A concluding note on this:
- Nikon service center in Shinjuku managed to get rid of all the fluid left overs I couldn't manage to remove. I am really lucky to live so close to this key facility,
- They informed that the AA filter had some small scratches, most probably as a result of the usage of VD stabs,
- They proposed a sensor swap for the modest amount of 900 US$ (it takes a week), which I turned down...
- I need to do more test since night has already fallen over Tokyo, but the first samples I took show no sign of any impact of these small scratches. I need to make sure that violent light doesn't result in any light scattering away from the scratches.
As of now, it looks like a happy ending, but the whole experience has changed forever my relationship with sensor cleaning.
Considering that the D3 only gathered a very reasonnable amount of dust over some 10.000 to 15.000 exposures in 3 months, I guess that I'll give up completely on sensor cleaning myself and will have the Nikon guys to it for me once every 3 months. That is both going to be cheaper and safer than relying on cleaning solutions..
Living 6 minutes train away from the largest Nikon service center in Japan can be convenient...
I perform an average of four to six sensor cleanings a week at the store I do repairs for.
Every time I get a camera with a streaked up low pass filter it has had a brush type cleaning tool applied to it and I advise the user to avoid them.
My procedure is this - Clean camera externally; use rocket blower to blow out mirror box, including behind mirrors; clean mirror; blow out mirror box again; put camera into sensor cleaning mode and blow off filter; check for stuck on stuff; use Eclipse and swab to remove stubborn spots. Just dampen the swab and never use a dry swab. Only one back and forth swipe with each swab.
DO NOT USE CANNED AIR OR COMPRESSORS.
This advice is based on having done several hundred services, but as the botanists say...
There's lots of snake oil out there as well as misinformation.
As far as preventive maintenance is concerned, perform a sensor cleaning before and after each time the camera is used. As you are just pushing air, there is no way to damage the camera and there's no such thing as too clean. Remember, nothing is getting on the filter while changing lenses. The only time the sensor is exposed is when the shutter is open. What is happening is that junk is getting in the mirror box and at the moment of exposure the mirrors create turbulence and the sensor develops a static charge, causing anything floating around in there to stick to it.
Keep body caps, rear of lenses and their caps, clean. Heck, keep everything clean, including bags and cases.
The self cleaning systems starting to show up are only so effective, so it helps to still blow the thing out manually.
So relax Bernard and with a little practice you can easily keep the spots under control. I've also seen many cameras with small fine scratches on the filter that have no material impact on the image.
PS - Are those six local minutes or Shinkansen minutes? There's an excellent, relatively inexpensive, sushi bar just a couple blocks north of the Shinjuku station. Unfortunately the name escapes me as it's been a few years.