With Melburnians now advised to wear face masks outside – particularly in places where social distancing is not possible – a massive chunk of the population is suddenly being faced with a new, but also time-weathered, problem. Not that the feel a bit weird or that walking around looking like an off-duty surgeon is a strange way to be. Rather, the curious efficiency with which face masks tend to fog up glasses.
Glasses wearers – both casual and permanent alike – will have no doubt encountered this problem already. The face mask across the nose and mouth has the added effect of funnelling your own hot breath upwards, which on a cold winter’s day will fog even the most expensive of lens up in a heartbeat.
That makes walking around reasonably treacherous, and doing anything else at all quite the pain in the ass.
Luckily though, we’re not the first people to endure such a fate. Many have walked this foggy path before, and their wisdom in this regard is as valuable as gold.
Here are some of the things you can do to prevent your glasses – by they reading, looking, or sun – from fogging up while you do the right thing by wearing a mask outside.
Make Sure Your Mask Fits Properly
It seems like common sense, but it’s one of those things that can quite easily be overlooked due to laziness or whatnot. Making sure your mask fits properly across the bridge of your nose goes a long way to preventing air from escaping upwards into your eyes/glasses.
Ensuring the ear straps are sufficiently tightened is step one here, which will improve the mask’s fit on your face and strengthen the seal it has around its edges.
But beyond that, the bridge of the nose is where you should be focusing. Medical-grade face masks all have a metal strip across the top which you should be bending tightly around your nose to ensure a snug fit.
Those of you currently rocking the somewhat more stylish cloth masks won’t have that luxury, but you can add that at home by gluing in a pipe cleaner or any other pliable metal stripe across the top.
If you’re looking for a little added peace of mind, you can tape your mask to your nose using medical or athletic tape or even BandAids. Do not, for the love of god, use household electrical or duct tape here. Pulling it off might remove a lot of blackheads but it’ll probably remove a hell of a lot more as well.
Failing that, you can always pull the mask up a little higher and use your glasses to pin it down across your nose.
Wash The Lenses Before Putting Your Mask On
Believe it or not the most practical and effective fog-protection method comes from the medical world. A 2011 paper co-authored by Sheraz Shafi Malik and Shahbaz Shafi Malik published in the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England addressed the long-standing issue of surgeons’ glasses fogging up during procedures. The paper found that fogging or misting on glasses occurs from “warm water vapour content condensing on the cooler surface of the lens, and forming tiny droplets that scatter the light and reduce the ability of the lens to transmit contrast.” The fog then forms on the lens “because of the inherent surface tension between the water molecules.”
They found that by washing the lenses with soapy water and letting either air dry or gently drying with a soft tissue, a protective, invisible film is left of the lens which prevents fogging from occurring.
Similar methods have been floating around the internet since the wearing of face masks took a sharp upswing thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The most notable of which is rubbing shaving foam onto the lens and wiping off with a tissue, not water.
There’s also the old swimmer’s trick of spitting into the lens and rubbing it clear prior to use, which has been an anti-fog technique used on goggles since time immemorial. But given the pandemic conditions, using your own spit – and possibly spreading germs in the process – isn’t advised in the slightest right now.
The soapy water trick, in this regard, remains the King.
Get Commercial Anti-Fog Products
If you require something a little more on-the-go, there’s a stack of commercial anti-fog products out there for not much. Chemist’s Warehouse has a stack of them, for example. The rub there however is that they can be a little economically inefficient. If you’re also concerned about reducing the amount of personal waste you produce it may be something you want to avoid.
What If None Of This Works?
Then you may be shit out of luck. A lot of modern eyeglasses are treated with protective coatings that prevent glare and smudges. While that’s certainly very handy, the trade-off is that that coating prevents thin films of soap from sticking to the lens, meaning anti-fog techniques and products simply don’t work on them. That applies to lenses using anti-glare protection like Crizal.
If you’re one of these unlucky people and you’re still adamant about reducing the amount of fog on your setup, you can try pushing the glasses a little further down your nose to increase the gap between them and your face, thereby increasing the amount of space that air from the mask has to escape into.
It may distort your vision a fair bit, however. So best to be careful on that front.
All of these techniques should arm you with enough tools to be able to strut around town, face mask on and fancy free, while keeping a clear look at the road ahead.Image: Getty Images / John Lamparski