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, there are other options you can use in a pinch.
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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. It will, however, remove surface smudges.
Read more: How to Remove Deposits From Contact Lenses
2. Hydrogen Peroxide
Only use hydrogen peroxide as a cleaner and storage medium if you have a 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 with a low ratio, such as a three percent solution, and do not dilute.
3. Distilled Water
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.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "There are many different kinds of germs in water that can cause eye infections, but a particularly dangerous germ...is commonly found in tap water, lake water, well water, and other water sources. This germ can cause a very severe type of eye infection."
Distilled water, on the other hand, 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.
Distilled water will prevent your contacts from drying out overnight and is preferable to tap water. However, studies have shown corneal infections occurring with distilled water use for contact lens storage as well. If you must use it, do so infrequently and change your lenses shortly thereafter.
Read more: Contact Lens Overwear Symptoms
4. Salt 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.
Read more: Problems From Sleeping With Contact Lenses