MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: Why does a little water make it easier to wipe oil off of glass?

Date: Mon Jul 17 15:33:55 2000
Posted By: Tom Stickel, Grad student, Optometry, Indiana University School of Optometry
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 962934100.Ch

  You're right, oil and water don't mix.  And you're right, it is easier to 
clean glasses when they're moist.

  Everything on your glasses isn't pure oil, though.  If it were, water wouldn't 
do much good.  What is doing good is the physical act of rubbing the oily stuff 
off.  If you try cleaning your glasses dry with a lint-free cloth, it will work 
wonderfully.  If what you're wiping them with is dirty, your glasses won't get 
very clean.  Many other things on your glasses aren't pure oil, though.  That's 
why water, a wonderful solvent, helps clean them off.

  Also, if you're wiping them with a paper towel, Kleenex, or other paper based 
product, getting the glasses wet will decrease the scratches you will inevitably 
get on them.

  So, water is a good thing.  It helps to clean your glasses.  But do you wash 
windows with water?  Soap works very well on glass windows, and an eyeglass 
cleaning solution with a detergent is the best thing for cleaning glasses.  A 
soap (mild dishwashing soap works well) and a lint-free cotton cloth will give 
your glasses the best cleaning they've ever had, lifting off oil and water based 
junk easily. This also has the advantage of being less likely to corrode the 
anti-scratch coating that almost all glasses have.


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