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 still scratch.
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
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 recommended.
- Buy glasses with a scratch resistant coating (and water repellent coating if
- 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
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 years.
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