How to: Remove scratches from your phone's camera 'glass'

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This applies to any phone with exposed camera 'glass', i.e. which has no physical, protective shutter.

You'll remember from last year that, through over-zealous attempts to wipe off dust, the camera 'glass' (actually plastic) on my Nokia N95 8GB had actually gotten more damaged than if I'd left the dust on (I suspect). Despite normally being kept immaculate in a case, after three months of use, this is how the camera cover looked:

Lens close-up

Although I proved that this had little effect on most photos, it was still galling to have damaged this most important part of my phone.

However, the scratches concerned were tiny and I had the gut feel that they could be polished out easily enough. 'Polishing' here is taken to mean very lightly abrading the surface to bring the level of the top surface of the transparent plastic down to so that the scratches (i.e. the tiny, shallow grooves where dust particles have gouged in) become part of the surface, restoring a nice, clean and smooth cover that doesn't mess with the light coming into the main (glass) optics of the camera below. 

But what to polish with? Screen cleaner? No, that would just add a layer of polymers over the top of the scratches. Toothpaste? That's been said to do the trick, but there are so many varieties - do I use 'Whitening' paste? Following a recommendation on Twitter, I bought some 'Displex' on eBay. Costing £3, including postage, this claims to both polish out small scratches and (if necessary) fill in any deeper ones in a useable way.

Displex comes as a small tube of creamy liquid (enough for about 1000 applications!) and a lint-free cloth:


Now to work:

  1. I followed the Displex advice to mask off the surrounding plastic with tape, just in case.
  2. Adding a couple of drops to the camera 'glass', I firmly rubbed the Displex in with the cloth, using a circular motion, for about 30 seconds.
  3. Almost all the scratches were, somewhat magically, gone. I repeated the treatment with another couple of drops and another 30 secs polishing.

Here's the result:

Polished out scratches

Rather impressive, I think you'll agree. The virgin phone did, apparently, have an extra, anti-glare coating applied to the 'glass', and the polishing action has removed most of this, but I've noticed no difference in terms of photo quality.

As ever with this sort of tutorial/feature, I'm eager to gather data points. Have you tried something similar with one of your camera phones, and if so, what were your experiences?

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 1 May 2009