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How to clean eyeglasses

Picture of Ludwik dishwashing liquidI’ve worn eyeglasses since I was 3 years old. A few years ago, I started getting annoyed with the dust and grease that keep building up on my glasses. Maybe it’s old-age grumpiness kicking in, or maybe it’s because I started to use LCD displays whose immaculate picture quality sensitized me to any blurriness between the LCD matrix and my retina.

Anyway, I started cleaning my glasses regularly. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out a good cleaning technique. First, I tried washing my glasses with running water and then drying them up with towels. That didn’t work so well for the grease and the towels (either cloth or paper) would leave tons of lint on my glasses. So I bought a professional microfiber cloth, the same kind that I use for cleaning photographic lenses, and some isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol), the stuff that they put in those overpriced “lens cleaning kits” you’ll find in the photography section of your electronics store. That was a lot better than my previous technique, but the alcohol would not clean off all the grease, which was impossible to remove completely with the cloth.

Well, I’ve finally figured it out. (Actually, I wish I had. I learned about this technique from my optician.) The answer is dishwashing liquid (AKA dish soap).

  1. Rinse your glasses under running water.
  2. Put a bit of dishwashing liquid on one of the lenses, then use your fingers to gently rub the liquid on both sides of both lenses.
  3. Rinse glasses again to remove the dish soap. You don’t need to use your fingers to get the dish soap off – just use running water. You should be looking at perfectly clean lenses with a few drops of water on them. If there’s any grease or other spots, repeat steps 2 and 3.
  4. Use a microfiber cloth to gently clean off remaining water drops. Use light touches – there might be small pieces of dirt on the cloth and if you rub it too hard, they might scratch the lenses. The microfiber cloth leaves no fluff, so your glasses should be perfectly clean.

It’s really a perfect combination. The dish soap dissolves all the grease, so you don’t get any smudges when you use the microfiber cloth. The microfiber cloth removes the remaining water drops and (non-greasy) stains made by evaporating water, and leaves no lint. The result: pristine-looking glasses in one minute.

What’s more, this technique is fairly convenient to use. Many online how-tos recommend special eyeglass-cleaning sprays or vinegar, which may be expensive or unavailable. On the other hand, most people have dish soap in their kitchen, so the only special accessory you need is a microfiber cloth, which costs $7 (for a top-quality one) and can be re-used for years. And even that isn’t really necessary, as paper towels or tissues work almost as well.

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54 Comments so far

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  • carrie

    I work in a optical shop and this is exactly what we recommend. Don’t use Windex at all it will ruin your glasses. And people as us all the time how to clean their glasses.

  • kris

    A perfect practical method does not exist. As a guy who works with laser optics i have some experience in professional cleaning.

    In case of eyeglasses often it’s matter how easy you want to clean glasses or how clean it you want.
    Realistic and practical cleaning:
    Use dishwater soap. Not all soaps are good.
    Do not use turbid soaps with balsam/cream etc.
    The less additives like aromas, dyes, shining stuff the better.
    Be careful with acid soaps (with ammonia, vinegar, lemon or something) it can damage AR coating (not abruptly,but after many uses after probably quite long time you end up with very reduced AR coating performance and you will notice huge difference when you buy a pair of new glasses).

    With plastic lenses with AR coating I would suggest my advice:
    1.Do not use paper towels! Instead use fine clean microfiber cloth!
    Not all microfiber cloths are the same. Sometimes even photography grade does not mean good grade.
    In my private opinion the best microfiber clothes are provided by good eye-lens companies. They provide this kind clothes for free for they expensive progressive lenses or free-forms.
    If you are using single vision try to obtain this kind of cloth from your optician.
    2. Avoid dry-wipes, If you want wipe, do it after water cleaning or after using cleaning solution (spray).
    In the proposed method author says about touches, instead of wipes!
    Do as mentioned!
    Even new microfiber cloth after couple uses get some dirt and leaves smudges. Take care of the cloth. Try touching one side of clothe and wipe with other side (good wipe should has logo or picture on on side – thus you can distinguish right side (wipe by side without logo or picture).

    Washing of cloths is not trivial (often your washed cloth will leave smudges).
    Try to wash cloth in mild soap. Rinse and wring out many times(even dozens) , wear gloves for best results. For final cycles of rins-wing use distilled water (if you have it).

    Important:
    If you own good hydrophobic AR coating you are happy!
    You can clean lenses without wipes and touching by clothes.

    During rinsing it is possible to not leave any drop. You have to use small laminar stream of water. During rinsing keep glases in stream and observe glasses, if you notice moment without drops, just move out glasess from stream.
    Touch cloth to bottom of your frames only.

    Not practical in home:
    If you are paranoiac about cleaning your lenses
    Use Distilled water for final rinse. Blow your glasses with Nitrogen or Argon from cylinder (regulated stream from a gun) .

    From my observations compresses air from cans (for cleaning computer etc), alway leaves tiny cloudy marks.

    After cleaning inspect lenses!
    Use light from strong LED torch and watch scattered light form the surface.

    Regards,
    Kris

  • James

    Thought you’d like to know…
    My wife bought me a pair of polarized Ray-Bans for Father’s Day. I wrote the company for care instructions because I had read various tips (ie. Only use the microfiber cloth to clean because the polarization will be damaged). I wanted to validate and separate myth from reality. In response to my request for care instructions, they copied and pasted your instructions to me (without crediting you, I might add). It surprised me that such a notable company didn’t have their own care instructions. At a minimum, it should be a flattering testimony that your advice is good!

  • light

    I’ve used this method around 5 times now and my glasses now have these little dots on them, as if the coatings are being eaten up. Upon reading the comments I realized that the dishwasher soap I’m using has lemon in them =(

  • Hattie Gutierrez

    I have eyeglasses sine I was 8 years old. I have never tried to clean them using dishwasher detergent. At home my mom uses only non-toxic homemade detergents. Is it possible to use them for cleaning my eyeglasses? Greets!

  • gregladen

    This works for me too, but I’m not sure about what it does to coatings.

    I use warmish water, not hot.

    As stated, never use paper towels … paper is made of plants, and plants tend to have phytoliths. These are tiny microscopic rocks that develop in or around plant cells. They leave microstriations.

  • b

    Holy hell I can SEE

  • John

    I just had to comment on this. I have had glasses all my life and I have long eyelashes, they seem to coat my glasses with grease…literally about an hour after washing them.

    The best solution I have found is actually head and shoulders citrus shampoo… just clean them like that with my finger. Then what I do is take the shower head down, twist it so it turns into pressure wash (like a car wash) and wash the glasses at full power on both sides, and dry with a towell. This gets water everywhere (because they are concave lenses) but it works…for a few hours until they are coated with grease again.

    My lenses are terrible. I can wash them, put them on a desk in my office, leave them half an hour and pick them up to find they are covered in dust. They seem to ATTRACT dust, and when you use something to take the dust off the lenses, they smear so you have streaks on the lenses.

    It drives me mad in the summer!

  • Alejandra Lucas

    This is some good information.I’m going to try this technique to clean my classes hopefully it will help me .

  • Jimladdy

    I wanted to know if I could use soap, THANK YOU. I cleaned so much with my microfibre but it’s just no use for grease.

    Thank you!

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