Cleaning Scope Lenses 101 | Rifle Scope Maintenance

Cleaning your rifle scopes is a must if you want to ensure their longevity. It prevents the build-up of particles that can scratch your lens coatings. Plus, a clean scope ensures optimal light transmission and hence a clear sight picture. However, it is vital that you practice the correct scope cleaning procedure. Otherwise, you might do more harm than good. It’s time for scope cleaning 101 – here, we guide you through all the steps to clean a rifle scope, give you some pointers and tell you what not to do as it might damage your lenses. Enjoy the read!

Steps To Clean Rifle Scope Lenses

Dirty Rifle Scopes

1) Clear Major Debris

First, we need to get rid of any dirt, dust, or debris that might be present on our shogun scope lens or housing. To do this, use an air blower or a soft brush and blow or gently brush away the debris. This ensures you do not scratch your lens coatings during cleaning.

2) Clean Scope Housing

Next, you need to remove stubborn dirt and grime that is left on the scope housing after step one. Even the best scout scope will get dirty eventually. Use a clean, slightly damp cloth to wipe down the scope housing. Doing this ensures no dirt can get on the lenses during cleaning. Pay attention not to get any moisture inside the scope.

3) Wet Your Lens

Next, use optic cleaning fluid that is designed specifically for optics. Alternatively, mix a few drops of dish soap solution with distilled water. Moisten a lens cleaning pad or a microfiber cloth (similar to those used for glasses) with the solution. This works great for my M&P Sport Scopes as well!


4) Wipe With Your Cloth

Very gently wipe the lenses with the cloth. Start at the center and move in a circular motion toward the edges – preventing streaks and ensuring a thorough cleaning. Scopes with a larger objective lens size will require more cleaning than smaller scopes.

5) Dry Your Scope

Use a dry microfiber cloth different from the one used in step four to remove any remaining moisture from the lenses. Follow the same procedure as step 4, starting at the center of the lens and moving outwards in a circular motion. Finally, allow the 6.5 Creedmoor scope to air dry for a few minutes. Doing so ensures that all the moisture has evaporated before reattaching lens covers or lens caps.

Expert Tips: What Not To Do

Here is a list of what not to do when cleaning your thermal scopes & other types of rifle scopes.

  • Do not use abrasive or rough materials: Avoid using paper towels, tissues, or rough cloths to clean your lenses – they tend to scratch the delicate lens coatings.
  • Do not use strong chemicals: Harsh chemicals, such as ammonia-based chemicals, can damage a lens coating. Use lens cleaning alcohol or any other liquid designed for an objective lens and eyepiece.
  • Do not blow on the lenses: When you blow on the lenses, it introduces moisture and saliva, and you will have to repeat the entire cleaning process.
  • Do not submerge your scope in water: Submerging your scope in water can damage internal components, even if your scope is rated waterproof.
  • Do not apply too much pressure: A scope lens is a delicate piece of equipment – be gentle and patient when you clean a rifle scope.

Equipment Needed To Clean A Rifle Scope Lens

Cleaning Rifle Scopes

1) Compressed Air

A can of compressed air or an air blower is great for removing loose dust particles and excess debris. You can either buy a can of compressed air from the gunsmith, a computer shop (used to clean computers), or online. Just like we saw in our post comparing a 50mm vs 40mm scope, larger scopes are easier to clean first with compressed air.

2) Spray & Cleaning Solutions

Use a pre-made lens cleaning solution specifically designed for optics, which you can find at the gunsmith. Camera lens cleaning solution also works! Alternatively, mix a couple of drops of soap with distilled water, but the first method is recommended.

3) Lens Brush

The lens brush should be soft and fine-bristled to gently remove dust and debris from lens surfaces without scratching the surface. Opt for a lens-cleaning brush, such as one made from camel hair.

4) Lint-Free Microfiber Lens Cloth

The microfiber cleaning cloth should be lint-free. It is used to wipe away dirt and fingerprint smudges. Again, opt for a cloth specifically designed for cleaning optics and lenses, such as lens paper. Make sure it is clean and dry before you use it on rifle scopes.

How Frequently Should You Clean A Rifle Scope?

Well, that depends on several factors, such as environment, frequency of use, and how well you look after your scope. But in general, you should clean a rifle scope:

  • After each use.
  • Periodically even if you are not using it – once a month is good.
  • Before and after long-term storage.
  • As needed, especially in dust and rain environments.

 How To Disassemble A Rifle Scope

First off, it is never recommended to disassemble a rifle scope. You can remove lens caps and turret caps to clean those grooves and areas. If you want to disassemble a rifle scope, then rather ask the manufacturer or professional technicians. Disassembling a scope can void the warranty, damage the scope and affect its performance. Plus, it’s incredibly difficult to reassemble a scope perfectly.

But if you really want to disable a scope, here is a short summary of what to do:

  1. Use the appropriate tools: screwdrivers, torque wrenches, pliers, etc.
  2. Detach the scope from the rifle
  3. Locate and remove the screws of the rifle scope
  4. Separate the scope body
  5. Disassemble the internal components
  6. Clean the components
  7. Reassemble the scope

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best thing to clean scope lenses with?

A combination of optic cleaning fluid, microfiber cloth that is lint-free (lens paper), and compressed air.

Can you use rubbing alcohol to clean scope lens?

Yes, but make sure to dilute it with distilled water to prevent damaging the lens coating.

Why does my scope look foggy?

Your scope can look foggy because of various reasons. The two most common reasons are that your lens accumulated moisture on the surface (just wipe it away with a lens paper) or because it is dirty (follow our guide to clean it), but it can also be because of: Fungus, Internal damage, & Poor quality scope.

Can you use Windex on a scope?

You can, but it is not recommended, as the cleaning solution chemicals can damage the scope's lens coatings.

The Bottom Line

Cleaning scope lenses might seem like a hassle, but it is a much-needed one! It ensures that your scope picture remains crystal clear. Plus, it ensures the longevity of the scope by preventing harsh particle build-up on the lenses that could scratch the coatings. Always use the proper cleaning equipment and technique when cleaning your rifle scopes. Remember to practice a routine cleaning program. This way, you know your rifle scopes will stay top-notch!

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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