How to clean sunglasses the right way

Cleaning sunglasses
We clarify the question of how to clean sunglasses of smudges, sunscreen and trail dust without leaving them cloud or scratched (Image credit: Kinga Krzeminska)

If you’ve picked out a good pair of sunglasses for hiking, trail running, biking or winter sports, the chances are that you’ve spent a pretty penny on them to make sure you get a pair that stay in place when you’re on the move, feel comfortable on long treks and, most importantly, protect your eyes from sunlight and other trail hazards.

Great sunglasses like the best trail running sunglasses don’t come cheap and are relatively fragile, and that’s why it’s imperative that you don’t form bad habits with them. You know, like wiping the grease off them with your hiking shirt or shoving them in your hiking backpack without placing them in their protective case first. 

Mud-covered mountain biker

Even if you're not getting face shots in a mid bath all day, your sunglasses are bound to end up in need of a clean (Image credit: Ken Redding)

But no matter how careful you are with your sunglasses, they’ll still end up smudged, whether they’re collecting grease and hair products from when you push them up on your head to stop and read your map, or gathering sunscreen from the bridge of your nose, and while you might think that you’re doing a great job of cleaning them, your method could actually be doing more harm than good.

Using the wrong types of cleaning solutions or fabrics to clean your sunglasses can accidentally leave the lenses scratched or permanently cloudy, which is no use at all when you’re moving fast on a technical trail or trying to check your location on your phone. In this article, we explain how to clean sunglasses properly — don’t worry, it’s super easy — and what you should avoid cleaning your sunglasses with.

Woman hiking mountains in Nepal

Using the wrong types of cleaning solutions or fabrics to clean your sunglasses can accidentally leave the lenses scratched or permanently cloudy (Image credit: Pakawat Thongcharoen)

What should you not clean your glasses with?

First, let’s start with what not to do. Generally speaking, anything that’s abrasive is a no-go, and while you’re probably smart enough not to be using a brillo pad to scour your lenses, you might be surprised to learn that lots of household items that you commonly use for wiping or cleaning your sunglasses are scratching the surface of your lenses. Here’s a short list of items to avoid using on your lenses:

  • Clothing
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Napkins
  • Tissues
  • Surface cleaners
  • Glass cleaners
  • Vinegar
  • Any cleaner containing bleach or salt

Hiker in the mountains with puffy clouds in the background

Clean your sunglasses properly and your friends will be able to enjoy the view in your lenses (Image credit: Alex Ratson)

What is the best way to clean dirty sunglasses?

When you get home from the trail, it’s really easy to clean your sunglasses properly. A common technique is to breathe on your sunglasses to mist them up, then wipe them, but you actually need much more moisture than your breath can provide. All you need is some warm water, a little dish soap and a lint-free microfiber cloth. Once you’ve gathered these items, follow these steps and you'll be able to enjoy the best views on every hike or run:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Fill a bowl with warm water and a squirt of gentle dish soap.
  3. Submerge your sunglasses in the soapy water and use your hands to gently wipe the frames and lenses.
  4. Rinse your sunglasses under warm water to remove the soap.
  5. Use the lint-free microfiber cloth to gently dry your sunglasses.
  6. Place your sunglasses in their protective case.

If you’re out on the trail and your sunglasses get smudged, it’s ultra tempting to wipe them with your shirt but instead, carry some lens wipes with you on your adventures. Blow on your sunglasses to remove any dust and dirt that might scratch the lenses then use the wipe (you can also use it to clean your phone of any smudges). And remember, when you’re not using your sunglasses, place them back in their protective case every time to keep them in good condition.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.