Microfiber Cloths Are Great For Dusting Furniture But Not So Great For Cleaning Lenses
Small microfiber cleaning cloths are commonly sold for cleaning lenses and other photographic equipment as well as computer screens and eyeglasses. They are promoted for cleaning lenses because they absorb oily matter without being abrasive or leaving a residue.
I don’t, however, consider microfiber cloths suitable for some cleaning applications because of the dust, debris, and particles that can accumulate in the cloth itself. Sensitive surfaces (such as all high-tech coated surfaces e.g. CRT, LCD and plasma screens) can easily be damaged by a microfiber cloth if it has picked up grit or other abrasive particles during use. The cloth itself is generally safer to use on these surfaces than other cloths, particularly as it requires no cleaning fluid.
Microfiber clothes should only be washed with regular washing detergent; no oily, self-softening, soap-based detergents should be used nor should fabric softener. Oils in the softener and self-softening detergents will clog up the fibers, making them much less effective and potentially leaving residue behind. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microfiber.
Many years ago, we used Kodak lens cleaning tissue and lens cleaning fluid in a small plastic bottle at our local camera store. That combined with a soft bristle blower brush would always get the job done.
In the old days, we cleaned lenses by blowing off, as much as possible, any dust particles using the blower brush. The secret to success was in not touching the brush part of the blower with your fingers. Doing so could leave behind oils from your fingers. Then we would pull out a piece of lens tissue and wet it just a little bit with the lens cleaning fluid and lightly swept the front of the lens in a circular pattern. Finally, we would take a dry piece of tissue and wipe the lens dry. If there was any lint left over on the surface, we easily removed it with a quick squeeze of the blower brush.
This worked for many years and still does.However, today many photographers would not be caught without a microfiber cloth. (described above). Micro fiber cloths however are not the safest way to clean optical surfaces. The method described above is the best way.
If your microfiber collects any dirt or oil, instead of cleaning your lens, you will be rubbing dirt and oils into the lens. You can wash them carefully, as noted above, but ultimately they lose their effectiveness. The best way to ruin a micro fiber cloth is wash it with softener.
The best way to clean a lens and the way I clean my lenses (and the LCD on my computers) is to use a one-use, pre-moistened towelette. While there are a few different brands on the market, my favorite is made by Hoodman and it comes in two parts. The first one is a wet towelette, pre-moistened with lens cleaner and the second towellete is a dry tissue for drying the lens lint free. For more information, see http://www.hoodmanusa.com/products.asp?dept=1072. These are available locally from Penn Camera and PhotoCraft.
This is the closest I can get today to lens tissue and lens cleaning solution. I recommend this product so you can prolong the life of your lenses and LCDs.