The Best Safety Glasses of 2020
For daily driver eye protection, we think that the NoCry Safety Glasses are the bee's knees. They're lightweight with quality lenses and an adjustable fit, and comfortable enough that we generally forgot we were wearing them when we had them on — an uncommon feat in a world of protective glasses. The low profile of the NoCry glasses worked well with respirators, hats, masks, and ear protection. They also did surprisingly well on our impact tests and didn't get too scratched up with all the abuse we heaped on it. The lens is also very clear and didn't distort our testers' vision, so no tired eyes at the end of the day, and the price is also nice.
Although there are a few features that make the NoCry spectacles adjustable, and we like that they have holes to attach straps to, they are pretty bare bones. Unlike some of the others we tested, they didn't have a gasket of any kind or come with a strap for the holes provided. We also wished that they hugged the cheeks a bit closer, as some dust can creep up in there, but that gap also made them ventilate better with a respirator, so it's a tradeoff. All in all, we loved the NoCry product, and for those who need a non-specific daily pair of eye protection for anything from tree trimming to carpentry to chemistry.
For serious eye protection, you have to bring out the big guns, and this means goggles. We found the SolidWork Safety Goggles to provide the most protection while being quite comfortable. The thick rubber gasket provides coverage from nearly all dust and fumes and also provides surprisingly good impact protection. While goggles often get foggy, the anti-fog coating SolidWork put on their lens worked quite well, even with a respirator and in a high humidity environment.
Although the rubber gasket seals out dust and is pretty comfortable, because of the broad contact the rubber has with skin, our testers found that it got quite sweaty under there. While dealing with sweaty goggles, we also realized that it's hard to adjust the strap for tightness while wearing the goggles, and taking off the goggles isn't always convenient when you have gloves covered in something like concrete stain, or a hat and mask on. That being said, these were our favorite when we needed heavy duty protection. We'd recommend the SolidWork Safety Goggles for people who need heavy-duty protection from dust, fumes, and impact.
For how small and inexpensive the 3M Virtua Safety Glasses are, they bring a lot to the table. The Virtua hugs the face closely, providing excellent coverage for sport-style glasses. They also feature a removable foam gasket that helps prevent errant dust or debris flying into one's eyes. One nice feature they have is an attachment system for corded earplugs (not included) that also makes for a good keeper loop. The Virtua glasses were also easy to use with a respirator mask, a hat, and we barely noticed them while going about our work.
One disadvantage of the glasses being so lightweight is that the frames are a little flimsier than most of the other pairs we tested, and if these glasses accidentally got smushed under tools or in a bag, they could be more likely to break, although we didn't experience it in our tests. They also don't have great fog protection in high humidity environments, but they do ventilate adequately with a respirator. Without the foam gasket, the nose bridge is a little rigid for our taste, and our testers ended up with deep marks in their noses at the end of the day wearing these. Overall, though, these are an excellent and versatile product, one of our favorites, and come in at an unbeatable price. We recommend these if you use eye protection on a regular basis, and tend to go through them quickly.
If you need a quiver of one for eye protection, for everything from running a wood chipper to spraying muriatic acid, look no further than the Pyramex I-Force glasses. This pair of spectacles can go from full protection goggles with a full strap and foam gasket, to a stripped-down pair of standard glasses with regular temples. In either mode, they provided excellent protection and durability. With these we'd recommend a full-on glasses case to keep track of all the parts, but we loved how versatile one pair could be.
Like many jacks-of-all-trades, these are often masters of none. As a regular pair of safety specs, they were a bit chunky compared to some of the more low profile models, and they were less comfortable in goggle mode than the dedicated safety goggles. Also, the verticle articulation at the hinge initially seemed nifty, but just ended up with the glasses always being a bit wonky on our testers' faces. Still, we think this is a quality pair of glasses that could work in nearly any situation where you'd need eye protection, and we'd recommend them for the person who wants just one pair of eye protection to do just about any job.
The Dewalt Concealer DPG82 is for when you have to go big on personal protective equipment. With a full rubber gasket and low profile elastic headband, these goggles are here to protect your eyes when the work gets nasty. The full gasket and small vent holes prevent dust, fumes, sprays, and almost anything else that might come your way during dirty work. When it comes to fumes and dust, we found these goggles to integrate well with a dual filter half mask, what most think of when they hear the word "respirator." The goggle gasket fit well over the rubber mask of the respirator providing complete face protection without needing a full filter mask.
Although the Dewalt goggles provide tons of protection, it wasn't as comfy as the other goggles we tested. The thinner gasket creates pressure points, particularly on testers' foreheads that got uncomfortable after hours of use. The yellow frames were also annoying to have at the edge of our vision; we think a less bright or clear frame would have been a better choice. Still, the Dewalt Concealer DPG82 is a quality pair of goggles with a high level of protection and works well with other PPE.
The Pyramex Fortress has a few things going for it. We liked the low profile sport style that worked well under a hat, mask, or both. The nose bridge was also nicely adjustable and comfortable, and the rubberized bridge and temples kept the glasses tight to our face. The Fortress was nicely durable and took both dull and sharp impacts well. The price is especially appreciated.
We did notice over and over the huge gap between our testers' cheeks and the bottom of the lens. Our lead tester was able to almost slip his thumb all the way under it, leaving plenty of room for the errant splinter to fly into one's eyes or fill with dust. However, if you need a cheap pair of glasses to beat up, these are a decent choice.
As far as safety glasses go, the Kleenguard Maverick comes as a pretty standard package. The clear fins provide the side protection of the Maverick, which helps maintain peripheral vision, something many of the others we tested didn't. The temples also fit snugly under a hat or mask, whereas some of the other models were awkwardly pushed up when our testers tried to wear them with a ball cap. They also provided adequate impact protection, although the flatter profile takes impacts more squarely than the sport style glasses, which allow impacts more likely to deflect away.
We wish the Maverick had a little more going for it, and while it is a serviceable pair of safety glasses, it didn't have the small features than many of the other models we tested did. Still, they protected our eyes and fit well with other PPE, which makes them a solid pair of glasses, especially under a hat.
The Magid Iconic Y50 Safety Glasses are a traditionally styled pair of glasses with clear side protection and integrated bifocal reading lenses. For those who regularly switch between heavy duty work and reading, these might be a good choice, rather than clunky wear-over glasses. Our testers liked the clear side protection, and the solid frames held up well to the abuses of work and casual storage.
We didn't find these overly comfortable, however, and during our impact tests, the nose bridge actually took a chunk out of our test dummy. The temples were comfy enough, but the frames felt heavy on our face over an hour of use. It also lacked some features that other models in our test line-up include. Still, we could see these being useful for anyone farsighted who needs reading glasses and eye protection at the same time, but doesn't want to deal with bulky over-glasses or goggles.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead tester, Ethan Newman, has been wearing tons of personal protective equipment for all sorts of jobs for years. He's worn eye protection for everything from half a decade of professional tree trimming to wildland firefighting for Zion National Park to carpentry and masonry. He's also worked on sustainable building projects, like building Florida's first Earthship, and with Patagonia Waste Management, installing sustainable composting toilets in the Argentinian backcountry. As a search and rescue volunteer, he's also seen the result of what happens when protective equipment fails. He's been saved by his PPE more than he'd care to admit, and in doing so, has become more and more discerning about quality equipment.
We spent dozens of hours researching and testing these glasses hands-on, considering everything from UV protection to real-world scratch and impact testing. We used grinders, jigsaws, falling knives and rocks, and other real-world tests to evaluate each product. Our lead tester even repeatedly took shots of dust to the face in order to provide you the best, most thorough review.
Analysis and Test Results
To test all these safety glasses and goggles, we used a mix of daily and varied use, coupled with focused tests. Each use and test fed into the scores of each category, which were then weighted in order of importance. In order to have a broadly useful review, we tested a variety of different styles of eye protection in many different situations. Through these tests, we were able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each pair of glasses.
This type of equipment is worthless if it isn't effective. In evaluating the protection each pair of glasses provide, we considered all kinds of harm that the glasses might prevent. We tested dull and sharp impacts via drop tests. We did dust and fume tests both by using them during dusty work, and by doing a "flour blow" test.
One surprising thing about the impact tests, depending on the shape of the glasses, each product would either take the impact squarely, transferring the energy straight to our test dummy's head, or deflect away if the glasses were rounded. Some of the smaller, sport-style models flew off the test dummy, as a way of transferring energy. Oddly enough, some other PPE, like hardhats, are designed to do the same thing in order to absorb energy safely, rather than push the shockwave into the user. Our impact tests were approximately based on actual OSHA impact tests, which all of these models are certified through (ANSI Z87).
We found that both the SolidWork Safety Goggles and the Dewalt Concealer DPG82 did the best when it comes to dust and fumes, but they also did quite well with impact, as the rubber gaskets collapsed, absorbing the impact energy. The Pyramex I-Force did well in this regard, as did the 3M Virtua, as they have removable gaskets for both dust control and helped absorb the shock. Surprisingly, the NoCry model did quite well because they fit so close to the face of our testers.
It doesn't only matter how well a product works; if they aren't comfortable, nobody will wear them. We tested each pair of glasses and goggles for comfort by wearing them for an extended about of time, at least three hours per pair, and up to a full work day. We also tested them integrated with ball caps and masks, something we tend to also be wearing when it comes to the kind of work you need PPE for.
A big design feature that made the difference was the nose bridge, and where the temples of the glasses contact the ears. Harder, less adjustable nose bridges tended to create pressure points after a while, and some left marks after a few hours of wearing them. Low profile temples and straps also tended to be more comfortable with masks (both dust and fabric COVID-19 versions) and hats.
Some of the highest performers are the NoCry Safety Glasses and the 3M Virtua CCS, as we nearly forgot we were wearing them. While it's harder to forget that you're wearing goggles, we found the SolidWorks Goggles to be fairly comfortable, as the rubber gasket is broad and soft enough to not create pressure points during extended wear.
We tested these again by extended use and wear, as well as our "toolbox test." Plenty of folks, our lead tester included, tends to abuse their eye protection by leaving them with their tools, uncovered, to rattle around in a tool box or bag. This tends to scratch and crunch lenses and frames over time, so we accelerated the process by throwing each pair in a toolbox full of tools and shaking it for a few minutes to see how scratched up they could get. We also evaluated how sturdy the construction is for each, and how likely they would be to break if accidentally twisted or smushed in a bag or pocket. As we expect these glasses to be used for a while, we weighted durability significantly in our assessments.
As one might expect, as far as sturdy construction, the SolidWorks and Dewalt Concealer DPG82 goggles did well, but so did the Pyramex I-Force, whose large sturdy hinges stood up to some aggressive twisting. We were also surprised by how little the NoCry model got scratched up after rattling around with screwdrivers, files, and other tools and parts in a toolbox.
Although this seems fairly straightforward, some of the small details stood out in this category. We looked at both what each product comes with (extra straps, lenses, removable features), as well as the nifty little tricks designed into each pair of eye protection. Some of these little design details ended up making a big difference when it came to actual use.
Far and away the pair of glasses with the most features are the Pyramex I-Force. The I-Force comes with an extra strap so it can convert all the way from looking like a pair of lightly tinted sunglasses, all the way to almost full-on goggles, and a few hybrid mixes in between. We also really liked the removable gasket and ear protection holders on the 3M Virtua CCS pair.
While seemingly mundane, the difference between quality and poor eye protection can be significant. We are always serious when it comes to safety equipment. We hope this review helped you narrow down the best pair of safety glasses for you and your next job or home project, as the right tool can mean all the difference in the world. Be safe, and always wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
— Ethan Newman