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How to Clean Scope: Everything You Need to Know

How to Clean Scope

Maintaining the quality of a rifle scope gun is SUPER IMPORTANT!

Yet, I’m guilty of neglecting to do regular maintenance on my rifle scope lens.

But which is worse—losing a target shot or taking a few more minutes to clean it?

In this article, I’ll explain the efficient tips for cleaning rifle scopes so you can quit making excuses for your dirty scope lens. It’s common sense! 

Don’t compromise it. It will go a long way!

But first, let’s understand the essential parts of the scope.

Getting to Know the Rifle Scope

Man aiming rifle

Traditional optical scopes are simple. When using a fixed single lens scope, you should become familiar with a few parts.

A fixed magnifying scope’s fundamental components are as follows:

  • Scope housing: It has a very distinct shape that most people can identify in a gun. The scope’s central long, thin metal tube has a diameter of 30mm or one inch.
  • Bell or objective lens: It generally is larger in diameter than the rest of the scope at one end. The objective lens is at the end of the scope.
  • Eyepiece: It is at the other end of the scope. The final lens is in the eyepiece, where you see the image.
  • Turrets: Near the center of the sight, two knobs or screws hold the turrets in place. These turret caps let you change the elevation and windage of your sight.
  • Reticle: Also known as the crosshair, it is what you see when you look through your riflescope.

How to Properly Clean a Rifle Scope Lens

Cleaning rifle scope

I clean my rifle scope ONLY when it is dirty.

This section explains how to clean your riflescope and will help you enhance your target shooting experience.

  • Step 1. As soon as it is loose, start unscrewing it from either side in a cross pattern.
  • Step 2: Avoid touching anything with your fingers since oils left behind may influence how things appear through the scope.
  • Step 3: Lay an old towel on a table and lay out one of the rifle scope lenses (try not to let anything else fall off).
  • Step 4: Wipe off all glass surfaces with another towel to brush off dirt and other contaminants with a lens cleaning fluid.
  • Step 5: Wipe the glass.
  • Step 6: Make an effective cleaning solution spray with water and ammonia.
  • Step 7: Spray the solution onto the lens and wipe the coatings clean.
  • Step 8: Brush away any tenacious dirt with a gentle toothbrush.
  • Step 9: Rinse it with water to drop all debris.
  • Step 10: Continue performing steps 5 through 9 until your riflescope lens is clear of all dirt and debris.

How to Prevent Your Scope Lenses from Getting Dirty

Scope point of view

The correct way to clean the riflescope is essential.

You must take steps to prevent your rifle scope lenses from looking like a car windshield. Here are a few tips for maintaining the quality of your gun scopes.

1. Clean Your Lens

Scratching up a quality rifle scope lens you have spent money on is the last thing you want to do.

Before even considering rubbing the glass, you must dust off your lens.

Tiny particles of dust and debris cause a microscopic scratch in your coatings. It will reduce its clarity over time.

If you neglect this procedure enough, you’ll soon discover that you need a new 1-8x or 1000-yard scope.

2. Make Use of a Microfiber Cloth

I made the stupid mistake of using my shirt to wipe the lens. DON’T DO THAT.

Kleenex, paper towels, and toilet tissue are NOT for wiping your glass lens. They are too abrasive and may scratch the lens coatings.

After that mistake, I made sure to ALWAYS use a microfiber cloth or wipes to clean grease and fingerprint smudges off lenses.

Be careful not to leave scratches or cotton fibers behind! Remember to wipe in circular motion, too.

3. Do Not Spray the Cleaning Solution Onto the Lens

Although water and fabric will do, there are occasions when you need more effort.

I always spray the lens cleaning solution onto the cloth rather than the lens itself, or it will damage the coatings.

Too much damp air can ruin the seals on your rifle scope.

4. Keep Your Lens Caps On

You can protect your riflescope’s optical glass from moisture by using lens covers.

Keep the scope lens caps ON your rifle while cleaning it!

Cleaning agents and powders might damage the scope’s lens coatings and waterproof seals.

BONUS TIP: Keep your lens caps on when traveling in and out of your hunting spot. It protects your optic from creating a lot of grime. You can run into rain or pollen, contaminating your lens covers.

5. Make Use of a Q-Tip

I learned this hack when I saw that my scope has many small nooks and crevices that are difficult to clean.

To clean ridges and tight spots, use a Q-tip.

If you want to protect your rifle scope lens, wrap your fabric around the Q-tip and wipe the glass.

It will clean a rifle scope without leaving wisps of cotton behind.

6. Make Use of a Lens Pen

LensPen is a dual-ended tool created only for cleaning lenses that is popular among photographers and hunters.

I really like this lens brush because it cleans my lenses WITHOUT using any liquids.

The one end includes bristles for dusting the lens. The other end has a pad with a carbon-cleaning chemical for rubbing out fingerprint smudges.

Before dusting bristles on your lens, ensure they are clean of oil and grime. This brush is inexpensive, so replace them as needed.

7. Remove Your Turrets

The lens is not the only component of your scope that requires attention!

I remember coming back from a windy shooting day when I realized that my turret caps had almost rusted up!

A Q-tip is helpful; if you decide to use the towel, clean your turrets AFTER you clean your lens.

You don’t want to risk damaging your lens with turret filth!

If you enjoy using the LensPen, you can also use it on the turrets.

It is advisable to have a separate one for your turrets as it protects the lens from moisture or oils.

8. When You Hunt, Have a Cleaning Kit With You

You should be ready for anything!

You can clean your scope throughout the day if you keep a LensPen in your hunt pack.

Keeping my LensPen on me at all times gives me peace of mind that I’ll be ready in case of any emergency cleaning.

It would be unfortunate to miss your target shot due to a lack of equipment to remove mud or rainfall.

Mother Nature is unpredictable; you will never know what situations you’ll encounter.

9. Make Your Battery Compartment Shiny

You should remove the batteries from your scope to clean the battery compartment. (That’s if your scope is battery-powered!)

Moisture can creep inside when you expose your scope to outdoor conditions, which is what happened to me.

When your batteries become old or moist, they might rust inside the compartment.

If you discover the battery acid is enough, you might be able to remove it.

But if you hold off too long, you could have to disable your scope. Keep backup batteries in your range bag to ensure you never run out of power.

10. Don’t Go Overboard!

When your lens is dirty, you should clean it, but be cautious and only wash the lens as much as necessary.

No matter how meticulous I am, there will still be little scratches on it every time I clean it.

You might not need to clean your lens every time you go hunting. If you can still see through it, leave it alone.

Why Should You Clean a Rifle Scope?

Armed soldier pointing rifle

Cleaning the lens on your scope is vital for sighting your rifle scope. A dirty lens will impair your vision and make it difficult to shoot your target.

If it carries too much dirt or a bit of dust on the lens, the defogging technology included in the scopes will not work.

Additionally, I always make it a point to wear gloves. I didn’t realize how oily my fingerprints were, which could make the filth worse!

Keeping them clean is not only excellent practice; it is a rule if hunting success is essential to you.

What You Should NOT Do

When I was a beginner, I made a lot mistakes when cleaning my scope.

I have learned from them since! Allow me to share the mistakes you should AVOID when cleaning your scope:

  • Never use any kind of lubricant
  • Never use harsh cloths or t-shirts when cleaning the lens
  • Avoid hard-bristled brushes
  • Do not remove any part of the scope that isn’t intended to be removed by the user

Frequently Asked Questions

You will better understand riflescope maintenance through our responses to frequently asked questions.

How Often Should I Clean My Scope?

Do not clean it if it is not unclean!

I only clean my rifle scope ONLY when I notice a problem, or it impairs my vision.

With a moist towel, you can often clean the body of your optic, but you should touch the lenses with care.

Only clean the lenses when necessary!

Even small amounts of dust or debris outside the lenses are unlikely to harm your eyesight.

Your riflescope’s eyepiece lens will likely need more frequent cleaning. The dust on it will be easier to see than on the objective lens.

But, a few dust particles on the objective optics will be more difficult to discern.

I always use lens coverings, which are perfect for protecting the lenses from dirt and other debris off the exposed glass.

What Cleaning Products Should I Use?

It would be best if you had the proper instruments to complete any job. The same is valid for lens cleaning on rifle scope optics.

1. Compressed Air

You may cut dust and debris by blowing compressed dry air into the optic. Your field equipment would enjoy adding a quality transportable blower.

2. Soft Lens Brush

Brush off any dirt or debris from your riflescope optics by dusting it with a soft lens brush.

3. Solutions for Cleaning

Water is the SAFEST liquid to apply to the body and lenses (when necessary).

You can wipe the lenses with regular eyeglass cleaner or 90+% isopropyl alcohol and let them air dry. I learned it dries faster than water.

If the scope’s body has stains that are hard to remove, a simple degreaser like 409 will work (do not use that on the lenses).

4. Microfiber Lens Cloth or Cleanroom Swab

A microfiber lens cloth works best for fast and easy lens cleaning on any scope.

When you buy a scope, very few suppliers provide this kind of cloth in the scope cleaning package.

With a microfiber cloth, you can clean any dust particle off your scope’s optics, no matter how small!

Clear the debris first so it will not scratch the lenses. Always use one CONTINUOUS motion when wiping with a swab.

Can You Use Windex on a Scope?

No. Never use detergent on your lenses!

Avoid using Windex and other household cleaners. They contain ammonia, and they will remove your lens coating.

Choose eyeglass or lens cleaner instead of Windex, which is harsh and can wreak havoc on the layer of your optics.

How Do You Remove Stains from Fingerprints or Rainwater?

To remove stains, a solution of cleaning spray and a microfiber lens cloth should do the trick.

Spray the cleaning solution on the microfiber cloth and rub the lens gently. You can also use the Lens Pen to remove any excess markings.

Remember to use the pen in a circular motion.


That’s a wrap on this article!

Cleaning and protecting a scope goes a LONG way! Just remember not to put off performing maintenance on the optics of your scope; it’s pretty easy!

Develop the habit of maintaining your scope’s cleanliness, clarity, and proper operation for years with the right tools and some astute techniques.

If you don’t have the luxury of time, you can always visit a rifle optic service shop to do the job.

Remember that it’s glass, not a steel barrel, so go and be careful, especially the coatings.

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