If your online search has led you here, then you might have something stuck in your eye that won’t come out. We hope that’s not the case, but if it is, we’ll try to keep this guide concise and organized so you can find some quick advice.
Most importantly, we’ll first outline when to seek immediate medical help—there are times when you shouldn’t try to get stuff out of your eye on your own.
Disclaimer: This guide does not constitute professional medical advice; it represents the opinion of its authors and is for educational or informational purposes only. Readers should not use the information in this guide as a substitution for advice provided by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Readers with urgent need for assistance should contact their eye doctor or visit the emergency room.
When You Shouldn’t Try to Get Something Out of Your Eye Yourself
If you’re experiencing any of the following, it’s best to go to the emergency room immediately. Close your eyes and cover them with a wet, clean cloth, and have someone else drive you.
- Your eye is bleeding
- Something pierced your eye
- Something is embedded in your eye
- You can’t close your eye
- You’re experiencing sudden changes in your vision
- After getting something out of your eye, it still feels like something is stuck inside, or it is still painful 24 hours later
- Strong chemicals have come in contact with your eye
- You can’t get something out of your eye using simple irrigation methods (“flushing” the eye)
What Not to Do When Something Is in Your Eye
Before we outline what to do if something is in your eye, it’s important you know what not to do! Here are the big DON’TS when you’ve got something stuck in your eye:
- Don’t rub your eye
- Don’t touch the area around your eye with dirty hands
- Don’t directly touch your eye with your finger, a cloth, a Q-tip, or any other object
- Don’t press on your eye
- Don’t try to remove something that has pierced or gotten embedded in your eye
- Don’t use tap water to flush your eye if cleaner options are available to you (eye wash, saline solution, eye drops, or clean water)
How to Get Something Out of Your Eye in 5 Steps
The good news is that, unless you’re experiencing an extreme situation like those listed above, you can likely manage to get debris out of your eye at home.
Step 1: Wash Your Hands
Before you do anything involving your eyes, you should always, always be sure to thoroughly wash your hands. Even hands that seem clean could transfer bacteria, oils, or near-invisible particles that could further irritate your eyes and increase the risk of an eye infection.
Step 2: Remove Your Contact Lenses (If Applicable)
Take out your contacts before proceeding, because it’s possible for something stuck in your eye to scratch or even tear your contacts. There’s also a chance that whatever’s stuck in your eye could actually be trapped in or behind the lens. If you’re experiencing pain or have any questions, you should reach out to your eye doctor.
Step 3: Blink and Let Your Eye Water
Your first line of defense against foreign debris in your eye is your own body. Your body knows how to get something out of your eye naturally—its immediate response is to flood the eye with tears, and very often, those tears will be enough to push the debris right out. Blink your eyes a bunch and let those tears flow!
If some blinking and natural tears aren’t doing the trick, though, here are some things you can try before moving on to irrigation.
Step 4: Try to Locate and Dislodge the Stuck Particle(s)
It’ll help if you know where the debris in your eye is located. Open your eye really wide while looking in a mirror. Gently pull your upper and lower eyelid out in turn to see if you can find the culprit.
If Something Is Stuck in Your Upper Eyelid
Try pulling your upper eyelid gently out, away from your eye, and then roll your eye around to try and get the particle out from the eyelid. You can also try pulling the eyelid out gently and then letting go—as the eyelid slips back into place, the particle might dislodge.
If Something Is Stuck in Your Lower Eyelid
Gently pull out the lower eyelid and push up from underneath a little with your finger; this should help you get a better view inside the lid. If you can see the offending particle in there, you could try to swipe it out using a damp Q-tip or a clean, damp cloth (but be careful not to touch your eyeball directly).
Step 5: Flush Out Your Eye
Knowing how to flush out your eye will be helpful if the above steps haven’t yet dislodged the debris. There are a few different things you can use for eye irrigation:
- Sterile eye wash
- Saline solution
- Artificial tears
- Clean water
Tap water is not ideal for eye washing and should only be used if you don’t have access to the above options.
How to Flush Out Your Eye
There are a few approaches you can take to irrigate your eye:
- Fill an eye wash cup (you can buy these at any pharmacy or drugstore) or any other small cup around your house with eye wash or clean water. Lower your open eye down into the cup, and then open and close your eye several times.
- Insert drops of saline solution or artificial tears into your eye. (Read more: How to Put in Eye Drops)
- If tap water is your only option, you can use a cup or your cupped (clean!) hands to wash out your eye. Alternatively, you can allow a gentle stream of water from a faucet to run over your open eye, or you can stand under a (gently) running showerhead.
Remember, if your attempts to get something out of your eye are unsuccessful, then you should get help—contact your eye doctor or go to an urgent care or emergency room. Your eyes are delicate, and allowing foreign objects to remain in your eye puts your vision and health at risk.
If Chemicals Get in Your Eye
If dangerous chemicals have gotten into your eye, flush your eye out immediately, and continue flushing it for at least 15 minutes. Since chemicals can cause damage to the eyes, seek emergency medical care as soon as possible. If you can, bring the container of the material that got in your eye to help inform the doctors.
How to Make a First Aid Eye Care Kit
Now that you know what to do if something is in your eye, you’ll probably have a good idea of what to have handy for the future. Consider creating a first aid kit for your home that’s specifically for eye care. Here are a few items you could include:
- Eye wash cup
- A clean, lint-free cloth
- A mirror
- Saline solution
- Eye patch
- Sterile gauze
And, be sure to use protective eyewear (like safety goggles or glasses) when performing any activities that could cause debris to get into your eyes.
Keep an Eye on Your Eyes
We hope you were successful in getting any stuff out of your eye that’s not meant to be there. After getting something out of your eye, it’s important to stay mindful of your eye’s condition.
If it still feels like something is in your eye even after you know you got it out, or if your eye continues to feel irritated, then you should make an appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. It’s possible that the debris that was stuck in your eye caused corneal abrasions (scratches on your cornea). Corneal abrasions typically heal quickly, but it’s always best to get checked out in case they do require your eye doctor’s care.