How to care for sunglasses: stop rubbing them on your shirt and wearing them like a headband

<span>Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

In November last year, Joan Didion’s Celine sunglasses sold at auction for US$27,000. The author’s well-known love of oversized frames made the pair a collector’s item, but it prompted me to wonder how well she’d taken care of them.

Especially since my (not famous) sunglasses are often thrown into my handbag or pocket without a case, dropped on the floor, left out on cafe tables and just generally abandoned to fend for themselves at the beach and in the car.

If this is causing you to shake your head in fear for their wellbeing, according to the sunglass designer, optician and repair team I spoke to this week, you’re in the right. Here are their suggestions for the correct way to care for your sunglasses.

Handle with care

Unfortunately for your sunglasses, once the lenses have been scratched, short of replacing them altogether, there’s very little you can do to reverse the damage. Advice online may suggest baking soda as a magic fix, but licensed optician Ricky Lim is quick to quash these claims. “It will ruin the lenses and you won’t be able to see clearly after trying,” he says.

This means if you want to enjoy wearing your sunglasses for a long time you need to be vigilant about protecting them from surfaces or situations (like being loose in your handbag) that might scratch them.

Leaving [your glasses] on the dash of your car can warp your frames and damage your lenses

Sydney Seggie

The next thing to consider is avoiding anything that might compromise the frame. For example, while you’re wearing them you should never put them on top of your head. Lim, who also repairs and makes eyewear, says doing so can distort the shape of the frame and will make them loose over time.

“Also, when you’re putting on or removing your sunglasses from your face, make sure you use two hands,” he says. “By using one hand there is uneven pressure on the sunglass arms and it can lead to loosening of the arms.”

Put them somewhere safe

When you’re not wearing your sunglasses, a case is mandatory if you want to protect the lenses from scratches, says Sydney Seggie, the co-founder of eyewear brand Fellow Earthlings. “It’s best to never put your frames in your pocket or purse without one.”

If you do put them down, Kristy Gabriel from Sunglass Fix suggests keeping the arms wide open to prevent scratches, with the bottom of the lenses facing up – “and not in contact with the area they are placed on”.

Sun and high heat can also cause damage, Seggie says. “Leaving them on the dash of your car can warp your frames and damage your lenses.”

Washing and wiping

Related: How to make swimwear sustainable: check the material, wash smart, and make it last

While it might be tempting to use whatever you have on hand to clean your lenses, Gabriel says you should really only use a microfibre cloth. She warns against paper products such as towels and tissues in particular. “No matter how soft these might feel, these are actually quite rough, with lots of abrasive fibres and lint that are likely to scratch your lenses. Your trousers, shorts or other items of clothing can also cause scratches.”

Alcohol wipes should be avoided too as “the solvents in these will damage your frames as well as any delicate lens coatings”, Gabriel says.

Make sure you don’t wipe your lenses when they are dry either, as any small dust particles on the surface might cause scratches.

Seggie and Lim recommend rinsing your frames with water that’s warm but not hot. From there, “a bottle of high-quality lens cleaner spray and a microfibre cleaning cloth is then your best option for keeping your lenses clean and clear,” Seggie says.

Or if they’re really dirty, Lim suggests taking them to a professional for a deep clean in an ultrasonic cleaner.

Organise a tune-up

If the screws on your frames are a bit loose, you can purchase an optical screwdriver and tighten the screws on the frames yourself. For bent frames, the best thing to do is take them to “an optical store so they can be assessed and adjusted accordingly”, Lim says.

Scratched lenses can also be replaced by a professional if you’re so inclined. It’s even possible to change the colour or shade to give your sunglasses a different feel.