How to clean sunglasses

Sunglasses are a summer essential, but they can also be a year-round necessity any time there's harsh sun and bright light. A good pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sun's harmful UV rays and reduce strain on your eyes at the same time.

But like anything else, sunglasses need to be cleaned properly to maintain their performance and appearance. In this blog post, we will teach you how to clean sunglasses using 6 easy steps that won't damage your frame or lenses.

Let's dive in.


The best way to clean sunglasses in 6 easy steps

Tortoise shell sunglasses frame being rinsed with water in white hand sink

Step 1: Rinse your sunglasses

In a hand sink or basin, thoroughly rinse your sunglasses with lukewarm water to clean the frame of any dirt and natural skin oils. The warm water helps soften any tough dirt so it's easier to remove later. Be careful not to use hot water though - it could damage your lenses and any coatings they might have.


Hand soap being pumped onto sunglasses lenses beside white wash basin

Step 2: Apply mild soap

Apply a small amount of mild dish detergent or hand soap to each of your sun lenses. To avoid scratches, don't touch the lenses or your frame with the bottle nozzle. Avoid using any domestic cleaning products as these contain chemicals which can damage your lenses. Stick to mild soap.


Person cleaning tortoise sunglasses frame in white wash basin

Step 3: Clean your frame & sun lenses

With the soap on, gently rub both sides of your sunglasses lenses using only your fingers and thumbs. After working up a nice soapy lather, get to work on the temples (arms) and your nose pads. Because these parts make direct contact with your skin, they'll likely be the dirtiest part of your frame. Do not use any kind of bristle brush or abrasive cloth as this will damage both the frame material and definitely your lenses; hands only!


Tortoise shell sunglasses frame being rinsed with water in white wash basin

Step 4: Rinse your sunglasses

First, wash any excess soap of your hands. Then grab your frame at the ends of the temples (arms) and rinse your sunglasses under running lukewarm water. Be sure to wash away all the residual soap, otherwise this will cause smears later on.


Wet tortoise shell sunglasses frame drying beside white wash basin and black lens cloth

Step 5: Shake off the water

To prevent soaking your lens cleaning cloth, give your sunglasses a little shake to get rid of any excess water before placing them on a clean dry surface. Try to avoid touching the lenses to prevent smudging them.


Person wiping tortoise shell sunglasses with black microfibre lens cloth

Step 6: Wipe your sunglasses dry

First, use a separate hand towel to dry your hands first. Then grab your microfibre lens cloth to gently wipe all the surfaces of your lenses and frame. Take time to remove all the water and any areas you might've missed from the previous steps. Now, your sunglasses should be impeccably clean, free from smudges and grime.



How to clean sunglasses with just a lens cloth

When you're out and about, sunglasses get dirty from things like sun cream, dust and dirt, especially during the warmer months when it's hot.

If you want to clean your sunglasses properly, a microfibre cloth is the best option. This soft, lint-free material is specially designed to clean delicate optical surfaces without scratching them. With their tiny super-soft fibres, they're great at removing smudges and fingerprints. Follow this three-step guide on how to clean your sunglasses whilst you're on the move.

Person wiping black sunglasses frame lenses with orange lens cloth

Step 1: Wipe your lenses

This is when your lens cloth is at its cleanest. Use it to gently wipe both sides of your sunglasses' lenses to get rid of any debris, fingerprints or grease. Use your fingers and thumbs to push the cloth into the outermost edges of each lens to remove all the dirt. Take your time to wipe both the front and rear lens surfaces.


Step 2: Clean your temples

With your lenses now clean, it's time to wipe your frame's temples (arms). Taking care not to touch your lenses, clean each temple from the hinge, right to the ends where they tuck behind your ears. Be sure to remove any natural skin oil or sun cream.


Person wiping black sunglasses frame nose pads with orange lens cloth

Step 3: Nose pads last

Your nose pads are usually the dirtiest part of your sunglasses. Sweat, skin or skin products build up here over time and are often annoyingly transferred to your lenses. As the final step, clean your nose pads last using your microfibre cloth last. If your sunglasses were particularly dirty, put your lens cloth in your washing machine to keep it clean for next time.


Pro tip

Cleaning your sunglasses regularly helps to reduce the amount of dust and dirt on them, which means there's less chance of these particles being dragged across their lenses and causing scratches. In addition, a cleaner frame is less likely to attract fingerprints and grime, keeping your sunglasses performing properly and looking good for longer.



What to avoid when cleaning your sunglasses

Man wiping round black sunglasses frame with his grey T-shirt

Year-round, sunglasses are a vital accessory for protecting your eyes from UV light. To keep them in good working condition, you'll want to prevent scuffing or scratching your lenses.

Whilst cleaning your sunglasses can be an act of good faith, using the wrong methods can do more damage than good. Here are some things to avoid to keep your lenses safe and scratch-free.


Don't use your clothes to clean your lenses

Tempting but damaging, your clothes easily scratch sunglasses lenses because their fibres are too coarse for optical surfaces. This is why you should avoid rubbing your lenses with your T-shirt as it can easily cause damage to their delicate coatings. Instead, it's best to use a soft, lint-free material like a microfibre lens cloth when cleaning your sunglasses.

Materials your sunglasses hate

  • Clothing
  • Dishcloths
  • Tissue paper
  • Kitchen paper
  • Handkerchiefs


Person cleaning round black sunglasses frame with a white kitchen towel

Avoid domestic cleaning products

More often than not, domestic cleaning products like Windex, Windolene or cleaning sprays contain harsh chemicals. Great for housework, but not so great for sunglasses, these liquids can deteriorate optical coatings such as anti-glare from your sun lenses. Worse still, strong cleaning solutions can even delaminate expensive lenses which are polarised, causing them to come apart and fail.

If your sun lenses are particularly dirty, avoid using anything stronger than everyday hand soap. Be patient and use lukewarm water to gently soften dirt. It might take several washes to fully remove any stubborn spots, but you'll be rewarded with scratch-free lenses.


Person removing black sunglasses frame from brown leather protective case

The 4 best ways to protect your sunglasses when you aren't wearing them

There are two places your sunglasses are least likely to be damaged; worn on your face or kept in their case. Avoid leaving your frame lying around and you'll reduce the chances of scratches, scuffs, drops, spills and any other potential damage. Here are the five best ways to do this;


Round metal sunglasses frame inside metal hard case within travel suitcase

#1 Protective hard case

A hard-shell case is one of the best ways to keep your sunglasses protected when they're not being worn. Made from a lightweight exterior shell such as plastic or metal, this structural protection prevents your frame from being crushed. Internally, they're usually lined with a microfibre interior that safeguards your lenses from scratches. However, the downside of hard cases is their bulkiness as they usually can't fold flat or squash down. But, if you're looking for maximum protection for your sunglasses, a protective hard-shell case is the best option for you.


Person holding a tan leather sunglasses case outside on sunny day

#2 Protective soft case

Soft cases are good for protecting your sunglasses because they're made from soft, plush materials such as leather which prevents the lens from being scratched or damaged. They also take up less room than a hard shell case because they can be squashed flat when stored in a small bag or even your pocket. However, soft cases don't protect your frame from being squashed or crushed under impact. If you're looking for a slimline way to protect your sunglasses, a soft case is the best option for you. Just be wary of hard knocks!


Person wearing blue sunglasses frame around their neck from a grey lanyard

#3 Lanyard

Sunglasses straps are a great way to protect your sunglasses frame from being damaged, as they keep your frame on hand, right where you need them. This method is especially helpful for prescription sun lenses, as you can easily take them on and off when you need them.

A sunglasses lanyard also prevents your sunglasses from falling off your face or getting knocked off when you're not wearing them. So, if you're looking for a way to keep your sunglasses safe and scratch-free, using a sunglasses strap is a great option if you're a prescription wearer.


Brass eyeglass holder with orange coloured sunglasses on beige background

#4 Sunglasses stand

Sunglasses stands are a great way to store your frame and keep them protected when you're not wearing them. Made from plastic or metal, a sunglasses stand neatly organises your frame on your desk, hall table or shelf. Sunglasses holders take up very little room and make a nice display in your home or office, keeping your frame aloft from any drinks spills or hazards. If you're looking for a way to protect your sunglasses and keep them handy, using a sunglasses stand is a great daily storage option for you.


Large green leather sunglasses box lying on wood table

#5 Sunglasses box

Are you a serial sunglasses collector? If so, it can be difficult to keep track of all your different frames - especially in all their different cases. To make things easy, a sunglasses storage box is a great way to organise and store all your favourite frames, as it can hold dozens of pairs within its compartments. These soft-lined slots protects them from scratches, dust and other debris and keeps them all in the same place. Additionally, a sunglasses box is a neat and stylish way to display your collection, perfect for keeping in your bedroom or wardrobe. If you're looking for an easy way to store your large sunglasses collection, using a multi-frame storage box is the best option for you.



Frequently asked questions about cleaning sunglasses

Tortoiseshell sunglasses frame being washed with hand soap in white wash sink

What is the best way to clean sunglasses?

The best way to clean sunglasses is with mild hand soap and lukewarm water, gently applied and cleaned by hand. Rubbed gently on your frame and lenses, this method loosens dirt, oil and grease that has built up on them. The soft detergent is perfect for removing any stubborn smudges or fingerprints, without using any harsh abrasives or chemicals.


How do I make my sunglasses clear again?

The best way to make your sunglasses clear again is to give them a proper deep clean using mild hand soap and lukewarm water. This removes the build-up of grime and grease from skin products such as sun cream or moisturiser. Following the steps above is the most gentle way to make your sunglasses clear again, without damaging their lenses.


How do you clear cloudy sunglasses?

Cloudy sun lenses are caused by sweat, sun cream or things like moisturiser. To clear this cloudiness, deep clean your sunglasses using lukewarm water and some hand soap. Start by cleaning your lenses by gently rubbing them with your fingers and thumbs to remove any build-up of skin products. Then clean the rest of your frame, temples and nose pads. Your nose pads are often the dirtiest part of your frame as they make direct contact with your skin.


How do you clean polarised sunglasses?

When cleaning polarised sunglasses, you should use warm mixed with a gentle cleaning agent such as hand soap. Polarised sun lenses are made of multiple layers, a bit like a sandwich. Hot water or harsh chemicals could potentially make these layers peel apart (delamination), which is why warm water is the safest but most effective way to clean polarised lenses.

Between deep cleans, it's perfectly safe to use lens cleaning spray and a microfibre lens cloth to clean polarised sunglasses. Together, these will reduce the build-up of sun cream and natural skin oils to keep your lenses clear.


Will vinegar ruin sunglasses?

Yes, vinegar or citrus juices will ruin your sunglasses. Due to their high levels of acidity, they make great natural cleaning solutions. But for optical lenses, vinegar can deteriorate and damage optical lenses, especially if they use coatings such as anti-scratch or anti-glare. The best cleaning agents for sunglasses are optical lens cleaning sprays or simply some hand soap made with natural ingredients.


Is dish soap safe for lenses?

Yes, dish soaps with low levels of citric acid are safe for optical lenses. Categorised as detergents, dish soaps contain mild chemicals which are safe to use with optical or sunglasses lenses. If you're unsure, you can just use moisturiser-free hand soaps made with natural ingredients as they rarely use any chemicals which could damage your lenses.

For a list of common dish soaps which contain low percentages of citric acid, check out the table below.

Dish soap Contains citric acid?
Dawn (USA)  No
Fairy (UK) Yes
Ecover Sensitive  Yes



Hand soap being pumped onto sunglasses lenses beside white wash basin

Can you use hand soap to clean sunglasses?

Yes, you can use either natural or synthetic hand soap to clean sunglasses. Natural hand soap is made with ingredients such as plant-based oils, essential oils and glycerine and rarely uses chemicals which could damage sun lenses. Synthetic hand soap from pump-action dispensers is also suitable for cleaning your sunglasses.


Can you use rubbing alcohol to clean sunglasses?

Rubbing alcohol or 'surgical spirit' isn't recommended for cleaning sunglasses lenses. Containing between 60% to 99% isopropyl alcohol (IA) this liquid can be harsh on lens coatings such as anti-glare or anti-scratch and may cause them to deteriorate. The safest way to clean sunglasses is with lukewarm water, a mild detergent such as dish soap and a microfibre lens cloth.


 Tortoise pattern sunglasses frame being cleaned with water in white hand sink

Can you clean sunglasses with water?

Yes, you can clean sunglasses with lukewarm water. Mixed with a gentle soap or dish detergent, it's perfectly safe to immerse and clean your sunglasses in water. Plastic sunglasses made of acetate or nylon can handle water just fine. Metal (wire) sunglasses made of titanium or nickel-coated steel can also be cleaned in water.


But be wary of low-cost sunglasses with poorly applied nickel. Any gaps, cracks or worn parts of the coating can begin to oxidise (rust) which may worsen over time. This occurrence is fairly uncommon and usually only happens to very cheap sunglasses frames.


How do you clean plastic sunglass lenses?

The best way to clean plastic sun lenses is with either a lens cleaning spray or lukewarm water mixed with mild dish soap. Either of these methods is kind on your lenses and won't deteriorate any coatings such as anti-glare and anti-scratch.


Can I use Windex on my sunglasses?

It's inadvisable to use domestic window cleaners such as Windex or Windolene to clean your sunglasses. More often than not, household cleaning solutions such as bleach, kitchen or window cleaning formulas contain strong chemicals which can degrade both your sunglasses frame and its lenses. For stubborn marks or lenses, it can be tempting to use stronger cleaning solutions but this can lead to permanent and irreversible damage to your sunglasses. Stick to warm water and hand soap and you won't regret it.



Cleaning your sunglasses is an important part of taking care of them and should be done regularly. Not only will this help to keep them looking good, but it will also help to protect the lenses from scratches and other damage.

In this blog post, we have provided a list of six easy steps on how to deep clean your sunglasses properly without damaging the frame or lenses. All you need is some mild soap, warm water and a microfibre lens cloth. So why not give it a try?

Hopefully, you found this article helpful.

Thanks for stopping by.

Ltd edition eyewear. Released 6 times a year.