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Can I clean my contact lenses in water?
Medically reviewed by Alastair Lockwood on 19 January 2021
As a contact lens wearer, you should never clean your lenses in water as this can pose a serious risk to your eyes and can often result in eye infections.
Always use contact lens solution to store, clean and disinfect your contact lenses.
Why is it dangerous to clean my contact lenses with water?
Although bottled water and water from the tap is safe to drink, it contains bacteria and other micro-organisms which can harm your eyes.
These bacteria, if transferred via a contact lens and then onto the eye, can rapidly multiply, posing a serious threat to your eyes and vision. Unlike other parts of the body, where there are a network of blood vessels able to deliver immune cells easily, the cornea has none. Infections therefore can take hold and cause far worse infections than in other parts of the body.
One infection, named Acanthamoeba Keratitis, is caused by a naturally occurring parasite, that are found in water and can masquerade as a cold sore virus infection. If treated inappropriately with steroids the infection can take hold and be very difficult to get rid of. Corneal transplantation or even eye removal may be the end result. That’s why you should never clean your lenses with water and should only ever use an FDA-approved disinfecting or cleaning solution.
You should contact an eye practitioner immediately if you experience eye pain, eye redness, blurry vision, light sensitivity or excessive tearing. These are signs of Acanthamoeba and if left untreated can lead to vision loss and extreme pain.
Is it ok if I wash my contact lenses in distilled water?
Distilled water and a bottle of spring water may be pure; however, they still contain microorganisms that can cause harm to your contact lenses. Washing your contact lenses in distilled water is therefore just as bad as washing your lenses in tap water and is not advised. Water is also very different from tears which keep your eyes moist. Washing your eyes in water can thus make your lenses uncomfortable to wear and might even cause them to stick to your eyes. Rather than water, you should always use fresh solution to clean your contact lenses.
Can I store my contact lenses in water?
Storing your contact lenses in water is also very dangerous, not just for the threat that Acanthamoeba Keratitis can pose, but also because it can lead to your lenses becoming misshapen and uncomfortable to wear. This can result in your contact lenses sticking to your eyes and becoming very difficult to remove.
How often do I clean my contact lenses?
How often you should clean your contact lenses usually depends on which type of contact lenses you wear. If you wear daily disposable contact lenses or extended wear contact lenses, you don't need to worry about a cleaning routine. These lenses are considered best for those with a busy lifestyle and daily disposables are particularly popular due to their hygiene factor.
However, wearing extended wear lenses can also pose a risk of infection if not worn with care. You should always remove the lens before having contact with water, whether you plan to go swimming, jump in a hot tub or have a shower.
If you wear two weekly or monthly contact lenses, an effective cleaning routine needs to be in place and it is recommended you use the correct contact lens solution to clean, store and rinse your lenses.
Quick links:How to look after your contact lenses
How to clean a contact lens case
Can I swim with contact lenses?