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Not only do dirty eyeglasses look and feel terrible, but grease and grime can be harmful to your lenses and lens coatings—and perhaps even to your skin (glasses-related acne is real).
Cleaning your glasses is easy. You probably already have everything you need to safely disinfect and shine your spectacles. We’ve created this simple plan, gleaned from the advice of opticians and glasses-shop employees, as well as from American Optometric Association guidelines.
A deep clean of your eyeglasses should take less than 10 minutes; daily upkeep takes less than five (and just a minute or two, if you incorporate glasses-washing into your hand-washing routine).
Even with frequent cleanings, the crevices of your frames can become embedded with dirt and debris over time. Cotton swabs allow you to safely excavate gunk without scratching your frame or lenses.
Avoid “cleaning” dry lenses with microfiber cloths. This redistributes grease and rubs in microscopic debris that can damage your lenses. Rinsing your eyeglasses for 15 seconds under a tap running lukewarm or warm water displaces and dislodges excess grime.
After you’ve rinsed your dirty glasses, squirt a pea-sized drop of dish soap onto the front and the back of each lens. Then lightly rub the soap in with your fingers, working up a gentle lather that you can use to clean your nose pads, hinges, and other parts of the frame before rinsing thoroughly.
It is important to avoid over-soaping because leftover residue could damage lens coatings and cause skin irritation. Make sure the soap you use is free of skin-softening agents or abrasives that help scrub grime off of dishes because these additives can ruin your lens coatings.
Fibers that are shed from most materials during the drying process can negate your cleaning work, as can using a dirty cloth, even if it is microfiber. A clean microfiber cloth (like the one you probably received with the purchase of your glasses) can be used to gently and safely dry glasses, avoiding watermarks while maintaining a lint-free lens. Lightly shake excess water from your eyeglasses before drying.
Make sure you’re not accidentally damaging your eyeglasses by storing them improperly when they’re not in use. If you’re not a fan of the case your eyeglasses came in, you can search for different styles that work for you and your tastes. Or you can simply wrap your glasses in a clean microfiber cloth and place them—lenses up—on a hard surface.
Lens-specific solutions can clean your eyeglasses, but in our testing, good old-fashioned warm water and dish soap performed better. The American Ophthalmologist Association also recommends cleaning with dish soap.
However, lens-specific solutions are useful when you’re on the go and a water source is unavailable. Don’t use any cleaner that does not specifically state that it’s safe for coated lenses—not only could it damage your eyeglasses, but residue could also cause skin irritation and even damage your eyesight.
Of the 13 opticians and glasses-shop representatives we spoke with, only one reported using an ultrasonic machine in their store—and that was just for plastic frames with the lenses popped out. The others cautioned against the use of at-home ultrasonic machines for cleaning glasses, citing frame and lens scratching as main concerns. This corroborates reports from many disappointed Amazon customers who have bought and reviewed at-home ultrasonic cleaners. (If you really want to have your frames cleaned with an ultrasonic machine, your best bet is to find an eyeglasses shop that uses one and take your pair there, where a pro can safely pop out your lenses prior to cleaning.)
Nancy Redd is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter covering everything from Santa hats to bath bombs. She is also a GLAAD Award–nominated on-air host and a New York Times best-selling author. Her latest picture book, The Real Santa, follows a determined little Black boy's journey to discover what the jolly icon truly looks like.
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