Best methods for cleaning the glass on your hunting optics
Let’s face it, as hunters, we are not easy on our optics. Dust, dirt, pine needles, pollen, the list goes on and on. We put our hunting optics through the wringer on every hunt and after a few trips, we may need to take a closer look at our glass and give them a good cleaning. This will not only prevent a large particle from scratching the surface of your glass, but it will also help you see clearer. As the saying goes, you can’t kill what you can’t see.
Below are several methods that I run through on all my optics, including my camera gear. Cleaning the glass of your optics is not rocket science, although care should be given and a plan followed.
For starters, you’re going to need some specialty cleaning items. Some of these items I’ll even take in the field with me for cleaning my optics while hunting. Note: Never, I repeat never use your t-shirt (synthetic, merino, cotton, etc.) to clean your lenses. This will quickly lead to scratches over time.
Essential items needed
|Lens blower||Lens pen (brush)|
Items if you want to go further in the process
|Lens cleaning solution||Microfiber cleaning cloth|
|Non-abrasive wipes||Lens cleaning wet wipes|
Step one - air
I’m a huge fan of removing dust on my optics through air. To do this, you’ll need an air blower. I prefer to use an air blower over the air in my lungs. For one, your lungs aren’t as effective and you have a greater chance of adding moisture to the dust which can make getting it off the lens more difficult. The air blower I use is made by Giottos and sort of looks like a mini rocket. They make a small, medium and a large. I carry the medium in the field and use a large at home for daily use.
I always start my lens cleaning process with an air blower. Plus, you need to use air to remove particles before you use a brush or cloth. Otherwise, you could scratch your lens. Using an air blower is simple, just aim and squeeze. I will work over the edges of my optics first, trying to get all the particles from the nooks and crannies of sides of the glass. Then I’ll use the air blower to remove anything from the surface of the glass.
Step two - brush
A lens brush is another tool I can’t live without. Once you’ve used the air blower to force the dust off the lens, it’s now time to brush the remaining particles off.
I like to start at the edges where the dust collects and brush it outward while working around the outside edge of the lens (I’m not talking about trying to brush objects onto the glass, rather trying to brush small areas to make particles fall off the optic). Then I’ll lightly brush the entire glass surface. Also, if your optics are really dirty, you could take another brush (one that you don’t touch the lens surface with) and brush out the sides surrounding the lens. A lot of times dust and dirt can stack up on the sides of your lenses in binoculars and spotting scopes.
Should you just stop there?
There are plenty of other cleaning methods, especially when you're cleaning your optics in a controlled environment. A lot of times I will just call it good after the air blower and brush cleaning. My reason; I don’t like to clean more than I have to. I will use the air and brush techniques in the field while hunting without any hesitation. But with that said, there are still some additional steps you can take.
Microfiber lens cloth
I placed microfiber cloths in the optional section for a reason. I don’t like to use a microfiber cloth unless I have to. Reason being, they are not particularly absorbent and could smear across a surface. If for some reason I need quick and fast in-the-field cleaning, I will use a small Spudz microfiber cloth that I keep attached to my binocular harness. The Spudz is perfect for those times when you need to clean something fast. If you like using these in the field, I highly suggest getting one with a closeable pouch at the bottom. These items are relatively inexpensive so after a year of it getting exposed to the elements while hunting, they are easily replaced or you could clean them.
The best method here is to wipe in small circles to reduce streaking. Also, clean from the center of the glass to the edges. Because you're working with glass, apply just enough pressure to remove the material or smudge.
For those extreme cases, I also carry an extra microfiber lens cloth in a small kit.
These are great little items for cleaning at home. PEC-PADS are cleaning wipes that are non-abrasive, lint-free and 99.999% free of contaminants. I really like that these are always clean since they are one-time use pads. You will want to add a few drops of a cleaning solution to each pad. See below for more details. Note: For the camera guys out there, don’t use these on sensors.
A cleaning solution I’ve been using for awhile is called Eclipse. This solution dries fast and doesn’t leave a residue smear. It's best to apply a few drops on a cleaning pad and then start to clean. Do not apply the cleaning solution directly to your glass. If you applied the solution to the glass, you increase the chances for the liquid to run to the edge of the glass and into the body.
I use this in conjunction with the PEC PADS by adding several drops of Eclipse to the pads. Next, I’ll lightly wipe the glass and then discard the wipe. You can use the wipe more than once by folding it over.
Wet wipes are great for fast cleaning and are a nice way to follow up after cleaning with an air blower and brush. To use, simply open the small packet and wipe away. These are also great for cleaning the screen of a GPS or satellite messenger.
If your lens needs a cleaning, then, by all means, you should clean it. But, if they don't really need cleaning, then keep your cleaning materials away from your glass. A crazy statement to follow-up a cleaning article, but just don't over clean and you'll be fine. Hunting is rough on optics, so take the time to keep them in great condition and think carefully about what you use to clean them and they will keep finding animals for you for years to come.
Also, I like to put together a small cleaning kit that I keep with my camera accessories. This kit is always in my pack for those times when I need to clean my hunting optics in the field or my camera lens/filters. The kit is comprised of a lens pen, microfiber cloth, and a few wet wipes. I also have a medium air blower in my camera kit.