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uvremoval_20070217.jpg
Jason over at Hackszine writes -

The lenses in my favorite pair of glasses are getting to be about a year or two old, and it’s getting to the point where I can barely see through them. My prescription hasn’t changed much – the problem is that the UV filter coating is starting to wear off, giving the entire lense surface a rough, partially-opaque finish.

I spent last evening trying to remove the coating and restore my lenses to a like-new condition, and I’m happy to say I can see again, thanks to a little polishing effort. You don’t want to do this if your glasses are in reasonable condition, but if you’re to the point where it’s between this and buying a new pair, it may be worth your while to give it a shot.

Sunscreen To The Rescue
It’s ironic, but I found that oil-free, SPF 45 sunscreen does a fantastic job at removing the thin coating from polycarbonate lenses. I believe this is because sunscreen has extremely fine aluminum powder in its composition, which is course enough to work away the coating, but fine enough to not leave visibly deep scratches in the soft plastic.

First, clean your glasses as best as you can. Using an old (but clean) sock or cotton rag, polish both sides of the lense, reapplying sunscreen as needed. You will feel the surface becoming noticably rougher as the coating is removed and becomes more patchy. It takes a long time, but eventually the last of the tiny patches of coating will be worked through and you’ll be left with a really smooth finish. As a last step, you should clean the lenses off and then polish them again with another clean rag.

It’s hard to photograph, but you can see the difference it made in my glasses (above). I haven’t yet tried, but this should also be a good way of removing the scratched up reflective coatings from cheap sunglasses. Your mileage may vary, so only try this as a last option, but let us know in the comments how it works out.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. pcarlton says:

    Hi,
    just thought I might clear up a few things on this post
    for starters that film you removed is called an AR coat
    (Anti-Reflective coating) and the reason you could not see through it was a process called de-lamination this can occur because of heat/heat shock or chemical reaction.

    The chemical reaction is usually started by some cosmetics, hairspray or……sunscreen, all you did was continue this process to remove the AR coat and very well I might add as this coating is put on the lens in a complete vacuum.
    Thanks,
    Peter

  2. michaeljedelman says:

    I’ve used Maguire’s finest auto polish- it’s called something like “mirror glaze polish”- to restore the surface of scratched plastic lenses.

  3. todbotdotcom says:

    I had to do this exact same thing to a pair of eyeglasses with plastic lenses a few years ago. I used “BlueMagic Plastic & Plexiglass Cleaner and Light Scratch Remover”. I had it to clean the plastic windows in the top of an old convertible.

  4. molterd says:

    Could you suggest a specific brand / product label of sunscreen you found helpful?

  5. rwo says:

    My eyeglass place offered to remove the defective AR coating from my glasses for $25. After I get my new replacement glasses in (due any day), maybe I’ll just try to remove it myself. If I was convinced it would work, I’d do it now – the “crazing” on the AR coating that started a month or two ago causes a lot of glare and is really annoying. However I can’t do without glasses, so I don’t want to take the risk of making them worse until I have a replacement pair.

    (When the crazing first appeared I reported to my wife “I think I’m getting cataracts.” She took a close look at me and said “no, it is your glasses”.)

  6. Axello says:

    Incredible. I regularly wear glasses with AR coating for many more years, and they are all still perfect, apart from some scratches. Maybe you should be more careful what chemicals you spray on them? Or the shop sells you a lousy quality coating?

  7. -soapy- says:

    I’ve got to agree with Axello. I’m wearing a pair of glasses from at least 8 years ago, same AR coating on them. I got the Magnesium Fluoride coating, over polycarbonate.

    I wash them with hand soap and hot water when greasy, and have spent many hours scratching spraypaint speckles off them, they have saved my eyes countless times from brass, steel and other metal & non-metal bits, and even from a malfunctioning firearm (which drew blood from my face!) No sign of delamination, though there are a few chips and a small burn after all these years.

    1. Gearry says:

      -soapy- commented on removing spray paint speckles. Can I inquire how you do that? I finally bought new glasses, my first coated pair, and within a week I managed to speckle both lenses with BBQ black. I can still see OK, but I would like to get the spots off. I am nervous because I don’t want to damage my brand new glasses.

      Gearry

  8. Sally599 says:

    Its not the anti-reflective coating that’s the problem, but the anti-UV, possibly in combination with scratch proofing? I had this problem a few years back and noticed that anytime the glasses got fogged up more of the coating got destroyed, so everytime I took a shower and left them laying there they got worse. Glad to know I can just use suncsreen for a quick fix next time, it took a couple of months to resolve with only the steam.

  9. badsey says:

    I used Coppertone Water Babies Spectra 3 SPF50 (Zine Oxide, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate) -Says it’s oil free but it didn’t work that well. It took off some of the UV coating when done by hand, but only made the condition worse (coating did start to come off as scratches, little dots).

    I used a Dremel with a large felt-tip pad + my SPF 50 and the coating came off at 15K rpm + some pressure = These coating do not come off easily.

    I thought some Xylene (Goof-Off crayon remover) would just melt the coating -but it could not.

    The lenses worked on are only 1+ years old. My older glasses lenses were actually in better shape (I was gonna try an older pair first).

    Find some buffing compound that is not very creamy. =Most sunscreen lotions may not work well without a Dremel. It’s tricky to work a Dremel tool and not melt, etch, scratch your lens. You want something you can just use with your fingers.

    Anybody try those lens scratch remover kits at Walmart?

  10. 3ricj says:

    Of all strange things, I had a pair of lenses get kinda messed up by a whip’d cream fight – - something in the whipped cream in a can ate away the AR coating partially.. I had left my glasses in a coat pocket overnight, covered in cream.

    My solution, which worked very well, but did take about 40 minutes, was to use toothpaste and a old toothbrush. Took some rubbing, and did the final pass with my thumb and some good rubbing.

    Don’t get toothpaste in your eye. It hurts.

  11. badsey says:

    when you get that hard outer-coating (finally) off the polycarbonate is very soft = you glasses will now scratch 100x easier. -As a positive the SPF buffing trick will now work.

    =it’s hard to win with taking the coating off your glasses, but I guess it is better than throwing the things away and now you are learning how to buff out plastics.

  12. badsey says:

    nothing wrong about being anal-rententive about this and buffing out your lenses every night either. (The toothpaste is right there!)

    -always keep you optics clean.

    People doing UV photography take off the UV coating on their lenses (that have a UV coating) also.

  13. carverguy says:

    I had great results by buffing off the anti-glare coating and light scratches using a 4-inch wet cotton polishing wheel (actually, leather is better, if you can get one) in my hand drill with cerium oxide optical grade polish (used for polishing gemstones such as opal – get it in a gemstone craft shop) or in the past I used extra fine plastic polish (aluminum oxide) from the plastics store. Take the lenses out of your glasses and if you support the drill in your lap run it low speed and hold on tight to the lenses. Sit out in the back yard to keep the polish from spattering all over your belongings.

  14. Margit says:

    Thank you! I am to the point of buying a new pair of glasses, something I do not need to do relative to my prescription, but the coating scratches are driving me crazy! I think it’s because of cosmetics (albeit very limited) that I may have used — or tears from allergies. In any case, my glasses are terrible now, but I’m thinking of using the sunblock solution — it certainly can’t make them any worse — thank you!

  15. Shandralyn says:

    I have new glasses, only about 3 months old. The anti-glare (or more often called anti-reflective coating) has scratched off on the inside of the lens. They are plastic lenses, btw. I have been doing a lot of research on this and my findings seems to indicate the best solutions as being:
    1. Return to the place you bought them and ask about warranty or if they can remove the coating. They may not want to, but it is good to check first (usually charge is about $10-30 or sometimes free).
    2. Send to an optical lab that will remove the coating for you (often costs about $30 dollars)
    3. If you have plastic lenses, with the anti-reflective coating, and you are willing to take the risk of possibly damaging your lenses, use Armour Etch. It is a glass etching cream available from most craft stores, like Michaels. Bottle costs about $12 and will last for a long time. Do however be very careful as the chemicals are toxic. And do not use on glass lenses as it will destroy them.
    I intend to try out solution #3 tonight as my lenses are beyond usable, I can’t find anyone in my area to remove the coating, and worst case I’ll have to buy new lenses which is what my eye glass shop is telling me I have to do anyway. I have read about some other methods, like those described herein. But the most recommended and fequently discussed method I have found is the Armour Etch.

  16. Shandralyn says:

    OK, wanted to make an update to my post of yesterday. I did try the Armour Etch cream, and it worked like a charm! I was a little surprised at how well. I put it on the inside of one lens for 45-60 seconds and then rinsed off with hot water and a bit of dishsoap. The AR coating was completely gone along with all its scratches, and no damage to the lens. My glasses are back to like new condition. Saved me a few hundred bucks!

  17. Eric Gillis says:

    Thanks for the excellent post. My glasses are almost like new again!

  18. Dave says:

    I had the same problem on high index plastic lenses. No optical place wanted anything to do with it, and all of them told me it couldnt be removed.

    On the advice of a local art glass shop I bought some Cerium Oxide from a rock and mineral store and simply used a thin mix of the powder, water and a soft cloth. Lots of elbow grease and some caution and in about 15 minutes of polishing the lenses were as good as now.

    I considered a dremel tool, but with the results I got after just a few minutes of hand polishing I decided to stick with the hand method to avoid any possible damage from heating

    Cerium Oxide is a very fine rusty orange powder. Should be available from your local rockhound hobbiest store.

  19. Dan says:

    My thanks as well to this post. I used the Armour Etch as discussed, except I had to repeat it a few times. The first time looked worse than when I started. The AR coating slowly disappeared. You can even use a wet tooth brush with Armour Etch if there are any stubborn spots remaining. Great results.

  20. Dan says:

    My thanks as well to this post. I used the Armour Etch as discussed, except I had to repeat it a few times. The first time looked worse than when I started. The AR coating slowly disappeared. You can even use a wet tooth brush with Armour Etch if there are any stubborn spots remaining. Great results.

  21. Erik says:

    I used an auto “polishing cream” with label directions indicating it was safe for plastics, found at a Wal-Mart for about $2. It worked great.

    I’d gone to Wal-Mart simply to find a replacement nose piece for my glasses, and the lady insisted on installing the new nose piece herself. When she returned my glasses to me, they were even more clouded than before. The coating was already severely deteriorated, and I suspect she tried to clean the lenses, but whatever she did only made them worse. It’s hard to believe, in hindsight, that she handed them back to me in that condition.

    In extreme disappointment, I went back to the automotive department and examined several of the bottles. My initial thinking was that the more expensive compounds would somehow be “better”, but I poured a little of the inexpensive stuff on my lenses right there, and rubbed with my fingertips, and wiped off with a paper towel provided by the automotive department for spills. I was astounded at how well it worked.

    I bought the $2 bottle of polish and took it home, and used it with a dremel-type tool (Christmas gimmick on sale for $10 in the Wal-Mart). That cleaned the lenses more thoroughly, but I’m sure I could have accomplished the same thing by hand.

    Next up – lasik. Take that you unscrupulous opticians.

  22. Shandralyn says:

    Further Experiments w/Armour Etch:

    I tried the Armour Etch again on a friend of mine’s glasses. Her pair are older than mine, about 5 years old. I had to leave it on hers for about 5 minutes to get the same result as I got on my pair (3 months old) in 1 minute.

    Also a different friend of mine tried it on an old pair, but without result. It just didn’t do anything. We think the coating was bonded with the lenses. If so, nothing is really going to make it come off w/o damanging the lens.

  23. Donnie-Bob says:

    Today is 12/28/07. I just removed the anti-reflective coating and all the scratches went too. I used a product available in hobby stores like Michaels. It is called Armour Etch. Did not harm my frames or the plastic lenses. Use only on plastic NOT glass. I put it on and waited up to 10 minutes and rinsed it off with warm water – like magic! Read the directions that come with Armour Etch if you choose this way to go. Good luck.

  24. Marcel says:

    I used the Armor Etch on my 3 yr old glasses with the AR coating. I had already ordered my new glasses so I had nothing to lose. This stuff works great. It completely removed the AR coating and most of the scratches with it. 95% of the scratches were in the coating. There’s still a few small scratches left that actually got thru the coating, but what an improvement. Before it was like looking thru frosted glass, now they’re almost like new. I put a good thick coat of Armor Etch on both sides of the lenses and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then rinsed it off with hot water and and followed that with dish soap and water and wiped clean….Beautiful. Thanks much to the person that came up with this suggestion. It really works!!

  25. Steve says:

    Thanks for the posts. Bought a 3 oz. bottle of Armor Etch at Michaels and applied to my coated plastic lenses (first took them out of the metal frames). Applied heavy coat with small paintbrush. Waited 5 minutes and rinsed with warm water, followed by soapy water. Haze (due to failing coating, I assume) is gone. I had a coating on both sides of lenses, so did each side separately.
    I first tried this on an old pair of plastic-lens glasses that were NOT hazy to experiment.One application of Armor Etch didn’t do anything, so it may be easier to remove coating when it has begun to break down noticably.

  26. Ilana Mayin says:

    Does anybody know about sunglasses. D’you think it is possible to turn prescription sunglasses back to plain eyeglasses?

  27. HogRider1 says:

    Over the years I have had several pairs of glasses with polycarbonate lenses with anti-glare coating that have ended up so badly scratched that I could no longer see through them. I have asked several opticians what could be done to remove the scratches and they all told me nothing could be about it. One place even sent them into a lab and they returned them stating the scratches couldn’t be removed.

    I had never heard of using suntan oil to remove the scratches but I figured the glasses are worthless the way they were so I tried it. I was patient and used a dremel tool at about 1/4 speed. I used Coppertone SPF 45 and a 1/2″ buffing wheel. I went over them about 5 or 6 times and the results were amazing!

    I want to say thank you for publishing this information. I am back to wearing the scratched pair of glasses again. The lenses haven’t looked this good since they were new. This is going to save me a lot of money. My lenses usually cost me about $350.00. Again, I thank you and may God bless you all.

  28. Ms. Angel says:

    Does not work. Neither does vinegar, toothpaste, or nail polish remover with acid tone. Armor etch does work

  29. Ms. Angel says:

    Does not work. Neither does vinegar, toothpaste, or nail polish remover with acid tone. Armor etch does work

  30. This works great!  It takes time and diligence. Thank you so much for this information!

  31. Chris says:

    Oh my god, Awesome, had two pairs, both cost me over $300 and the second time I adamantly stated DO NOT DO NOT put that anti glare crap on there, worst stuff ever, cant keep clean for crap and they scratch even when the glass don’t and look like crap and what do they do, send the next one with that crap again….Mother s.o.b’s!!!! Armour Etch worked fabulous! Used the sunblock and it was working but not too well, used the dremel like someone suggested, please do not do that, the dremel, one was completely ruined, my mistake, went down and melted part of the glass I’m assuming cause its not savable, thank god I read the armour etch and saved the second pair with a few recoat and rinses they look good as new, thank you so much! Got my frameless glasses back

  32. Jeremy says:

    Hello,
    I am a long time optical lab tech. You can use Armour Etch Glass Etching Cream to remove anti reflective coatings without removing the UV or scratch coating from your lenses. It’s nasty stuff, so there are few things you should know. First of all, it’s toxic and corrosive, so wear gloves. Second, it has glass in it, so apply it very lightly. If you rub the cream on the lenses you will have hundreds of really tiny scratches. Dab the cream onto the lenses and rinse it off trying not to rub the cream into the lenses. Finally, DO NOT try to remove the coating if you your lenses have a Scotchguard anti-glare coating. You will be left with a blotchy, cloudy mess. I hope this helps.
    Jeremy

    1. Ray says:

      Thanks Jeremy – I saved $500 using Armour Etch. Only the inside lens surfaces needed the treatment.

  33. Rachel says:

    Just wondering here, but if you remove the coating using Armour Etch, is it possible/worth it to get new coating put on? My glasses were also over $300 and I definitely can’t afford to replace them, but I only wear them occasionally to give my eyes a break from contact lenses. However, I don’t want to make them susceptible to scratches if I remove the coating. Any comments on that? Thanks!

  34. karen says:

    thanks all for these comments. I tripped recently in a cafe and threw a cup of coffee over my head. To add to my embarrassment, I completely ruined my years old baby blue oakley sunglasses that you can’t get for love or money these days. Was really sad but your comments have given me hope.

  35. Em says:

    I tried this on my glass lens sunglasses with cooper tone sport 15 and it worked great!! Not as great with the fancy Kiehls SPF 50. Glasses are like new.

  36. Tim says:

    I have been suffering for the last year with horribly scratched lenses. It was getting to the point that it was getting hard to see. I went to the glasses store to see about new lenses… 400$ plus eye exam. So, I started searching, found this post, picked up some armour etch from micheals ($21 cdn) five minutes later, I CAN SEE AGAIN!!

    Thanks for the advice, I can recommend the armour etch approach for sure.

  37. Hello, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it
    has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!

    Other then that, wonderful blog!

  38. John says:

    Almost 3 years ago, the anti-scratch coating on glasses used to be optional. Now they just give it to you “free”. I said that I didn’t want it anyway and the glasses lady just acted dumb and said, “Why? You’re getting it free.” The anti-scratch coating is what wears out my eyes after two years, not the lens. It’s just a racket invented by glasses companies. Just wonderful.

  39. Phyllis Sporven says:

    I bought 2 pairs of glasses at the same time (on sale) and wore the 1 pair for several years while keeping the other pair in the case, never used. Then when I took them out the R lens was totally “crazed” right in the center! Thanks for suggesting Armour Etch — I’m going to try it and see if it will remove the coating.

  40. Rick Smith says:

    I had two pairs of expensive glasses that had crazed lenses. One had gotten spray paint come down on them when I was under my motorhome touching things up. Then I tried to get the paint off and it crazed the lenses. I took them to several places and all said the same thing, “nothing can be done, you need NEW glasses!” And I got new glasses. Well, my new $300 glasses became crazed, and they are only 1 year old! Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. So I did what we do in this modern world, I Googled my problem. And here I am. I could not find Armor Etch at Michaels, but they had Martha Stewarts glass etching goop. I experimented on the pair that had gotten paint, enamel reducer, and were a hazy mess. It was all on the anti glare coating! After gooping on the Glass Etch solution, and waiting the 5 minutes, I could not believe my eyes! They were like BRAND NEW! Now that I felt brave, I did my newer pair. Same thing, just like new! Thanks for the insight!!! Here is another AAA+++ for glass etching solution on plastic lenses, it works!
    Rick Smith

  41. MP says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I was wondering what the heck was wrong with my prescription sunglasses. I have 2 pairs and there were these weird scratches all over them. It seemed like a film was flaking off the lenses. I even took them to my optometrist’s office and the 3 opticians there told me that there was nothing they could do and that I would have to get a new pair of lenses. I did a search and found this article. Figured I might as well try it…got my sunscreen, rubbed them all over the lenses, and the film came right off! I am so happy! Thank you!

  42. DW says:

    SO glad I found this! My glasses (prescription bi focals with the expensive UV coating) got splashed with something I think when I was cooking a couple weeks ago. I don’t even remember what, but they have not been the same since. It’s been very hot and humid lately, they were getting worse by the day, I could barely see out of them. I seatched online and found this article and since I already had it onhand I thought it couldn’t hurt to try a little toothpaste as I have used it before as a mild polish on different things. Remembered I had some Pearl Drops tooth paste. I only rubbed for less than a minute with my fingers on each lense, and it’s already a 75 per cent improvement. Thanks everyone for sharing this information!!!

  43. Michelle says:

    I have a bad habit of wearing my glasses into the shower, then taking them off. But I’d forget them. Something in the shower water, shampoo.. something has created permanent “water marks” on the outside of the lenses. I can see through them just fine, but when you look at me, they look ridiculous. I think I have an anti-glare coating on them.. NOT UV or anti-scratch. Are any of the methods listed here safe for removing anti-glare coating on plastic lenses?

  44. Mausse says:

    I read this blog and remembered that I had purchased Armor Etch several weeks ago for an unrelated project. I tracked it down and using a cotton swab, applied it liberally (ponding) in the backside of my lenses without removing them from the frames. I left the sauce on for 60 seconds post application. I rinsed them with hot water and allowed them to air dry. Using a 30x loop, I observed some remnants but significant improvement – at least 98%. If I had to do it again, I’d set two minutes on the timer. I was scared but I have to thank you. This Armor Etch really works.

  45. Odell says:

    Good read. How long before the blades turn dull and I have
    to buy a whole new set? since there are no consumable parts (refills), I
    think… suppose i use it twice a week..how long would it last?

    1. Kit says:

      Um, Odell? I think you left your comment/question on the wrong article. The one you’re commenting on here is an article about how to clean the anti-reflective coating off of your eyeglass lenses using suntan lotion.
      Just thought you might want to know.

      http://makezine.com/2007/02/17/how-to-remove-eyeglasses/?replytocom=1847840#respond

  46. Kit says:

    AMAZING. Simply amazing. I believe a bit of a Christmas miracle has occurred after close to 2 years of me walking around in what, literally, felt like a fog.
    I walked (and drove) around in a fog and also broke thanks to the economy. But this Armour Etch stuff couldn’t be easier to use, is VERY economical at $8.00 for 3 oz. (which will take me longer than what’s left of my lifetime to even come close to finishing it), and has given back to me the gift of crystal clear eyesight.
    THANK YOU EVERYONE for all of your comments and insights on Amour Etch!
    I only wish I found this website 2 years sooner!

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