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How I Clean my Glasses

July 13 2022

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I've been wearing glasses since I was 4 years old: ever since, I've put them on as soon as I wake up and take them off just before I flop into bed. In all that time, I've never broken a pair of glasses, but I still get a new pair every 2 years: sometimes the frame starts to fall apart, but more often the quality of vision decreases. Often I notice increasing problems in night vision, though my last pair degraded in such a way that my eyes kept losing focus even in daylight, which was disconcerting to say the least.

Becoming frustrated, I guessed that the way I clean my glasses might be causing the lenses to degrade quicker than necessary. I used to just breathe on them, and wipe them with whatever came handy (a shirt or whatever). Then I switched to using a dry microfibre cloth which I would wash whenever it started leaving horrible smear marks on the lens. Then I used small quantities of soap and water with a microfibre cloth. Each of these changes seemed to slightly improve the situation, but I wondered if I could do better. The internet seemed mostly full of people telling me to do what I was already doing, which wasn't what I was hoping for. I eventually realised that one group of people whose profession is based on lenses might have better advice: and, indeed, photographers have developed a number of techniques for cleaning camera lenses.

For the last 12 months I've been using an adapted version of what seems to be the "standard" advice for cleaning camera lenses. My lenses still seem as good as new (I can't see any abrasion at all, nor any problems at night), which suggests this is a decent approach. Caveat emptor: I have not conducted a scientific test, so some of what comes next might be placebo, or the results of good fortune, or possibly even dangerous to your health. With that in mind, here's how I now clean my glasses (note: I don't use affiliate links, so you don't have to worry that I'm trying to make money off you):

  • I clean them every day.
  • I start by wiping all the dust off with a (synthetic) camel hair paint brush (these work for me). Intuitively, this means that when I wipe the lens later there is no dust to act as an abrasive.
  • I then wipe the lens with a dry microfibre cloth (I don't use water or breath). I bought a pack of 10 small cloths in individual bags so that I can replace the cloth every week, and only wash them (with a little bit of white vinegar) every 10 weeks. Keeping the cloths in their bag, rather than out in the open, means that they don't pick dust up. I rotate cloths frequently because they inevitably pick up dust and oil: once a week might be unnecessarily often, but it makes it a simple part of my routine.
  • Once a week, I use an oil remover (I use Residual Oil Remover but that might be overkill) with the microfibre cloth (and afterwards put that cloth in the "to wash" pile). One or two drops on the cloth per lens side seems quite sufficient. I could perhaps do this less frequently too, but again, once a week makes it a simple part of my routine.
  • Once every 6 weeks or so, I use an ultrasonic cleaner to clean all the goop that builds up around the frame (without doing something this becomes hideous over the lifetime of a pair of glasses). I put a few drops of ROR in with distilled water and use a high frequency ultrasonic cleaner on the basis that while high frequencies are less effective at cleaning, they're less likely to damage the lenses' coating. The ultrasonic cleaner I use has a 3 minute time-out: this doesn't quite get rid of all the frame gunk, which I'm fine with, as I'd rather use the ultrasonic cleaner less rather than more. After I've cleaned my glasses (and some of my wife's), I use the ultrasonic cleaner to clean the camel hair brushes.
The microfibre cloths will last for years, the ROR probably also for years. The ultrasonic cleaner and distilled water are more expensive and have greater ongoing costs, although it looks like £13 of distilled water will last for about 3 years, so I don't feel too guilty about this use of the earth's resources.

I can't promise that this is the best, or even a good, way of cleaning glasses. However, it does seem to work appreciably better than what I did before, and (with the exception of the ultrasonic cleaning) it does so without requiring any appreciable increase in time, despite the number of steps above.

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