The answer is no—you should never put your contacts in water! Water and contact solution may look similar, but that’s where the likeness ends. Using water in place of contact solution can potentially cause serious harm to your eyes as well as damage your lenses. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the reasons why water and contacts don’t mix, and what to use in a pinch if you don’t have any contact solution. 

What Happens if You Put Contacts in Water?

Contacts and water don’t play well together. You shouldn’t store your contacts in water, shower in contacts, or even swim in contacts. Here’s why: The biggest issue with water near contact lenses is contamination. 

Bacteria is frequently present in common water sources, including the tap water from your sink. When your contact lenses are stored in water, bacteria and other contaminants can pass from your lenses to your eyes. Depending on the bacteria, this can lead to dry, irritated eyes or a serious eye infection.

According to the CDC, Acanthamoeba is one of the most harmful germs to the eye. It’s usually found in tap water, well water, and natural water sources like lakes. When your eye is exposed to Acanthamoeba, you may develop a severe corneal infection, which can be painful and slow to heal. Even worse, it can cause permanent vision loss or blindness.

You should also avoid putting soft contacts in water because it may cause the lenses to lose shape or even stick to your eye. This can lead to eye irritation when you wear your lenses. Although this might seem like a minor inconvenience, an ill-fitting contact lens can cause significant problems for your eye, such as corneal abrasion or in some cases loss of vision.

Can You Put Contacts in Water Temporarily?

No—even temporarily, using water in place of contact solution is never recommended. This can lead to eye irritation or infection. If you’ve exposed your contact lenses to water, it’s best to remove them and put in a new pair.

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What Should You Use on Your Contacts Instead of Water?

If contact solution isn’t available and you need a quick fix, saline solution is a great alternative. Its formula doesn’t contain any cleaning agents, though, which means it won’t disinfect your lenses like multipurpose solution does. But it can keep them hydrated until you can get more contact solution. 

This is key—saline should not be used as a permanent alternative to contact solution. So don’t make a habit of using it instead of contact solution. Disinfecting and cleaning is an essential part of taking care of your lenses. Skipping this routine can be problematic. 

It’s Never Okay To Put Contacts in Water

Proper care of lenses is essential for maintaining good eye health—this includes your cleaning and storing habits. Even in a pinch, water is NOT the solution you’re looking for, no matter the reason. As tempting as it may be, NEVER put contacts in water (even if you’re out of solution) because it can create lots of problems down the line. 

If you are experiencing side effects from using water with your contacts, discard the contacts as soon as possible. Pop in a fresh pair or don your favorite frames and schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. Your doctor can provide treatment tips for any side effects and ensure no lasting harm was done.

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