Guest post by Jeff Herman, chief editor of AllAboutVision.com

Your new hand-washing habit can help you to keep your glasses and contact lenses free of viruses and germs in this coronavirus pandemic … but don’t even think of reaching for a sanitizing wipe to clean your glasses.

There is a right way and a wrong way to disinfect your spectacles. Soap and water are good, sanitizing wipes (which are still hard to find on store shelves) are bad.

How to care for your contact lenses now? It’s really no different than before (but more on that later).

How to keep your glasses germ- and virus-free

Health officials around the world advise not touching your face to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus to your eyes, nose and mouth. Another way to lower your odds of contracting coronavirus is to keep your specs spotless.

What’s the best way to wash your glasses? We asked optometrist Chui Wen Juan, of C C Chui Optical in Singapore, for the do’s and don’ts for ridding your glasses of contagions — as well as everyday dirt, grime and sweat.

“The safest way to clean spectacles is to use soap and water,” Chui says. “Thorough washing eliminates pathogens — bacteria, virus, fungi — and also body fluids such as perspiration, saliva, sebum (skin oil) that can harbour or encourage growth of pathogens.”

“Most hand soaps and liquid non-abrasive detergents can be used, along with cool — not cold — or tepid — not hot — water,” she adds.  

‘’The added advantage of using soap and water to wash the spectacles is that the hands are also being cleaned at the same time,” Chui says. “In fact, if your hands are dirty or greasy, you should wash them before cleaning your spectacles.”

glasses, reading, eyeglasses

And the don’ts?

“Avoid bath gels or soap with lanolin and sorbolene, as these will leave a film over the spectacles’ lenses,” Chui says.

“Avoid abrasive cleaners — those for polishing ovens and stoves — or acetone-type cleaners — nail polish remover, for example — as these will damage coatings on the lenses or the paintwork of the frames,” she adds.

For the same reasons, sanitizing or disinfecting wipes should never be used to clean your glasses.

“Sanitizing wipes often contain alcohol, which may be damaging to certain types of plastics in spectacle lenses or frames,” Chui says. “Sanitizing wipes may also contain emollients to keep the skin moisturised, but will leave a film on the spectacle lenses.”

Be gentle when washing and drying your glasses

One difference between your hand-washing and glasses-washing habits: Wash your hands thoroughly and with vigor but be gentle when washing your spectacles. The last thing you want is to break your lenses and have trouble getting a repair because your optical shop is closed.

Take it easy when drying your glasses too.

“Use the microfibre cloth — which is usually provided with your spectacles — to gently dry your spectacles,” Chui says. “Most spectacle lenses will come with water-repellent coatings, so you’ll find that very little water actually remains on the lenses, so there is no need to rub it aggressively.”

And how often should you clean your glasses? 

“An easy rule of thumb to remember is to wash your spectacles as often as you would wash your face,” “After all, would one put dirty spectacles on a cleaned face?”

Chui Wen Juan, Optometrist, C C Chui Optical

“Perhaps it might be most helpful and convenient to wash the spectacles in the morning, to start the day with clean and clear spectacles.”

Two more tips to lower your odds of transmitting coronavirus from your glasses to your face, eyes, nose or mouth:

“Make sure your spectacles are well-fitted,” Chui says. “If they are loose or uncomfortable, the wearer will have a tendency to touch them more often, which means spectacles get dirtier more quickly and there is also a risk of infection when touching the face with contaminated hands and fingers.”

“Remember also to wash the microfibre cloth for spectacles about once a week (more if heavily used),” she adds. “Simply use soap and water, and avoid fabric softeners.”

How to take care of your contact lenses

If you wear contact lenses, how can you ensure you’re doing all the right things in the lens-cleaning process to cut your COVID-19 risk?

“The first golden rule of wearing contact lenses has always been — even pre-COVID-19 — to wash and dry hands thoroughly before handling contact lenses,” Chui says.

“There are many types of cleaners and disinfectants for contact lenses,” she says. “Most of the commercially available ones have been tested to FDA standards, but must be used correctly to have maximum efficacy.”  

Your contact lens practitioner will advise you on how to care for your contact lenses, as certain disinfecting products may be more compatible with certain types of soft contact lenses.

“Last but not least, contact lens practitioners have always advised wearers not to wear contact lenses when unwell — for example, if you have the cold or flu — or if your eyes are sore,” Chui says. “Even though contact lenses did not cause the primary problem (colds and flu), it may exacerbate the symptoms of sore eyes (that occasionally accompanies respiratory illnesses).”

Reusing contaminated contact lenses and lens cases may delay recovery of the illness or cause a reinfection, she adds. If contact lenses were being used just before an episode of illness, it is best to discard those used lenses and lens cases and start fresh following recovery.

Why you should be extra mindful of your eyewear now

“As many places face lockdown and operating restrictions, it is all the more important to keep your eyewear safe, because it may be inconvenient to get repairs or replacements done,” Chui says.

“It is always safer to keep spectacles in the case when not in use, to mitigate accidental mishandling by young children, pets or the family member who unwittingly sat on your spectacles,” she adds. “Avoid placing spectacles, even for a brief moment, on chairs, beds, sofas, the floor — anywhere spectacles are least expected to be.”  

“In doing all these, not only will you save yourself unnecessary inconvenience, but you’ll also extend the life of your eyewear … and save your wallet.”

All About Vision, based in the United States, now has websites in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Hindi serving readers in Latin America, Canada, Brazil, India and the United Kingdom. In May, All About Vision launched a website for Australia.

Chui Wen Juan, is a second-generation optometrist from C C Chui Optical with 17 years experience. She trained and practised in Australia before returning to her family’s practice in Singapore. C C Chui Optical is now serving the 3rd generation of clients since its establishment in 1976.