How To Clean A Rifle Scope

Have you ever looked through your scope while hunting to see a dark, creeping shadow to the side of you, or maybe even a disfigured Bigfoot, and had to lower your rifle to double check? Then you find that there’s some foreign smudge on your scope lens that’s throwing you all out of whack. Well, specs happen so we have to learn how to properly clean a rifle scope.

Cleaning a rifle scope is a very, very simple and straightforward task, but an incredibly necessary and important one. A nice, clean scope can make all the difference in shot placement and image clarity.

All too often, we focus completely on the rifle and forget about maintaining the scope. Scopes are not completely maintenance free, so by following this step-by-step guide, you can learn how to clean a rifle scope correctly.

how to clean a rifle scope

Some Things You Will Need

Your Rifle Scope – Of course you need your rifle scope, or whichever scope you intend to clean. That’s a given.

A Soft Lens Cleaning Brush – You probably will want a brush specifically for cleaning lenses. It would need to be super soft bristled so as not to scratch sensitive lenses. The brush needs to be clean and free from contaminants or oil residue. While brushing off the lenses, be gentle so that any particles on the lenses don’t scratch the glass.

Microfiber Cleaning Cloth – Microfiber is a lot softer, gentler and constructed differently than cotton cleaning cloths. Microfiber is more absorbent and, depending on the cloth thickness, can absorb any dust or residues away from the lens instead of smearing it across the surface.

Dry Lens Cleaning Sponge Or Anti-Fog Lens Cleaning Agent – Sometimes you can find a cleaning sponge with a dry lens cleaning agent permeated through it for lens cleaning. Otherwise, you should use a special anti-fog lens cleaner. Regular cleaners are not sensitive enough and can do damage to the treatments on your scope lenses.

General Brush Or Rag – This will be for cleaning the body of the scope and turrets. You do not want to use the same brush or cloths on the body as you would use on the lenses. You want to keep those as clean and oil free as possible so that you don’t damage the lenses or lens coatings in any way.

How To Clean A Rifle Scope

Keep in mind when cleaning your rifle scope that you do not want to use any solvents or rags that have gun cleaning solvents on them. These solvents can really do some damage to the coatings on the lenses, and also can dissolve the O-ring that seals the tube and makes the scope waterproof.

Step 1 – Brush Down

Start by very gently brushing down both lenses with your super soft brush. This step is to remove larger particles such as dust or pollen. Be very careful not to scratch the surface of your lenses. They are sensitive.

Step 2 – Microfiber

After the brush down, it’s time to gently wipe the lenses with your clean microfiber cloth. This should remove any smudging, oil or water spots on the glass. Whenever wiping the lenses you want to move in a circular motion to avoid streaking the glass.

Step 3 – Crystal Clear

If you have some really tough smudges that just won’t come off, you can use a couple drops of anti-fog lens cleaner or cleaner that’s specifically for coated lenses. You should use special lens cleaning tissue with these cleaners. This should get your glass crystal clear!

Step 4 – The Body

Wipe down the body of the scope with a separate rag than the one you used for the lenses. You want the lens cloths to be completely free from any oil or residue of any kind, and super soft and gentle. The scope body can take a little more rough treatment. Wipe it down to get any dirt or build-up off. Make sure to check the turrets as they can get some dirt or grime under the knobs that make adjustments difficult.

Step 5 – Battery Compartment

Finally, if your scope needs a battery, check this compartment really well to make sure there is no corrosion or rust. If so, gently clean it out. I have heard many people recommend doing this with a pencil eraser.

Common Questions

Can I clean my scope the same way that I clean my rifle? – No. You could use the same cleaning rag for wiping down the scope body if you wish, but the lenses require a little more care and sensitivity to keep the glass and coatings in good order.

How often should I clean my scope? – You should clean it pretty regularly. Many people focus on the rifle and completely forget about scope maintenance. I’m guilty of this. It’s an easy thing to do, but if you set up a scope cleaning kit that you keep with your rifle cleaning supplies, it is easy to get into the habit of doing a quick but thorough cleaning on your scope each time you clean your rifle.

Do I have to remove my scope from my rifle to clean it thoroughly? – No. You can clean your scope just as thoroughly attached to your rifle as removed. The key is to remember not to get any rifle cleaning solvents on your scope lenses.


Scope cleaning is not a heinous, daunting, scary task that’s super technical. It is very easy and straightforward. It is very necessary to keep up on regularly not only for prolonging the life of your scope but also for preserving the quality, clarity, and performance.

Hopefully, by following this guide you now know confidently how to clean a rifle scope. It is nothing that has to be intimidating and will become second nature if you just incorporate it as part of your rifle cleaning routine. Happy scoping!

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