How to wear a mask without your glasses fogging up

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Better get used to wearing a mask.
Better get used to wearing a mask.
Photo: Liam Burnett-Blue/Unsplash

I wore a tubular scarf to the grocery store the other day, and spent most of the time breathing shallowly so my glasses wouldn’t steam up. On the bike it was fine, because the wind kept everything clear. But as soon as I stopped, the mask funneled my hot, moist breath onto my specs, and I couldn’t see.

Luckily, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department knows a thing or two about keeping your spectacles clear while you wear a mask. Here’s how to do it.

The Tokyo police published a guide to avoiding steamy lenses. It was written as a guide for wearing a mask during a disaster to protect against dust. (The guide also mentions wearing masks during hay-fever season.) Which is to say, mask-wearing is more commonplace in Japan, and therefore there’s more expertise when it comes to using them.

Stop glasses from fogging with a face mask

The Tokyo police demonstrate two top tips for wearing masks, including not getting your glasses fogged up.
The Tokyo police demonstrate two top tips.
Photo: Tokyo Police

So, how do the pros stop their glasses from fogging up when wearing a mask? “The solution,” says the Tokyo police guide, “is to simply fold the top of the mask inward, or attach a tissue to the inside of the mask.”

With an expanding mask, the concertina-style kind with the ear loops, you just fold down the first section. Make sure to fold it inward. This obviously makes the total mask area smaller. Because of that, you might want to try the other option: tucking a paper handkerchief into the top of the mask.

With a homemade mask, you might be able to try the paper handkerchief trick. Or perhaps you could adjust the wire clip so it redirects the moist air away from your eyes. Whichever option you choose, the idea is that it will channel your hot, moist breath away from the inside surface of your glasses. That means you can avoid the steamy windows phenomenon.

Another option: Wash your glasses first

Another suggestion for keeping glasses from fogging up while wearing a mask comes from a paper published by the U.K.’s Royal College of Surgeons. This advice is specifically for surgeons who wear glasses. It suggests washing your glasses with soapy water — something you should probably be doing anyway these days.

Immediately before wearing a face mask, wash the spectacles with soapy water and shake off the excess. Then, let the spectacles air dry or gently dry off the lenses with a soft tissue before putting them back on. Now the spectacle lenses should not mist up when the face mask is worn.

This works because a residue of soap on the glass/plastic lenses will reduce the surface tension of any water landing on them. This “surfactant effect” will, in turn, stop misting. I’m not sure about this one, though. I already wash my glasses with soap and water, and they still get misty.

Next time I leave the house, though, I’m going to try this one out. And if you have any other good tips, let us know.