Armor Etch can be a cheap fix for your scratched eyeglasses

by Torley Wong on 3 March 2009 50 comments
Photo: Torley

My wife recently scratched up her eyeglasses which we bought at a bargain from an online store (perhaps another story for another post). Holding them up to the light, the flaws were visible. Thankfully, searching the web yielded answers in short order, although they took some time to compile, so I'm sharing my experiences with you.

Many reviewers have suggested using Armour Etch to remove glasses' antiglare coating, and thus, the scratches. Note that this ONLY applies to plastic/polycarbonate lenses in general — do NOT use it on actual glass glasses, because it'll "frost" and RUIN them. I also recommend not doing the following if you only possess one pair of glasses... have a backup! After weighing our options: ~US$50 for a new pair of glasses vs. $10 for a small (3 oz.) bottle of Armour Etch, we opted to use the latter for an experiment.

I procured a bottle from eBay, and the process was very simple.

Here's exactly what I did:

  • Wear vinyl gloves.
  • Hold the glasses facing away from you, with one hand holding onto the frames.
  • Pour a gumdrop-sized dollop of Armour Etch on each lens, then rub it in circles with your fingers. It'll feel sort of gritty and textured. Rather relaxing, really.
  • Avoid rubbing Armour Etch onto the frames — my wife's glasses didn't experience problems with some slop, but others have reported discoloration and other adverse affects.
  • Keep rubbing for about a couple minutes or so.
  • Rinse the glasses under warm water, taking care to remove as much residue as possible. This is tricky.
  • Dry your glasses off with a soft cloth. Don't make the mistake of using paper towel as I initially did, because not only is it composed of abrasive wood fiber, it sheds off onto the glasses, defeating the purpose of cleaning with them.
  • Hold your glasses up to the light to view the results.

Then, I placed the glasses back on my wife's face. She was wowed by the noticeable difference, and while they appeared visibly more glare-y (obviously since the antiglare coating had mostly been removed), the clarity of vision is worth it so far.

It's not as comprehensive as a new pair of glasses, and not even as reassuring as getting those new glasses on a budget — US$100 is just too much, see GlassyEyes for why! — but it's a fun little experiment to try at your own risk. I was comforted having read through dozens of reports before me. Also, some have suggested cleaning with other materials like toothpaste, but I haven't tried that yet. Maybe next time, or if you have, do tell.

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Guest's picture
Dwight

I'd be very interested in reading a post about online stores for eyeglasses.

Guest's picture
Gail

I'd love to find out where to buy glasses online too.

Guest's picture
lucille

Gail, check out the article in the related articles.
http://www.wisebread.com/eyeglasses-stores-are-for-suckers-readers-tip

I checked out Zinni optical since our teenager is hard on glasses and our vision coverage only buys a pair a year. It looked like a great option. My only concern was how to adjust the bows on a plastic pair you get online. I know the opticians office uses some sort of warm sand to heat and bend. IIRC Zinni also asks for the eye distances so the lenses are oriented right.

We decided to only buy vision insurance every other year to save money and since we really only get our eyes checked that often. In between we can buy online.

Linsey Knerl's picture

My husband and I both wear glasses (although I prefer the 30-day continuous wear contacts.)  We usually get one decent pair of glasses straight from the eye doctor and then take a copy of the prescription and sizing with us.  We use this to buy "backup pairs" from 39dollarglasses.com.  The quality of the online pairs are nothing near what I get at my eye Dr., however, it has been a very affordable option for us.  Since you can order as many pairs as you wish, we get them any time our other backup pair has gotten to bent, scratched or (heaven forbid) lost.  When you do alot of outside work, this can take a toll on your eye glasses.  I also like to take a cheap pair along with me for business trips -- much less to replace if I leave them on an airplane or they get squished.

Then we save the nice pair we got from the clinic as our "going out" pair.  (As long as my prescription doesn't change much, this pair can last me years-- 10 in my instance.)

Linsey Knerl

Torley Wong's picture

@Dwight & Gail: I'm going to distill some goodies! In the meantime, like I mentioned in my post, GlassyEyes is a great resource.

@lucille: There's been some intriguing updates since that time! Such as Ira's unfavorable instances with Zenni.

@Linsey: Thx for sharing your experiences. In some cases I like to buy ONE thing to last... but with eyeglasses, having multiples to go through and a variety of frames is actually cheaper, and more fun.

As with many goods, buying "brand names" can be too pricey, and you may be paying more for the intangible emotional satisfaction of the label than the build quality...

Guest's picture
Jen

I've worked glasses retail in the past and my husband is an optician in a wholesale lab. I am well acquainted with the crazy markup on glasses and can fully understand wanting to save money, but just be aware that you definitely get what you pay for! Cheap frames may break easily and lenses that are not edged well may not fit in the frame properly. Problems could happen particularly since you're cutting out the optician fitting you for the frames by ordering online.

Last thing: if you have any additional coatings on your glasses, such as anti-reflective, I'd personally think twice about using something like Armour Etch. The coating could wind up splotchy or scratched. Really, your best bet might be the (usually small) splurge on a scratch-resistant coating when you purchase lenses.

And don't forget you can almost always put new lenses in your existing frames! That can be a HUGE money-saver!

Guest's picture
KY Guest

I disagree that putting "new lenses in your existing frames...can be a HUGE money-saver" that's exactly what I wanted to do this time around (because my lenses were so smudged from crappy anti-reflective application) and was told they'd practically be the same cost as the particular special they were running. I was shocked that there wasn't more of a discount but they're out to make money and I have to have glasses so they've got you by the horns. After refusing to buy new glasses, I finally tried Armor Etch and it worked like a dream...my glasses are like new...wish I'd researched a home fix sooner.

Guest's picture
Guest

I just stumbled across this site and while this post is a couple of years old, I had to respond. I paid big money for anit-glare AND scratch-resistant coatings for my last pair of glasses and I have never had so many scratches on my glasses in my life. (And I've been wearing glasses since 1978.) After only a couple of months I noticed severe scratching, even though I was carefully cleaning my glasses with the special cloth that came with them. When I took them back to the store where I purchased them (Lenscrafters) I was reprimanded for not buying the insurance plan and for using the cloth to clean them. I was then told they could not do anything about it and that yes, "anti-reflective coating scratches easily." Well, why the hell did I pay for the scratch-resitant coating????

Torley Wong's picture

@Jen: "You get what you pay for" depends on who you're specifically dealing with, so it isn't a useful generalization. There are cheap online glasses place which charge the same prices as other outlets but have markedly inferior quality. I once got $10 frames from Bangkok which were hideous-looking, but near-indestructible.

Thanks for the additional warning about anti-reflective coatings. The more firsthand experiences people share, the richer off we'll be.

Guest's picture
Bryan

Thanks to your instructions, I rubbed it in my lens, leaving scratches all over due to the abrasiveness of Armour Etch. You just dab it on, leave it and then the antireflect film comes off, rubbing it in will lead to scratches.

Guest's picture
Should have read the comments

Same happened to me! Perhaps the Einstein that wrote this article should edit it

Guest's picture
Guest

Well I finally got up the nerve last night to try the armour etch on my spare pair of glasses that were so discolored and foggy from the Anti glare coating. It worked great! However, I had tried toothpaste the weel before and I suggest you do not use toothpaste as it left scratches in the lenses that even armour etch could not get out ofter 4 applications. Just wanted to let anyone with this problem know that armour etch is what works!!

Guest's picture
Guest

Oh And I did not rub in the armour etch in - I applied it with a Qtip very gently in a thick coating and let it sit for 5 minutes, I also took the lens out of ny eyeglass frame, very simple with an eyeglass tool kit.

Guest's picture
Guest

I applied Amour Etch in my scratched lenses with anti-glare and left it for five minutes. I washed with a warm water. All the scratches were gone. The lenses look like a brand new.

Guest's picture
Guest

I should have read the comments first! I tried it one one lens first, and while it removed the old scratches, I gained some new ones by rubbing it in! The second lens is crystal clear though. Works well, but don't rub!

Guest's picture
Mr.t

Eyeglasses: Buy Prescription Eyeglasses Online at OrderYourGlasses.com!
Prices from $14.95, with a wide selection and the best quality lenses available online. We offer fashionable frames
for Men, Women, and Kids at prices that will help you save money while getting the best quality lenses!

Guest's picture
Mr.t

Eyeglasses: Buy Prescription Eyeglasses Online at OrderYourGlasses.com! Prices from $14.95, with a wide selection and the best quality lenses available online. We offer fashionable frames for Men, Women, and Kids at prices that will help you save money while getting the best quality lenses!

Guest's picture
sherri

OH MY GOSH!!!  I just did this...my glasses were EXTREMELY scratched!!  All I did was use a plastic baggy on my hand, dipped my forefinger in the armour etch (just a dab)...did the circular rubbing for less than a minute...rinsed them off and WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting this...you have saved the life of my vision.  Long story short...this was my only hope!  I'm in that in between stage of getting my glasses and contacts and all I have are the glasses I'm wearing right now to get me through a couple of weeks of waiting (certainly poor planning on my part)...Anyhoo, my glasses were so TERRIBLY scratched...it was like trying to see through 2 layers of fog.

 

I just can't Thank You Enough!!!

 

sherri :)

Guest's picture
McKay

I ordered a pair of glasses from Zenni Optical. I think their website is still zennioptical.com. You don't need a prescription (which is good because mine is long-expired). I think I paid about $24 including shipping. I've been wearing them for over a year since they are my only pair of glasses. They're scratched which is why I'm checking out this article in the first place. Hope this helps someone.

If you found this tip helpful, consider donating to my favorite charity at
www.whrr.org

Thanks. :)

-McKay

Guest's picture
Guest

I too purchased glasses online and have scratches on one of my lenses that is affecting my vision. I haven't even had them for a year yet! It must have been fate that I happened upon this post. I'm definitely going to try it.

Guest's picture
Tom Sellers

Tried this on plastic lenses, exactly as directed. While it does clean heavier scratches, it clouds the lenses with innumerable fine scratches, making them cloudy.

Guest's picture
Guest

YOU FORGOT TO MENTION NOT TO RUB THE ARMOUR ETCH INTO THE LENS VERY HARD, I NOW HAVE VERY RUINED EYEGLASSES!! :[

Guest's picture
sharon

Worked like a charm!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

Didn't work for me. Tried it on 1.25 readers,samsung cell phone screen, and had really hoped it would work on my maui sunglasses - nope. Did take the finish off my kitchen sink spout, though...so be careful out there!

Guest's picture
isa

Keep it away from your sink fixtures!

Guest's picture
Susan

I had almost given up on my two pairs of eyeglasses which had become totally useless due to the scratching of the anti-glare coating. This was especially frustrating because my glasses have both progressive prescription and transition lenses. Big bucks! Now I can see again. They aren't perfect, but what a difference. Thanks to all who recommended this unique approach. Ironically, I had bought a bottle of Armour Etch many years ago to etch glass and never used it so I even had ti in my cupboard!

Guest's picture
Amanda Brown

THAT WORKED SO WELL! I was able to save a ton of money at my eye doctor with a product I already owned! My lenses were so cloudy with scratched glare coating, it was really impeding my vision. NOT ANYMORE!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

It dissolved my contact lenses completely and it irritated the heck out of my eyes. Other than that, it was great.

Guest's picture
Steve

It's sad that these people in the eye care business feel compelled to post here w/ their warnings about using Armor Etch, and then go on to justify these crummy coatings they are putting on glasses. Someone needs to file a lot of lawsuits on this issue. I went out and bought the Armor Etch yesterday, dabbed it on my lenses (I took them out of their frames first), let it sit for 5 minutes and washed it off. It works! That $10 purchase saved me from paying out $120 for new bifocals. One lens required an additional recoating and 5 minute soak. That's it! I am so happy. I had originally thought my glasses were fogged, but when I held them up to the light at an angle you could clearly see hundreds of tiny scratches in the coatings.

Now, for my peeves. These people are in the medical field, right? How would you like it if a doctor gave you a prescription, and no one ever mentioned the side effects? LOTS of people have been sued over much less, and they should have been. Why didn't your eye care specialist inform you, in writing, that the coatings would only last a year or so? Why didn't they give you specific instructions on how to clean lenses w/ these crummy coatings? Why didn't they tell you to avoid heat and steam, or those coatings might last only a few months? Because they just want to sell you more stuff, and as soon as possible, that's why. Very unethical people out there in this field. Not telling you the reality of your purchase by omission is lying, and I'm SURE that the courts would see it that way too. This has prompted me to do a lot of research before I get new glasses again.

Guest's picture
Guest

My glasses always get scratched no matter what the material. Toothpaste scratches the AR coating on plastic lenses, by my personal experience. I tried toothpaste on glass lenses. After an hour, I tried with a cotton buff on a drill, but didn't work even after an hour. Using buffing compound on glass with this method made it worse. I tried this method with a pair of sunglasses with lost of small scratches; even with a delicate touch, it seemed to take away most of the scratches, but left more deeper ones. I tried it with a pair of trivex lenses and it didn't work at all.

Guest's picture
Michael Walsh

Worked for me! Scratched anti-glare coating on polycarbonate lenses. I took my lenses out of the frame, so there would be no problems with getting the compound all over the place and put a nice, thick coating on with a Q-tip, as suggested in another comment. Left it on for 5 minutes and then washed it off, to perfect results. Will NEVER buy another pair of glasses with the anti-glare coating on them - I'm very careful with my glasses and they still got scratched all to hell!

Guest's picture
Dean

Wow ! Been trying to figure out how to remove scratches for awhile. Armor Etch did an amazing job!! Yep, Q-Tip and don,t rub, let set for 5 minutes and rinse with warm water. Thank you very much!!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

I spent almost $15.00 on Armour Etch. I applied it to my scratched plastic prescription lenses as instructed by this sight and numerous others. No success. Reapplied and left it to set longer. Nothing. Total waste of a lot of time and a considerable amount of money. I got crazy and bought a felt tip automotive clear coat restoration pen at Autozone. It's for scratches in body paint treated with clear coat protectant. It worked marvelously. Filled in all scratches and made the lens surface smooth as glass; as it should be. $9.99 at Autozone. I am very pleased to salvage a $400 pair of Rayban eyeglasses with a home remedy.

Guest's picture
Guest

Should have read all the comments before I tried this. Author should stress ONLY to soak the lenses in the solution. Rubbing it left me with no coating and newly frosty lenses. I'll try last poster's suggestion of a clear coat touch up pen.

Guest's picture
Big Neph

Worked wonderfully. I mimicked the instructions in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoUivzsO_S0. I used a soft paintbrush and plastic gloves. I removed the lenses from the frame and did one at a time.

Guest's picture
Tony

This does work wonderfully! I just completed the process and my glasses are usabe again!

Guest's picture
bill kanson

oh HELL NO. i followed these directions to a T and saw my glasses coating go from bad to way way way worse (thus completely ruined). if i needed new glasses to begin with, i REALLY need them now.

DO NOT search all over town for this armour etch crap, its expensive, doesn't work, and actually will leave you worse off (most likely)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! june 2012

Guest's picture
kenkocuse

Worked like a charm. First, I removed the lenses from frames. Then used a Q-Tip to apply armor etc on both sides. I just dabbed it on, did not brush it on, until it was covered on both sides. Waited for 10 minutes, and then rinsed with warm water (but in a plastic pail, not the sink). My progressive prescription lenses cost around $400, and I could barely see through them from the scratched and damaged glare and scratch coating. I'll never get another pair of glasses with those coatings. Complete waste of money

Guest's picture
Guest

armour etch is great!!! i have three like new pair of glasses!!!! take q-tip and rub gently for a few minutes rinse off,scratches gone.armour etch 12 bucks at michaels.

Guest's picture
LaMarcus Williams

Works like a charm just do not rub it in. Rubbing will only create scratches in the lenses. I ysed a small paintbrush to apply it the rinsed off under warm water followed immediately with applying liquid handsoap to rub off all excess. I had to redo to get out small area left behind.

Guest's picture
Aaron

I just tried this today, as my lens warranty ran out and I'm waiting to see an eye doctor. My glasses were extremely buffed, from leaving them on the dashboard lens side down down bumpy logging roads. Yeah, I didn't take good care of them, but to the point. I tried the armour etch today, and my glasses are brand new now, I swear. It took every single scratch out, and there were thousands of tiny ones! I actually cancelled the appointment with the doctor now, because I see no point in getting new lenses. I'm truly shocked at how well this worked. Oh, btw, I rubbed it in. I didnt just leave it on like some people mention doing. It didnt scratch the lens at all, I would put a picture on here if I could.

Guest's picture
Guest

I tried Armour Etch on my very scratched up plastic lenses. It worked perfectly - scratches gone and my vision is clear again (it was like viewing thru a haze before). I'm in Canada and bought it at Michael's for C$21.99 for the 3 oz bottle - very pricey, but well worth having decent vision again. I used the procedure described above, but since I didn't have rubber gloves I used clear plastic sandwich bags to protect my hands. JB

Guest's picture
BoyBlue

Try leaving the armor etch stuff on first to see if that alone will take the AR off. Don't rub the stuff around because I scratched my lenses when I did that. I ended up having to get new lenses anyway and now my frames have some mild white stains as well. Anyone know a safe way to get the stains off?

Guest's picture
Susan

If you have polycarbonate lenses - Armour Etch removed the crazed and scratched coating on the outside of the glasses in seconds. Like a brand new pair of glasses. I went to two different "reputable" eye glass retailers and spoke to the managers at both places and they said you CANNOT remove it. IDIOTS! Exactly why I don't believe anything anyone says anymore.... :)

Guest's picture

* Do not rub the Armour Etch, it will scratch.
* Use a Q-Tip to gently place small amounts of Amour Etch over the lens until it is thickly covered.
* Do one side and one lens at a time.
* Once applied wait 5 minutes and repeat if the coating is not dissolved.
* Rise with running hot water. Gently use a Q-Tip to wipe off any that sticks.

I have a bad left eye so I did that lens first. I over did the Etch in my first small spot and I rubbed it in which scratched that area. Once I had the technique down the lens for the good eye was cleaned perfectly.

This is not the best solution ... that has to be new glasses. But I don't squint anymore and things are definitely clearer.

Thanks to everyone. I'm cash strapped and this saved me hundreds.

Guest's picture
GuestPaul

Your advice on "gently rubbing" the Armour Etch resulted in gemtle circular scratches everywhere. I would suggest the next person not rub but try letting the cream just sitting and washing without rubbing to avoid scratches.

At least I ruined a pair of scratched glasses.

Guest's picture
moira

This TOTALLY worked for me!
I thought my eyes were going wonky with age, but it ended up that one lens had more scratches on this awful coating, and caused that eye to have a confused centre of focus. My glasses had so many scratches that I would have sworn they were deep on the actual lenses!!
This was a real risk for me to do because I am sooo blind without glasses!!
Found Armour Etch bottle in an old glass etching kit -- victory!! (since this stuff seems hard to find in Canada!)
My hubby wore gloves, had the exhaust fan going, and removed the lenses from the frames first. He also first cleaned the lens and rinsed them well and dried them before beginning. Five minutes per lens side, thickly applied, did the job.
I felt like one feels when one sees the world so clearly after a brand new prescription! This saved me money and squinting and headaches!
I will never order a non-reflective coating again!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

LIKE NEW. I used Armour Etch on the inside lens of my **expensive** SuperFocus glasses. As of when I purchased my glasses, the interior lens (attached to the soft lens on the other side) IS polycarbonate. I put on a few drops, didn't smear, but covered the entire lens. Five minutes. All scratches (and all coating) gone, with just a few seconds of warm water to rinse the Armour Etch away. Be careful, take your time, and be sure you have polycarbonate lenses. This works if you don't rub.

Guest's picture
Candace

Thanks for the info on the Armour Etch. Sure hope it works for me. I have tried a lot of the suggestions I found online. None have worked. Toothpaste, making a paste out of baking soda, car wax, furniture polish.

Guest's picture
SunglassFix

If (or when) your sunglasses do get scratched, you can get superb quality replacement lenses from thesunglassfix.com