How to clean a tripod in 5 easy steps

Tripods can get dirty over time, especially if used in water, seawater, sand and mud. Regular cleaning will prolong its life. I’ve been cleaning my Gitzo tripod after a lot of use at sea, and I’ll show how to do it in five easy steps.

You probably own a tripod. Most photographers do, and if used, it will get dirty over time. But when used at sea and on sand, it needs to be cleaned on a regular basis.

Some tripods use a twist lock, others use a clipping mechanism. For the latter part, you will need a tool to disassemble the tripod’s legs. Twist lock does not require any tools. You just need to unscrew the twist lock and remove it. You need some soap, water, a sponge, a toothbrush, and a little grease.

The tripod in this example is Gitzo GT3542LS 3-series carbon tripod. While the parts may not match those you’d find in a tripod, they’re all based on the same principles. It differs only in details.

Step One: Disassemble the tripod

I removed all the detachable parts before disassembling the tripod. Neoprene foot warmers, ball tips and spikes with plastic rings, all come off. I use an Allen key to remove the spikes, but this may be slightly different for your tripod.

Next, I unscrewed the twist locks of the smallest tripod foot section and pulled it out. You should see two white plastic containers or something similar. I find it somewhat different from Gitzo climbing tripod.

Disassemble from the smallest tripod foot to the thickest one. Work systematically to prevent lost parts. I always put everything on a towel to keep a good overview.

Twist locks will have an inner ring. You can remove this ring using a small Philips screwdriver. After releasing it, you can push it out. The largest twist locks will be easy, but removing this guide ring from the smallest twist locks can be a challenge. Just consider carefully, and take it easy. These guide rings can break easily.

Most of the time, I leave the thickest tripod legs attached to the base plate. Usually, it is not necessary to remove these pins.

Step Two: Clean All Parts

Once you’ve taken everything apart, you can start cleaning up. I use warm water with a mild detergent to clean every part and degrease the screw threads on the pins and twist locks. You can use a sponge for larger surfaces and a toothbrush for screw threads.

Make sure you have removed all the dust and sand. If you have used the tripod in salt water, rinse with plenty of water to remove salt deposits. Especially inside the hollow foot, the salt residue is difficult to remove. Keep it in fresh water overnight if necessary.

Try to work systematically. It will help you keep an overview and clean every part. It can be quite frustrating to find out you’ve forgotten a thing or two when you reassemble the tripod again.

Step 3: Rinse and dry

After you have cleaned all the parts, wash them thoroughly. Use warm water or keep them in the bath overnight, as previously mentioned. Use plenty of water to remove all soap.

After rinsing, dry the tripod parts. Most of the time, I also let it dry overnight, with each section on a large towel. It helps me double check that every part is there and cleaned. It also came in handy when I finally reassembled the tripod.

Step 4: Reassemble the twist locks and oil the threads

After all parts are clean and dry, you can reassemble the tripod. The first thing to do is to place the twist lock attachments. Again, this is usually quite easy with larger twist locks, but it becomes more difficult with smaller locks. Just take your time and make sure it all fits.

Next, you grease the screw threads. Some tripod manufacturers will offer small grease tube, or you can buy it if you don’t have one. But it is usually quite expensive. An alternative is grease used for ball bearings. You can get it at almost any hardware store and it lasts a lifetime as you only need a small amount per thread.

Grease for lubricating screw threads. Use only a little. If you’ve added too much, wipe off the excess with a clean towel. Use grease for each screw thread, including the nail heads. It not only lubricates the screw thread, but also prevents dirt, sand and water from getting inside.

Step 5: Reassemble all tripod legs

After you grease each screw thread, you can reassemble the tripod legs. Start with the thickest part of the leg by sliding the twist lock over the tripod leg. Next, place the plastic retainers. These will fit perfectly into the holes in the tripod legs.

Hold the brackets in place and slide the tripod legs onto the largest tripod legs. Legs just fit in one position. Don’t force them. If it doesn’t fit, you need to rotate the foot until it slides in. Next, screw the twist lock into place. Turn and unscrew the screw a few times to distribute the grease throughout the screw thread.

If grease is pushed to the outside of the twist lock, you’ve used too much. Disassemble the tripod again and wipe off excess grease with a clean cloth. If it is really greasy, you may need to clean it again.

Repeat the assembly for every leg unit. Finally, the tripod is reassembled. You should use every part, so nothing is left over. If you still have the parts, then something went wrong. Just disassemble the tripod again and start over. But I’m sure that won’t be necessary.

You are done

Once assembled, the tripod is ready for use again. However, check every tripod, ball head, and other things to make sure they’re working in the correct order. If something is not assembled correctly, you will notice. Just disassemble the part again and reassemble it in the correct way.

Cleaning the tripod regularly will ensure many years of use. But there is one more reason that cannot be ignored. A well-maintained tripod will help you use it safely. There is less risk of damage and inevitable damage when your tripod doesn’t safely carry your expensive camera.

Perhaps you have some additions to these five simple steps to cleaning a tripod. If so, please let us know in a comment below.

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