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How to Clean a Rifle Scope: 8 Expert Tips

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Visibility is king when you’re hunting, and a poorly maintained scope can obscure your vision and ruin hours of prep work if you miss your shot. Scopes these days are usually made of anodized, scratch-resistant material, but the lens is as delicate as a camera lens.

Let’s help you demystify the best ways to clean and maintain your rifle’s scope. With practice, your scopes will last much longer before needing to be repaired or replaced.

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How to Clean a Rifle Scope

Always start the cleaning process by removing any large dust and debris particles from the optic with a soft lens brush. Then, use your microfiber towel to wipe down the body of the entire scope. Wet the lens with your preferred solution, then wipe the lens itself with your microfiber lens cloth. Make sure to do this in a spiral pattern from the center and out to the edges. Then, allow your lens to air dry before repeating any of the above steps for a more thorough cleaning.

1. Keep It Covered

Flip up rifle scope cover isolated
Photo Credit: Guy J. Sagi, Shutterstock

An uncovered scope lens is constantly picking up dust from the air, and particles like dirt and sand are worthy threats as well. When not currently in use, you should always keep your rifle scope’s lens cover on to prevent dust accumulation. Regularly leaving the lens uncovered means it picks up more tiny, hairlike surface scratches, and these make your view cloudy and unclear over time.

2. Opt for Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

lens microfiber cloth
Photo Credit: byrev, Pixabay

Just like electronic screens, camera lenses, and other delicate surfaces where visual clarity is important, don’t skimp on your cleaning cloth. Microfiber is typically the best material you can find, and many rifle scopes come with a microfiber cleaning cloth by default. This is your best friend for picking up dust and light fingerprints on a scope lens. The bad news is that microfiber isn’t the best at cleaning smears, stains, residue, or dirt.

3. Avoid Direct Liquid Contact

AR 10 Rifle Scope
Image Credit By: Rifleman_shutterstock_AR10

You can’t always predict the weather during a hunting trip, and sometimes your gear will get wet whether you like it or not. You must keep your rifle scope covered or capped when you detect rain, or else water could get in the seals and ruin them.

Moisture on the scope lens can leave behind foggy residue and attract dirt and dust particles too, which makes waterproofing your equipment an important consideration for any hunter.

4. Battery Maintenance for Powered Scopes

night vision rifle scope
Image Creit: Lutsenko_Oleksandr, Shutterstock

Powered scopes offer greater illumination by lighting up a reticle within the sight. These are especially valuable for night hunting, as you need a really bright scope to function well in full sunlight. Many hunters neglect to check the battery compartment for their powered sights when they’re cleaning the lens and then wonder why the reticle goes black.

After enough time, dirt, moisture, and ordinary wear, batteries can corrode within the compartment. Make sure to clean out any sign of green corrosion in the battery compartment and ensure there’s no moisture inside when you close it. If you want, you can use rubbing alcohol to dry up any moisture before letting it fully evaporate.

5. Use a Scope Lens Pen

Lens Pen
Image Credit: S.Dashkevych, Shutterstock

Lens pens are a convenient and compact tool to carry with you in the field for cleaning your rifle during long periods up in a stand, especially during wet or sandy weather. A lens pen has a soft brush on one side for cleaning dirt and sand without grinding the silica-based debris into your sensitive lens and producing scratches.

The other side of a typical lens pen is made of a soft material like felt or microfiber, used for periodic light dusting. You also use this side before the pen’s brush side to get as much debris off as possible before brushing. Really, you can even just work the soft side around the center of the scope lens in small circles to work out most light fogginess.

6. Cleaning Solution Dos & Don’ts

Q tip with bottle of rubbing alcohol
Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

Just wiping a cloth or lens pen isn’t going to do much on its own, especially if it’s managed to get caked on your rifle scope. Avoid water at all costs, which dries too slowly and leaves behind a cloudy residue on your scope lens. The water can also seep into the scope’s seals, ruining any special coatings on the lens and compromising your lens image.

Instead, use an eyeglass cleaning solution or high-proof isopropyl alcohol as sparingly as possible to clean a scope lens. These dry much faster than water alone and don’t leave behind a residue that obscures visual quality. A lens cleaning solution is specifically designed to dry fast and not harm chemical coatings on lenses, making it a great choice for your higher-end scopes.

7. Keep a Portable Cleaning Kit

lens cleaning kit
Image Credit: Ales Munt, Shutterstock

Any hunter should have at least a lens pen or microfiber cloth handy to clean off any unexpected mud splotches, water drops, or dirt on the scope lens. You want to travel light, but adding a small spray bottle of eyeglass cleaning solution or rubbing alcohol would give you more flexibility in keeping the lens squeaky clean.

scope crosshairs divider 2 Conclusion

A dirty rifle scope can lead to expensive damage and cloud your vision in the field at the worst possible times, so it’s best to keep it clean at all times. Using a lens pen and microfiber cloth and just a little bit of liquid cleaning solution are the best ways to keep your scope lens crystal clear and clean for many seasons to come.

Featured Image Credit: robbrownaustralia, Pixabay

About the Author Codee Chessher

Codee Chessher is a freelance writer with extensive knowledge on a variety of subjects that include travel, sound engineering, automotive, optics, DIY, pets, and more. He has a colorful past that includes building schools and commercial driving, but the written word was always his first love and continues to be his passion. He believes there's nothing a well-worded sentence can't accomplish.