How To Clean Binoculars the Right Way: A Step-by-Step Guide

Last Updated On June 10th, 2020

If you have ever wondered how to clean binoculars, you are certainly not alone. Binoculars are fantastic as they allow you to enjoy all that the outdoors has to offer, but the very nature of such hobbies makes it hard to keep your binoculars clean for long.

Taking your binoculars out on your adventures exposes them to many potential contaminants, such as dirt, dust, rain and even the oils from your skin that can affect binocular optics. If these contaminants reach the lenses, they will disturb the light which passes through, thus distorting your view.

So, what should you do if your binoculars are in need of a good clean? Is there anything you should avoid doing to ensure you don’t make the situation even worse? In this article, we talk you through how to clean them safely – so you can get back to your hobbies as soon as possible.

How To Clean The Outside of Your Binoculars

dirty binoculars on the sandAlthough the cleanliness of the outer casing isn’t particularly important for your binoculars to function, a grimy surface will certainly make them unpleasant to use. There is also a risk that this dirt will migrate to the lenses over time, eventually causing issues with the optics.

If the casing of your binoculars is looking grubby, start with a damp cloth. Wipe this all over the casing, carefully avoiding the lenses. This will remove dust, dirt and other particles which have become stuck on the surface.

While the cloth will work well to remove surface grime, you may find that grime has also found its way into any cracks or spaces between the moving parts. If that’s the case, the proper way to clear this is by using compressed air to blow the debris out.

How to Clean Binocular Lenses

Perhaps unsurprisingly, cleaning the lenses of your binoculars is a little more complex than cleaning the outer casing.

The last thing you want to do is cause inadvertent damage to the optics by cleaning them incorrectly. Therefore, before doing anything, it is important you read the manual first to ensure there are no specific instructions you should follow for the particular make and model of your binoculars.

That said, there is one method you absolutely MUST NOT use to clean your lenses – the so-called “breathe & rub” method. Breathing on your lenses to fog them up and then polishing with a tissue, cloth, or even the edge of your t-shirt is a sure-fire way to quickly ruin your binoculars.

The reason for this is pretty simple, it ruins your binoculars’ optics. Dust can contain all manner of particles, some of which are strong enough to scratch the delicate coating on your lenses. Once this coating becomes scratched, light entering your binoculars becomes scattered and your image will take on a cloudy effect. Our guide below explains how to clean binocular lenses safely.

Step 1

close-up of a lens blower
lens blower

The first step is to carefully remove any particles which have become stuck to the lens coating. Do not attempt to blow them off with your breath. This is likely to make the dust stick harder due to the moisture, thus leaving it harder to remove.

To safely remove dust, you may use a specially designed lens blower, which puffs air over the lens when squeezed. If you do not have one of these, you can use a can of compressed air to gently blow the dust away.

When you decide to use compressed air, don’t place the nozzle too close to the lenses, as the high pressure may cause damage to the lens coating. To be safe, it is better to leave a distance of at least 4 inches between the nozzle and the lens.

Another option is to use a lens cleaning brush to gently sweep particles from the lens. These brushes are specifically designed for use with cameras and binoculars. Although a simple cosmetic brush made from natural goat hair will do the job just fine.

Step 2

Once any particles have been carefully removed, the next thing you’ll need to do is examine the binocular lenses closely to see if there’s any marks or spots remaining. These could be the result of sea spray, splashes of water, mud, stubborn debris particles, or even natural oils from your fingertips.

A lens brush could also be used for cleaning by gently working in circular motions over the lenses. If your binoculars are waterproof, you may also carefully rinse the lenses with warm, distilled water to see if this removes the marks. Alternatively, you can use a moistened cotton bud (Q Tip) and softly wipe it over the lens.

Step 3

close-up of a microfibre cloth for lenses
microfibre cloth for lenses

If your lenses are still not completely clear, the last resort is to use a high-quality microfibre cloth which has been designed for use with camera lenses.

Take the microfibre cloth and very gently sweep it around the lens in circular motions until the marks have been removed.

You may have received a cleaning cloth when you purchased your binoculars, however, we recommend buying a specialised cleaning cloth separately – especially if yours has been left lying around for some time. Microfibre cloths attract particles, so if they are not kept clean and carefully stored, using them on your binocular lenses may end up causing damage.

Once you have finished, hand wash the cloth in cool water and leave it to air dry before storing it away in a plastic sleeve or case for next time.

Should You Take Binoculars Apart To Clean The Inside?

If there is dirt, dust or debris that has found its way behind the lenses, you may be wondering how to clean binoculars inside. The truth is, unless you are a professional, taking your binoculars apart is a very bad idea which could potentially ruin them.

Most new models of binoculars contain nitrogen gas to prevent the lenses from fogging, and if you open them up, this gas will escape. Therefore, whilst you may have a cleaner interior, you will be left with a pair of foggy and unusable binoculars. Not only that but by taking your binoculars apart, you may damage the seals which make them waterproof. Another thing is that you may also inadvertently ruin the optics by scratching the prisms inside, leaving you worse off than before.

The situation is similar if you are wondering how to clean old binoculars. Even though they may not contain nitrogen gas, the fixtures and components of old binoculars can be difficult to disassemble and reassemble without the right tools.

Furthermore, if you need to replace any of the internal parts, these can be hard to come by unless you go through an authorised dealer or binocular repair service.

Either way, if you think your binoculars need cleaning inside, our advice would be to get a professional who knows how to clean binoculars to do this for you.

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