Ask LH: How Can I Revive An Old, Beaten-Up Pair Of Glasses?

Ask LH: How Can I Revive An Old, Beaten-Up Pair Of Glasses?

Dear Lifehacker, I have a really old pair of beaten-up glasses. While my prescription hasn’t changed, the glasses are scratched, ill-fitting and just plain ugly. I can’t afford to go out and buy a new pair, so I’m wondering if it’s possible to fix these ones up to make them last a bit longer? Sincerely, Four Eyes

Dear FE,

Glasses are certainly expensive, and while some cheaper eyeglass outlets like Clearly Contacts are out there, sometimes you need to just get a little more life out the pair you already have and love. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to do, and it doesn’t take much money to breathe new life into an old pair of glasses.

Adjust Your Glasses So They Fit Correctly

Ask LH: How Can I Revive An Old, Beaten-Up Pair Of Glasses?

The first thing to go wrong with most glasses is when they start to stretch out, get bent or somehow just stop fitting on your face all that well. Even an expensive pair is bound to get out of shape eventually.

If you purchased your frames from a local optometrist, you can usually go in and have them re-fit your glasses for you. There are shops that won’t charge you for this, even if you didn’t buy the frames from them.

If you don’t have an optometrist around you, or you only need to make a minor adjustment, you can re-fit plastic frames with a hairdryer. However, be careful, because it’s possible to completely destroy the frames this way. That said, if you’re just trying to fix up a pair of $5 discount store sunglasses, the hair dryer is worth a shot. Otherwise, you can do a little bit of adjustment on your own. Eyeglass retailer GlassesCrafter has a few tips for adjusting your own frames:

To see if the temples of your glasses need to be adjusted, set your frames on a level surface and see if they’re off balance. If they aren’t balanced, use the needle-nosed pliers to gently pinch near the corner where the frame meets the arm and move the frame slightly downwards or upwards, depending on which side is off balance. The key is to be gentle. You don’t want to pinch hard enough to snap your glasses.

If your glasses are digging into your head or ear, the ear pieces need to be adjusted. You can do this by grasping the frame before the curve of the ear piece and bending it away from or toward the frame. If the ear piece is too curved, straighten it.

If your glasses are digging into your nose or your glasses are sitting too high or too low, adjust the nose pads. Grab the frame and use your thumb and forefinger to twist the pads, Make sure they’re balanced.

Adjusting your glasses on your own isn’t as easy as you’d think, so be careful when you’re doing it. If things do go horribly, it’s well worth it to walk into an eyeglasses retailer and have them help you get them straightened out.

Get Rid of Scratches on the Lenses

Ask LH: How Can I Revive An Old, Beaten-Up Pair Of Glasses?

In general, the lenses in most eyeglasses these days are plastic. That means they’re pretty easy to care for and buff out the scratches. You should clean off your glasses with a little dishwashing soap and a microfibre cloth to see if that fixes your problem. If not, you might need to buff out some of those scratches.

Like the frame readjustment, a lot of shops will do this for you, so it’s worth checking with them to see if they can do it for free. If not, you can do it yourself, but you need to know what kind of protective layer your lenses have on them.

If your plastic lenses have a coating, such as an anti-reflective coating one, then chances are it’s just the coating that’s scratched. One fix shared by Redditor PinkMenace is to use Armour Etch to remove the coating completely. This should get rid of any extra scratches, but it will also get rid of any coatings you might have on your lenses (sunscreen also works). As for buffing out deeper scratches, retailer The EyeShop Downtown has a couple of different suggestions:

Baking soda or toothpaste: Use this all-around household helper to remove scratches from glass or plastic lenses. Make a thick paste with baking soda and water, and rub it in a circular motion across lenses with a soft cotton cloth. The process may be repeated for stubborn scratches. The same process can be used with non-abrasive toothpaste.

Car wax: Some people use ordinary vehicle cleaning wax to remove scratches on glass or plastic lenses. Cover each side of the lens with wax, rinse under running water and dry with a clean, soft cloth. Repeat the process if necessary.

With a little buffing, you should find your glasses are good as new. It takes a little work, but it’s certainly a lot cheaper than buying a new set of frames.

Clean Up Your Frames

Ask LH: How Can I Revive An Old, Beaten-Up Pair Of Glasses?
Finally, if you want to get your acetate frames looking as bright and shiny as they did when you first bought them, you can actually buff out the plastic. Reader Elliot shares this tip:

Just go to the [chemist] and buy a four-way buffer (it’s a foam fingernail filing block). Start with the coarsest grain and work over the white areas while careful not to scratch the lenses. Then use the progressively smoother parts of the buffer to work over the same areas. Once you are finished with the smoothest step (polishing), you’ll notice the original shine come back to the acetate. Brilliant!

This doesn’t last forever, certainly not as long as the original shine. You’ll probably have to do it again in 4 to 6 months, but at least you can get them looking good again.

The buffer is essentially a sanding tool, so you’re wearing down the plastic on your frames a bit to make them look new. Just make sure they’re actually acetate before you give it a shot.

With that, your busted old frames should get a new lease on life. While you can’t fix everything, you can at least get the small stuff and breathe a little bit of life into them.


Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.

Pictures: Feng YU/Shutterstock MIKI Yoshihito/Flickr, Kai Hendry/Flickr

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.