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Update (from comment):

It's certainly possible that the manufacturer had that in mind when making their cleaning recommendation, but I'd like to think they would specifically warn against it if it was a common issue.


For an arbitrary glasses frame, specifically the earsocks, can regular alcohol/sanitiser replace detergent and warm water? Apparently some brands of glasses frames recommend really detergent and warm water. I mean, with alcohol and sanitiser, am I perhaps killing only 99% of the germs instead of 99.9% of the germs? (If we wanted planes to be safe "with statistical significance" that is 99% confidence level we'd have between 400 and 2500 crashes a day.)

I couldn't find any videos for this on youtube. Most of what youtube gives is cleaning ears or cleaning the lenses.

Edited to add: I got the following with my new glasses.

enter image description here

Kind of a hassle to do the recommendation especially that I've never cleaned glasses frames in my 13 years of wearing of glasses, except when they were, to borrow a term from WHO, 'visibly soiled':

Clean your hands by rubbing them with an alcohol-based formulation, as the preferred mean for routine hygienic hand antisepsis if hands are not visibly soiled. It is faster, more effective, and better tolerated by your hands than washing with soap and water.

• Wash your hands with soap and water when hands are visibly dirty or visibly soiled with blood or other body fluids or after using the toilet.

Alcohol is a substitute for soap and water for hands that are not 'visibly soiled'. Is there perhaps some kind of substitute for glasses frame?

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    $\begingroup$ Did your recommandations specifically mention killing germs? Because glasses have special coatings that may be damaged more with one cleaning product than the other. $\endgroup$
    – user40950
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 1:24
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    $\begingroup$ Are these recommendations specifically for the purpose of decontaminating or santizing your glasses, or for removing the oils and debris of everyday use? In my experience, ethanol doesn't do a great job of removing oils or drying clear. Most hand sanitizer has additional additives that may leave even more residue. Also, soap or detergent and water is effective against a much broader range of germ, as there are many on which alcohol sanitizers have little to no effect. $\endgroup$
    – MikeyC
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Cell Thanks. Edited to add details. Kind of a hassle to do the recommendation especially that I've never cleaned glasses frames in my 13 years of wearing of glasses, except when they were 'visibly soiled'. Actually now I'll edit to add more details about 'visibly soiled'. $\endgroup$
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeyC Thanks. Edited to add details. Kind of a hassle to do the recommendation especially that I've never cleaned glasses frames in my 13 years of wearing of glasses, except when they were 'visibly soiled'. Actually now I'll edit to add more details about 'visibly soiled'. $\endgroup$
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 9:12
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    $\begingroup$ @BCLC: Yes - or so I'd suppose from what I've read about the product. As I said, I've never actually used it myself. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 1:11

2 Answers 2

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Ignoring any possible impact alcohol-based solvents might have on the material or coating of frames, alcohol won't really remove anything it dissolves unless it is rinsed or at least thoroughly wiped off. When the alcohol evaporates, it will leave behind a residue containing anything that was dissolved in it. That's why your hands sometimes feel sticky after applying that gel hand sanitizer. The gelling agents don't evaporate with the alcohol, but instead remain on your skin.

But since this is the Biology stack, so I'll try to provide a more biological answer.

What would sanitizer fail to do that detergent and warm water would do in cleaning glasses frame that isn't 'visibly soiled'?

While alcohol based sanitizers are effective at killing most pathogens, it's typically on par with a soap and water scrub. However, for the purposes of sanitation (which seems to be the only reason you'd need to clean frames that are "not visibly soiled") there are several indications for which alcohol based sanitizers are considered ineffective and inferior to soap and water. This is generally because of the specific physiology or life cycle stage of certain organisms which allow them to be resistant to the biocidal effects of alcohol. Common examples include Cryptosporidium, a water-borne protozoan parasite, norovirus, a non-enveloped intestinal virus that spreads notoriously fast in hospital environments and on cruise ships, and almost all endospore-forming bacteria, like Clostridium perfringens and Clostridioides difficile. In the lab, we actually use alcohol to isolate live bacterial spores from the vegetative components of a culture. It has also been reported that alcohol based sanitizers are more likely to cause allergic reactions (e.g. contact dermatitis) from skin exposure.

Most of these statements can be referenced in this open-access article on PubMed, with links to primary sources if you're interested in following up more.

Gold NA, Mirza TM, Avva U. Alcohol Sanitizer. 2020 Jun 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513254/#

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks MikeyC! So actually alcohol or sanitiser may be harmful to the frame? ('Ignoring any possible impact alcohol-based solvents') $\endgroup$
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ I only mentioned it because the possibility had been raised in some of the comments and the previous answer. It's certainly possible that the manufacturer had that in mind when making their cleaning recommendation, but I'd like to think they would specifically warn against it if it was a common issue. $\endgroup$
    – MikeyC
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ MikeyC, GENIUS. thanks. i added part of your comment to an update to the question post $\endgroup$
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 5:51
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The earsocks on Oakley brand sunglasses are made of a proprietary hydrophilic rubber called Unobtanium 1. From what I can find, Unobtanium is likely a styrene copolymer 2, possibly a formulation called Kraton G 3. Polystyrene is insoluble in water, but soluble in ethanol and 2-propanol (isopropanol) 4, which are the most common alcohols used in sanitizers.

So, as suggested by @Cell, soapy water is likely recommended by the manufacturer because it is unlikely to damage the glasses, whereas alcohol-based cleaners may degrade the soft rubber components.


  1. https://www.oakleyforum.com/threads/how-to-restore-old-unobtainium-that-has-gone-sticky.10821/
  2. https://www.oakleyforum.com/threads/rubbers.21973/page-2
  3. https://kraton.com/products/KRATON_G.php
  4. https://www.bangslabs.com/common-solvents-and-non-solvents-polystyrene
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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Dirigible! So actually alcohol or sanitiser may be harmful to the frame? ('whereas alcohol-based cleaners may degrade the soft rubber components.') $\endgroup$
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 10:42

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