One day I was driving with a friend who wore his fancy new Coach sunglasses. I didn’t notice the greasy fingerprint on the lower third of the right lens until he turned his head towards me. I thought to myself, it doesn’t matter how expensive your sunglasses are; dirty lenses cancel out any effort to try to look cool.
I remember as a kid, I always wanted to wear eye glasses but never needed to; now that I need them, I find I have mixed feelings towards them. I got my very first pair of eye glasses less than a year ago because I need them to read and see fine detail, so I appreciate them because they help me see. At the same time, because I only need glasses to read, I find myself taking them off and on a lot during the day and this makes them dirty, and therefore something of a pain in the ass.
I checked in with some friends who regularly wear glasses to see how they fare with keeping their glasses clean. Turns out that all of them complain about dirty glasses. From their comments, I’ve learned that I’m not alone – my friends say that their glasses get dirty depending on what they’re doing: some say that bad weather makes eye glasses dirty, housework makes them dirty, gardening makes them dirty, and cooking makes them dirty; others say perspiration and wearing moisturizer makes them dirty. Some people say that the types of coatings (i.e. anti-glare) we choose for our lenses attracts dirt and oil, others say that lenses made of plastic are more prone to smudges than glass lenses. I’ve also heard that plastic frames sit closer to the face and will get greasier from skin oils than metal frames which sit further away from the face.
Whatever the case, eyeglasses get dirty, and when you can’t see through them, you’re somewhat handicapped AND they look awful.
What can we do?
In a Wall Street Journal article, Teri Geist, chairwoman for the American Optometric Association, says, “The best way to clean your glasses is to run them under warm water and put a tiny drop of dish washing detergent on the tip of your fingers to create a lather on the lens. Then rinse with warm water, and dry with a clean, soft cotton cloth.” I tried this last night and it seems to work, but a word of caution: I’ve witnessed a friend with fancy new eye glasses with all of the coating options wash his glasses with soap and water, and over time, the coatings began to peel away, leaving cloudy and irreparable lenses.
Dr. Geist warns that “Lenses typically have some form of protective coating and should never come into contact with ammonia, bleach, vinegar or window cleaner. Those chemicals can break down the coating or just strip them”. This is where spray lens cleaners come in. I understand that there are different types for different coatings, so use the correct spray for your specific lens coatings. For a DIY option, instructables.com suggests a simple 60% isopropyl alcohol/40% water solution used in a spray bottle instead of commercial lens cleaners. Try one of these methods instead of breathing on your lenses and wiping with your shirt tails, paper towels, or Kleenex, which can scratch your lenses because the fibers are not necessarily smooth and can leave debris behind.
Microfiber cleaning cloths
Much of what I’ve read raves about microfiber cleaning cloths that keep glasses smudge-free. Microfiber fabric is a very fine synthetic textile that is so dense, it won’t leave streaks. Good ones will last for years. But the cheap ones will wreak havoc on your specs and undoubtedly drive you mad.
Did I ever tell you the story of my microfiber dish rag? It worked wonderfully at first, then I started to notice that no matter how much soap I used in the sink, the dishes had an oily film on them. I couldn’t figure out why until I examined my dish cleaning tools and noticed that the microfiber cloth also felt greasy, and I decided that the cheap synthetic was decomposing and returning to its former state: oil.
I have microfiber lens cloths that seem to do the same thing. Microfiber is made of petrochemicals and not biodegradable. The David Suzuki Foundation sees pros and cons to this textile. These cloths lift dirt and grease from surfaces but “are made from a non-renewable resource and do not biodegrade. And only those made from polypropylene are recyclable,” the site says. One good thing about microfiber cloths is that they eliminate the need for wasteful paper towels and napkins, etc., and can be washed in the machine in cool water (avoid fabric softener which will leave a film on your lenses), and I recommend to air dry them instead of putting them in the dryer. Watch this how-to short video by an optometrist for more information.
Pieces of cotton can work just as well though there may be more dust due to loose cotton fibers in the fabric, which would not be present in microfiber. I just experimented with a thin silk scarf and it worked wonderfully! No streaks and no debris left behind.
TIP: Through your cleaning cloth, lightly use your fingernail to get into the edges of your lenses between the frame – dust seems to collect in these crevices.
Wearing cool eye glasses or sun glasses can instantly update your look, but with style comes a cost. I completely understand that keeping one’s glasses clean is a nagging daily job and there is no permanent solution, so it is a cross we with bad eyesight must bear.
As an image consultant, I can say that from an objective viewpoint, dirty glasses don’t say good things about us, but now that I wear glasses and I know how quickly they dirty, I completely empathize and understand the misguided criticism of dirty eye glasses because they’re nearly impossible to keep clean! It seems that I could continuously clean my glasses all day and they’d still get smudged, but I make the effort because looking good is one thing, but being able to see is priceless.