Is It Possible to Salvage Scratched Sunglasses?

There's a lot of conflicting information out there, so we asked some experts.
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"Basic" may have developed a negative connotation in recent years, but there's no shame in seeking advice on theoretically simple sartorial conundrums. In our "Back to Basics" column, we're here to guide you through life's most common (and important) fashion and beauty concerns.

There's nothing more annoying than digging through your bag on a blindingly sunny day for your favorite pair of sunglasses, only to find that they've acquired unsightly scratches on the lenses. Sure, you can still wear them, but those little nicks and dings are less than ideal — both because of the way they seem to be hovering in your line of vision when you wear the glasses, and because of the fact that scratched-up glasses don't hold quite the same appeal as scuffed-up sneakers or ripped jeans.

So is there anything you can actually do to salvage your favorite pair of shades once they get to that point?

A host of how-to sites and articles would claim that yes, you can. There are plenty of step-by-step tutorials explaining how you can get rid of scratches, which generally employ one of two methods. The first involves buffing away the scratches, using something like a non-abrasive toothpaste or baking soda mixture to essentially sand down any marks until they disappear. The second method does essentially the opposite, and involves filling in scratches with something like furniture spray, car wax or silver polish to make the surface of the glasses even again.

Jordan Percy, co-founder and design director at Rihanna- and Emily Ratajkowski-approved sunglasses brand Raen, says he's personally had luck with the toothpaste trick.

"I tried [it] on a pair of vintage frames and it actually worked pretty well," he told Fashionista via email. "What you do is apply a small amount of baking soda-based toothpaste to a cotton ball and rub it into the scratch. Move the cotton ball around in a circular motion for a few seconds and rinse the toothpaste off with cool water. Use a soft, lint-free cloth to remove any moisture or toothpaste. Repeat as many times as needed until the scratch is gone."

Unfortunately, any strategy that involves buffing or removing scratches by essentially "sanding down" the surface won't work if the glasses in question have special coatings on them, as it may be the coating itself that is scratched and rubbing at the area will just remove more coating. This can actually make the scratch appear larger. 

With plastic lenses, it's possible to completely remove the coating and its scratched appearance using something like nail polish remover, but that's not advisable in the case of sunglasses since their coatings — think anti-reflection and often the UV protection itself — are kind of the point of wearing sunglasses in the first place.

Using a filler like car or furniture wax or silver polish to your glasses to smooth out scratches is potentially less destructive, but the downside is that it tends to be a shorter-term solution that needs to be repeated frequently.

The problem with all the of the above is that there's always the potential to make things worse instead of better. Founder and creative director of Westward Leaning Robert Denning notes that with mirrored lenses in particular, any attempt to remove scratches can actually worsen the lens.

"The best way to have scratch-free lenses is to protect your glasses when you are not wearing them and avoid getting scratches in the first place," he said via email. 

Ian Foulke, global marketing director of sports and lifestyle sunglasses brand Electric, agrees. "They can't be repaired or fixed without further distorting the quality of the lens or vision through them," Foulke claimed via email. "Using an abrasive beach towel or even a woven shirt or dress can degrade lens quality, so be sure to use the microfiber bag or cleaning cloth your sunglasses come with." Storing your sunnies in a case rather than just throwing them in the bag along with all your other stuff is a good idea, too.

If it's already too late for that and your shades are badly scratched, it might be best to consider getting the lenses replaced, according to Denning. "If you are buying quality glasses from a reputable brand, then you should call them to get your lenses replaced," he said. "It's a service that most great brands offer."

So can you try fixing your own glasses at home? If they're vintage, or you got them cheaply enough that you wouldn't be heartbroken to potentially mess them up, sure. There's plenty of evidence to believe that some of the online hacks work. But if your shades were a big investment, it might be worth getting a professional involved — and remember, nothing beats just taking good care of those lenses in the first place.

Homepage Photo: Imaxtree

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