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How do Contact Lens Cleaners Work?

By J. Beam
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are various types of contact lens cleaners that serve different purposes in the cleaning and maintenance of contact lenses. These cleaners work by cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses to maintain their performance and comfort and to avoid potentially serious eye problems. There are several different types of cleaners, and their uses are typically restricted to a specific type of contact lens. Therefore, it is important that you follow your eye care provider’s directions for the safe cleaning and storage of your contact lenses.

The most commonly used contact lens cleaner is the multi-purpose solution. These products are all-in-one formulas that clean, disinfect, and rinse all at once and can be used for contact lens storage, as well. Not all multi-purpose solutions are meant for use with every type of contact lens. You should check with your eye doctor before using a multi-purpose solution.

Hydrogen peroxide-based contact lens cleaners are also common. These cleaners disinfect the contact lens, removing bacteria and microorganisms that can adversely affect eye health. Most hydrogen peroxide cleaners are either one-step or two-step cleaning systems and have specific methods of storage. After using this type of solution, the lens must be rinsed prior to insertion, or burning and irritation can occur.

Enzymatic contact lens cleaners are a method of removing protein buildup on the surface of contact lenses. They are typically not used on a daily basis, but rather once a week. They are generally small tablets designed to dissolve in storage solution that the contact lens is soaked in overnight. Protein buildup will affect the performance and comfort of contact lenses, and if it is not removed at regular intervals, it can also affect eye health.

Saline solution is another common contact lens solution. Saline solutions are not cleaners; they are used for rinsing other solutions from the surface of the lenses to prepare them for insertion. Contact lens wearers should not rely on saline solution as a method of cleaning their lenses.

Contact lens cleaners are only necessary if you wear daily wear or extended wear contact lenses. Disposable contact lenses are thrown away after a day’s use and therefore do not need to be cleaned. Always use caution when cleaning and handling your contact lenses, and follow the directions for their use and care that your eye doctor provides. Improper cleaning of contact lenses accounts for a large number of eye infections each year and can lead to serious eye injury if left untreated.

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Discussion Comments

By golf07 — On Jun 30, 2012

I used to work at a vision store and helped fit people with their contact lenses. When I first started doing this, I was surprised at the number of people who didn't clean their contact lenses on a regular basis.

They would just throw them in the case with some saline solution and put them in their eyes the next day. The longer I worked there, I wasn't so surprised by it because so many people treated their lenses that way.

Your eyes will tell you when you are pushing the limits, but I like to take better care of my lenses and my eyes than that. Not only does regular cleaning of your contact lenses help your vision, but it is also so much better for the long term health of your eyes.

By Mykol — On Jun 29, 2012

I can tell my soft contact lenses are getting close to the end of their life when the cleaning doesn't help. I try to get as much time out of my lenses as I can, and so really stay faithful with the cleaning.

I know it is time for new lenses when they are blurry and nothing I do makes it better. They also start to bother my eyes and are not nearly as comfortable to wear all day long.

I have not found much of a difference in the contact lens cleaning solution quality. I think all of them use the same active ingredients and the key is to make sure you are consistent with it.

I also keep a small bottle of saline solution in my purse. This really comes in handy any time I need to rinse off my lenses since you can't use water on them.

By andee — On Jun 28, 2012

I have worn many different types of contact lenses. Many years ago I started out with hard lenses and then made the switch to soft contact lenses. After wearing them for several years, I went with the disposable lenses and I love them.

You don't have to worry about the cleaning process with the disposable lenses. I know they cost more than the other types of lenses, but for me, the convenience is worth it.

Sometimes I am able to get more than one day of wear out of them. When I do this I will store them in a soft contact lens solution over night. I figure it is kind of a trade off. I pay more for the disposable lenses, but spend much less on cleaning products.

I know from experience how hard it can be to keep up with the regular cleaning of contact lenses. Because of this I think my eyes are healthier when I use the disposable lenses.

By SarahSon — On Jun 28, 2012

Before I switched to disposable contact lenses I would use a multi-purpose cleaning solution for my day to day soft contact lens cleaner. It was much more convenient to have one cleaning bottle than worrying about several types of cleaners.

I would also use an enzymatic cleaner to clean my lenses once a week. When I got lazy and would skip this cleaning treatment, I could tell a difference in my lenses.

They would have a film over them that made my vision blurry. This was from protein deposits that had built up on my lenses and wearing them was not as comfortable.

As long as kept up with this regular cleaning process, my lenses lasted a lot longer and my vision was also sharp and clear.

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