Yes, all contact lenses have an expiration date, usually between one and four years from the date of manufacture. It’s important not to use expired contacts, even if the package has never been opened. 

In addition to the lenses themselves, contact lens prescriptions also expire—usually in one to two years, depending on the state you live in. 

It’s true: Many of us have turned a blind eye to the date on the cookie box once or twice. But when it comes to contact lenses, expiration dates shouldn’t be ignored. In this article, we’ll explain why. We’ll also discuss where to find the expiration date and what to do if you’ve used expired contacts. 

Why Do Contact Lenses Expire?

It’s actually not the lens itself that expires, but the saline solution it’s packed in. All types of contact lenses are manufactured in a sterile environment. They’re packed in saline solution and sealed, often in air-tight “blister packs.”

After the expiration date (set by the manufacturer), the saline solution inside the package can deteriorate. Additionally, the blister pack’s seal can lose its grip, allowing the package to be contaminated with bacteria.

The deterioration of the package can be hard to notice. So, it’s important to use the expiration date instead of examining the package for breaks.

How Do You Know if Your Contacts Are Expired?

Infographic showing the expiration date on a contact lens box and blister pack

You can usually find the contact lens expiration date on the box your contacts came in and on each blister pack. It’s often next to or right below the date of manufacture and the lot number. 

Sometimes, the expiration date is listed with the month and year of expiration (like “May 2024”). Or it could be in this format: YYYY–MM (like “2024–05”). If the expiration date has worn off the package, it’s best to throw it away. (Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!)

Note: Double-check that you’re looking at the contact lens expiration date, especially if you’re looking on the box. It can be easy to confuse the expiration date with the date the contacts were packed or manufactured.

Can You Wear Expired Contact Lenses?

No way! Wearing expired contacts is bad. Full stop. 

We know how it goes: You’ve been wearing your current pair of contacts for a month, so they need to be discarded. But you forgot to order new contacts, and it’ll take a few days before they get sent. You reach for an unopened, expired set of contacts in the back of a bathroom cabinet. You’re considering wearing those…just until the new ones arrive. 

Please don’t do this. Using expired contacts, even if you think they’re completely sealed, is unsafe and can damage your eyes. 

What Happens If You Wear Expired Contacts

So, what are the effects of wearing expired contact lenses? Bacteria can enter the package and multiply. This can cause blurred vision, irritated eyes, and eye infections. 

In some cases, eye infections can lead to ulcers of the cornea. An ulcer can damage your eyesight permanently and could even cause blindness.

What to Do If You’ve Worn Expired Contacts

If you’ve worn expired contact lenses, don’t panic. Just follow these steps:

  1. Remove your contacts and throw them away. 
  2. If you feel any hint of irritation or discomfort in your eyes, contact your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. If it’s an emergency, see an eye care practitioner right away.
  3. Follow your eye doctor’s instructions for any treatment.
  4. Check to see if you have any other old contact lenses, and throw those away, too. While you’re at it, throw away any contact solution that’s past the expiration date.
  5. Toss any old contact lens cases, which can harbor bacteria. We recommend changing the case each time you open a new bottle of solution, or at the very least once a month.
  6. When you get new lenses, check the expiration date and talk to the seller if you have questions about it. And always purchase your contacts from a reputable seller.
Two smiling optometrists in white coats

Irritated eyes?

Get an eye exam. Our expert optometrists can check for signs of infection and recommend treatment if needed.

Contact Lens Care Is a Necessary Part of Eye Care

For contact lens wearers, proper contact lens care is extremely important for eye health. This includes following the right steps for cleaning, handling, and storing your contacts. Always follow all instructions from your eye doctor and the lens manufacturer, including abiding by expiration dates.


Does Contact Lens Solution Expire?

Yes. Contact lens solution expires and shouldn’t be used after the date on the bottle. In addition to an expiration date, contact lens solution may have a discard date, which is when it ought to be thrown out after opening.

How Do I Dispose of Expired Contacts?

First of all, don’t wash your old contact lenses down the drain or flush them down the toilet. They can get into waterways where they pose a risk to aquatic life and can even enter our food supply. Ask your eye doctor if your contacts and packaging can be recycled. Otherwise, they can be tossed into your regular garbage. 

Fun fact: Our Scout contact lens packaging is made from recycled materials. If you’re concerned about recycling the packaging of your contact lenses, ask your eye care provider if Scout is a good option for you.

Do Contacts Expire if Unopened?

Yes. The expiration date for contacts is the expiration date, even if you’ve never opened the package. Tiny gaps in the packaging seal can occur even if you can’t see them with the naked eye. These gaps can let air and bacteria into the contact package, contaminating them.

Can You Extend the Life of Contact Lenses?

No—for your safety, it’s best not to try to extend the life of your contact lenses. (This is just another way of asking if expiration dates can be ignored.) It’s also important not to extend the wear schedule of a contact lens beyond what is directed, which creates a risk of eye infection.

Always follow the wear schedule recommended by your doctor. This includes replacing your contacts according to your doctor’s instructions and the manufacturer’s expiration dates. 

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