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Top Tips for Extending the Life of Your Sunglasses

April 11, 2019 5 min read 0 Comments

Top Tips for Extending the Life of Your Sunglasses

If you’re reading this, odds are your sunglasses will take a decent beating.

When it comes to making sunglasses last, it’s easy to say ‘don’t drop them,’ or ‘don’t get hit in the face.’ But it turns out, some of the most damaging effects can happen over the long term.

Assuming you’re buying more than gas station knockoffs, you want a long life for your sunglasses, so treat them right. There are a lot of simple ways to increase the longevity of your favorite shades.

Maybe you’ve bought a pair of impact-resistant, high-tech-material, unbreakable glasses. Take our sunglasses for instance — you’ll be hard-pressed to find shades more durable than STNGR EDGE, but that doesn’t mean you need to be careless with them.

Top Tips for Extending the Life of Your Sunglasses

Keep ‘em Clean

First and foremost — it might seem obvious, but we’re guessing you didn’t buy nice expensive sunglasses to sit meekly on the porch drinking lemonade, so a reminder never hurts: The best way to keep your sunglasses fit is regular cleaning and maintenance.

When cleaning, it’s best to stay natural. Avoid harsh cleaners and chemicals, as they can degrade the materials over time. For example, ammonia is known to harm some lens coatings, so never use household products like glass cleaners that are created for other uses.

Try not to dry-rub them — we’re not talking about pork chops here, after all. Wiping dust or particles off a lens without water can slowly, microscopically grind in and wear down the lens over time.

Start with warm water, and if that’s not enough, use a little liquid dish soap. Don’t just use your shirt or the closest available dry rag, and it’s best not to use paper towels or hand towels either. Linen or microfiber cloth is safest, or better yet, a specific lens-cleaning cloth, designed for the purpose. Especially when scrubbing away grime, use the softest cloth possible, and just like brushing your teeth, scrub longer, not harder.

Rinse and Repeat

It’s not only hard grime that can impact your shades’ performance. Unfiltered water, be it rain, lake water or salt water, can leave residue that will build up over time. The more it builds up, the more effort it takes to remove, which in turn means more risk of scratches or wear.

Some residue can even etch the material of certain lenses — even salt water and chlorine can impact some materials after a swim, especially with metal frames or coatings that use metal oxides. The easy solution is to give your glasses a quick rinse with filtered water before they dry, even without doing a full cleaning.

If you don’t rinse them, dirt will become caked into every crevices, then the more scrubbing and potentially damaging methods it will take to get them clean.

Mind the Coats

These days, materials can be built tough enough to withstand almost anything, but the most damage-prone part of any sunglasses will be the coatings, or the thin layers that can alter sunglasses’ performance. Even with a scratch-resistant coating on top of any special vision-enhancing additions, it’s the biggest danger, especially for rugged outdoorsmen traipsing about the wilderness.

Anti-glare coatings can come in a wide variety of labels, with equally varying quality. Polarized, mirrored, anti-reflective (also called AR coatings) — you can even get options like anti-fog, hydrophobic, blue light- and UV-blocking — in short, there are so many different types of plastics, metals and materials that are used, sometimes not explicitly advertised, that it’s nearly impossible to predict what chemicals will react poorly. It’s best to stick with clean, soft water and cleaning products that are specifically designed for lens care.

Keep it Cool

At the risk of being obvious, this is a piece of equipment designed to be in the sun. That being said, there are situations where it’s smart to consider the effect of intense sunlight — case in point, you shouldn’t leave your shades on the dashboard during a hot summer afternoon. If people can bake cookies in cars (and yeah, that’s a thing), then it’s probably not a good place for your $100-plus frames. You wouldn’t put your sunglasses in the oven, so don’t cook them in your car either.

Depending on the frame material, this can be an even bigger problem — you may not want to leave them in a hot car at all, let alone the dashboard. Some metal frames are especially prone to warping in heat, but certain plastics are also a concern.

Even when cleaning, it’s best not to use very hot water. That rapid heating, over and over again, can compromise the structural integrity of plastics, and can even cause a wrinkle on the edges of some lens coatings — that one I can tell you from personal experience.

Lesson From the Fallen

Speaking of personal experience, I once owned a pair of shades that had been favorites for years, through high and low tide. Then one day, as I was hiking into a shaded copse of trees, I took them off and hung them from the neck of my shirt. A few minutes later, I bent over a trickling stream, and naturally they slipped off, landing lens-first on a rock. That wouldn’t have been so bad, except that in my flailing effort to catch them, I lost my balance and actually proceeded to step on them after they’d hit the ground.

That’s not to mention the possibility of simply dropping them into a deep lake, watching helplessly as they plunge into the unrecoverable fathoms of its icy depths. If you can’t tell, I have experience with that, too.

Long story short, just keep them in your pocket or something. Cargo pants are the classic outdoorsman’s legging for a reason — lock ‘em down.

When storing elsewhere, don’t set them on their face, that is, lens-side down, and even a simple case can go a long way. Compared to the cost of the glasses, cases come pretty cheap. You can get cases that clip to a lanyard or belt, in different thicknesses and materials; there’s really no excuse for not using one.

Long Live the Shades

Caring for an item as everyday and inevitable as sunglasses can all too easily fall by the wayside, especially with the amount of built-in resistance many products flaunt today. But these same glasses are also an investment, and one that you want to last.

This may seem reiterative, but it’s really that important — the biggest impact on glasses is going to happen over time. The more grime and dirt continuously layering your lenses, the more it’s going to chip away every time you wipe them on your thigh during a hike, or hastily shove them in your pocket when the light changes.

Perhaps most importantly, start caring for your investment properly right out of the box. Build a routine, storing them in the same place every time you take them off, whether that’s a certain pocket or sink-adjacent cubby at home. Get in the habit of rinsing, cleaning and storing your sunglasses, to ensure they last as long as possible while you’re both out living your best lives.

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