Cleaning Anti Reflective Eyeglasses

We’ve worn eyeglasses with anti reflective coatings for over two decades, and have received advice from several optometrists about how best to clean them.  Cleaning anti reflective eyeglasses is not difficult once you know how to safely handle them, which cleaners work the best and most safely, and which cleaning cloths scratch the least.

All of these are essential factors in preserving the expensive anti reflective coating for as long as possible while providing a consistently clear, glare-free view.

Picture of an example of anti-reflective lenses, in a pair of prescription eyeglasses.
Example of anti-reflective lenses, in a pair of prescription eyeglasses.

Some people may choose not to purchase anti reflective lenses due to their extra initial expense.  But improvement in vision over non anti reflective eyeglasses is quite noticeable and quite worthwhile.  There’s less “haze” from internal lens light reflections with this technology, others can see your eyes better through anti reflective glasses, and this technology will only improve over time.  So we learned how to clean ours effectively, rather than abandon the technology altogether.

So given that, we’ve tried the popular dry lens cleaning cloths from Kodak and other vendors, made up of a very thin, tissue-like paper, as well as some of the costly liquid lens cleaners that work in concert with these.  But our success was only moderate.  Invariably, this cleaning duo left smears and streaks on the eyeglasses lenses, and hastened the degrading of the anti reflective coating.  The coating would either wear off altogether near the lens edges, or become discolored and lighter; its anti reflective properties completely disappearing.  Its dark green purple appearance would often change into a bright magenta after a few months, and at nearly $100 to have the damaged coatings replaced, we soon sought better ways to preserve the coating until the spectacles were due to be replaced anyway.

We talked with numerous doctors about increasing the life of the anti reflective lens coatings, and they all agreed.  The best cleaner to use is a   lotion-free, mild dishwashing liquid such as Great Value, Palmolive, Joy, or Ajax.  You may have to dilute the thicker liquids by mixing one part water with one part of dish soap.  You want the solution thin enough that it can easily be spread with the fingers over the entire lens surfaces, both front and back. However, avoid those dish soaps that contain lotions, oils, and lanolin for skin softening, as these can leave smears on your lenses that not even the lens cleaning cloths can remove.  Also, avoid any harsh chemicals and abrasive solvents such as cleansers, polishes, ammonia, or bleach based cleaners, as these can actually strip the coatings completely away.  You want just a basic dishwashing-by-hand liquid with preferably no extra chemicals in it besides the soap.

Then, once you’ve washed and rinsed your anti reflective eyeglasses, use a microfiber cloth, specifically intended for safely cleaning anti reflective lenses.  You can get these at most any place that sells eyeglasses such as Foreyes, Pearl, Lens Crafters, Sam’s Club, et al.  Use this cloth, only to dry the rinsed lenses; not for actual cleaning.  For actual washing, you gently rub the soaped up lenses with your fingers until you’ve completely covered all lens surfaces.  Avoid excessive rubbing, as this too can prematurely wear out the AR coatings.

Picture of Soft Anti Reflective Lens Cleaning Cloths.
Examples of Soft Anti Reflective Lens Cleaning Cloths.

Be sure to use a clean, soft, lint free lens cloth.  Any oil contamination in the cloths can spread to your clean corrective lenses as you dry them, impeding their anti reflective performance, or potentially permanently degrading and damaging them.  Fortunately today, these coatings have become more durable, and generally last longer under most wearing conditions.  But don’t think that they’re indestructible.  Anti reflective coatings are still quite delicate, and can easily be scratched or destroyed if you accidentally get industrial lubricants or solvents on them.  So be careful.

To sum all this up, here’s our tried-and-true procedure to clean anti reflective eyeglasses.

  1. Apply water.  Wet the eyeglasses with clean water.  Use filtered or softened water if you live in a hard-water area to prevent suspended particles in the water from scratching your lenses.
  2. Apply dish soap.  Then, onto each lens, place one or two drops of dishwashing liquid; the manual kind, not that for automatic dishwashers.
  3. Softly scrub lens fronts.  Next, gently rub the lens surface with your fingers, taking care not to press too hard.  Also, be sure you have no callouses, scabs, dry skin, or other rough edges on your fingertips, as these can mar the micron-thin lens coatings.
  4. Clean the other sides then.  The soap you have on your fingers from the first sides should be sufficient to clean the other sides.
  5. Clean nose and temple pieces.  Also, rub clean the nose rests and the entire frames of your eyeglasses.  You want to remove all the body oils from them, including the frames, ear pieces, nose pieces, and temple wings.
  6. Rinse soap off.  Rinse under warm, running water until the lens surfaces squeak when running your fingers across them.
  7. Dry the eyeglasses.  Then, use the anti reflective lens cloths mentioned above to completely dry them to a vivid shine.  You’ll know that you’ve effectively cleaned the anti reflective lenses if they have a deep purple or green appearance.
  8. Finally, inspect your eyeglasses.  If the light they now reflect looks bright pink, you should try cleaning them again.  We wash our lens cloths along with shirts in the washing machine once a month to ensure that they contain no granular dirt that can scratch, or oils that can smear the lenses.  Antireflective lenses brightly display even the smallest of smears.  So to minimize smearing, get your lenses squeaky clean (no oils left behind that can smear).

As with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to anti reflective eye glasses.  So to preserve their peak performance, avoid getting them very dirty in the first place, or at least, minimize how dirty you get them.  Avoid solvents like turpentine or citrus-based cleaners, or any harsh chemicals, as these can quickly obliterate the micro thin anti reflective films on your lenses.

True, you’ll always have some body oil on eyeglasses that are worn every day.  But keep in mind that even when you employ the procedure above for the gentlest cleaning, cleaning operations stress the anti reflective coatings.  Too much cleaning will damage them.  So, wear and store your specs such that they require minimal cleaning.  But for those times when cleaning is absolutely necessary, use the procedure above for the least damaging yet best restoration of performance to your delicate eyeglass lenses.

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Revision History

  • 2017-01-18: Changed this post’s title to: Cleaning Anti Reflective Eyeglasses.  Also, adjusted tags accordingly.
  • 2015-12-12: Added appropriate tags.
  • 2015-01-05: Added whitespace and adjusted ad placement.
  • 2014-11-17: Added where-to-buy antireflective glasses search link.
  • 2014-11-04: Revised content, and added picture of a pair of anti reflective spectacles.
  • 2012-07-12: Originally published this post.