How to Clean Glasses

A person cleaning eyeglasses.

I live in the United States—the only country in the world where an eye exam costs you about a third of a month’s rent, and a new pair of spectacles costs you two pints of blood, a kidney, and your first-born child’s GI tract. I know I shouldn’t bitch; at least these things are available to me. But, hey, I’m an American. It’s my civic duty to stand idly by and bitch about things. Well, OK, not exactly “idly.” In the spirit of not wanting to give up any more of my internal organs to the optometric community, I’ve had to learn how to take good care of my eyeglasses. This, of course, starts with knowing how to properly clean glasses.

While the cost of glasses is a factor, taking care of and cleaning glasses is important for other reasons too. Perhaps the most notable of these is the fact that you have to wear those things on your face all day, every day. If you’re walking around with greasy, dirty, nasty eyeglasses, well, that’s just gross. The grease build-up on the bridge of your frames and on the nose pieces, aside from being easily noticeable by others, can cause black heads and clogged pores. Plus, it’s just way more pleasant to look out through nice clean lenses. So, if you’re here to learn how to clean eyeglasses that are prescription or if you just want to know how to clean sunglasses (the method is the same), this article is for you.

Steps to Cleaning Eyeglasses

  1. glasses under a running tapGet ’em all warm and wet. The biggest mistake people make in terms of cleaning glasses lenses is not getting all of the big chunks off before wiping them down. Lenses have a nasty habit of attracting and collecting little particles of dust and other debris that can and do scratch the lenses if not safely removed before the big rubdown. So, before you do anything, turn the faucet on, get the water warm (not hot), hold your glasses by the earpieces, and run them under the warm water for about twenty seconds per lens. Do this for the front and back of both lenses.
  2. drying off a pair of glassesSpray and wipe. Once the big scratchy chunks are all gone, it’s time to remove some of that built up grease and grime that’s been accumulating for the last year and a half. First, locate a cloth that is meant for cleaning glasses (probably came with your glasses), a soft cotton cloth, or a bit of old silk (perhaps from a necktie). Next, hold your glasses by the bridge piece and spray the inside and outside of each lens with eyeglass lens cleaner. With forefinger and middle finger on the outside of one lens, thumb on the inside, and the cloth between your fingers and the glass, rub gently in a back and forth motion across the first lens. Then do the same with other one.
  3. cotton swab on glassesTime for some cotton swab action. This is especially important if you are cleaning sunglasses or cleaning eyeglasses with plastic frames. With glasses such as these, the lenses are popped into place and there is generally a noticeable ridge around them that likes to collect grease and grime. Start by pouring a little rubbing alcohol into a shallow dish. Next, grab a cotton swab, dip it into the alcohol, and run it along that ridge where the nastiness has collected. You should use a clean swab with every swipe. To get the most from each swab, roll them between your fingers as you run them along the ridges of your glasses. Do this all around each lens on both the front and back.
  4. drying glassesDry your glasses. After you clean your glasses, you’ll want to dry them before putting them on your face. There are several ways to do this. The most gentle way is to simply give them a couple little shakes over the sink, set them on a clean cotton towel, and allow them to air dry. If you’re the impatient type, set them on a towel and use a blow dryer set on the lowest temperature possible. If you have really hard water and don’t want to risk water spots on the lenses, use a soft cotton towel or a lens cleaning cloth, hold the glasses by the frames, and gently wipe them down.
  5. holding glasses up tot he lightInspection time. After the process of eyeglass cleaning is complete, you’ll want to inspect your work. There’s nothing more irritating than taking the time to clean your glasses only to notice a smudge that you missed as soon as you step outside. So, grab your glasses, hold them by the earpieces up by the lenses, and hold them up to a light source (no, not the sun). Inspect each lens carefully. If you’re satisfied, carry on with your day. If you see something you don’t like, repeat the second step.
  6. glasses in a proper caseProper spectacle storage. Now that you know how to clean eyeglasses, you should probably know what to do with them when you’re not wearing them. Most people simply set them on the dresser or the coffee table. Not good enough. Not only will the lenses collect dust and get nasty again, by leaving them out you also run more of a risk of having them spilled on, whisked away by a child, or gnawed on by a hungry pet. One of my cats is notorious for leaving little tooth marks in things. So, do yourself a favor and just put ’em in the case that they came with when you’re not wearing them. If you don’t have that case anymore, take your glasses to any optometrist. They will happily sell you a case that your glasses will fit in.

Further Eyeglass Cleaning Tips

  • If, for some reason, you’re unimpressed with using the above method to clean your glasses, some people choose to put a couple inches of warm (not hot) water in the kitchen sink, add a few drops of dish detergent, soak the glasses for a few minutes, rinse the soap off, and gently wipe them down with the appropriate cloth.
  • When away from the house, be sure to carry along a few little premoistened lens cleaning wipes. They’re cheap as hell and can be found anywhere.
  • If you’re cleaning glasses with painted frames, take extra care to be extra gentle. You don’t want to clean away any of the paint.
  • Never wipe your glasses with paper products such as facial tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, or napkins. They may have little bits of wood in them that could scratch your lenses.
  • Wash your hands before cleaning glasses. This will lessen the risk of getting fingerprints on them and will make the eyeglass cleaning process easier and faster.
  • Always tighten all screws before you clean your glasses. You don’t want things popping out or to be losing little screws down the drain.
  • Never use high temperature water, as it can warp your eyeglass frames.
  • Finally, while I have not experienced this myself, I have heard that cleaning glasses with anything that contains ammonia (most commercial glass cleaners) can remove special coatings (anti-static, anti-glare) from lenses.

Cleaning Glasses Naturally

bottle of vinegarHomemade eyeglass cleaner. This is the easiest recipe ever. All you gotta do is make a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water. Mix it in a cheap spray bottle, and you’ll have one of the best eyeglass cleaners you’ll ever use. It won’t streak, and the acetic acid in vinegar breaks down grease.

Organix Eyeglass CleanerDragonfly Organix Eyeglass Cleaner. This nontoxic and biodegradable eyeglass cleaner is good for cleaning sunglasses, cleaning eyeglasses, and cleaning protective eyeware. It comes in a little squirt bottle that is good for purses, murses, and desk drawers. You can find Dragonfly Organix on Amazon, but only in packs of 12…so you’ve got loads of ’em to put in all those spots where you just may need your glasses cleaned.

Spray bottle of Seventh GenerationSeventh Generation Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner.I simply couldn’t feel good about this article if I didn’t mention Seventh Gen. They are the best. Buy their shite.