Eye Health Central

The Importance of Contact Lens Hygiene

Safe Contact lens Practices

You will have heard it many times before but it can’t be emphasised enough, the importance of good contact lens hygiene is essential.
It may not be the most exciting topic but maintaining good contact lens hygiene is crucial to the longevity of your lenses and the safety of your eyes. Without good hygiene, contact lens wear is much less likely to be successful.


Are Contact Lenses Safe

Yes, Contact lenses are a popular and effective way of correcting your vision or changing your eye colour, and can be perfectly safe with a little care and attention.


Safe contact lens practices


Why is Contact lens Hygiene so Important

Contact lenses are classed as a medical device, and come into indirect contact with your eyes, failing to handle, clean, or store them correctly can raise the risk of eye infections, such as microbial keratitis

By cleaning and storing your lenses correctly you are removing deposits, debris, and bacteria that can build up on a contact lens over time. Germs such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi are more likely to cause problems if given a chance to build up on your contact lenses. A good regular cleaning regime reduces the risk of infections, makes your lenses feel more comfortable, and increases their daily wear time.


What is Good Contact Lens Hygiene

When you are fitted with contact lenses your optometrist, or eye care professional will advise you as to how best to handle, store, and clean your lenses, this will vary depending on the wearing schedule for your lenses.

Some rules are universal no matter what lens type you wear

  • Do not sleep in your lenses unless your optometrist has prescribed extended wear lenses that allow this
  • Do not let your lenses come into contact with water, tap, pool, and sea water can all harm your lenses and increase the risk of eye infections 
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water and dry them with a lint-free cloth before handling your lenses
  • Do not use homemade solutions or water to clean or store your lenses
  • Dispose of lenses once they reach their wear by time


Good Hygiene Practices for Daily Contact Lens Wearers

Daily contact lenses are seen as one of the safest wearing modes for all contact lenses, they require very little handling, and no cleaning or storing, so the risk of long term build up of deposits and bacteria is minimal.

It is still strongly recommended that you

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water and dry them with a lint free cloth before handling your lenses


Good Hygiene Practices for Bi-weekly or Monthly Contact Lens Wearers

Bi-weekly or monthly replaceable contact lenses require a little time daily to maintain good eye health. As the lenses are worn for 14 - 30 days, they require proper handling and cleaning to prevent the build-up of deposits, bacteria, and debris.

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water and dry them with a lint free cloth before handling your lenses
  • Rub and rinse your contact lenses with a contact lens solution to clean them each time you remove them. Never use water or saliva
  • Use fresh contact lens solution in your case—never top up the old solution with a fresh solution
  • Clean your contact lens case by rubbing and rinsing it with contact lens solution
  • Store the case upside down with the caps off after each use
  • Replace your contact lens case monthly but not longer than every three months


Good Hygiene Practices for Extended Wear Contact Lens Wearers

Extended wear lenses need very little in the way of a cleaning regime as they are handled very little, typically not being removed for several days, however, there are still a couple of best practice recommendations

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water and dry them with a lint free cloth before handling your lenses
  • Its a good idea to remove your lenses and store them overnight at least once a week - to give your eyes a chance to breathe - see Good Hygiene Practices for Bi-weekly or Monthly Contact lens wearers above
  • Never wear your lenses longer than recommended by your optometrist


Good Hygiene Practices for Coloured Contact Lens Wearers

Most coloured contact lenses are monthly disposable lenses so need all the care and attention of regular monthly disposable lenses - see Good Hygiene practices for Bi-weekly or Monthly Contact lens wearers above.
If you don't use your lenses daily, follow the above steps every 3-4 days to keep your lenses as fresh and clean as possible.

  • Do not share your coloured contact lenses with anyone else, even if you have cleaned and stored them as recommended. Sharing contact lenses increases the risk of eye infections


What are the most Important Steps in Contact Lens Hygiene?

  • Wash your hands often, especially before you handle your contact lenses
  • Only use fresh contact lens solution to clean and store your lenses
  • Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for the use of contact lens solutions or cleaning regimes
  • Always replace your contact lenses as directed by your optometrist


How do you Prevent Contact Lens Infection?

  • Keep your lens case clean
  • Wash your hands often, especially before you handle your contact lenses
  • Replace your lens case monthly, or no later than 3 monthly
  • Remove your lenses before you go to sleep
  • Do not let your lenses come into contact with water
  • Do not overwear your lenses
  • Never share your contact lenses 
  • If you experience any pain or discomfort whilst wearing contact lenses remove them and contact your optometrist or general practitioner

Many people wear contact lenses safely for many years, the key to keeping your eyes and your lenses clean and healthy is good contact lens hygiene. 

By following the instructions of your optometrist, and periodically refreshing your knowledge by carrying out online aftercare will ensure that you can continue wearing contact lenses safely for many years. 


Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 18 Nov 2023, Last modified: 20 May 2024