For the regular glasses-wearer, a scratch on your eyeglasses can feel as irritating as having something in your eye. What starts out looking like a smudge can quickly become ingrained in your lenses, obstructing your vision.

It’s natural to want to resolve this problem as quickly as possible. But most methods to get rid of scratches on your eyeglasses just won’t work — and they might even make the issue worse. This includes popular DIY fixes, which range from baking soda to car wax.

Do this first

Before trying anything, gently clean your glasses with a microfiber cloth designed for eyeglasses. Use minimal pressure and eyeglass cleaner or dish soap and water.

Read this how-to article for an easy way to clean your eyeglasses.

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If you feel like your eyeglasses get scratched no matter what you do, you’re not alone. There are a few things that make them prone to scratches.

  • Most lenses aren’t glass. Modern eyeglasses are made of sophisticated plastic. These materials are durable and more resistant to everyday wear and tear. Plastic is also safer than glass to wear close to your eyes, as there’s little risk of cracking or shattering. Plastic does tend to scratch somewhat easily, though.
  • Grit clings to lenses. Dust mites and lint tend to cling to plastic material. Rubbing your glasses when dirt, lint, or dust is on the lens can cause scratches. For this reason, toothpaste and baking soda, which have gritty textures, won’t fix scratched lenses.
  • Tissue and fabrics are harsher than they look. When cleaning their glasses, many people make mistakes that actually end up scratching them. Using a shirt, facial tissues, towels, or toilet paper to wipe lenses clean can leave them covered in lint.
  • Household cleaners are abrasive. Likewise, cleaning your glasses with a household glass cleaner, such as Windex, strips your lenses of their protective coatings. This can leave glasses more susceptible to damage.

Q: Can you request lenses made from glass? Is glass still used for lenses?

A: Glass lenses are still made for eyeglasses, but they aren’t used very often because they aren’t as safe. If a glass lens breaks, it shatters and can injure the eye. Also, glass lenses are much heavier than plastic lenses, so they can make your eyeglasses less comfortable to wear.

— Ann Marie Griff, OD

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If you notice a small scratch on your glasses, Ashley Katsikos, an optometrist in San Francisco, says to “leave it alone.”

For small scratches that don’t affect your vision, taking steps to prevent more scratches is the best way to care for your eyeglasses moving forward.

Consider getting new glasses if scratches on the lenses are:

  • causing visual disturbances
  • obstructing your vision
  • giving you headaches

What about DIY fixes?

According to Katsikos, you should avoid using household ingredients like baking soda or toothpaste to try to clean off or fill in a scratch on your glasses. “You’ll end up scratching your glasses permanently,” she says.

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Katsikos says, “When the visual distortion is causing significant enough blur that the patient is unable to perform their activities of daily living,” it’s time to get new lenses. She notes, “Many patients tend to notice this most when driving.”

If looking through your lenses obstructs your vision, causes visual disturbances, or gives you a headache, it’s time to look into replacements.

  • In terms of repair, probably not. Katsikos doesn’t advise going to an optician or optometrist to try to fix a small scratch. Chances are, they won’t be able to get rid of small scratches.
  • For replacement and prevention, yes! When you choose your eyeglass lenses, make sure to ask your provider about scratch-resistant coating options that can be added to them. If your glasses tend to get scratched, the coatings might save you money in the long run.

Q: Can a coating be added to eyeglasses to protect them from further scratches? Why or why not?

A: A protective coating can’t be added to a lens after it’s scratched. The coating is applied when the lens is manufactured and can’t be put on later. I recommend adding a scratch-resistant coating to the lenses when you purchase them. Most coatings have a 1-year warranty, so if they do scratch, even with the coating, you can get them replaced at no charge. Check with your eye care provider about details for your particular lenses.

— Ann Marie Griff, OD

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The best plan of action is to prevent scratches on your glasses. This starts with knowing the best practices for care.

  • Use a hard case for storage. Make sure to store your glasses in a hard case when you’re not wearing them. “It’s always best to store your glasses in a case, not only to prevent scratching of the lenses but also to prevent your frames from breaking or getting bent out of shape,” says Katsikos. “Do not just throw your glasses face down on the table, or in your pocket, or in your purse/bag, or hang them from your shirt collar.”
  • Don’t leave eyeglasses in the car. Katsikos notes, “A common mistake many patients make is leaving their glasses in the hot car. High temperatures can destroy the various coatings on your lenses, such as anti-reflective coating and scratch-resistant coating. Damage to these coatings will cause the lens to look cracked or crazed.” Exposure to extreme heat can warp the shape of your lenses, which can significantly affect your vision.
  • Keep a microfiber cloth handy. Invest in a microfiber cloth and an optometrist-approved lens cleaning spray to clean your glasses correctly.

Always clean your glasses carefully, and don’t use household cleaners or paper cloths to clean the surface of them.

If you have a scratch on your glasses, try not to smudge it with your finger or your shirt. Wait until you get home, and carefully clean the glasses so that you don’t end up making the scratch deeper or worse.

Don’t try DIY fixes, like toothpaste or baking soda, which can deepen the scratch.

Small scratches aren’t the end of the world, but you can do things to avoid getting more scratches. If scratches have started to obstruct your vision or make it difficult for you to drive, contact your eye care provider.