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Cleaning suggestions

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 10:56
groujo View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
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Newbie here.

I have a pair of Tasco World Class 7x50s that have spots on the outer part of the diopter lenses. The usual lens cleaner spray and rub technique is doing nothing. 

Any ideas? They're otherwise beautiful. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 11:02
groujo View Drop Down
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Additional info: I actually have two of these, and I can see both have the same issue. Could it be a chemical issue with the coatings?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 13:31
WJC View Drop Down
Optics Apprentice
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Just disregard if this is of no help to you.

Bill
24 “I NEED TO HAVE MY LENSES PROFESSIONALLY CLEANED.”

As Aristotle, that ancient sage of scientific thinking would say: “Bull!”

WARNING! I have given step-by-step instructions on cleaning optics as simple as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, only to have them repeated back to me as 1, 3, 5, 4, 2. So, to save my bacon, of which there are copious amounts, I must say I don’t guarantee one word of what I am about to say. I verify only that I have used these methods successfully, and to customer satisfaction, for many years.         

A STORY: Caring too much causes stress; stress causes a lack of confidence and dexterity; a lack of dexterity can cause optics to be damaged.

A few years ago, a fellow brought in his 4.5-inch telescope mirror for a “professional” cleaning. He carefully unwrapped it and handed it to me with the warning: “Be careful.” As I held it up to inspect it from different angles, “Be careful” sounded again, as it did two or three more times as I walked to my office—the customer glued to my heels.

He had a greatly exaggerated view of the intrinsic value of his “precision optic”—a ¾-inch chunk of plate glass.

I mention this because more overly concerned personalities damage their optics by attaching unrealistic attributes and value to them, and creating over-the-top cleaning techniques, than they would by simply treating them with sensible care.

But then, just as there’s no a quantifier for “better” or “best,” each observer has his or her own view of what constitutes “sensible care.”

So, what is the “best” chemical ingredient for cleaning lenses?

This topic comes up frequently on binocular forums and usually runs on page after page after page, as observers compete to see who can win the most converts to their way of thinking.

WHAT DID I USE?

The short answer to this question should be: “Who bloody cares!?”

Researching the Internet, you can come up with a few million words on how to clean lenses and prisms. To me, these websites and posts conjure up two thoughts. First, most of them will work just fine. Secondly, why make the task seem as complex as brain surgery and frighten those who could benefit most from the information? I subscribe to Theodore Roosevelt’s mantra of:

“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”

When I found it necessary, usually out of a customer-driven need for speed, I might clean a lens over a sink, washing it with a mild hand soap and drying it off with soft toilet tissue or a scrap of clean used tee shirt saved for just such a duty. Sacrilege? Not really—except for those long on theories but short on practical experience.

MY PROCESS

1. Blow off loose particulates with a rubber-based, manually operated, spheroidal, atmospheric pressurizer … a clean ear syringe. Or …

2. Use a camel hair brush to gently wipe away dust. By the way, camel hair brushes may consist of squirrel, horse, ox, goat, or even bear hair. However, these days they aren’t made of … camel hair. Or …

3. Use a shot or two of canned air. I know the thought will make some A-type personalities squirm, but that’s okay, as it’s more entertaining than TV, anyway.

Hold the can upright, 8 inches or so from the workpiece, and gently move it over the surface. If you shake it, move it too quickly, or don’t hold the can erect, you run the risk of spraying propellant on the element. That isn’t the kiss of death as some believe. Still, unless you are confident, you might want to leave canned air out of the equation.

THE SOLUTIONS

Optical cleaning solutions and techniques come with all sorts of formulae and recommendations. You’ve seen them: Mix 1% this with 3.7% that, swing a dead cat over your head three times at the stroke of midnight, and then add ….  These can take 400 words to describe and be unduly confusing. Although such formulas may be useful for medical applications or in some aerospace environs, they are incredible wastes of time for even the most critical binocular observer.

I found a team of three cleaning solutions to be among the most practical.

SOLUTION # 1

The first is a light ammonium hydroxide mixture known to the more scientific among us as NH4OH. To make this chemical at home, start with 4 ounces of household ammonia, add 16 ounces of rubbing alcohol, and 1 tsp of dishwashing liquid. After this, add enough water to finish filling a 1-gallon container.

To those lacking in spare time, or not caring to best their neighbor’s time-honored secret formula, I would recommend buying it off the shelf; it’s commonly called Windex®. Windex*, formulated by Harry R. Drackett, has been around since 1933, and since 1993 has been part of the S. C. Johnson family of products.

Please note that over the years, the formula has been modified several times, has grown to entail more than twice the original ingredients, and is now advertised for many household cleaning jobs.

Perhaps better still would be the simple formula cited above, as a number of people have reported that the all-purpose cleaner sold in grocery stores today may not be as effective for cleaning glass as originally conceived.

With a high alcohol content, that formula was flammable and should be used with caution. While I’ve found several things around the house to be much more dangerous, the litigious times we live in dictate that I make this known.   

The chemical giving Windex its blue color is called “Aqua Tint.” It’s unnecessary, but originally filled an important marketing role; it showed homemakers they were buying something more than water. If you must have a blue liquid, and Aqua Tint isn’t readily available, and it won’t be, you may use a few drops of blue … food dye.

Please note that the Aqua Tint (or Liquatint) mentioned above should not be confused with the tinting process, ink, or wood stain of the same name.

* Noted NASA optical engineer, telescope maker, and eyepiece designer Al Nagler has been using Windex and unoiled tissue for cleaning optics since the 1960s.

SOLUTION # 2

The second product I found indispensable was De-Solv-It® by Orange-Sol. This product is sold in about 60 retail chains in the U.S., including leading grocery stores.

But why, if you’re already using Windex, do you need anything else? Because different stains require different cleaners. De-Solv-it is an organic and biodegradable product that’s also been around since the 1930s—although originally sold under a different name. It removes sap, gum, and tar based stains that would resist acetone.

Conversely, acetone will remove things De-Solv-it can’t handle. Sometimes you need a 3-iron; sometimes a pitching wedge.

SOLUTION # 3: THE PLOT THICKENS

The final product I used was acetone—(CH3)2CO. As pointed out earlier, acetone is not the culprit in removing lens coatings, nor is it a carcinogen.

Still, there are some important cautions that should accompany its use.

1. Acetone will dry your hands quickly. So, you should apply skin cream or baby oil if you get even a few drops on them.

2. You should also use caution around plastics and certain paints as it will melt some types, instantly.

A former co-worker once spilled a drop of black paint on my new computer printer and, thinking he would wipe it off before it had time to set, he used a rag doused in acetone. In less than three seconds he had the small drop of paint spread over the side of the printer, with fibers from the dirty red cleaning rag imbedded in the plastic as well. Further cleaning was forever out of the question; I could only learn to appreciate the printer’s new artistic look.

3. Acetone was my most useful solvent. However, it evaporates very quickly and, being hygroscopic, may cause other problems. Also, special reagent acetone isn’t called for; the hardware store (read: cheap) chemical will work fine.

DRY ACETONE

To use on optical surfaces, acetone should be “dry”—moisture free. A cotton swab holding a drop of acetone, that would perform its job wonderfully, would be worse than useless should you wait even 15 seconds to use it. Why useless? Because being hygroscopic, it would just move a sheen around and you would grow old trying to clean the workpiece and only succeed in making an ever larger mess.

So, to use this godsend chemical, you should touch the swab to the acetone, flick off the excess, wipe the surface in swirling motions, starting at the center, and discard the swab by the 7th second—the 5th would be even better—and repeating the process as needed. Please remember that if the edge of the workpiece is touching plastic, or something less than engine enamel or epoxy paint, there is a good chance you will find yourself doing more harm than good.

Note: In referencing cotton swabs, I mean surgical swabs (2016 price: ~$10.00 per 1,000) with a wooden applicator. If you use a “Q-tip®” swabs, or others with a soft plastic applicator, you may melt the plastic and make a mess on the workpiece. While acetone is safe and effective to use, it must be mixed in equal portions with common sense.

“Unfortunately, common sense is the least common of all the senses.”—Mark Twain

Then there is ether, ethanol, propanol (isopropyl alcohol), colloidal, and on and on. I rarely address cleaning optics without someone piping up and insinuating I may not offer the best solutions or techniques. That’s fair; I think most of them should grow up, stop looking for “boogie men” behind every bush, and go out and use their binoculars. Me? I just like to keep things simple, effective, and inexpensive.

THE TISSUE ISSUE

As a student at the Navy’s Opticalman “A” School, I had several cases of fresh lens tissue at my disposal.

Arriving at my shop aboard USS Grand Canyon, the first thing I noticed was the workbench and the rolls of toilet paper that sat in front of each toolbox; I had now joined the real world.

One thing concerning lens cleaning I do find important relates to the type of lens tissue most often used.

Used most often in ophthalmic dispensing, many people have come to believe you must have lent-free lens tissue to do a proper cleaning job. That’s not so. It may be lint-free, but it is not as soft and absorbent as it could be, and that lack of absorbency can lead to scratches.

The lint-bearing tissue is thicker and softer. Therefore, you can often feel embedded particulates and remove pressure before damage is done. Of course, it may leave a tiny bit of lint. Even so, the more adventuresome of observers can return to the air bulb, a ¼-second shot of canned air or, heaven forbid, a puff of human breath. Technical? No. Effective? Yes.

REMEMBER: “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”

 

 

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 14:06
Son of Ed View Drop Down
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Spit.  Shirt sleeve.  ( clean all cow sh*t off sleeve before rubbing ) 




  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 14:15
WJC View Drop Down
Optics Apprentice
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Who are you trying to fool!? I lived at Pecos for 6 years and know you can't get it all off. But then, it does sorta remind one of home, doesn't it? Big Smile

Bill
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 14:32
Son of Ed View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 14:58
groujo View Drop Down
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Thanks all. I will carefully try the acetone.


Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 15:13
WJC View Drop Down
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Be very careful that the edges are not plastic or something less than baked on enamel.  Also., acetone is THINNER than water, so be sure it doesn't seep around the edges of the eyelens. Read that part TWICE if you need to.

Bill
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 16:59
cheaptrick View Drop Down
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I like the canned air mentioned. Get all the kooties off before ya go wiping with a snot rag.

Welcome to Optics Talk. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 17:10
WJC View Drop Down
Optics Apprentice
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And remember, this is the teens. Thus, you must use an organic, gluten-free snot rag!

Bill


Edited by cheaptrick - June/20/2016 at 17:20
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 17:12
WJC View Drop Down
Optics Apprentice
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Well, please change that sont to snot. I would do so myself, but I haven't figured out how to edit a post.

Bill
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 17:37
supertool73 View Drop Down
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4 more posts and you can edit.  Have to have 50. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2016 at 17:46
WJC View Drop Down
Optics Apprentice
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Thank you, sir. You had given those instructions, before. But, what with being stupid, senile, and all ... I forgot.

Bill
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/22/2016 at 15:19
groujo View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
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Ugh. The acetone did nothing. I wonder what the problem is.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/22/2016 at 17:20
gunut View Drop Down
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sometimes coatings just get old and degrade and discolor....I hate to think what could possibly happen to some of these new multi/multi/multi coated lenses down the road.......
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/22/2016 at 18:24
WJC View Drop Down
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The coatings are harder than the glass underneath—570 on the Knoop hardness scale vs 520 for Bk7 glass. Next, try a swab with a bit of De-Solv-It on it. That takes of tar and gum-based stuff. Your coatings could have deteriorated if put on at too low a temperature, but I doubt it. Don't give up hope. Just remember, you will never realize the difference between pristine optics and what you have descibed, anyway. It will be a problem of aesthetics, and that's about all!

Cheers,

Bill
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