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A Comprehensive Guide to Gun Optics Cleaning

There’s a lot of talk about keeping your gun clean in the firearm community. And rightfully so, for it’s a crucial part of responsible ownership. But what about your optics, that trusted scope that exposed so many targets to you? This crucial component often gets overlooked, even seasoned shooters are guilty of this misconduct. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the mechanics of your firearm and forget that your scope or sight also needs some TLC. But your optics need regular maintenance to perform at their best. This article covers the topic of gun optics cleaning, including reasons, means, steps and prevention measures.  

Table of Contents

Gun Optics Cleaning

Why Cleaning Gun Optics Is Important?

If you’ve ever tried to peer through a dirty windshield or even a regular window, you’ll know that clarity is key when it comes to vision. The same goes for your gun optics. Dust, grime, and fingerprints obstruct your view, making accurate shooting close to impossible. But it’s not only about shooting – there are many other benefits to keeping your optics clean.

Improving Performance: The primary function of your gun optics is to help you aim accurately at your target. Dust, smudges, and fingerprints hinder your view, inevitably affecting your accuracy and not in a good way. They cause glare and other optical distortions that can make it difficult for you to focus on your target. Regular cleaning ensures your view remains unobstructed which is a key component for accurate shooting.

Ensuring Optic’s Longevity: Gun optics are an investment, and like with any investment, you want to make sure it lasts. Physical impact isn’t the only thing that can render your optic devices inoperable. Dirt, grime, and moisture can cause similarly irreversible damage. Whereas one fine scratch might not seem like a big problem, once the lens accumulates enough of them, the change will become apparent. Moisture can seep in and fog up the lenses, causing internal damage. Trust me, you want none of those things in on or in your scope. By maintaining a regular cleaning schedule, you can prevent these issues and greatly extend the lifespan of your optics.

Maintaining Resale Value: If you ever decide to upgrade or sell your scope, having well-maintained lenses will significantly increase its resale value. Anyone will be more willing to pay a higher price for optics that have been taken care of properly. Besides, a clean scope simply looks better, and the first thing that a potential buyer will do will be seeing it.

cleaning scope lens

What Do You Need to Clean a Scope?

Cleaning a scope, like cleaning a firearm, requires a set of specialized tools and materials to ensure that the task is done correctly, without causing any damage. Here’s what you’ll need:

Lens Cleaning Solution: This is a specially-formulated solution designed to remove dust, dirt, smudges, and fingerprints from the lens without damaging it. The alternatives include regular eyeglass cleaner or a 90+% isopropyl alcohol. But remember: not any solution meant for cleaning will do. Avoid using harsh chemicals or household cleaners as they are more likely to damage the lens coating rather than polish it.

Microfiber Cloth: A high-quality microfiber cloth is ideal for cleaning your scope lens. They are soft, non-abrasive, and do not leave lint behind. Avoid using paper towels or other materials that can scratch the lens surface. It’s also mandatory to remove any hard particles before wiping lest you should scratch the lens. 

Air Blower: You probably have enough air in your lungs to blow off the dust from the lens. However, that’s not the best way of doing so, at least if you don’t intend to introduce unnecessary moisture to the lens. An air blower, such as those used for camera lenses, can help remove dust without touching the lens.

Lens Brush: A lens brush is a soft-bristled brush that can gently sweep away dust particles from the lens. Ensure the brush is clean and free from oils before using it on your scope lens.

Lens Pen: This is a handy tool that has a retractable brush on one end for removing dust and a cleaning tip on the other end for removing smudges and fingerprints. You can use it as a replacement for a lens brush.

Silicone Cloth: Also known as a luster cloth, this is used to clean and shine the exterior of your scope. It helps remove dust, fingerprints, and other marks while leaving a protective silicone coating that repels water and dirt.

how to clean a scpe lens

How To Clean a Rifle Scope?

Now to the sacred rite itself. As usual, there are certain steps that need to be observed, and here, the order is of critical importance. Should you carry out one too early, you may bring more harm than use. To preclude this from happening, follow these steps:

Preparation: Gather all the necessary cleaning materials. This includes a lens cleaning solution, a microfiber cloth, an air blower or compressed air, a lens brush, cotton swabs, and a luster cloth. Make sure you’re working in a clean, well-lit area.

Remove Dust and Debris: Start by using your compressed air or air blower to gently remove any loose dust or debris from the lens and the scope body. It is crucial to do that as early as possible since rubbing or brushing a dusty surface can scratch it.

Brush Off Stubborn Dirt: If any dirt remains, use your lens brush to gently dislodge it. Be careful not to apply too much pressure. It’s all delicate workmanship, so you can’t be too careful.

how to clean a riflescop

In regular circumstances, you can stop here. And you should definitely stop here if you are cleaning your scope out in the field. Despite common misconceptions, you can overclean your scope, and that’s not the thing you want. However, if the situation calls for deeper cleaning, here’s what to do. 

Apply Lens Cleaning Solution: Put a few drops of lens cleaning solution onto your microfiber cloth. Avoid applying the solution directly to the lens, as this can lead to streaking. Remember to use a solution specifically designed for lens cleaning to prevent damage.

Clean the Lens: Gently wipe the lens with your dampened cloth, using a circular motion. Avoid pressing too hard, as this can cause scratches. The goal is to lift off any grime or fingerprints without damaging the lens.

Reach into Corners: Use a ​cotton swab lightly dampened​ with cleaning solution to ​clean corners and tight spots. These​ areas are often overlooked but​ are known to harbor dust and grime.​

Dry the Lens: Allow​ the lens to air dry, or gently dry​ it with a clean, dry microfiber ​cloth. Avoid using heat or ​blowing on the lens, as this could​ introduce moisture.

Polish the Exterior: Use a​ luster cloth to clean and shine the exterior​ of your scope. That ​not only keeps your​ scope looking good but also leaves​ a protective silicone coating that​ repels water and dirt.

Inspect Your Work: Finally,​ inspect your scope to​ ensure that all grime and smudges have been removed ​and that there are no scratches on​ the lens.

Remember, regular​ cleaning is key to maintaining the​ performance and longevity of your ​rifle scope. However, ​overcleaning or using harsh ​methods can cause damage. ​Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions​ and use gentle, controlled​ movements when ​cleaning your scope.

scope cover

How to Prevent Your Optics from Contamination?

There is only ​one thing better than maintenance – prevention. It is​ well within your power to at least slow down the rate of contamination, and you don’t need to square the circle to do so. Here are some tips on how to prevent your optics from contamination:

Use Lens Caps and Scope Covers: Lens caps are your first line of defense against dust, dirt, and other particles that might come into contact with your lenses. Always replace the lens caps when the optics are not in use. The same goes for the whole scope – a cover will gladly take that debris bullet instead of your optics.

Handle with Clean Hands: Make sure your hands are clean before handling your optics. Oils and dirt from your hands can easily transfer to the lenses. 

Avoid Touching the Lens: Try to avoid touching the lens surface with your fingers or any object that may scratch or damage it. All adjustments you might need are usually done via turrets, so there is no actual need for touching the lens. 

Store Properly: When not in use, store your optics in a dry, dust-free environment. Use a protective case to safeguard them from dust and moisture or at least put a scope cover on. If you choose the former option, consider throwing in a few desiccant packs – they help absorb any moisture that might be present in the case.

Limit Chemical Exposure: Be mindful of what chemicals your optics are exposed to. Certain solvents, lubricants, and cleaning agents can damage the lens coatings if not properly used or cleaned off.


Maintaining the cleanliness and functionality of your gun optics is a critical aspect of responsible gun ownership. There are plenty of reasons in favor of doing that and not that many against it. The process itself doesn’t take hours, and the benefits you get from it are too good to pass. You only need a few tools, a bit of knowledge and a dedication to do cleaning once in a while. The fruits of your labor won’t be long in coming.

For more information on the topic, check out our Complete Guide to Gun Cleaning Tools.


What are the essential tools required for gun optics cleaning?

The essential​ tools for gun optics cleaning​ include an air blower​ or compressed air, a lens​ brush, a microfiber cloth, a​ lens cleaning solution, ​and a luster cloth. Additionally, ​cotton swabs can be used to ​clean corners and tight spots.​

Why is it important to clean gun optics?

Cleaning gun optics is ​crucial to maintain optimal performance ​and longevity of the optics.​ Accumulated dust, dirt, and ​grime can hinder visibility and ​precision during shooting. Regular cleaning ensures​ that your optics continue to perform at​ their best.

Can I use any cleaning solution to clean my gun optics?

No, you should​ only use solutions specifically designed for lens​ cleaning. Other cleaning solutions may​ contain harsh chemicals that could damage​ the lens coatings or scratch the ​lens surface. Always follow​ the manufacturer’s instructions when choosing​ and using a cleaning solution.

Can overcleaning damage my gun optics?

Yes, overcleaning​ can potentially damage your optics. Excessive​ scrubbing or the use of strong solvents can​ harm the lens coatings. It’s important to use​ gentle, controlled movements​ when cleaning your​ optics and to avoid applying too​ much pressure, which might lead to​ scratches.

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