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Contact lenses are like any other human aid device—if you don't care for them properly they will be ineffective and potentially cause damage. That being the case, and assuming you don’t have disposable lenses, it's important to know how to care for your contacts to ensure their longevity and your eye safety.

"Contact lenses may appear small and harmless, but if you don't clean them properly they can damage your eyes," says Dr. Hodgson of FramesDirect.com.

There are three steps to cleaning your contact lenses:

  • Scrubbing

  • Storing

  • Soaking

Each one of these methods requires a different contact lens solution, though all-in-one solutions are available.

Before washing your contacts, it's important to know the different types of contact lens solutions to ensure that you use the right one for your needs.

Types of Contact Lens Solutions

Saline Solution—Saline solution is designed to clean the lens by removing dirt, chemicals, and residue from other contact lens solutions. Saline solution's primary purpose is for storage and to clean the lens before insertion, but not to be used as a disinfectant.

Hydrogen Peroxide (or disinfecting) Solution—Peroxide solution is designed for storage of your contact lens to remove unwanted buildup. While disinfecting in this solution overnight, the peroxide extracts bacteria and other elements from your contact that are known to cause eye infections like Conjunctivitis, or what's commonly referred to as "pink eye."

Multi-Purpose Solution—Multi-purpose solution combines daily cleanser with a disinfecting solution. This solution is commonly the most used because it can serve as a daily cleanser, and as an overnight storage to remove protein. Contact lens wearers that use the multi-purpose solution on a daily basis typically don't have a need for the other solutions.

Enzyme Cleaner/Protein Remover—This solution removes protein buildup from the contact. This product can come in liquid or pill form, and both usually require use in combination with another solution.

Daily Cleanser—This solution is used to cleanse the contact prior to disinfection. It removes debris that might cause eye irritation and other discomforts. Daily cleanser is not recommended for storage.

Cleaning Your Contact Lenses

Step 1. Scrubbing Contact Lenses

This is a three-part step and should occur before you put the contact lens in your eye and after you take it out. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before you begin to create as sterile an environment as possible. It’s best to use antibacterial soap, if possible. Oil or lotion-based soaps may cloud or otherwise soil your lenses. 

  • Place the contact in the palm of your hand. 

  • With your other hand,apply the contact lens solution to the contact until it is fully submerged in the solution. 

  • Gently rub the contact with your index finger on both sides for 10-15 seconds. 

Be sure to scrub gently—scrubbing the contact lens too aggressively may tear the lens and make it unsuitable for use. Be sure to not touch the lens with your fingernails—not only are they sharp, they are a playground for dirt and bacteria.

Here’s a useful tip: don’t clean your lenses with tap water, saliva (spit), or saline solution. None of these will disinfect your lenses and will likely introduce germs and microorganisms to the lens.

Step 2. Storing Contact Lenses

After you have scrubbed both sides of the contact lens: 

  • Place the contact inside a lens case and fill the reservoir with contact lens soaking solution until the lens is completely submerged. 

Make sure that the lens is completely covered and not folded. Otherwise, the soaking solution may notreach all parts of the contact. 

  • Once the contact is in the solution-filled case, securely screw on the case cap. 

Do not turn the case upside down or on its side. Doing so could cause the contact to slide out of the solution, and not be properly cleaned.

Here’s another useful tip: don’t rinse your contact lens case with water—most non-sterile water contains impurities and microorganisms. Similarly, don’t leave or store your lens case near the toilet, tub, or other humid places that can foster mildew and germs.

Step 3. Soaking Contact Lenses

Once your contacts are properly stored: 

  • Soak them in the solution overnight or as directed. 

  • After soaking for the required length of time, your contacts should be free of dirt and debris, and ready to be placed onto your eyes. 

If there is still dirt or debris on your contact lens, you can repeat step one before reinserting them..

Cleaning contacts is not a difficult job, but it’s a job that must be done consistently and with care. If you take care of your contact lenses, you’ll continue to enjoy the clear vision they were designed to provide.

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