Glasses care: How to clean glasses properly?

In the following you will find a number of tips and hints for spectacle care. Good glasses cost a lot of money. With the right care and cleaning, you will be able to use them for a long time, without them the quality of your glasses will quickly deteriorate. Widespread, because it seems so easy, is to clean your glasses with a paper tissue. The following explains why this is unsuitable and how to clean glasses properly.

How is a spectacle lens constructed?

In order to understand how to clean a pair of glasses professionally and gently, you need to understand how a lens is constructed. It is not “just a lens”, but is made up of several layers. These include a special hardening, an anti-reflection coating and finally a special protective layer. Some lenses also have a special antistatic (i.e. dust-repellent) layer. The individual layers are only about 0.2 to 1 micrometer thick (for comparison: a human hair is about 80 micrometers thick), and they can be found both on lenses made of mineral (real) glass and on plastic lenses.

What happens if glasses are cleaned incorrectly?
Incorrect cleaning or improper cleaning will relatively quickly lead to the surface layers of the spectacle lens being scratched. Microfine grooves, burrs and depressions are formed which are hardly perceptible to the human eye, but can be clearly seen under a microscope:

These fine scratches and burrs cause an uncontrolled scattering of the light rays. On the one hand, this results in ray-shaped light reflections around light sources, which is particularly annoying in the dark, and on the other hand, hardly noticeable difficulties in sharp vision, because the eye has to compensate for those areas that only throw impure information onto the retina. Poor glasses therefore cause more “visual work”, which in the long run can lead to tired eyes and latent headaches (see also: tired eyes and headaches caused by smartphone use).

A pair of glasses can therefore only develop its full effect when they are clean and well cleaned.

Why no tissue?
The basic rule is: the surface of the spectacle lens must not be scratched. This always happens when small grains lie or stick to the lens. A paper tissue has a very firm surface structure in these microfine dimensions. Again, a look through the microscope helps:

This means that the grains and particles are not absorbed, but only rubbed back and forth. An effect like rubbing the glasses with sandpaper. Logically, this cannot go well. The following diagram illustrates what happens:

The hard, smooth surface of the paper towel does not absorb the protective particles and grains, but presses them against the glass. By wiping back and forth, the particles are rubbed on the surface and when pressed, they scratch the glass surface (left):

It’s different with a microfibre glasses cleaning cloth: the fabric surface is not only soft, but also has many small openings that can hold the grains and dirt particles.

Fat layers, fingerprints, dust etc.
What has been said so far refers to small particles (dust particles etc.) that after some time adhere to the lens. However, there are also fine layers that adhere to the lens. These include first of all sweat, which is secreted by the fingers. But also cosmetic products such as mascara or skin cream get on the lens from time to time. Steam in the kitchen or raindrops can also contain tiny impurities that are deposited on the lens. And of course the usual dust that swirls through the air and slowly but steadily collects on the glasses. The mixture of all these things results in a greasy film that contains small grains and particles. If you hold your glasses up to the light, you can usually see it. You have to loosen this layer and then absorb it. This can also be done very well and effectively with a microfibre cleaning cloth.

Cleaning glasses properly (Checklist)
From what has been said, it follows how to clean glasses properly:

First, simply blow the goggles off from both sides to remove the coarse dust particles.
Then rinse briefly under lukewarm water from both sides and let them drip off. A drop of washing-up liquid can be helpful if the glasses are very greasy or sticky. As a rule, lukewarm water is sufficient.
Carefully rub dry with a microfibre glasses cleaning cloth. Cover both sides of the glasses with the cloth and carefully wipe both sides with thumb and fingers.
If not all the dirt can be removed in this way: Repeat the procedure instead of using excessive pressure.

The following should be avoided when cleaning glasses:

Do not press too hard! This can cause grains and dust particles to scratch the surface. There is also a risk that the lens will come off the frame.
Do not work with solvents! Even if the glasses are heavily greased or have colour stains, you should never use solvents (turpentine or similar) to clean the lenses. This not only dissolves the fine surface coatings, but also causes the frame to lose its shine.
Not too hot water! This can deform the frame.
Do not scratch with a scraper or knife! If the glasses are covered with spots of paint (which of course should always be avoided), do not scratch them off by external pressure, but dissolve them with lukewarm water and let them soak. Only after a few minutes remove the paint stains carefully with your fingernail. Do not press and rub. In case of doubt, use spare glasses and contact your nearest optician.

Other eyewear care products
Spray eyewear is available in specialist shops. Such a spectacle spray is basically a washing-up liquid with which fat layers can be easily dissolved. Such a special lens cleaner is not normally necessary.

Some people use so-called wet wipes to clean their glasses. However, one should pay very close attention to the ingredients. They often contain relatively “pungent” solvents or scented substances. If already wet wipes, then special glasses cleaning wet wipes. However, these are only suitable for single use and are quite expensive in the long run.

Ultrasonic glasses cleaning

Almost all opticians offer ultrasonic cleaning. In the process, deposits and impurities are virtually burned away without damaging the lens or frame. This is another reason why it is worth ordering good glasses from a local optician. Because then this service is usually free of charge.

As a rule, it is recommended to visit the optician at least every 3 months to have an ultrasonic cleaning done. Such ultrasonic cleaners can also be bought privately (from approx. 30 Euro), then the care of your glasses is even easier and more effective. For more information see

Spectacle cleaning cloth
The question arises: which glasses cleaning cloth is best? As a rule, the microfibre glasses cleaning cloths that come with your glasses are very suitable. And normally they do not get very dirty. You can simply shake them out after cleaning your glasses. If this glasses cleaning cloth is used up after a few years, you can order a new one for a few euros. Some opticians also give them to their regular customers free of charge.

It is very important to store the glasses cleaning cloth well and protected from dust. Of course, it would be very counterproductive if it were to be contaminated with grains, sticky substances and dust on its own. A glasses cleaning cloth therefore belongs in the glasses case.

Spectacle case
Spectacle care includes not only appropriate, regular cleaning, but also safe storage. If the glasses do not fit on the nose, they belong in a spectacle case. This not only protects them from dust and splashes, but also from breakage. If you put the glasses in your trouser or jacket pocket, you risk bending or breaking them if you move them carelessly.

Protect from breakage
A glasses band is a very helpful thing. Those who need reading glasses like to wear them on such a ribbon around the neck so that they are always ready when you need them.

But also for wearers of permanent glasses (single-vision or progressive glasses) such a glasses band can be helpful. Whenever you tilt your head far down or make rapid head movements, there is always the risk that the glasses will slip off your nose and fall to the ground.

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