At the end of a long day, it might be tempting to cut corners in your nightly routine. (Let’s face it—we’re all guilty of skipping the floss sometimes.) But the reality is, if you don’t have daily disposable contacts that can be tossed out before bed, then it’s imperative to clean your contacts every day to safeguard your lenses and protect your eyes from infection.
Thankfully, content lens cleaning can be done in a matter of minutes. (So can flossing, but we won’t hold it against you.) Let’s take a closer look at how to properly clean your contacts to help keep your eyes healthy and seeing clearly.
Contact Cleaning in 6 Easy Steps
Whether you use bi-weekly or monthly contact lenses, these same simple steps can be followed every night before bed to clean them. Just be sure to use the appropriate contact lens solution for your type of contacts.
(Remember, there’s no cleaning needed for daily disposable contacts. Just toss ‘em out!)
1. Wash and dry your hands
Dirty hands can transfer dirt, germs, and oils to your contacts, so be sure to wash them thoroughly. Antibacterial soap is best—moisturizing soaps can actually make your contacts cloudy. You should also dry your hands with a clean, lint-free towel.
2. Fill your clean contact lens case with fresh disinfecting solution
It’s important to always fill both chambers of your storage case with fresh solution, rather than just topping off the old solution. Used lens solution is no longer sterile and is susceptible to bacteria growth that can cause discomfort or even infection.
3. Rub the first contact lens with disinfecting solution
After removing one of your contacts, place it in the palm of your hand and form a bowl by cupping your hand slightly. Pour a few drops of solution over the lens, and then gently rub the lens in circles over your palm with one finger for about 15 seconds to clean it.
4. Rinse your contact lens with more solution
More solution might sound redundant, but rinsing is an important step, so be sure not to skip it. Rinsing clears away any dirt or residue that may have loosened up while rubbing. If you’re wondering how to rinse your contacts, it’s easy—just pour some more solution over the lens.
5. Place the contact lens into the storage case and close its chamber
Remember, each eye has its own contact lens prescription—be sure to put each contact lens into the correct chamber (they’re usually labeled “R” and “L”). Afterward, screw the lid on nice and tight.
(Make sure to replace your storage case right away if it ever gets damaged. Otherwise, you can replace it every three months.)
6. Repeat with the remaining lens
Repeat these steps for the other eye, and allow your contacts to soak in the case for the time indicated. Most contact solutions advise soaking for six to eight hours (it varies depending on the manufacturer), so the best way to clean contact lenses is to allow them to soak overnight.
In the morning, before putting in your contacts, wash and dry your hands and then give your lenses another rub and rinse with fresh solution.
Hydrogen Peroxide Contact Solution
If you’re using a hydrogen peroxide solution, your instructions may vary—this type of solution is not the same as multipurpose contact solution. Be sure to read all warning labels and instructions before using. The red tip on the solution bottle is a reminder that this type of solution shouldn’t be used to rinse your lenses or put directly into your eyes (otherwise you’ll experience burning, stinging, and irritation). This solution has a specific disinfecting process with a neutralizer.
Hydrogen peroxide solutions are preservative free and can be a good option for some people who have extended-wear contacts or are sensitive to multipurpose solutions.
How to Clean Your Contact Lens Case
Let’s not forget your contact lens case. Keeping your storage case clean is just as important as cleaning your contacts.
In the morning, after putting in your contacts, empty the used solution from your storage case and give it (and both chamber caps) a rub; then rinse it with fresh solution. Leave the open case and the caps upside down on a paper towel to air dry.
You should also replace your contact storage case once every three months (or immediately if it ever gets cracked or damaged).
Additional Tips for Cleaning Your Contacts
Following the steps above is a sure way to keep your contacts clean. But, keep these extra tips in mind if you want to be certain you’re taking the best possible care of your lenses.
- Do make sure to always handle your contact lenses with clean, freshly washed hands.
- Do be gentle when handling your contacts, taking care not to rip or tear them.
- Do make a healthy habit of always starting with the same eye to help make sure you don’t accidentally mix them up.
- Do use the above-mentioned rubbing step, even if your contact solution says “no rub.” (Hydrogen peroxide solution is different—be sure to follow all directions for hydrogen peroxide solution.)
- Do take out your contacts before removing makeup so that you don’t get any on your lenses.
- Do remove your contacts before swimming or showering.
- Don’t use water, saline, or saliva (definitely not saliva) to clean or wet your contacts. None of these options can be trusted to properly clean your lenses.
- Don’t continue to wear contacts longer than the schedule set by your eye care provider.
- Don’t reuse solution or mix the old contact solution with the new.
- Don’t sleep in your contacts unless your eye care provider has prescribed it and you’re using approved overnight lenses.
- Don’t use expired contact solution.
How to Clean Your Contacts Without Solution
What if it’s time to clean your contacts and you realize you’ve run out of solution? Well, when it comes to your contacts (and your eye health), you should really try to avoid desperate measures.
It’s best not to sleep in your lenses (unless, of course, you have lenses approved and prescribed for overnight wear). You also shouldn’t be storing your contacts in water or trying to DIY a homemade solution. “Just this once” is simply not a good mantra. Here are some options to consider:
- Borrow some contact solution (making sure it’s the right kind for your lenses) from a friend or neighbor.
- Make a quick run out to the store to get some more solution (nothing wrong with a late-night stop in your pajamas).
- Bust out your trusty glasses. Just head to the store in the morning for solution, and be sure to properly clean your contacts with it before wearing them. In the meantime, you could store your contacts in saline solution or distilled water (just remember this is not something you should do regularly).
Make Cleaning Your Contacts a Habit
It might feel like there’s a lot to remember when it comes to taking care of your contacts, but don’t stress. Just make proper contact cleaning a part of your daily routine, and it will quickly become a habit. A few extra minutes of your time each day for the freedom of wearing contact lenses? Totally worth it.