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By Allie Johnson
Whether you’re new to contact lenses or have been wearing them for years, you’ve probably wondered, “How long can I keep my contacts in solution?”
Here’s the answer to that question and a lot more good information about the proper care of your contacts in lens solution.
Depending on the suggested replacement schedule (or wear cycle) of your contacts, you may keep them in contact solution in a tightly closed contact lens case for up to 30 days. However, storing your contacts in solution won’t extend that wear cycle.
For instance, if you open a pair of monthly contacts but only wear them for two weeks (wearing glasses and keeping them in storage for the other two), it’s best for your eye health to throw them out and start with a new pair.
Before putting contacts you’ve stored in your eyes, clean and disinfect them with fresh contact solution. If you feel any unusual irritation, it’s best to throw the old contacts away and start with a new pair.
That’s the general rule — some eye doctors and manufacturers of contact solution and lenses may have different guidelines.Talk to your doctor and check the patient instruction booklet that came with your contact lenses and contact solution to find out what they recommend.
Do contacts go bad in solution?
While soft contacts don’t exactly “go bad,” contact solution can act as a breeding ground for germs over time. Reduce your risk of eye infection by tossing lenses that have been sitting in solution for more than 30 days. The best plan is to follow the suggested replacement schedule of the lens, whether it’s monthly, weekly or daily.
Also, soft contacts that sit in solution for a long time may eventually dry out as the solution evaporates. Dried-out lenses may be damaged, so don’t try to rehydrate and reuse them. Throw out those shriveled-up lenses and put in a fresh pair of contacts.
Gas permeable lenses should not be left in solution, but gas permeable contacts can be safely stored in a dry case for months or longer. After storing gas permeable lenses, you should clean them with a lens cleaner and rinse them with saline before placing them in your eyes.
SEE RELATED: Tips for contact lens wearers
Can I wear contacts that have been in solution for a long time?
If your monthly disposable soft contacts have been sitting in solution for less than 30 days, you can clean and disinfect them with new solution before putting them in your eyes.
If they’ve been sitting in solution for several months to a year or longer, it’s safest to throw them away and start over with a fresh pair.
How often should I change contact solution in my contact lens case?
If your contacts are sitting in a case, you should change your disinfecting solution at least once every 30 days.
That’s an absolute minimum — and may need to be more frequent depending on your contacts’ replacement schedule — so talk to your eye doctor to find out what’s right for you. In the meantime, you may want to change the solution every week or two to be on the safe side.
How long do contacts last unopened?
Soft contact lens packages are stamped with an expiration date, and they’re good through that month and year as long as the packaging stays intact.
The expiration date on soft contact lenses is typically about four years from the date of manufacture. After that time, the seal on the package can degrade, potentially exposing the sterile lens to contamination.
So get rid of lenses that are past their expiration date.
Do I need contact lenssolution?
If you wear contact lenses, you may need contact lens solution to rinse, clean and disinfect your lenses.
If you wear daily disposable contacts that must be discarded after each use, you don’t necessarily need contact lens solution.
However, if you have sensitive eyes, you may want to buy FDA-approved saline solution to rinse the lenses before putting them in your eyes. Daily disposable lenses should not be cleaned or disinfected.
If you wear other types of soft contact lenses, or gas permeable contact lenses, you may need an FDA-approved multi-purpose solution for rinsing, disinfection and storage. You may also use an enzymatic cleaner to remove buildup.
Ask your eye doctor what kind of contact solution and cleaner you need for your lenses.
READ MORE: Caring for gas permeable contact lenses
How can you store contact lenses without solution?
You can’t safely store contact lenses without the right contact lens disinfecting solution.
If you don’t have solution available, you’ll need to buy some or dispose of your contacts and use a fresh pair next time.
The only safe way to store contact lenses is in a contact case fully covered by fresh contact lens disinfecting solution. You should never store contact lenses in water (neither bottled, distilled nor tap), homemade saline solution, saline nasal spray, eye drops or any other liquid not expressly intended for disinfecting and storing contact lenses.
It should go without saying, but most contact lens patient instruction booklets also warn against using saliva (yes, really!) to store your lenses. Also, never store your contacts in a drinking glass, a jar or anything other than a clean contact lenses case (which needs to be replaced every three months).
Storing your contacts incorrectly can lead to serious corneal infections and even blindness. It’s worth a quick run to the drug store to save your eyes!
Should you change contact solution every day?
It’s important to use fresh contact solution every time you disinfect and store your contact lenses. Never reuse or “top off” contact solution that’s sitting in your contact case.
If you store your contacts for an extended period of time, be sure to clean and disinfect them with fresh contact solution before putting them in your eyes.
Leaving contacts in solution for too long is risky, so follow the same rule with your contacts that you’d use for food safety: When in doubt, toss it out. Then reach for a fresh pair of contacts to keep your eyes safe and your vision sharp.
READ MORE: The best contact solution products
Eye infections from contact lenses. American Academy of Ophthalmology. May 2023.
Page published on Friday, January 3, 2020
I can provide a comprehensive breakdown of the concepts presented in the article about contact lens care:
Contact Lens Wear Schedule: This refers to the time frame recommended by eye doctors or manufacturers for wearing and replacing contact lenses. For instance, there are daily, weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly replacement schedules. The article emphasizes the importance of adhering to these schedules for eye health.
Storage Duration in Solution: Contacts can be stored in solution for up to 30 days in a tightly closed lens case. However, storing them in solution doesn’t extend the wear cycle. If the contacts are not worn for the full duration, it's advised to discard and start with a fresh pair to maintain eye health.
Eye Health Concerns: Prolonged storage in contact solution can create a breeding ground for germs, potentially leading to eye infections. Moreover, extended storage can dry out soft lenses, causing damage. Gas permeable lenses require different storage methods and need cleaning with a specific lens cleaner before use.
Solution Change Frequency: The article recommends changing the disinfecting solution in the contact lens case at least once every 30 days, although more frequent changes might be necessary depending on the replacement schedule of the contacts.
Contact Lens Expiration: Soft contact lenses come with an expiration date usually around four years from the manufacturing date. After this period, the packaging might degrade, risking contamination, so it's recommended to dispose of lenses past their expiration date.
Need for Contact Lens Solution: It depends on the type of contact lenses worn. Daily disposable lenses might not require solution except for rinsing with saline. Other soft or gas permeable lenses need FDA-approved multi-purpose solutions for cleaning, disinfection, and storage, as well as enzymatic cleaners to remove buildup.
Safe Storage Practices: Contacts should only be stored in the recommended contact lens disinfecting solution and not in water, saline nasal spray, eye drops, or any other liquid not intended for lens storage. Storing them improperly can lead to severe infections.
Solution Hygiene: It's crucial to use fresh contact solution each time, avoiding reusing or topping off the existing solution. Additionally, if contacts have been stored for an extended period, they should be cleaned and disinfected before use.
Storing Lenses Without Solution: It's stressed that safe storage of contacts requires proper disinfecting solution. Storing them without the right solution isn't recommended and can lead to eye health risks.
Prohibited Practices: The article advises against storing lenses in inappropriate containers, using saliva to moisten lenses, or reusing solution.
Understanding these concepts ensures proper care for contact lenses, reducing the risk of infections and maintaining good eye health.