Last Updated on April 4, 2023

If you’ve ever wondered how to clean binoculars, don’t worry – you are most likely not alone. The most common sight in birdwatching is a person breathing into his binoculars’ lenses and wiping them off with his shirt to clean any debris or dirt. This is perhaps the worst way you can clean your lenses and can lead to scratches and other types of damage. If you want to learn how to correctly clean your binoculars and even lengthen their lifespan, keep on reading to find out!

Learning how to clean your binoculars will help to ensure the delicate lenses coatings remain intact and can also help to prevent any scratches on the surface of the lenses. Many people aren’t aware that there is a specific way to clean this type of delicate lens, which is why their binoculars need to be replaced often. But with the right type of cleaning solution, cleaning tools, and a lens approved cleaning cloth, you can easily keep your binoculars working smoothly for several years to come.

Properly cleaning your binoculars doesn’t have to be complicated and it’s actually a simple process if you have the right tools.

Continue reading to learn about the best ways to clean your binoculars and what techniques and products to avoid in order to prevent damage to the lenses and casing.

Read the User Manual

Often, when most people buy a new product, they usually skip reading the user’s manual. But doing so with your new binoculars can lead to serious damage, especially if they have special coatings on the lenses. So, before you even try one of the cleaning methods we’ve included here, make sure you read the manual from cover to cover. Most often, binoculars that do have coated lenses will come with special instructions and product recommendations in regard to what is and isn’t safe to use.

Cleaning the Exterior

The binocular’s housing is often subjected to plenty of use and abuse. It’s exposed to dirty hands, bad weather, and it can take a serious beating during transport or if you accidentally drop them. However, the durable rubber armor casing you’ll find on many top of the line models can actually provide quite a bit of protection against serious damage, and it’s what helps to lengthen the life of your binoculars. Cleaning the casing is much easier than cleaning the lenses and simply requires a damp cloth for a fast wipe down. This should be done prior to cleaning the lenses.

Another suggestion for helping to protect your binoculars is to get a quality harness. A harness will help keep your binoculars safe and secure when you’re hiking through nature, especially in poor weather conditions.

What Can Ruin Your Binoculars

binoculars on a rock

Breathing and rubbing on the lenses can lead to frosting the glass. With the dust, the main ingredient is silica, otherwise known as very tiny rocks. Unfortunately, silica is harder than glass, so if you rub the dust across the lens, you can actually cause microscopic scratches in the lenses and ruin the thin layers of lens coating. You may not even be able to see the scratches, because they’re so small, but they can still scatter light. Over several weeks or months, the lenses will slowly cloud up.

So, before you start rubbing the lenses, make sure you get the dust off first.

The Right Way to Clean Lenses

Buy a lens cleaning pen. These are specifically designed to handle the sensitive surface of lenses, including delicate coatings. It will allow you to gently remove any dust from the surfaces of the lenses.

Another option is using a can of compressed air. Never use your breath because it contains tiny drops of water that can result in spotted lenses.

Cleaning Solution or Water

For the next step, take a Q-tip and lightly moisten it with a lens cleaning solution or water. This will help to remove any remaining dust from the surface of the lenses. If you have waterproof binoculars, you can run them under the faucet. Never use a cleaner that’s designed for cleaning windows or eyeglasses since it can damage the delicate coatings on the lenses.

Wiping the Lenses Clean

Once the dust is completely gone, you can then use a special microfiber lens cloth or lens tissue.

Never use toilet paper or paper towels since they’re too abrasive. They also usually contain wood fibers that can scratch the surface of the lenses.

When you wipe down the lenses, make sure you’re very gentle.

How Often Should I Clean My Binoculars?

Your binoculars should be cleaned whenever you notice a change in image clarity. Most binocular owners can agree that they should be cleaned right before you use them, each time. This can help to prevent a serious buildup of dust and dirt, which can cause damage to the lenses if not removed promptly.

Obviously, image clarity is a big deal, especially when it comes to birding binoculars. If you notice that there’s a significant change in clarity, even after you’ve cleaned the lenses, then your binoculars may need to be professionally serviced. This can be caused by a shift in the lenses or prisms. To learn more about birding binoculars and how they work, click here to read our birding binoculars buyer’s guide.

Approved and Unapproved Cleaning solution and Tools


Below you’ll find a list of the tools you can use that are approved for binoculars, even those with coated lenses.

  • Lens cleaning kits
  • Fine bristled lens brush
  • Lens cleaning cloth
  • Lens pen
  • Compressed air
  • Lens cleaning cloths designed for cameras

Now, we’ll cover what you should never use to clean your binoculars, in order to prevent scratching and damage to the lens coatings:

  • Shirttail
  • Dish soap
  • Bandana
  • Handkerchief
  • Windex
  • Toilet paper/paper towels

Related Questions

What Do I Need for Birdwatching Aside from the Binoculars?

Birding is a relatively affordable hobby, but you will need more gear than just birding binoculars. This can include a multi-pocket vest to carry pens, notepads, and other supplies, a journal to record what birds you’ve sighted for the day, and other info, and field guides, which can aid you with identifying the birds you see during your adventure. To learn more about the other essential gear you’ll need for birdwatching, click here to read our article on birding gear.

Can I Use Any Type of Binoculars for Birding?

As a beginner, it’s totally fine to take any type of binoculars with you during your first birding adventure. But you’ll soon realize that these binoculars don’t have the type of clarity it takes to properly identify a bird. On average, you’ll need birding binoculars that offer at least 8x magnification. Quality birdwatching binoculars are also more compact and much lighter than other styles of binoculars, which makes them easier to hold and carry all day.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to clean binoculars, make sure you use only products that are approved for this type of sensitive lens. Remember, read the user’s manual prior to even using your binoculars. You will find some great product recommendations that will explain what types of cleaners are safe for use and which ones can damage the sensitive lenses. Keep in mind, regular care and maintenance will be crucial in order to ensure you enjoy a crystal clear viewing experience, each time you take your binoculars out for a birding adventure.

How to Clean Binoculars: Find Out Which Methods Work
Article Name
How to Clean Binoculars: Find Out Which Methods Work
Learn about the right and wrong ways to clean your binoculars in order to prevent scratching the lenses and find out how to lengthen their lifespan.