If you wear eyeglasses, you probably recognize how irritating it is to have dirt, grit, or grease stuck on the lenses. And beyond being annoying, it can cause eye strain and headaches.

What’s more, bacteria are more likely to grow on glasses that haven’t been cleaned in a while. Fostering germs in a sensitive area, like your nose and your eyes, poses risks.

According to Dr. Jonathan Wolfe, an optometrist in Ardsley, New York, a quick eyeglass cleaning as part of your daily routine is ideal.

“This depends on [your] occupation, personal hygiene, and tolerance for blur, but I would recommend that the average glasses-wearer give their lenses a light cleaning daily, and their frames a weekly cleaning,” Wolfe says.

A very small study conducted in 2018 confirmed that dangerous bacteria can grow on your eyeglasses, including the bacteria that cause staph infections. The nose pads and ear clips of the glasses that were tested were found to be the most contaminated areas of the eyeglasses.

Keep reading to find out how to clean your glasses safely and hygienically.

The lenses of your glasses are the key to seeing your world in sharp, clear focus. According to Dr. Wolfe, a lens cleaning routine doesn’t have to be complicated, once you have the steps down. “If it takes you more than 20 seconds to clean your lenses, you’re probably overthinking it,” he says.

Supplies:

  • Microfiber cloth. The safest, most effective tool you can use to get your glasses clean without smearing or scratching them.
  • Cleaning solution. Spray made for eyeglasses that states it’s safe for polycarbonate lenses and lens coatings is best, but you can also use lotion-free dish soap.

Instructions:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly so you’re not transferring germs from your hands to your glasses.
  2. Wipe your glasses down with the microfiber cloth to get rid of dust or other irritants that could scratch your lenses.
  3. Run warm water over your glasses. Use distilled water instead of water from a faucet if there’s hard water in your area.
  4. Spray your glasses on both sides with cleaning solution. If you’re using dish soap, put a single drop on both sides of the lenses and gently rub it over the lens surface.
  5. Dry your glasses off by shaking off excess water droplets. If you want to avoid streaks and watermarks, use gas duster (canned air) to dry them.

Frames have lots of tiny parts, like screws, springs, and hinges, which can get dirty with sweat and oils from your face. Dr. Wolfe points out that while cleaning your eyeglass frames is important, people sometimes skip this step.

“Cleaning the frame is important mostly for personal hygiene, since the frame is constantly touching your skin,” he says. “Most people, even those who generally take good care of their glasses, tend to overlook cleaning their nose pads. This can lead to all kinds of minor dermatological issues.”

The process for cleaning your glasses frames is pretty simple:

  1. Use a mild soap, like lotion free-dish soap, and apply it to your frames using your fingertips.
  2. Rinse the frames thoroughly under warm water.
  3. Use a moist towelette with rubbing alcohol to clean the nosepads and earpieces of your frames.

There are a few common mistakes that people make when cleaning their eyeglasses.

Avoid these materials

Paper towels, tissues, and the fabric of the shirt you’re wearing might seem like an easy fix for smudged lenses. But according to Dr. Wolfe, you need to stick to soft lens cloths, like the kind that come with your glasses when you first get them.

“For cleaning lenses, the most common mistake I see is people using tissues or paper towels,” he says. “Those materials are too coarse and can cause minor scratches to develop on the surface of the lenses.”

Don’t use products with acetone

Another common mistake is to use nail polish remover to clean lenses and frames. This is never a good idea. “Acetone (often found in nail polish remover) is surprisingly destructive to both lenses, and to plastic glasses frames, if left on the surface for too long,” Dr. Wolfe says.

Saliva doesn’t clean lenses

When you’re desperate to get rid of a smudge on your glasses, it might seem like a good idea to use your own saliva to lubricate the lens.

This isn’t a good idea either, as you’re basically covering your lens with germs from your mouth, which can then multiply. From a practical perspective, your saliva may also make the smudge look worse.

Optometrists, ophthalmologists, and eyeglass retailers offer professional cleaning. At many eyeglass retailers, you can bring your glasses back to where you purchased them for a complimentary cleaning.

If your glasses have an oily buildup around the ears or nose that doesn’t go away after your own attempts to clean them, or if you’re noticing repeated breakouts on your nose or around your ears where your glasses touch your face, a professional cleaning might be the answer.

It’s also worth asking for a cleaning every time you get your eyeglasses adjusted or go for your annual eye exam. If you need help finding an eye doctor in your area, the National Eye Institute has resources to help you get started.

Throwing your glasses into a travel bag or onto your nightstand without any protection is a recipe for scratching and smudging. Storing your eyeglasses safely is just as important as cleaning them correctly if you want to make them last.

On the go, always store them in a hinged, hardshell case. These cases are available at most drugstores as well as the optical retailer where you got your glasses.

If you don’t have a hardshell case available, a soft pocket-style case will do in a pinch as long as you secure your glasses in the zippered pocket of your suitcase, briefcase, or handbag.

Ideally, you will store the glasses in a case at night. Otherwise, you can place your glasses on a clean, stable countertop or furniture surface with the lenses facing up. Open both sides of the “temples” or earpieces of your glasses and place them upside down to store them correctly overnight without a case.

Cleaning your eyeglasses regularly should become a part of your daily routine. Not only will this help you see more clearly, it can also prevent eye infections and dermatological conditions such as blackheads and acne.