How to clean your tripod legs so they work like new

Posted Aug. 11th, 2020 by Daniel J. Cox

How to clean your tripod legs so they work like new is a skill all levels of photographers can benefit from. One of the things photographers are quite aware of is the expense of our hobby. Take a good tripod, for instance. Three carbon fiber legs and a ball head can easily set you back over $1,000. In this post, I’m going to cover how to clean your tripod legs so they work like new. Even though I don’t use a tripod as often as I used to, I still have a need for five legs on the ground, especially when shooting video. Keeping your sticks in good repair is a must for serious shooting.

NE Explorers on the island of Svalbard photographing reindeer and using long lenses that require a tripod.

Learn the process of cleaning your tripod leg joints

Tripods are pretty simple. But they do have a weak link. And that’s the joints between the legs that allow us to extend and retract them. Those joints are perfect portals for sand, dirt, and grime of all persuasions. There’s nothing worse than the feel of grinding grit when you twist the joint to release or tighten. Some people just attribute this degraded function to a tripod’s end of life. But nothing could be further from the truth and this blog post, along with the video, will show you how to bring yours back to good as new. The process of how to clean your tripod legs so they work like new is something any level of photographer can benefit from.

What you’ll need

The tools are pretty simple. First, you want to have a nice workbench that you can spread out on. Second, you’ll need a rag. And third, you’ll need WD-40 or comparable lubricant cleaning solvent.

How to clean your tripod legs

Lubricating and cleaning solvent, a workbench, and a rag are all that’s needed.

Step 1

Unscrew the first joint, the one closest to the ground, to the point where the outside knuckle/leg lock comes completely off. Remove the leg lock and pull the tripod leg all the way out. On a Gitzo, you’ll have three plastic sleeves, two of them attached to the leg, and one inside the leg lock itself.

How to clean your tripod legs

These sleeves are easy to remove and replace.

Step 2

Make sure you spray the WD-40 or other cleaning lubricant directly into the threads of the tripod leg as well as the inside of the knuckle/leg lock. You need to press hard inside the knuckle as well as the tripod leg threads, spinning your finger across the threads. Push hard and get aggressive. This is the only way to get at the dirt and sand in the threads.

How to clean your tripod legs

Don’t forget the knuckle/leg lock itself. Once again make sure you spray the lubricant/cleaner liberally to make sure it helps wash the grit and sand out of the threads.

How to clean your tripod legs

Step 3

Put it all back together. Get all the parts in the right places and you’re done. It’s that simple.

Bayliss brings out the big guns that mandate a good tripod.

I know people who have thrown tripods out due to issues with the leg locks. Take these three easy steps, give yourself an hour of time, and you can make your tripod just like new. But if you want to skip the entire cleaning process, make sure you extend the bottom tripod legs anytime you’re in water or mud.

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There are 2 comments on this post…
  1. Gregory Lee DonoghueOn Aug. 13th, 2020 (3 months ago)

    Saw where someone suggested using plastic piping, with end caps for putting each leg in. Drill holes in plastic piping high up and use plastic screws to tighten on to tripod legs. Keeps water and sand off of Tripod.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Aug. 13th, 2020 (3 months ago)

      Interesting idea Greg but I’m a minimalist. It’s very easy to just extend your first section of the tripod so that the bottom knuckle stays out of the mud and sand. But your idea has merit for those who like DIY projects. Thanks for adding your voice.

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