Introduction: Lens Wipe Upcycle

About: Retired techie in love with crafts, cooking, and all things creative.

Lens cleaning wipes are disposable pre-moistened towelettes that are used to clean eyeglasses and other lenses. They are wonderful to use as intended, but even better to upcycle as art. When dry, the wipe is a lightweight, crisp, absorbent sheet of white paper that can be easily folded, inked, sprayed, painted, or dyed. Because it is made to keep moist in its packaging, it remains strong when wet and does not easily tear. The wipes measure about 5 inches x 6 inches.

My favorite way to upcycle these little gems is to make shibori. Shibori is a folding technique used to create patterns in cloth. Thanks to the strength of dried lens cleaning wipes, the same techniques can be done with paper. I began to save lens cleaning wipes with the goal of using them in bookbinding projects. I experimented with a variety of mediums and found that acrylic ink gave me the serendipitous shibori look I was seeking. This kid-friendly instructable will share information about how to create shibori patterns. The process is easy and has great results. I hope you will love it as much as I do.

Step 1: Materials

Lens Cleaning Wipes. Look for the kind that comes in small packets that are soaked in isopropanol. I purchased mine in the optical department at Target. I have also used the Equate brand from Walmart. Both do a great job with folds and color. The Target wipes are a bit stronger and the Walmart wipes are thinner with a more delicate feel.

Acrylic Ink. I used Daler-Rowney FW Acrylic Water-Resistant Artists Ink. For best prices and color selection, check out Dick Blick. It is also available on Amazon. For a true shibori look, choose a dark blue such as indigo.

Iron. I use my regular household iron with the steam turned off. For best results, iron on a firm surface rather than an ironing board.

Small sealable containers. I used small ziplock plastic bags. Be aware that the acrylic ink will stain plastic, so use something disposable.

Closure or clamping tools. I used small rubber bands, mini-clamps, mini clothes pins, and sewing clips.

Household items and tools to use for texture and resists. I used flat buttons. Anything small and rigid will do.

Hand and surface protectors. The ink will stain your hands temporarily. I used disposable rubber gloves to protect my hands and craft teflon sheets to protect my surface when working with wet ink.

Step 2: Prepare Wipes

Start with a stack of dried wipes and take them to the iron and iron out the wrinkles. This gives you a flat, smooth sheet to work with.

You can also cut it to size before adding color. If you will be doing a circular fold, I recommend using a square sheet. The edges are always the most interesting, so if you know how you will use the sheet ahead of time, you might want to cut it to match your required dimension.

If you have an electric die cutting machine such as a Cricut, you can cut shapes in the dried wipes before dyeing.

Step 3: Fold

The way you fold and the way you secure the folds will determine how your finished pattern will look. Keep in mind that this is a serendipitous form of art, so the fun is in the unknown. Here are the folds used for these samples.


Take your wipe and scrunch it up. Secure with a rubber band.

Basic Accordion

Accordion fold. Rotate. Accordion fold the other side. Secure with 2 rubber bands.

Accordion with Button

Same as basic accordion, but add a button to the ends before securing.

Accordion Diagonal

Same as basic accordion, but fold wider and diagonally. Secure with 6 sewing clips.

Accordion Tie Dye

Accordion fold long side. Fold in half. Secure with multiple rubber bands.

Triangle Accordion

Accordion Fold. Rotate. Fold diagonally to form triangles. Secure with a clamp.

Accordion Circle

Start with a square. Fold in half to form a rectangle. Fold each end to the middle of the rectangle. Continue to make smaller accordion folds inward. Secure with a clothes pin.

Accordion Circle 2
Same as accordion circle, but use 4 clothes pins.

Pole Wrap

Wrap wipes around a tube (PVC pipe can also be used). Secure with rubber bands. Scrunch.

Triangle Fold Over Dye

Use a sheet that has already been dyed. Triangle fold with large folds. Secure with 2 clothes pins.

Double Chevron

Use a sheet that has already been dyed. Triangle fold. Instead of stacking the folds, fold to form multiple triangles side-by-side. Secure with 3 clothes pins.

Accordion with buttons between folds

Use a sheet that has already been dyed. Accordion fold. Place a button between each fold.

Step 4: Soak in Water

Take the folded sheet and place in water to soak. I used a small baggie filled with water. Soak for at least a minute. This step is important. A good soak is necessary because it is the water that gives the color variations. Over soaking on the other hand may not give you the resist you want on certain folds. For best results, experiment.

Step 5: Soak in Acrylic Ink

Take the folded and water soaked sheet and place it in a small baggie (or other disposable small container). Add 1 or two drops of acrylic ink (enough to get good coverage). Soak in ink for at least an hour so that the sheet can absorb the ink.

Step 6: Dry

Remove the folded, water soaked, and ink soaked piece from the baggie and allow to dry. I generally dry overnight. I have also used a heat gun to dry. Your piece may not be completely dry, but it will be dry enough for it to cure a bit and so that you can unfold without tearing.

Step 7: Unfold

The last step is the best step of all. We get to reveal the magic that has happened. The pictures you see are shown in the same order as the pictures of the folds from step 3.

Scrunch (Prussian Blue)

Basic Accordion (Marine Blue)

Accordion with Button (Indigo)

Accordion Diagonal (Marine Blue)

Accordion Tie Dye (Indigo)

Triangle Accordion (Prussian Blue)

Accordion Circle. (Indigo)

Accordion Circle 2 (Prussian Blue)

Pole Wrap (Black).

Step 8: Over Dye

Once dry, you can start the process over again and over dye the sheet with another color. As you can see, this can add a bit more drama to your works of art. Here are details about the pictures you see.

Triangle Fold Over Dye 1

Triangle Fold Over Dye 2

Double Chevron

Accordion with Buttons Between Folds

Step 9: Make Something Amazing

I hope I have inspired you to try this technique to make your own serendipitous art. Take your stack of shibori lens cleaning works of art and make something amazing. Here are a few ideas to get you started (sorry there are so many, but I couldn't stop).

Shibori Cricut Greeting Card. This layered card was made with 2 sheets of Lens Wipe Shibori. I used my electric die cut machine to cut circles in the top layer. I then used an accordion fold to create the pattern using green acrylic ink. The 2nd layer is another accordion fold shibori with indigo ink. I used a light layer of spray adhesive to join the two layers together.

Shibori Booklet. This is a simple booklet with a Lens Wipe Shibori cover lined with a sheet of paper for strength. See my How to Print and Bind a Booklet instructable for info on how to bind a booklet.

Shibori 10 Minute Mini book. I love how this 10 minute mini book looks. It was made with 4 sheets of Lens Wipe Shibori. See my 10 Minute Mini Book instructable for info on how to create a 10 minute mini book.

Shibori Wrapped Altoid Container. Want an idea for how to wrap a small gift? Use a Lens Wipe Shibori sheet to wrap an altoid container. I used two layers with contrasting color and secured it with white nylon twine.

Shibori Rescued Paper Notebook. I couldn't resist another mini book. This one uses my Rescued Notebook instructable.

Shibori Swaying Cubby. Check out my Swaying Cubby instructable for info on how to origami this hanging basket. My Lens Wipe Shibori sheet was glued to a sheet of black card stock before folding.

Palm Journal. This is a really fun project. It uses a sheet of Lens Wipe Shibori to cover a book board and a sheet of mixed media paper for the accordion fold pages. No instructable on this project yet. Stay tuned.

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