How to properly clean your optics

March 26, 2019

If you wear glasses, I’m sure that every time you buy a new pair the optometrist cautions you to only clean them with a soft lens rag. I always brushed aside their cautions. When you’re out four-wheeling, hunting or backpacking who has time for all of that detailed kind of work? For years I’d spit on my glasses and rub them clean with toilet paper, paper towel or whatever. I’d also brushed aside the cautions of only cleaning my optics with a soft rag. I’d clean them the same way.

Then one year (not that many years ago) I bought a new pair of glasses and of course received the same cleaning instructions. For some reason, I made the decision to actually commit to religiously cleaning my glasses with a lens rag or at worst a cotton cloth.

I cleaned my glasses properly for six to eight months and suddenly one day it struck me. Wow! This really works. I didn’t have one scratch on my lenses. Maybe there really was something to this old wives’ tale.

Then the next year I went on Pro-staff with Leica and right before I was about to conduct a “Glassing for Big Game” seminar in Dallas at the Dallas Safari Club Convention, I dropped by the Leica booth to get some optics to demo in the seminar (this saved me from flying down with a suitcase full of optics).

While at their booth, I was talking to Hamilton Boykin about various glassing techniques, and the topic of properly cleaning your glass popped up. His advice carried my cleaning knowledge to a new level. I’ll share with you some of his insights.

I’m going to describe how to properly clean the lenses on your binoculars, but the same principles apply to cleaning your scopes, spotting scopes and, yes, even your glasses. He said the first thing to do is to hold your binoculars upside down and blow any loose sand and dust off.

Next pour water on the lenses and again turn them upside down and hopefully more of the dirt pours off. I used to worry about pouring water on my binoculars. What if they leaked and I got moisture into them? Well, if they leak, they’re not very good binoculars anyway. Good ones shouldn’t leak.

I think most of us, even if we use a lens rag, rub the lenses to clean them. Because the lenses are small and circular, we end up rubbing them clean in a circular motion. He cautions against this. If we do this, he says we are grinding the sand into the lenses. He says we should use a brushing motion to brush off the dirt.

I then repeat this process once or twice before actually trying to rub the lenses clean. I don’t think you can be too gentle.

A few other tips. I have a buddy that carries a lens rag attached to his binoculars, but it is hanging out of the cover. This means that it is always full of dust and acts like a piece of sandpaper. Not good. I understand, if it isn’t attached to your binoculars then you’ll probably forget to carry it while hunting, but at least leave it tucked up in the small carrying bag and rinse it clean periodically.

If you’re out hunting and forget a lens rag what do you do? At worst, you can pull out the tail of your T-shirt and use it. The upper part of your T-shirt will be dusty, but hopefully the lower part will be dust-free.

I know, many of you are saying that most glass comes with lenses covers and, yes, that is true, but I have lost all of the million trillion lens covers I have ever owned within a hot second of getting out of the truck. Either I am not lens-cover compatible, or they just aren’t that functional in the real world.

I just went on Pro-staff with Riton Optics, and while typing I thought I’d check. Sure enough, I’ve already lost the top covers on my binoculars but the bottom ones are still on. I think I’ll call Riton and get another set and tie them on with a string so I don’t lose them. No doubt, covers help minimize your lenses getting dirty, especially on top.

As we close, if you buy a good set of optics like from Riton Optics and clean properly, the coating on the lenses should remain undamaged and you’ll be using them hopefully the rest of your life. Take care of your lenses. There is a lot of beauty out there to be seen if you have a pair of unscratched lenses!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.