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DrasticDreamer's avatar

Is a 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and water a safe lens cleaner?

Asked by DrasticDreamer (23983points) November 22nd, 2014

Recently at my optometrist’s I asked what eyeglass lens cleaner they used, because I like it much better than the stuff I bought at the store.

The person I asked informed me that it was their own blend of stuff and wasn’t for sale, but she told me to make a 50/50 solution of rubbing alcohol and water to use.

Does anyone here do this to their glasses? Because the first lenses had to be replaced, I’m paranoid and want to be careful before I try it. My glasses have some coatings, too, like anti-glare and whatnot. Would that make a difference?

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11 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

I would have thought that rubbing alcohol would damage the coatings.

Buttonstc's avatar

I don’t know about the alcohol part but I do know it’s important what you use along with the liquid. You don’t want to inadvertently use something that can cause even minor scratching.

FWIW I’ve been getting excellent results for years with plain bottled water (to eliminate excess minerals) and coffee filters.

I just cut a coffee filter in quarters and use it that way. I also use this for my iPhone and tablet screens as well as my computer screen.

Gets everything cleaned up great with never any damage and some things I always have around the house.

In years past I’ve also used those small alcohol swabs for my phone until I realized that water and the coffee filter did the job just as well.

And after you use the filter damp, then just using it dry to get any excess moisture off leaves everything streak free and looking like new.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this worked well for the phone and tablet screens especislly because they can get pretty schmutzy because of the natural oils from one’s fingerprints.

When I first read about using coffee filters for this purpose, I wasn’t expecting much but it’s the best method I’ve found so far.

I don’t really know what value alcohol brings to the equation other than the fact that it evaporates quickly and supposedly streak free. But using the coffee filters along with water works just fine and no streaks at all.

This is similar in principle for using newspapers for cleaning windows and car windshields. Excellent results. Simple and no fuss. Shiny and good as new.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Yeah, I’m pretty worried about using the alcohol. I’m not extremely confident that she knew what she was talking about, so I don’t think I’m going to do it. I’ll try your method @Buttonstc.

Buttonstc's avatar

As long as you don’t use tap water, (cuz mineral content varies depending upon location) I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Around here there is so much limescale that develops on everything, I’d never chance it.

I have also, on occasion, when I don’t have any clean water handy resorted to just placing each lens almost in my mouth and breathing enough moisture on it to fog it up a bit and then wiped it off.

That’s a little desperate but it works :)

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Your method worked like a charm. I did use tap, didn’t even think about it, but I’ll be sure to get a different kind of water next time, just in case. Thank you very much for the tip. :)

Buttonstc's avatar

I’m glad you like it.

And actually the problem with using tap would come after repeated uses since that’s how hard water (with lots of mineral content) does it’s damage.

That’s why I never use tap water in my coffee maker while living here because our water is so unusually hard. This is the only time in my life that I’ve ever bought bottled water.

But it gunked up my Brita filter so badly that it was unusable. If you have to run vinegar through it every second day, that’s ridiculous because it’s so hard to clear that vinegar taste out.

But you know your own area best. And if you get a film or cloudy appearance developing, you can always get it off with vinegar.

To me, it’s simpler just to use bottled water from the get-go. I hate the water in this area, can you tell :)

Pachy's avatar

Warm water mixed with a bit of liquid soap works fine for me.

RocketGuy's avatar

Water+alcohol has been standard for lenses for a long time. @Buttonstc ‘s method of using warm, moist breath is good too. My dad was a prof photographer, and used both methods. The non-reflective coatings can take it.

Note that the oil-resistant coatings on iPhones cannot take alcohol. I realized too late on my iPhone 4S.

Buttonstc's avatar


What happened to your iPhone 4S?

I had no idea about the coating on iPhone screens but am, in retrospect, glad that I never used anything other than water.

On my first iPhone (3G) I had a screen guard on it from before I left the store so I was always leery of using anything which might affect it even tho I knew I could replace it.

But it was through my experience cleaning it with nothing other than water and coffee filters that I discovered that it was more than adequate to remove any smudging from the oils on my fingertips.

I’m guessing that was as much due to the super absorbency of the coffee filters as to using just water.

I just couldn’t see spending $10–20 for some tiny bottle of “screen cleaner” guaranteed not to damage the phone. That just made no sense to me at all.

Common sense told me that plain water was also guaranteed against damage as long as I didn’t soak it overly.

So the damp filters followed by the dry worked great and still does.

What on earth could be contained in that overpriced little bottle that was so superior.

Well, superior hype; but, that’s about it.


RocketGuy's avatar

The screen on my 4S is now a fingerprint magnet – heavy smudges all over, every day. Used to show smudges extremely faintly, and I would clean it with alcohol+water wipes I used for my glasses. When the smudges started looking bad, I looked it up and found the error of my ways.

BTW, the anti-reflective coating on my glasses is still fine after 2 years of wiping with alcohol+water wipes.

Buttonstc's avatar

Thanks for the info. It’s a shame that Apple didn’t publicize it with more specifics and warnings ?

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