noticed one of the tripod’s legs beginning to sink. Arriving a few minutes too late, I ended up with regular ‘ol mud on the right half on my camera and lens.

        Never got a shot either. Only a bunch of mud!

        Hey! I just thought of something you could market. On construction cranes they have those big outrigger pads to hold the machine from falling over. You could make a much smaller version to place on the bottom of a tripod. I even thought of the name of it. Call it the “Patel Pad”.

  • In

    Thank you for very useful information. I was afraid of cleaning tripod with soap. Because soap will remove all lube. Then you show how to reapply grease on it. Great information.

  • Nice tutorial Varina & Jay. BTW the little splinters,…Carbon Fiber is not a metal, it is a fiber, like cloth that is reinforced with an epoxy/resin matrix. It is lighter than aluminum with the strength and stiffness of steel. The splinters are cured carbon flakes and they can be very sharp so being careful around the edges is a real good idea. And if you do get a splinter in a finger do get it out, the splinters tend to cause a kind of mechanical dermatitis.

    • Thanks for very useful information. I knew that the carbon fiber were resin, but was not sure what else it was mixed with.