How to Care For Your Glasses and Contacts
Your glasses are extremely valuable. You might have spent upwards of a thousand dollars on frames. You spend time selecting, deciding on the perfect shape and color to look good on your face and express your style. Not to mention you might need prescription glasses to read, drive, or just go through your daily life without squinting your way to eyestrain and a headache. And if you have contacts, you could be spending as much as $50 per month, depending on what kind of contacts you choose. To protect your investment of time, care and money, as well as the health of your eyes, it pays to take good care of your glasses or contact lenses. Luckily, it's pretty easy to care for your eyewear if you follow a few simple guidelines.
The first thing you're going to want to know is how to clean your glasses. While the "breathe on the lenses and wipe them with your shirttail" method is pretty ubiquitous (I will confess I do it myself in a pinch), it's really not optimal. For one, breathing on your lenses doesn't get them wet enough to protect them or wash away grime. Second, chances are that, unless your shirt is 100 % cotton, the fabric is too rough and may scratch your glasses over time (remember that anti-scratch coating makes your lenses scratch resistant, not scratch proof).
So, how should you clean your glasses? Here's a step by step for daily care:
1. Start by washing your hands well with soap and water. Your fingers have oils that might leave smears on your lenses.
2. Run your glasses, both lenses and frames, under lukewarm water. Do NOT use hot water, since it might strip off any anti-scratch, anti-glare or other coats on your lenses.
3. Take some dish soap (make sure it does not have any lotion in it, which will leave a greasy residue on your lenses) and put two small drops of soap on your lenses.
4. Use your fingertips to work the soap into a lather, being careful to get soap on both sides of the lenses.
5. Rinse your lenses and frames thoroughly, again in lukewarm water.
6. You can either leave your glasses to air dry, or you can use a soft fabric (like a microfiber cloth) to gently pat them dry. Do not use a tissue or a paper towel, since they are too rough and might scratch your lenses.
Some glasses stores sell special lens cleaning spray, which is convenient if you need to clean your glasses on the go, but for daily cleaning it's not any more effective than dish soap, and is a great deal more expensive. Some stores also sell special lens cleaning wet wipes, which, again, are great for on-the-go, but not really necessary. One thing you should certainly avoid, however, is using glass cleaners such as Windex or other household surface cleaners. The chemicals in such cleaners will also damage the protective coatings on your lenses.
In addition to cleaning your glasses every day, there are certain things you can do to protect both your frames and your lenses from damage.
First is the most obvious: when your glasses are not on your face, they should be in a hard glasses case. You probably got one with your glasses, but if that one is too bulky, not the right color, etc, you can buy one you like better. What do you do if you don't have a case, or you've forgotten it? In that instance, when you take off your glasses, lay them upside down with the temples (or arms) open. Under no circumstances should you set them lenses down, since that's just asking for them to get scratched.
Some frames are more susceptible to damage over the long term than others. Frames made from Flexon, a titanium-nickle alloy, will bounce back from being manhandled, but if your glasses are not made of a metal invented by the U.S. Navy, then you might want to take care to keep them from bending out of shape. Since you wear your prescription glasses every day, even the smallest habits, over a long period of time, will cause damage. It will benefit you in the long run if you remember a few simple tips about how to handle your glasses for the sake of the longevity of the frames.
1. When putting on and removing your glasses, use both hands. This will prevent stretching out one side.
2. Avoid pushing your glasses up your nose by the bridge of your glasses. Over time this can put stress on the nose pads, bend the bridge out of shape, and wear off any finish on the bridge. Instead, adjust your glasses by grasping the edge of the lens with your thumb on the bottom and a finger on the top.
3. Don't put your glasses on the top of your head. That will stretch out the temples. If you're not wearing your glasses on your nose, keep them in a case.
4. Buy an eyeglass repair kit. These contain a tiny screwdriver and tiny screws to tighten or replace the ones at the hinges of your temples. You can find them in either a glasses store or a drug store.
When it comes to contact lenses, proper care doesn't just protect your investment of time and money, it also protects the health of your eyes. In most cases, you will be putting in and taking out your lenses every day, which means that a solid routine is vital for ensuring the lenses remain in good condition and your eyes remain free from injury or infection.
Putting contact lenses in
When you put in your contacts, it benefits both your lenses and your eyes to follow a few simple steps.
1. Wash your hands. Make sure to use a soap that has no lotions or fragrances, both of which could cause damage to your lenses and/or your eyes. Dry your hands on a clean towel.
2. Rinse your lenses with the proper solution. Your doctor will tell you what kind of solution to use with your particular lenses. A multi-purpose solution might work well for you, or your doctor might recommend a hydrogen peroxide solution (with an extra step to neutralize the hydrogen peroxide before putting the lenses in your eyes) if you have sensitive or allergy-prone eyes. It's important to remember that contact solution needs to be sterile. Whatever you do, do NOT use tap water, or even bottled water, as either might carry chemicals and microorganisms that can injure your eyes or give you an infection. And definitely never use saliva, or put the lenses in your mouth.
3. Each one of your eyes has a slightly different prescription, which means each contact lens is for one specific eye. To keep from mixing them up, always put the right one in first, and take the right one out first.
4. Inspect each lens before you put it in, making sure it's not inside out, and that there's no tears or debris. If the lens is torn or dirty, DO NOT PUT IT IN.
5. Once your lenses are in, rinse your contact case with solution. Leave it out to dry somewhere other than the bathroom. (Really, this is important. The humidity in the bathroom can encourage the growth of bacteria and mold, which even the cleanest bathrooms are full of. You do not want that stuff in your eyes, trust me.)
6. Twice a month, clean your case more thoroughly by rubbing the inside with your (clean!) fingertips. Every three months buy a new case.
NOTE: Never touch the tip of your solution bottle to anything, be it the contacts, the case, your eye, or anything else. It will ruin the sterility of the fluid.
Taking Contact Lenses Out
Chances are, when you take out your contacts at the end of the day you'll be worn out and tempted to cut corners. Don't. The routine at the end of the day is just as important as the one at the beginning
1. Wash your hands the same way you did when putting your contacts in.
2. Take the right lens out and hold it in your palm.
3. Squeeze solution onto and into the lens and rub it with your fingers to dislodge the debris it collected during the day. Your solution bottle will say how long you should spend on this.
4. Rinse the lens with solution to wash away any grime.
5. Put the lens in the case in fresh solution. Do not reuse solution.
6. Follow steps 2 - 5 with the left contact lens.
There are a number of different types of contact lenses that last for different periods of time, from a single day to several months. While you may be tempted to try to use your contacts past their expiration date (a practice known as "stretching") in order to try to save money, it is really not a good idea. Lenses that are past their expiration are more likely to tear and have compromised permeability (in other words, oxygen doesn't get through them and to your eyeball like it's supposed to) and can cause your eyes pain, discomfort, and/or injury.
Things you should not do with your contacts in
As convenient as contact lenses are, there are a few things you should not do while wearing them.
1. Swim. Even if you're wearing goggles, the water might still get into your contacts and put you in danger of an infection.
2. Sleep. Yes, there are extended wear contacts that are approved by the FDA to be worn while sleeping. It's still a good idea to remove your lenses at night.
3. Smoke. Studies have found that smokers tend to have more problems with their contacts. If you can quit, do.
3. Use hairspray. If hairspray is a part of your morning routine, use it before putting your contacts in, and don't forget to wash your hands!
4. If you wear eye makeup with your contacts, you should put your contacts in before you put on the makeup, but take them out before you wash it off.
If you're having trouble keeping your lenses clean or sticking to a daily routine, you can talk to your optometrist about switching to daily disposable contacts, which, while sometimes more expensive, also gives you freedom from many of the routines we just described. You still have to be careful about what you get into your eyes when you put in or take out the contacts, though. And, again, do not try to use dailies for more than a day!
You've spent time and money on the exact right pair of glasses or contacts. With just a little constant care, you can protect your investment and the health of your eyes. One last bit of advice: whether you wear glasses or contacts, remember to see your doctor annually! They can help you with any concerns and make sure your glasses and contacts are fitting properly and doing their job.