Have you ever owned a pair of
glasses covered in scuffs and scratches? I know I
definitely have. I wore the same pair of glasses for over
5 years, and towards the end, the scratches were becoming so
bothersome that I decided to get a new pair, which were going to
be kept free. But how?
Back in the day, eyeglass
lenses used to
be made of glass. Glass is a fairly scratch-resistant
material, and with optics being relatively new, scratches
weren't exactly the biggest concern of the time. Over time
however, as technology permitted change, materials that lenses were
made of also changed. Plastics started being put into use,
as plastic is typically lighter than glass. Even
polycarbonate (a material that won't shatter on impact the way
glass and regular plastic lenses will) started to see use in
optical lenses. This of course created a problem, as both
those materials are not resistant to scratches. Scratch
free coatings were designed that help to a degree, but still
today we are fighting with lenses that scratch easily, despite
improvements in technology and scratch-resistant coatings.
The first thing to look at is what causes glasses to be
scratched in the first place. Certain things are
unavoidable. Accidents for example can leave gouges and
scratches in a lens. Being careful with your glasses (both
while wearing and storing) is the best you can hope for to avoid
One of the biggest causes of scratched glasses though, is
cleaning. Yes, simple "harmless" cleaning slowly destroys
lenses more often that you might imagine. There are a few
ways cleaning can hurt a lens. First, for those of you
using your shirt tail to wipe off a lens, stop now. Not
only does dirt become embedded in clothing rather quickly, but
fabric softener can leave a film, and some materials just plain
aren't nice to plastic, and will leave sure scrathes.
Using paper tower, or even toilet paper and kleenex can also put
fine scratches in a lens. You won't notice it at first,
but after a year or two, many fine scratches will become
evident. These are wood-pulp and paper-based products, and
are not recommended, even by the manufacturers. Don't
believe me? This excerpt was taken directly from the FAQ
on Kleenex's own web site:
Can KLEENEX® Tissue be used to clean eyeglasses?
While we know that many consumers use KLEENEX® Tissue to
wipe or clean their lenses, we have not tested KLEENEX®
Tissue for this purpose; therefore, we cannot recommend it.
We suggest that consumers check with their lens care
providers for the best method of cleaning their lenses.
Now I've got nothing against Kleenex. In fact, I give them a lot
of respect for addressing this on their website. If
anything, I trust them more as a company for being honest and
truthful about the subject, despite that fact that it obviously
could reduce their sales. Basically, I'm just quoting this
to keep a needless debate from happening. Even the
manufacturer of the most popular soft tissue recommends against
using their product to clean glasses.
Micro fiber cloths
So what's better than kleenex? Micro-fiber cloths.
You may or may not have heard of these. They're sold by
most reputable eyeglass retailers. They're usually made of
a combination of nylon and polyester and are made up of
extremely small fibers of that material. They are the best
material you can use to clean anything prone to scratches, as
the cloth itself is almost guaranteed not to scratch.
There is still a problem though, if there is any sort of dirt or
debris that gets caught in the fibers, that dirt or debris can
Wet vs Dry
Never clean glasses dry, no matter what material you use.
Liquids act as a lubricant, and help reduce friction, and the
risk of scratching. Water works great, although there are
spray cleaners you can buy from most optical places (usually
made of water and mild detergent or a miniscule amount of
Windex and other Detergents
Most windex and glass cleaning products contain ammonia.
Ammonia is great for cleaning glass. However, it can
destroy coatings on glasses pretty quickly. Windex is a
big no-no. Many other detergents are also strong enough
that over time they will wear off your coatings. Since
coatings are designed to protect the lens from scratches, once
those coatings are gone, your lens will be even more vulnerable.
The best way....
Now, the best way to clean your glasses is.... are you ready
for this...? Soap and water. Yes, that's the big
secret. Don't spray windex on your glasses, don't breathe
a fine mist on them and use a tissue, just use a mild dish soap
and water. Why? First of all, water will remove dirt
and debris from your lens, without scratching your lens.
Think of it this way - if you had bits and pieces of miniature
glass shards and splinters dumped on your arm, between these two
options, would you rather (a) try and rub them off with a tissue
or even a micro-fiber cloth, or (b) put your arm under a tap of
water and rinse them off that way. No, it's not the best
analogy, but you get the idea. Make sure you don't
use hot water, as it has been known to "crack" coatings in some
cases. Cold or warm water should be fine. Using soap such
as a mild dish soap isn't going to eat away at any coatings.
Now how about drying them? If you are one of the lucky
ones who got coatings on your glasses that are water-repellent,
you can usually run them under water, and slowly remove them,
leaving the lenses spot free. If you end up with a couple
drops left, you can probably dab them off lightly with a tissue
without causing too much harm. Unfortunately, if your
glasses didn't come with any coatings (or with any that are
water repellant), you're probably going to have to rub them with
something (micro-fiber cloth) to dry them. The good news
is that as long as the cloth doesn't have debris already
engrained in it, you've hopefully already washed any existing
debris from the lenses, so it shouldn't scratch anyway.
In short, keep the following in mind when cleaning:
- Never clean lenses "dry". Always use a liquid.
- The only liquids that should be used are water, or a
liquid designed specifically for lenses (available at most
optical stores). Most other liquids are too corrosive over
the long term.
- The only "safe" material for wiping is a micro-fiber
cloth. Tissues, paper towel, and clothing are not
- Buy glasses with a scratch resistant coating (and water
repellent coating if possible)
- The best way to clean is with water (not hot) and mild
dish soap, gently rubbing between your fingers if necessary.
Drip dry if glasses have a water-repellent coating,
otherwise use a clean micro-fiber cloth.
Despite every effort you make, accidents and mishaps can
damage your lenses. However, in most cases, changing your
cleaning methods will keep your glasses looking like-new for
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