Wiping the outside of your helmet lenses is one thing but taking them out and cleaning BOTH sides just could let you see what's going on while welding!
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Clean Your Welding Helmet Lens!

Difficulty seeing is not always technology based!

Text and photos by Tom Hintz

Posted – 3-20-2011

Within nearly every week I’ll get three or four emails from people having trouble seeing through their welding helmet. Most often they are looking for solutions to problems they think are based in the auto-shade electronics. So far only one of those posing these lens-related questions had cleaned that lens or replaced the protective clear covers.
I frequently clean the outer surface of the clear protective lenses on the outside and inside of my Hobart Hood helmet and that often seemed to help. Then after this stream of emails on the subject I went and looked my helmet over more closely. I cleaned the outside of the lenses but could still see what appears to be dust or discoloration beneath those covering lenses. So, I took it apart.

Smoke Gets (close to) In Your Eyes

It just stands to reason that the smoke and fumes we create while welding along with our necessarily close proximity to that welding means that there will be some contamination of the lenses we look through. It doesn’t appear that it makes much difference if they are a single-state or auto-shading, they still get dirty and that eventually makes them harder to see through.

 

Many auto-shading helmets have clear protective lenses over the actual lens that you look through. Take all of this apart (left) to really clean everything that you look through! In addition to solar cells your helmet may have separate detectors that see the arc. (right) Be sure to gently clean those as well.
Click images to enlarge

Before you start yanking the lens out of your helmet check the instruction manual for procedures for removing the lens system and suggestions on materials that can be used to clean the assembly. You might want to remove batteries also just to be safe. If the batteries have been in there for a while this might be a good time to replace them.

Careful Cleaning

I have used plain water to clean my Hobart Hood lenses and that has done a good job. It appears that I am not getting anything more than smoke or fine dust contamination of the lenses and a bit of water and soft tissues cleans them up just fine. My problem has been that I was not taking the lens system apart to get at the inner faces of the lenses even though my Hobart Hood came with a few extra clear protective lenses for the outside and inside openings. So far cleaning those lenses has done the job but as spatter becomes more visible I will have to use one of the replacements.

This is also a good time to clean up the helmet, including the flange where the lens assembly fits. I found some grit in the channels where the lens assembly fits so I brushed that out. I suspect that at least some of that grit came from chipping away slag when stick welding.

On auto-shade helmets you are likely to have a solar cell arrangement as well as one, two or more sensor lenses that detect the arc to trigger the shaded state. Make sure that you clean those areas carefully but do clean them.
After cleaning and drying everything I installed new batteries and then carefully re-assembled my auto-shade lens system. These assemblies are usually pretty straightforward but if you aren’t paying attention it is possible to get it wrong.

When It’s Done

I couldn't recall when I changed my auto-shade batteries (left) so I put in fresh ones while I had the lens system apart. When you get done you could have a much easier time looking through your not-so-sight-impared helmet! (right)
Click images to enlarge

After cleaning your helmet lens system you might find that you can see better when welding. I did see better after cleaning and so have several of the people that emailed me on this subject. I suggested that they begin with cleaning the lens before buying a different helmet or blaming the electronics and for at least five of them, the cleaning made a difference.

This is a cheap (free?) way to troubleshoot vision problems you might be blaming on the helmet. If nothing else you can eliminate dirty lenses from the list of potential problems. Who knows, you may just have fixed the problem yourself!

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