How do you clean a Nikon SLR and strap covered in toxic chemicals?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Danny D., Jan 9, 2013.

  1. Danny D.

    Danny D. Guest

    My Nikon SLR was used to take pictures for this thread:
    - Is there a better way to remove a poison oak plant than with a chainsaw?

    The Nikon camera and strap are slathered in toxic urushiol:

    Here, for example, is a video I just took with the camera:

    And, here is just one picture of the battle the camera is in:

    Since urushiol is known to remain toxic for over 100 years,
    and since it takes only a nanogram to infect a person,
    I ask you experts how YOU clean your SLR cameras and straps
    without destroying them?
    Danny D., Jan 9, 2013
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  2. Danny D.

    M-M Guest

    Wear rubber gloves.
    Remove straps and wash with soap and water
    Clean camera with Windex soaked cloth and a toothbrush if necessary
    Discard gloves
    M-M, Jan 9, 2013
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  3. Danny D.

    Savageduck Guest

    I live 13 miles West of Paso Robles, California and I am familiar with
    the problem.

    What were you doing, clearing for a marijuana grove?

    Most Poison Oak clearing I have seen was done with mattock, pick and
    shovel, not a chainsaw due to the problem you have just experienced.
    Hand clearing is the only sane way. Then your next problem is disposal.
    Burning is not smart, you don't want to inhale any of that smoke.
    Finding a dump site can also be problematic. This is when you call the
    locals who might have a solution for you.
    UC Davis has some information on the problem. I suggest you read it:
    < >

    Now on to your clothes and camera.

    First don surgical gloves.

    Second: (option #1) remove the strap from the camera and drop it in the
    washing machine with all your contaminated clothes. DO NOT CROSS
    CONTAMINATE untainted clothes in the washing machine. Keep them
    separated. When you are done run a cycle with the machine empty and and
    a good amount of detergent and bleach.

    (option #2) dump the strap and the contaminated clothes in the garbage.
    Nikon straps are available, if you can't find one there are some nice
    third party straps available.

    Change your surgical gloves frequently.

    Now place your camera (without the strap) on some paper towels take a
    good look at the camera and map the areas of worst contamination.

    Assemble these items:
    two bowls or containers
    Cotton swabs and cotton balls
    Dishwashing detergent
    a bottle of isopropyl alcohol

    Mix up a strong solution of detergent and water in one bowl. Use the
    other for fresh rinse water.

    Remove the battery from the camera. I would also remove the rubber
    viewfinder eye-piece cup.

    Carefully dab at small contaminated areas with the a swab soaked in the
    detergent solution. (it doesn't have to be dripping wet)
    Use a fresh swab to rinse the clean end area with fresh water. Daub dry.
    Use plenty fresh swabs through the process.

    Repeat with the next small area until done.
    Now wipe down the entire camera and lens with a fresh rinse swab.

    Soak another fresh swab in isopropyl alcohol and start working small
    areas of the entire camera changing swabs frequently.

    Once you have completed that task, you have an option to take a swab or
    a cloth dampened with a vinyl cleaner to just wipe the surface of the

    Now you should have a decontaminated Nikon.

    That is not a battle of your camera's choosing. I would believe your
    priority is to clear the poison oak not to document the clearing. So
    leave the camera at home.
    Most of us "experts" wouldn't be crazy enough to take a good camera to
    a site where contamination with poison oak was highly probable. If you
    have to do that, consider protecting it with a plastic bag.
    Savageduck, Jan 9, 2013
  4. Danny D.

    Martin Brown Guest

    You ask a difficult question. One way to detox urushiol contamination is
    described in US Patent 4,594,239 (a statement of the blindingly obvious
    IMHO and not at all worthy of a patent).,594,239&OS=4,594,239&RS=4,594,239

    Basically throw away the fabric strap as you will never get it clean
    enough. Next time either use a sacrificial cheap camera or a waterproof
    casing when you go into a hostile toxic chemical environment.

    It is also soluble in alcohol which might help you get the worst of it
    off the metal components. It may already have diffused into any plastic.
    I suspect that using hypochlorite (bleach) carefully on your camera
    externally might clean it satisfactorily but will also shorten its
    working life due to chloride corrosion.

    You might get a better answer in sci.chem from someone who has had
    practical experience of removing natural urushiol resins from objects.

    Basically you should have known that you were going into a badly
    contaminated environment with the natural equivalent of mustard gas and
    handled the camera inside a plastic and with easy clean plastic straps.

    If I had to photograph it today I would probably have just used a cheap
    sacrificial camera or strictly enforced clean handling.

    Not sure I would trust welding gloves to keep it out either.
    Martin Brown, Jan 9, 2013
  5. Danny D.

    Eric Stevens Guest

    I think the answer may be "you don't".
    Eric Stevens, Jan 9, 2013
  6. Danny D.

    Savageduck Guest

    You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So you make the attempt.
    Savageduck, Jan 9, 2013
  7. Danny D.

    Martin Brown Guest

    Actually if you fail to detox it properly you will have a very
    unpleasant experience from contact dermatitis. Similarly if you are
    slightly careless whilst trying to clean it the same applies.

    That is why I would recommend throwing the strap away.

    The camera body itself is worth cleaning but it would have been much
    better not to have contaminated it in the first place.
    Martin Brown, Jan 9, 2013
  8. Danny D.

    Savageduck Guest

    Agreed! That is the best option for the strap.
    ....but the option to take the risk is his.
    You will note, I questioned his dumb use of a chain saw and taking the
    camera into the danger zone in the first place.
    That was why I also suggesed he read the UC Davis piece on the problem.
    < >

    In my former life in Law Enforcement, I have worked with marijuana
    abatement teams here in California where just hiking through infested
    areas is unavoidable. Jump suits and other coveralls are usually
    disposed of, not laundered when badly contaminated. Reactions among
    individuals varies from so severe that hospitalization is needed, to
    those immune to the toxin. I have see those guys with stains on their
    arms and clothing, and if you get near them your eyes start watering as
    if there was OC pepper spray in the air.

    I have also seen entire teams of CDF firefighters incapacitated from
    inhaling smoke from fires in infested areas.
    Savageduck, Jan 9, 2013
  9. Buy a new one. Thriftiness is only a virtue so far.


    "Danny D." wrote in message
    My Nikon SLR was used to take pictures for this thread:
    - Is there a better way to remove a poison oak plant than with a chainsaw?

    The Nikon camera and strap are slathered in toxic urushiol:

    Here, for example, is a video I just took with the camera:

    And, here is just one picture of the battle the camera is in:

    Since urushiol is known to remain toxic for over 100 years,
    and since it takes only a nanogram to infect a person,
    I ask you experts how YOU clean your SLR cameras and straps
    without destroying them?
    Chris Pisarra, Jan 9, 2013
  10. Danny D.

    Danny D. Guest

    The toothbrush idea helps because I was washing with an alcohol and
    bleach mix but doing so very delicately.
    Danny D., Jan 9, 2013
  11. Danny D.

    Eric Stevens Guest

    There is no reason why you shouldn't try but, from the description of
    the extent of contamination, I doubt that an attempt is likely to be

    The various (Google) description of the techniques used for cleaning
    seem to be centered around various cleaning compounds which can be
    removed by water. Water on its own is not sufficient. Isopropyl
    alchohol (IPA) is frequently recommended in conjunction with lots of
    water. When compared with most solvents IPA is highly miscible in
    water. IPA is the solvent which removes the allergen and it is the
    water which flushes it away leaving a minimum residue. Soap can also
    be used in much the same way.

    The camera and straps is described as being "slathered in toxic oil".
    Cleaning this up does not sound like just a little careful wiping. The
    problem is not removing the allergen but removing it without doing any

    It should be possible to remove the allergen from within the weave of
    the fabric of the straps with sufficiently vigourous cleaning but
    whether they survive entirely unscathed is another matter.

    The camera is the real problem. The allergen is likely to have made
    its way into various cracks, crannies and porous surfaces on the SLR
    and probably made its way to interior surfaces. Even cleaning the
    outside of the camera is likely to be a mind-boggling job but if the
    cleaning goes no further traces of the allergen are likely to make
    their way back to the suface for some time to come.

    Full cleaning of the camera will need partial dismantlement and
    meticulous detail cleaning of contaminated components. Whether or not
    this will be either feasible or succesful will depend upon where the
    allergen has got to.

    The next question is: how do you decontaminate the chain saw?
    Eric Stevens, Jan 9, 2013
  12. Danny D.

    Savageduck Guest

    I have had to cleanup poison oak off of skin, clothing and tools many
    times, never a camera or chainsaw. Detergent and degreaser along with
    IPA has always worked for me. Then antihistamines, cortisone, and
    calamine lotion.
    The strap could probably make it through a couple of cycles in a
    washing machine with any clothes which are not going to be disposed of.
    If not B&H would be more than happy to sell him a new one.
    Yup! That is the part of the decontamination which is going to require
    the most care, and is going to be a tedious project which will become
    tougher the longer he waits. That PO sets like epoxy.
    The real lesson here is, not to take a camera you are not prepared to
    sacrifice into harms way. In the end the camera might be beyond
    recovery, but it is always worth an attempt. I think the body would be
    savable, it is the lens which is going to prove truly difficult to
    It is probably going to be easier to clean the chain saw than the camera.

    First dismantle the saw.
    Shitcan the chain, it is not going to be worth the effort to save.

    Take the bar and soak it in some shop degreaser or gasoline.
    Do the same for the casing and other contaminated parts such as the drive cog.

    Use an industrial degreaser to complete a second pass. Wipe down and
    check for persistent spots. The poison Oak toxic oil can be very glue
    like at times.

    Spot clean with degreaser as needed.

    Reassemble with new chain (perhaps with a new bar and possibly a clutch
    replacement). Relube and tension, and adjust.
    Savageduck, Jan 9, 2013
  13. Danny D.

    Danny D. Guest

    This is a grove that would be nearly impossible by one man to
    clear with a pick and shovel. See why in this full-size picture:

    You can't get a truck/tractor down into that steep ravine, and, you
    certainly can't even think of spraying it (without a chopper).

    The a.h.r thread was trying to find better ways to remove it and I was
    snapping photos of the progress as I removed a 20 foot by 10 foot swath
    of the stuff. The oil is literally dripping on the camera.

    THIS IS what I was wondering about. I get covered in urushiol sap all the
    time and just a single 90-minute wash (cross contaminated or not) works
    just fine. But I didn't know if it would ruin the strap.

    So, if the strap won't be ruined by washing - then that's no problem
    whatsoever as I have tons of experience with poison oak sap in the wash.
    The only thing bad that happens to clothes is the black oxidized sap is
    all over the place as shown in this picture of my shirt & gloves:
    Only the government can afford to waste perfectly good (but contaminated
    clothing). The wash will work fine.
    I just read the patent that was wonderfully pointed out
    and that is what I'll use. The cotton swabs are a good idea (along with a
    toothbrush someone else suggested). The only thing is I don't know what
    chlorine & alcohol or acetone will do to the printed text on the Nikon
    D5000 SLR.
    Both good ideas!
    I like your ideas! Thanks. I'll report back, although the only true
    measure of success removing something you can't see is if my wife doesn't
    get contaminated while using my camera! :)
    Danny D., Jan 10, 2013
  14. Danny D.

    Danny D. Guest

    That was a F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C reference!

    That one post makes this entire thread worthwhile (to me)!

    (i.e., I knew people would say not to use a Nikon D5000 camera in rough
    conditions because most people baby their cameras - but I had not
    expected such a PERFECTLY focused answer, targeted on the problem!)

    I read that patent page over and over and over again!

    Urushiol causes dermatitis by changing the surface proteins in the skin
    so the body no longer recognizes the skin as human, and attacks it.

    That effect is actually fairly easy to interfere with. Pretty much any
    change to the urushiol molecule would probably prevent dermatitis.

    Chlorine bleach is a strong oxidizing agent, and should easily do the
    trick. Getting it into the oil would be aided by adding alcohol or
    acetone as a wetting agent, but a strong surfactant should also work.

    The patent prefers a solution of acetone + butyl acetate +
    trichloroisocyanuric acid for neutralizing urushiol on skin, clothes, and
    equipment; but if I preferentially select just the common household
    chemicals discussed, the patent seems says that 2% to 6% common bleach
    alone or combined with 5% to 20% rubbing alcohol (or acetone) as a
    wetting agent will neutralize urushiol in about 1 minute.

    The patent even explains how adding certain ferrous compounds will
    actually make the toxic urushiol glow green, while the decontaminated
    urushiol will not.

    That is a rare find on the usenet. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    (How did you find it? I've been looking for years for a solution!)
    Danny D., Jan 10, 2013
  15. Danny D.

    Savageduck Guest

    Then you might need to hire some labor to get the job done.
    In that case, if access is so tough, why do you need to clear it?
    Are you planning some construction on that slope, or are you just
    expanding a back yard?
    It doesn't sound like the place to take a pleasant stroll.
    The chainsaw was and is a bad idea. Taking an unprotected camera along,
    and having it where you would actually drip the PO oil onto it was an
    even worse idea.
    Maybe, maybe not. You have nothing to lose by trying. The worst that
    can happen is you have to replace the strap.
    $15.95 for a generic Nikon DSLR strap at B&H:
    Yup! I know those stains well.

    Only use isopropyl alcohol or a detergent solution.
    As I said you have nothing to lose by trying. Your big problem is going
    to be the lens, and that might need expert disassembly to clean moving
    parts of the lens tube. If you care to tackle that, appropriate tools
    are available at Micro-Tools.
    < >

    Have your wife take an antihistamine such as Claritin about two or
    three hours before coming into contact with the "decontaminated" camera.

    BTW: Where in California is this?
    Savageduck, Jan 10, 2013
  16. Danny D.

    Savageduck Guest

    I would take care using chlorine and/or acetone on the polycarbonate
    D5000 body. The formulation described above seems fine for skin,
    clothing and tools, questionable for plastics.

    I assume you also saw the UC Davis information?
    < >
    Savageduck, Jan 10, 2013
  17. Danny D.

    Savageduck Guest

    BTW: There is also this:
    The UC Davis site suggests using Tecnu for first aid, kin, clothing,
    and tool decontamination.
    < >
    Savageduck, Jan 10, 2013
  18. Danny D.

    Danny D. Guest

    I'm sorry if I ever intimated I 'must' clear it. It's land. It's covered
    in Pacific Poison Oak. I just want to walk on it. There no dire 'need'.
    Either the poison oaks wins, or I win. I have the same battle with Scotch
    Broom and Spanish Broom. It's either them, or me. :)
    My camera goes where I go. That means it goes kayaking and skiing.
    Yes, I break cameras all the time. My next Nikon SLR is NOT going to have
    a crappy plastic lens mount, for example. But that's for another thread.
    As you can imagine, I have a LOT of experience washing urushiol-sap
    soaked clothes. I put the mine & the kids underwear in the same load.
    It's amazing, but, washing for 90 minutes works just fine, despite all
    the things on the net that say otherwise. YMMV.
    The strap is going in the wash! I'll let you know the outcome.
    Tomorrow I'll also start swabbing down the camera.
    My poison oak rash is just starting - but it's not too bad.
    Then you know urushiol! Everyone who tells me they got poison oak or ivy,
    I ask if they had the black stains. If they don't know what I'm talking
    about, then I know they have no clue. It's like the difference of being
    in the front line versus the rear echelon. You can tell right away how
    much they've actually 'battled' the urushiol sap!
    That was what I was worried about. I don't want to ruin the camera just
    by cleaning it. I think the pool trichlor might not be too bad on the
    camera, but, I'm still looking that up and need to test on some clothes
    first. I'll be an expert at this by the end - but I'm nowhere near where
    I need to be on knowledge yet as I'm just starting to learn.
    Santa Cruz mountains. Up in the hills. Mountain country.
    Danny D., Jan 10, 2013
  19. Danny D.

    Danny D. Guest

    I don't disagree that Technu/IvyBlock/Zanfel, etc. are great products.
    The government spends half its firefighting budget on gallons of that
    expensive stuff.


    I've studied the ingredients to understand what each does, and that's how
    I have come up with the approach that I use.
    - Driller's clay (blockers, i.e., poor-man's ivy block)
    - Dish detergent (surfactants, i.e., poor-man's Technu/Zanfel)
    - Alcohol or acetone (wetting agents, i.e., poor-man's Technu/Zanfel)
    - Bleach or chloramines (oxidizing agents, i.e., poor-man's Technu/Zanfel)

    The only thing I can say about 'my' approach using common household
    chemicals compared to the miracle solutions is that my solutions are, for
    the most part, the same as in the miracle tubes, yet mine are VASTLY
    cheaper than the store-bought solutions.

    Of course, I have no access to spermicides & polyethylene granules, but I
    do have easy grocery-store access to sodium laurel sulfate, bleaches, &
    chloramines, plus every time I stop by a well drilling operation, I ask
    for a handful of bentonite.

    BTW, DO YOU KNOW where we can buy spermicides & polyethylene granules?
    (I never thought about buying them until now.)
    Danny D., Jan 10, 2013
  20. Danny D.

    Danny D. Guest

    That's what I was worried about!
    The plastic. And the lens films. And the printing.
    Nice find. I had not read this prior. I realized from reading that that I
    should have sprayed the cut stumps with the glyphosate so I'm going to do
    that tomorrow. They say to use a paint brush but I'll be there all day
    doing that. Spray will just have to do. It's VERY INTERESTING that they
    suggested 20% glyphosate (which is super concentrated!). Luckily I have
    2.5 gallons of 41% glyphosate - but normal concentrations (e.g., Roundup)
    are one ounce of my 41% solution per gallon of water.

    So it's shocking how high they suggest the glyphosate concentration to be
    for painting the stumps.

    They say to use isopropyl alchol and water - but I think they are
    guessing too much on the part about avoiding 'warm' water. Sure, I've
    heard all the old wives tales about it 'opening up the pores', but the
    oil isn't getting underneath the upper layer of skin through pores in the
    first place - so I suspect they don't have their science right. Certainly
    they didn't back up the statement.

    Also, they don't clarify what they mean by a certain percentage of people
    are 'immune', so again, (since this one I know rather well), they really
    didn't write it from a scientific standpoint - because they're clearly

    They also talk about the 5 minute exposure time, but, in reality, that's
    just not practical, and, it's really more like double to triple that for
    practical purposes. So, they aren't lying - they're just not all that

    Still, there is plenty there that is good information. For example, I'm a
    firm believer in the sentence they said about not removing the protective
    oils on the skin. Of course, they didn't prove that one either - but I
    don't disbelieve it even though I can't personally prove it myself.

    Poison oak is one of those subjects that inherently has a lot of
    unsupported old wives tales. I'm not sure why - but it just does. I guess
    it's because you can't 'see' the oil, so, everyone comes up with their
    story of how they attacked it and lived to tell the tale because of this
    or that trick they used (me included).

    But none of us are brave enough to pour that gloopy sap on our bare skin!

    BTW, I'm certainly not in the percentage they 'say' are immune, as my
    face has it, my ears do, my neck, and my wrists. But, it's not too bad. I
    made up a solution of 1/3 bleach, 1/3 alcohol, and 1/3 dish detergent and
    washed those spots for about five minutes in the shower today.

    Hopefully that will help but what I really need to add is the spermicide
    and polyethylene granules. I might be able to substitute a gritty
    substance for the PEG granules - but I'll need to look up spermicides (as
    I've never had a need for them until now).
    Danny D., Jan 10, 2013
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