Does anti-fog spray (or baby shampoo) really work for swimming goggles?

Ever been annoyed by goggles that fogged up on you part way through an open water swim? Curious what other triathletes do to keep their goggles clear?

Well, we were too. So we took an informal poll of 107 competitors from the 2019 Ironman 70.3 Waco triathlon, and asked about how they prepped their goggles pre-race and if it worked.

Option 1: No prep, just goggle-up and swim

Just over 25% of the racers who took our survey did nothing to their goggles before starting the swim. Some of them did that on purpose, and some just forgot to use whatever anti fog spray, baby shampoo or wipes they usually use.

Sadly, the “do nothing” group’s goggles fogged up 40% of the time.

The swimmers who had a relatively new pair of goggles fared best – their goggles stayed clear about 75% of the time. That’s because the factory-applied anti-fog coating in a new pair of swimming goggles is usually good for about a month of use (maybe longer if you don’t touch the coating and keep it dry). Four racers purposely bought a new pair of their usual goggles to use on race day for this reason.

Predictably, the triathletes with older goggles were less lucky – about 50% of them ended up with foggy goggles either right away or after about 10 minutes of open water swimming. Because the water was only 65 degrees for this race, and a big temperature difference between your face and the water makes your goggles more likely to fog up, doing nothing was a big gamble that didn’t pay off for most of them.

Option 2: “Lick” or “spit”

Saliva turned out to be a highly effective anti-fog strategy.
Amongst all five alternatives, it was the second best (82% effective). The majority of people who went the saliva route licked the inside of their goggles. The rest spit into them, smeared it around with a finger and then rinsed with a little with water afterwards. This is a simple solution used by competitive swimmers for decades, and you sure can’t beat the price!

Anti fog spray success rate

Option 3: Store-bought stuff

45% of the triathletes we surveyed used three other anti-fog options that cost a bit of money – baby shampoo ($1-2 for a travel-sized bottle), anti-fog spray (prices vary between $5-8), and anti-fog wipes ($1-1.33 per wipe).

Baby shampoo and anti-fog sprays worked 60-70% of the time, with baby shampoo being more likely to fail early in a swim compared with the spray. Some swimmers who used these two methods commented that it always works for them, so it’s possible that some failures were due to “user error”.

When applied evenly, and either allowed to dry overnight or immediately activated with a little clear water, both baby shampoo and anti-fog sprays essentially clean the lens surface and leave behind a uniform “soap” layer that should prevent condensation. Some people’s eyes are sensitive to the bit of residue left behind, but most people tolerate it well enough.

If your results with either of these methods haven’t been stellar in the past, you can download our step-by-step anti-fog guide to help you use these methods more effectively before your next workout or race.

Baby shampoo and anti-fog spray, in addition to saliva, are safe to use on relatively new goggles that still have all or part of their original anti-fog coating remaining, if you’re the “better safe than sorry” type. The 14 swimmers who tried one of these three options fogged up less often than the 20 who did nothing (14% vs. 25%).

The final method, which worked fantastically on old goggles with no original anti-fog coating remaining, was anti-fog wipes. Because of the fragility of factory anti-fog coatings, we do NOT recommend using anti-fog wipes, microfiber cloths, or any other cloth on new goggles. It is possible to ruin the original coating and make the goggles un-usable, so please use any cloth with care before the original coating has worn off.

Only 11% of the swimmers surveyed used anti-fog wipes, but they worked for all but one of them (90% effective). They are potentially quite expensive ($1 or more per wipe), but if you keep an opened wipe in a tightly sealed plastic bag, it can be used multiple times before it dries out. They are also very convenient to use – unlike baby shampoo or sprays (or spit, for that matter), they don’t leave a thick residue behind that has to be rinsed away. So they are less prone to user error, and don’t require you to carry water around prior to the swim start.

Because of the fragility of factory anti-fog coatings, we do NOT recommend using anti-fog wipes, microfiber cloths, or any other cloth on new goggles.

The bottom line:

  • If your goggles are less than a month old, you probably don’t need to do anything to them pre-swim to keep them from fogging. If you’re not sure, or the water is REALLY cold, you can lick them or use an anti-fog spray or baby shampoo to bolster their anti-fog coating. But do NOT use an anti-fog wipe or microfiber cloth on the inside of new goggles or you may ruin them.
  • If your goggles are old, and the original anti-fog coating is gone, doing ANYTHING is better than doing nothing to keep them clear. Saliva and anti-fog wipes seem to be the most effective options (80-90% fog-free).

Want to make sure your goggles are “anti-fog ready” before your next workout or race?

Click here to get instant access to our step-by-step guide to using each anti-fog method successfully. It also includes our "whole hog" comprehensive anti-fogging method and full results for our survey broken out by goggle age.

    1 comment

    Jilly Ruby Jane

    Your post really a great post, it’s very useful for me. Thanks for sharing these!

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