You've been cleaning your sunglasses wrong this whole time

how to clean sunglasses
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Rex)

Sunglasses weather is finally upon us (huzzah), and so it's time to dust off your trusted pairs to wear with your best summer dresses. (And you best sun cream, obv.) Naturally, you'll want to clean them to get rid of any smudges from last summer's sun cream, sand and errant mascara – perhaps by breathing on them and then rubbing. Well we're sorry to say you're doing it all wrong.

Cleaning expert Ralitsa Prodanova, from UK domestic assistance firm Fantastic Services, says you're actually scratching them by doing so.

'There’s actually nothing worse for lens protection. Yes, you’ll get rid of the smudge that’s bothering you. But your clothing will contain particles of dust and dirt which can easily scratch your glasses when you start rubbing. Paper towels and napkins are just as bad. They’re essentially pulped wood, and therefore highly abrasive while also generating large amounts of dust. And you should never clean your glasses without using some form of liquid - condensation from your breath isn’t enough, even if you’re using a special microfibre cloth,' she says.

Here is the right way to do it.

Rinse in water: The trick to getting your sunglasses really clean without causing them damage is to rinse them in warm water. This is vitally important if they’re covered in sand from the beach. Run a bowl of water, and add a couple of drops of mild washing up liquid to it. Then simply give the sunglasses a good dunking to remove all the dirt, gently rub them with your fingers in the water, and then dry with a clean, lint free microfibre cloth.

Avoid salt: Whatever you do, don’t put washing up liquid directly onto the lenses. Some washing up liquids - particularly citric ones - can be abrasive, as they contain salt. That too could end up scratching your delicate lenses. And that of course goes for seawater, too, which is often the enemy of sunglasses. And don’t use water that’s too hot. That too could end up damaging the coating on the lenses.

Out and about: If you’re on the go, or on the beach, you’re clearly not going to be able to rinse them in a bowl of soapy water. But you can buy specially moistened lens wipes for just a few pounds. They’re a good investment and you can use them to clean your mobile phone, too.

Clean the rims first: When you wear your sunglasses, the areas most likely to be contaminated with grease, dirt and grime are the nose rests and the rims where they touch your face. Clean these bits first, before you clean the lenses, otherwise you’ll just end up smearing this skin contact residue to new places and creating more smudges!

Avoid vinegar: Vinegar is a great alternative household cleaner for lots of items - but your sunglasses aren’t one of them, despite what you might have read on the internet. Anything containing ammonia, bleach or vinegar is a no-no, as it will strip away the coating of the lens. Likewise, dedicated window or glass cleaner is also not recommended, particularly for ‘mirrored’ sunglasses.

Don't wait for glasses to get really filthy: If you’ve got to perform a really deep, rigorous clean because your sunnies are absolutely disgusting, the higher the chances of you scratching the lenses. Essentially, you need to clean your sunglasses as often as you can to keep dirt at bay. Make it part of your routine.

Penny Goldstone

Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.

Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).

Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.

However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.

Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.