Ideally, every time you submerge your tripod in saltwater, sand or dirt, you should give it a thorough cleaning to ensure you don’t damage the threads, plastics and carbon fiber. But let’s be honest, most of us put that task off until we absolutely have to do it. Now that we’re home waiting for the Covid-19 pandemic to subside, it’s the perfect time to pull out our tripods and clean them for the adventures ahead. Below we’ve outlined the steps that work best for cleaning your tripod.
Step 1: Gather Materials
- Your tripod
- Bucket filled with water and dish soap
- Towel to place tripod pieces on
- Water for rinsing: bucket, sink or hose
- You’ll want to be sure to have plenty of room to work around you.
Step 2: Unscrew One Leg
Start with one leg section of the tripod and unscrew the leg locks all the way. Once this is unscrewed, you should be able to pull the whole leg out. Be sure to watch out for any small white plastic pieces that may fall out. You’ll need to keep these for later. Depending on which carbon fiber tripod you have, you’ll either have 2, 3, or 4 leg sections. Unscrew and separate all of the leg sections, and take off the plastic pieces, called the leg stoppers and guide sleeves. These parts will go back on after cleaning, so be sure not to lose them. You should have three pieces, two leg stoppers and one guide sleeve.
Continue to unscrew all of the different sections of one leg, keeping track of the leg stoppers and guide sleeves as you go. I like to organize mine from largest to smallest, so it’s easier to put the tripod back together later.
Step 3: Clean the Leg and Plastic Pieces
Dip your toothbrush in the soapy water and begin scrubbing the tripod leg. You’ll want to scrub the whole leg but pay special attention to the threads. Scrub off any dirt that you can on each and every part. Once you finish scrubbing a part, rinse it in the water and place it on the towel. Repeat this cleaning for all of the parts of the leg.
Step 4: Repeat the Process for the Other Two Legs
Keep all the parts organized as you take the legs apart because you’ll have to put the tripod back together after you’re done cleaning.
Step 5: Allow the Pieces to Dry & Clean Up the Tripod
Next, you’ll want to allow the pieces to dry. During this time, I like to clean up my tripod. I always like hitting the threads with a toothbrush, as well as just wiping the whole tripod down.
Step 6: Reassemble Tripod
Once the tripod is dry, you’re ready to put it back together. Starting with the largest leg, stick the two leg stoppers and one guide sleeve back on. The leg stoppers have a small notch, and this is designed to go in the small holes at the top of the tripod leg section. The guide sleeve goes below the leg stoppers. Then, being sure to carefully hold on to the leg stoppers and guide sleeve, slide the leg piece back into your tripod. It’s crucial that these plastic pieces stay in place, as the leg stoppers prevent the leg from pulling out, and the guide sleeves allow you to easily extend and collapse the legs. If the pieces are in the proper place, the leg should slide right in. Repeat this step for each section of the leg you are currently working on, being sure to work from largest to smallest leg. After you’ve completed one leg, repeat this step for the other two legs.
Congratulations! You just finished cleaning your carbon fiber tripod. This is a process that I recommend repeating at least once a year, if not more frequently. If you spend a lot of time shooting outside in harsh conditions, such as sand, swamps, or in the water, you should be cleaning your tripod much more frequently. Tripod maintenance is the key to keeping your tripod in the best shape for years to come!