After purchasing an optical component, exercising proper care can maintain its quality and extend its usable lifetime. Choosing the proper cleaning products and using the proper methods are as important as cleaning the component itself. Improper cleaning practices can damage polished surfaces or specialized coatings that have been used on optics such as lenses, mirrors, filters, or gratings, degrading the performance in almost any application. Also, be aware of your clothing and your environment while cleaning optics; shirts with zippers and buttons can scratch your optics, likewise dirty or dusty environments are not well suited for optical applications.
There are a variety of cleaning products and cleaning methods to use depending upon the type of optic to be cleaned and the nature of the care needed, ranging from removing dust to smudges on the surface. Products such as Pick-Up Tools, Tweezers, Gloves, Compressed Air, Cotton-Tipped Swabs, Lens Tissue, Lens Cleaners, Reagent-Grade Isopropyl Alcohol, Reagent-Grade Acetone, and De-Ionized Water can be used to ensure a long product lifetime. Each type of cleaning product has its own unique benefit: Pick-Up tools and Tweezers are useful for holding optics in place while cleaning, Gloves provide a protective barrier to optics from any moisture or oils on your hands, Compressed Air effectively removes surface dust without directly contacting any coating an optic may have, Cotton-Tipped Swabs and Lens Tissue offer an effective means to wipe away any dirt without scratching an optic, and Lens Cleaners, Reagent-Grade Isopropyl Alcohol and Acetone, and De-Ionized Water each safely clean an optic.
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An important point to stress is that you should NEVER clean plastic optics or optics in plastic housings with Acetone because it will damage the plastic. Therefore, if you have a plastic optic, then you should use Compressed Air, Reagent-Grade Alcohol, or De-ionized Water. If you are unsure about the type of optic that you have or the reactivity of your optical substrate or coating, then using De-Ionized Water and a little bit of dish soap is the safest way to make sure the optic is not damaged by harsh chemicals.