Contact lens solution is not always readily available when it is time to remove, clean and store your contacts. Though products designed specifically for contact lens care are ideal for cleaning and storing contacts, you may use other products in a pinch. Though alternatives for lens solution will help keep your contacts from drying out overnight, do not rely on any solution alternative for long-term needs. Each alternative should be used only at your own risk.
Store-bought saline has been disinfected, which means it's safer to use on your contacts than plain tap water. You can use the saline to clean and store your contacts, though its cleaning properties will not be as pronounced as in enzymatic lens cleaners. Although a saline solution will keep your contacts from drying out overnight, it will not remove mineral deposits that may have appeared on your lenses. For this reason, saline is inappropriate for long-term use. However, saline will remove surface smudges.
Only use hydrogen peroxide as a cleaner and storage medium if you have your lens cleaning case with a platinum catalyst. This catalyst present in lens cleaning cases converts the hydrogen peroxide to water. Hydrogen peroxide will normally cause severe and painful burns to your eyes if not neutralized by this catalyst. Use a hydrogen peroxide solution will a low ratio, such as a 3 percent solution, and do not dilute.
Never clean contacts with or store your lenses in plain tap water. Tap water contains bacteria and minerals that are usually harmless to drink, but may damage your contacts or eyes. Distilled water has been boiled and then condensed, meaning it should not contain any minerals or microorganisms. Distilled water can remove small smudges from the surface of contact lenses, but will do a poor job cleaning your contacts. However, distilled water will prevent your contacts from drying out overnight and is preferable to tap water.
It is best to add a small amount of salt to distilled water to obtain some of the benefits afforded by saline solution, but you may also add table salt to tap water if distilled water is unavailable. Tap water will contain minerals that may leave deposits on your lenses, but the salt should kill any of the dangerous microorganisms that may by lurking in the water. For added safety, boil the water and allow to cool before storing your contacts, as this will kill an even greater amount of infection-causing bacteria.
- All About Vision: Caring for Soft Contact Lenses
- Educate Yourself: Making Salt Water (Saline) Solutions
- Food and Drug Administration: Homemade Saline Solutions for Contact Lenses
- Dr. Randell Clerk, OD; Vision Clinic; Boring, Oregon