How To

How to Clean Your Sunglasses (And What You Shouldn't Do)

Using a microfiber bag to clean replacement lenses

You are your sunglasses' worst enemy.

If you’ve ever read a tutorial on how to clean sunglasses or lenses before, it probably started along the lines of “your sunglasses become dirty with daily wear.” This is true, yes. But stop for a minute.

What is that “dirt?”

It's dust and dirt from the trail. Grime from the road. Accumulated soil from the ocean and sea air. It's the inevitable by-product of an adventurous life spent outdoors. High-five to that—it's how your sunglasses should be getting dirty. But . . .

It’s also you.

It’s your dead skin cells. Grease from your pores. Oils from your hair. Sweat from your skin. Sunscreen you’ve lathered on your body. Make-up you’ve put on your face.

Now that we've acknowledged you've got a problem — Let’s do something about it. Be the friend, not the foe.

How do you clean your sunglasses?

Cleaning your sunglasses is much easier than you’d think! Believe it or not, you can clean them in the exact same way you’d clean glasses with non-tinted lenses: rinsing with warm water and dishwashing liquid. For the everyday smudges, you may want to invest in a small bottle of lens cleaner and a lens cloth. Just be aware of any special coatings your sunglasses may have and only use a glasses cleaner that’s safe for all lens types. Some contain alcohol, which can strip mirror-coating from lenses, so make sure you know what you’re dealing with before you use it.

For the stubborn spots, and to get all that grease and grime off your stems and nose pads, do the following:

  1. Remove your lenses
    If you’re comfortable doing so, remove your lenses before you get started. This is probably easier than you think.
  2. Use warm water
    Rinse your sunglasses under warm water as it’s the best for dislodging dust and build up. Make sure it’s not too hot or too cold as you may risk damaging any specialized coatings on your lenses.
  3. Use mild dishwashing soap to wash all over your frames
    Work the dishwashing soap in with your fingers. If necessary, use a microfiber cloth to dislodge heavier grime. Concentrate on areas that are heavily exposed to your skin — the nose bridge and the ends of your stems. A soft bristled toothbrush is ideal for cracks and crannies, especially the groove where the lens sits, as build-up is prone to occur there.
  4. Rinse off all the soap, dirt, and dust
    Hold your glasses under water and watch the dust and debris swish satisfactorily down the drain.
  5. Dry your sunglasses thoroughly using a microfiber cloth
    Microfiber cloths are the best to use as they won’t leave little bits of lint or dust behind. Don't use a normal towel or you may end up with lenses covered in towel fuzz. Gently dry your glasses by holding them up to the light to look for any lingering smudges or debris. Once they pass inspection, you’re ready to put them back on!
  6. Remove any rubber pieces
    If your frames have additional rubber pieces that have taken the brunt of abuse, you may be able to remove those. The rubber often acts as a sponge, soaking up your sweat and oils, and will eventually become tacky. If they’re too late to salvage, you may be able to replace them with a new pair. Otherwise, run them through your next dishwasher’s cycle. If they are not removable, knead hand sanitizer into the rubber pieces to clean away the surface grime.

The Worst Way to Clean Your Sunglasses

And since we're on the subject of treating sunglasses with care, consider refraining from the following activities:

  • Spit on your sunglasses. Or lick them. Just avoid all forms of saliva. First of all, this is just gross. It’s not terribly hygienic, and secondly, it doesn’t really work all that well.
  • Use ammonia, bleach, vinegar, or window cleaner on your sunglasses. You’re just not that dirty. If you wouldn’t immerse your body in a tub of ammonia, then your sunglasses don’t need it either. These chemicals will strip the coating off of your lenses.
  • Rub your lenses with your t-shirt, sweatshirt, button-up, pajama bottoms, etc. Don’t use your clothing for anything but covering your body and making you more socially acceptable. Most of us don’t carry a lens cloth on our person at all times, so you’re probably going to do this anyway. Just know that all those tiny particles of dirt and dust hiding in your shirt may cause micro-scratches in your lenses. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
  • Launder your microfiber cloth with fabric softener. Definitely clean your lens cloth to remove oil build-up, but the addition of fabric softener is a bad idea. It will destroy the effectiveness and durability of the fibers, and the fabric softener will leave a residue on your lenses.
  • Wipe, clean, dry, or rub your lenses with a paper towel, tissue, or any other form of paper product. Paper is made from trees. When’s the last time you encountered a soft tree? That tissue may feel soft, but it contains little particles of rough pulp, which will scratch your lenses.

Lastly, do yourself a favor and make this cleaning routine a regular event. A few minutes every few weeks will keep your sunglasses from accumulating so much gunk and will extend the life of your sunglasses. You’ll also be able to see better, which is always a plus.

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