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The Ultimate Guide: How to Clean Glasses

The Ultimate Guide: How to Clean Glasses

Whether they’re your daily reading glasses or your steadfast prescription specs, your glasses are essential to helping you see better as you go about your life. But they only do their job if you can actually see out of them. Fingerprints, smudges and stains are par for the course when your glasses go with you everywhere you go. From work to gym to kitchen to workshop to studio, your lenses are bound to get a bit dirtied up. But knowing how to clean them can help ensure that you see the world through rose-colored — er, clear — glasses.

Why Cleaning Matters

Us glasses wearers understand that routine spiff-ups are required to ensure that we have clear vision as we go about our lives. But it’s not just about not being able to see. There are a few more reasons why keeping your lenses clean matters.

  • Dirty Glasses Can Lead to Headaches and Eye Strain — Have you ever noticed that wearing the wrong prescription glasses causes headaches? This happens because the eyes are working extra hard to see. The same thing happens when you’re forced to view the world through dirty lenses. Smudges and spots lead your eyes out of their natural path and require them to work harder, which can contribute to eye strain, headaches and blurry vision.
  • Dirty Glasses Encourage Bacterial Growth — Studies show that eyeglasses are covered in a hefty bacterial load, especially on the nose pads and earpieces. Most of these bacteria are safe, but this does create a hospitable environment for pathogens that can get you sick. Eye infections such as conjunctivitis and blepharitis are caused by bacteria, so you want to make sure you’re keeping your specs as germ-free as possible.
  • Dirty Glasses Send Social Signals — Dirty glasses can send social signals that don’t reflect who you are. When friends, co-workers or strangers notice your dirty glasses, they may assume that you are unkempt or disorganized. Prominent smudges can also be distracting for others during conversation. Clean glasses help you maintain a professional, put-together look.

Daily Cleaning: How to Clean Your Glasses

From greasy fingers to makeup to pollutants in the air, a lot of factors can contribute to dirty lenses. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need any special cleaners or equipment to clean your glasses. In fact, you probably already have everything you need — water, dish soap and a microfiber towel — to keep them nice and clean. But there are a few things to keep in mind before getting out the cleaning supplies. 

Here’s our step-by-step guide to keeping your specs spiffy. This method can be used on prescription glasses, sunglasses, readers or even the blue light reading glasses you wear at the computer.

Woman at table cleaning glasses on left with instructions on how to clean glasses on right pane of image

  1. Step 1: Prep — Start by thoroughly washing and drying your hands to ensure that no sweat or dirt transfers to them once clean. Remove all detachable glasses accessories, such as cords or retainers, before cleaning. Prepare your specs by wiping them down with a clean, dry glasses cloth.  
  2. Step 2: Rinse — Run the glasses under lukewarm water to rinse off any dust, dirt and surface debris that will get in the way of a thorough clean. Leaving surface debris or dust on your lenses before cleaning could cause scratches. 
  3. Step 3: Wash — Take a pea-sized amount of gentle dish soap and create a gentle lather between your fingers. Wash the glasses, frames and nose pad, paying close attention to any stubborn spots and smudges. If you’re dealing with more serious stains, 
  4. Step 4: Rinse — Once you’ve cleaned your lenses and frames thoroughly, rinse off all the soap with lukewarm water, making sure to rinse all the nooks and crannies so no soap gets trapped in the hardware. Be sure to use a gentle stream of water, as too much pressure could damage the glassesGlasses running under water
  5. Step 5: Dry — Using a dry microfiber cloth, dry your glasses thoroughly. If you have time, let them air dry on a dish rack or towel-lined countertop. Make sure to let your glasses dry completely. Although many high-quality glasses are made with rust-resistant hardware, excessive water can still cause them to rust or weaken.

On-the-Go Cleaning

The above method is great most of the time, but what about when you don’t have access to dish soap and water? When you’re traveling, working long shifts, hiking, camping or in any other environment without easy access to a sink, you want to make sure you have what you need to keep your lenses squeaky clean. 

Investing in a travel glasses cleaning kit with a cleaning cloth, eyeglass cleaner spray and glasses repair tools will help ensure that you can see anywhere. Keep glasses cleaning spray and a cleaning cloth in your carry-on, purse, desk at work or glove compartment in the car so you can address smudges when away from home.

Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Glasses

The above method is excellent for routine cleanings to keep your specs free of smudges, dirt and grime that accumulates throughout the day. But there are some important rules you need to keep in mind when cleaning your glasses.

 Person washing hands next to infographic of cleaning dos

  • Do: Keep Cleaning Supplies with You — The best way to get out of the habit of using your shirt to clean your glasses is to make sure to always have a clean glasses cloth in your glasses case to address smudges. You can buy affordable cleaning cloths that fit in your glasses case for a convenient clean. Avoid using your lens cloth to clean your phone screen or any other surface, as this could transfer dirt and grime to your glasses
  • Do: Wash Your Cleaning Cloths — Cleaning cloths are designed to be infinitely reusable, but they get dirty quickly. Try to get into the habit of washing your microfiber glasses cloths on a weekly basis. You can wash them by hand using cold water and mild soap or toss them in with your laundry. Avoid using hot water, fabric softener, bleach or the dryer when cleaning them.
  • Do: Store Glasses in a Case The first step in achieving clean glasses is to shield them from dirt and grime. Never store your glasses in your purse, backpack or luggage without proper protection. Not only will this keep them clean, but it will also help prevent them from scratching or cracking. If you have trouble remembering to bring your case with you when you leave the house, keep a backup case in your purse or backpack.
  • Do: Pay Attention to Coatings — Lenses are often treated with special coatings to make them resistant to glare, reflection, blue light and more. (Read our guide “How do glasses work?” for more info). Certain lens coatings can make cleaning glasses more challenging. For example, if your glasses have an anti-reflective coating on the lens, you need to be extra-careful about not using certain products that could remove the treatment. When in doubt, stick to a gentle dish soap or a specified eyeglass cleaning spray.
  • Do: Use the Right Kind of Dish Soap — Most standard dish soaps will work just fine as your primary glasses cleaning solution. However, some dish soaps contain additives that aren’t great for your lenses and frames. Make sure to go with a gentle, lotion-free solution to avoid leaving behind residue.
  • Do: Keep Your Hands Clean — Dirty fingerprints are the biggest culprit of smudged lenses that cloud your vision. When we adjust our frames or touch our glasses, the makeup, food, lotion, moisture and germs on our hands can transfer to our glasses and leave smudges. Regularly washing and sanitizing your hands can help prevent this from happening. 

Detail shot of frames next to infographic of cleaning don'ts

  • Don’t: Clean Lenses with Your Clothes Resist the urge to address a frustrating smudge or smear using the bottom of your shirt or your sleeve. The reality is that your clothes may be dirty or have abrasive fibers which could dirty, scratch or damage your lenses. The only thing you should ever wipe your lenses with is a soft lint-free cloth.
  • Don’t: Use Glass Cleaner — The standard blue glass cleaner seems like it would be our go-to for removing smudges and stains on lenses. But you should never use Windex or other glass cleaners to clean your lenses. That’s because, most likely, your glasses aren’t actually made of glass. They’re probably made from a lightweight plastic or polycarbonate material. Glass cleaners contain harsh chemicals that could affect the coating on the lens
  • Don’t: Use Abrasive Cleaners — In addition to glass cleaner, there are a variety of other off-limits products you probably have under the kitchen sink. Never use bleach, ammonia, countertop cleaner or any abrasive sprays, soaps or detergents to clean your glasses. These contain harsh chemicals and additives that could scratch your glasses, strip the lenses of coatings or damage the dyes in the frames.
  • Don’t: Clean with a Napkin or Paper Towel — Napkins, tissues and paper towels are too rough for cleaning your gentle lenses. They also tend to trap dirt and lint that could transfer to your glasses. The best course of action is to clean with a glasses cloth or a lint-free microfiber towel.
  • Don’t: Get Ready with Your Glasses On — We know you may need your prescription lenses to see when getting ready, but make sure to always remove them from your face and the area when spraying hair spray, perfume or beauty products. If you wear makeup or face cream, always let your face dry completely before putting your glasses on.
  • Don’t: Forget the Nose Pads and Temple Tips — We already know that glasses are covered in millions of microscopic bacteria. Studies show that bacteria are found in the highest concentrations on nose pads and earpieces. Unsurprising, since these are the two parts of your glasses that encounter the skin. Make sure to take a little extra time to scrub the parts that touch your face.

Person cleaning glasses with Peepers cleaning kit

What About Contacts?

One of the best parts about wearing contacts instead of glasses is that they are less likely to smudge up throughout the day. But that doesn’t mean they never need to be cleaned. In fact, the American Optometric Association (AOA) says that keeping contacts clean is critical to reducing risk of infection.

How you clean your contacts depends on the type you wear, but you should never use dish soap to clean them. Typically, since the lens comes into contact with the eye, a special contact lens solution is required. Make sure to check with your contact lens manufacturer or eye doctor about the best way to clean your specific contacts.

Crystal Clear and Squeaky Clean

Keeping your eyeglasses clean is an important part of your health and wellness regimen. It can help you see better, feel better and perform better throughout the day. Luckily, keeping your lenses crystal clear is relatively easy as long as you follow the above tips from Peepers.