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Best methods for cleaning the glass on your hunting optics

 

How to properly clean hunting optic glass
Cleaning Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 15x56 binoculars. All photo credits: Brady Miller

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.

Items needed for cleaning hunting optic glass

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
 

Cleaning Leupold riflescope glass
Cleaning a Leupold riflescope with an air blower.

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.

Cleaning hunting optics with lens pen brush

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.

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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.

Optional steps

Microfiber lens cloth

goHUNT spudz microfiber cleaning 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.

Cleaning Leupold spotting scope with microfiber cloth

For those extreme cases, I also carry an extra microfiber lens cloth in a small kit.

Non-abrasive wipes

PEC PAD optic cleaning wipes

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.

Cleaning spotting scope with non abrasive wipes

Cleaning solutions

Eclipse lens cleaning solution

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.

Applying Eclipse lens cleaner

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

Using wet wipes for cleaning hunting optics

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.

Conclusion

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.

Field cleaning kit for optics

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.

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5 Comments

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John M. - posted 1 week ago on 12-07-2017 06:40:03 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

I bet a little blower like that would double as a bellows and get a little fire roaring.

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 week ago on 12-05-2017 01:17:08 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Thank you!

alexandre.u.viau
Alexandre V. - posted 1 week ago on 12-05-2017 11:07:41 am
Salt Lake City, UT
goHUNT INSIDER

Hunt Backcountry podcast #103, cleaning starts around 1:06:40 - http://exomountaingear.com/103/

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 week ago on 12-05-2017 09:48:09 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Now that you mentioned that, I do remember hearing that before. Can't remember where though. Thanks for bringing that up! Oh, and sharing podcasts is definitely allowed and suggested. My thoughts, anything we can do to help other hunters is fine for sharing. Love to listen to that podcast if you can find the link to the episode.

alexandre.u.viau
Alexandre V. - posted 1 week ago on 12-04-2017 07:05:24 pm
Salt Lake City, UT
goHUNT INSIDER

I thought another cool one was listening to the Swarovski rep. He said he just likes to use running water to clean his glass and then a clean microfiber cloth to get rid of the water residue. I thought the really interesting one was licking the glass with your tongue if in the field and you have no running water. Anyways, not sure if we can reference other podcasts but it was a goodie geekin' out on glass.