No clear value in lens-scratch kit

As Seen On TV

Your Money

September 19, 2004|By Matthew Kauffman

I suffer from a medical condition that top ophthalmologists refer to as "blind as a bat."

But there's a silver lining. With glasses, my vision is 20/20, and so my specs spend every minute of the day either perched on my nose or safely resting, exactly one arm's length away, on a bedside table. They are never stashed in a desk drawer or tossed into a handbag or stowed in a glove compartment. They never even see the inside of a case.

Consequently, my glasses are remarkably scratch-free - making me the last person alive who ought to be testing the Liquid Lense scratch-treatment kit.

But hey, it's my job. So I ordered the $14.98 kit and went looking for a pair of guinea-pig glasses to test this "revolutionary" product.

Pack rat that I am, it didn't take long to find an old pair of glasses that were roughly the size of ski goggles. Although wildly unfashionable, they provided a nice large canvas to test out the product. And after a few light passes with some 220-grit sandpaper, I had myself a pair of glasses in definite need of scratch repair.

Liquid Lense, intended only for plastic lenses, uses "fill-and-seal technology" applied in a simple, two-step process. In the first, the lenses are cleaned with the Micro Cleanser Prep Solution, which comes in a tiny one-ounce spray bottle. Simply spritz the solution onto the lenses, rub with your fingers, and rinse off.

At least, I think you're supposed to rinse off. The two-page instruction booklet advises to "rinse completely with clean water" before drying. But the instructions on the bottle say to spray the solution, wait a few seconds, and remove with a dry cloth.

I went with the instruction booklet, but that inconsistency hardly inspired confidence.

In the second process, the lens-treatment solution is applied using a small sponge-tipped brush similar to those used with lip gloss. The clear liquid is applied in overlapping strokes over the lens and is supposed to fill the scratches and reduce their appearance.

Applying Liquid Lense takes only a few minutes, and dries within half an hour - faster if you use a blow dryer to help things along. And it looks great when first applied, magically masking the scratch lines, which is why the infomercial is so persuasive.

But alas, Liquid Lense is no miracle product.

Liquid Lense does, indeed, reduce the appearance of scratches, although it does not eliminate them. But here's the problem: Liquid Lense claims to dry to "an invisible, clear finish." It's clear, all right. But it's not invisible.

Liquid Lense is essentially polyurethane for your glasses, and as any woodworker will tell you, it's not easy to get a perfectly smooth, level coat. Applying it to the small, curved surface of eyeglass lenses makes it doubly difficult.

And so, through repeated attempts, I was consistently left with lap marks and an ever-so-slightly uneven surface that distorted the lens. It reminded me of looking through the imperfect glass panes you'll find in the windows of Colonial-era houses.

I tried furiously polishing the lens with the included "polishing chamois" in hopes of getting a smoother surface, but it didn't help.

In short, I got rid of some of the scratches, but I acquired an equally annoying problem in the bargain. Unfortunately, there's no substitute for the precision grinding and polishing available from a professional optician.

The good news is that it's easy to redo (or simply undo) the Liquid Lense process; reapplying the Micro-Cleanser Prep Solution will dissolve and remove the sealant.

Liquid Lense certainly costs a lot less than replacing eyeglass lenses. So for those with a lot of patience, and a steady hand, it might be worthwhile, at least as a temporary fix.

But Liquid Lense as a long-term alternative to new glasses? I just can't see it.

Matthew Kauffman is a columnist for The Hartford Courant, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail him at yourmoney@tribune.com. For a detailed review of other products, log onto www.ctnow.com/ontv.

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