If your camera housing isn’t quite as good as it used to be; if you find buttons are sticking, or are concerned about its longevity, there are a few things you can keep on hand to help.
If something breaks, you will need different tools. For cleaning and taking care of it, this list will help protect your investment and toys!
Tissues. A small pack is handy to wipe down dirty o-rings, clean silicone grease off fingers or soak up a couple errant drops of water around/in a camera housing. Do not use on lenses or ports, as they will shed small particles, like specks and hairs
Cotton buds. For wiping around where rubber seals sit and scrubbing in hard to reach places. (Also known as “Q-tips”).
Soft brush. For getting sand, grit, or broken desiccant pouches out of your housing. If you are doing a lot of shore entries, sand is often a problem. Rinsing gets rid of most of it on the outside, but a cotton bud or soft brush will go further when it has dried. Beware of old brushes, or stiff brushes. A single stray bristle can flood your housing
Guitar pick. If you don’t have a dedicated O-ring tool, a guitar pick makes a great cheap substitute. Don’t use pliers, and don’t use your fingers, as both can stretch and deform the silicone.
Long finger nails can work, but you need to be extraordinarily careful due to the nails’ curves.
I recommend always fully removing an O-ring before cleaning and re-greasing.
I’ve heard of people being advised to leave their O-rings on when re-greasing. They are concerned about new owners being rough with their seals and stretching them by improperly removing and replacing them. It’s true that rough treatment can dramatically reduce the lifespan of a seal (from 3-10 years to 1-2).
The risk of dirt, fibers and so forth getting behind the seal is too great for my liking. Be gentle and your seal will last a long time. Always completely remove your O-ring during the cleaning and re-greasing process.
Silicone grease. For camera housings’ rubber seals. Remember, you are not trying to slop on grease to the seal like a car axle, but rather the purpose is to moisten or lubricate the rubber.
The O-ring will have the sole job of creating the seal. The purpose of the silicone grease is to protect it and to keep the ring from drying out. Too much grease can create an uneven surface which can let water in.
Silicone spray pump. For stuck camera buttons. You don’t want to get this on the seal, or on the lens port, but anywhere there are moving parts of your camera housing this stuff is just magic.
You can also use this on wetsuit or BCD zippers to keep them gliding smoothly.
Desiccant pouches. Those little pouches inside pill bottles are perfect for soaking up a little moisture in a worst-case scenario of a leaky housing. Stuff every available free space in your housing with these little pouches. If they get wet, you need to dry them very carefully before considering reusing them; some people say it’s easier to just use a new one, and for the traveller, I tend to agree.
You can also visit a pharmacy to get some.
Microfiber cloths. Wipe down the lens port, viewfinder and – very carefully – your lens. Make sure you use a clean part of your cloth for each. If you use lens cleaner (alcohol), use only a little – do not overdo it.
Ziploc bags. Keep all your bits and pieces in separate sealed plastic bags. Put each type of item in its own bag, and then put all the smaller bags in a larger bag. Keep them safe and dry.