If you choose extended wear or monthly contact lenses, you’ll benefit from a more cost-effective vision solution. But, they do come with the need for maintenance - knowing how to clean them properly if vital for preventing bacterial infections.
Here’s a guide to keeping your extended wear lenses clean and hygienic, and the importance of cleanliness when it comes to wearing contacts.
Know your solution
When you purchase your lenses, your optician will go through the different options with you. This will include the solutions that should be used with your specific lenses. You may be advised to use a multipurpose lens solution or a hydrogen peroxide solution, which is often given to people who are sensitive to ingredients in multipurpose solutions.
Hydrogen peroxide solution is particularly effective for preventing acanthamoeba which can cause serious eye infections. Here’s how to use each type of solution so you can work out which option works best for you.
Multipurpose contact lens solution
- Wash your hands before touching your lenses or your eyes. Use an antibacterial soap to prevent any oils, perfumes or bacteria from transferring onto your lenses. Hygiene is paramount to prevent infections.
- Make sure your hands are completely dry by using a clean, lint-free towel. Water is full of harmful bacteria that can spread to your lenses so keeping your hands dry when touching your eyes can help to prevent infection.
- Remove a contact lens from your eye and place it in the palm of your hand.
- Pour multipurpose cleaning solution over the lens and gently rub the surface with your finger for around 30 seconds. This is important to remove debris and deposits that have built up on the surface of the lens.
- Rinse the lens with more multipurpose solution by pouring it into the palm of your hand, to wash away any remaining impurities.
- Store the lenses in the lens case, making sure they go in the correct compartment, and fill with fresh saline solution, sealing tightly.
- Repeat with the second lens.
Make sure that your contact lens holder is cleaned at least once per week, using saline solution and a toothbrush to remove any deposits and build-up of bacteria. Even if you haven’t worn your lenses, you should replace the solution in the storage container every 72 hours to keep it fresh. You should also pay attention to the use by date on your saline solution, to make sure that it’s still OK to use.
Hydrogen peroxide solution
- Wash your hands using antibacterial soap and dry them with a clean towel.
- Remove your lenses and put them in the appropriate slot of your contact lens holder. Depending on the type of container you have, there may be a built-in neutraliser which typically comes as a platinum disc which turns hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.
- Pour 3% hydrogen solution into the lens holder until it reaches the fill line. Don’t exceed this line.
- Drop a neutralising tablet into your contact lens holder (if your container has a built-in neutraliser, you can skip this step).
- Screw the lid shut on your contact lens holder and keep it upright to allow the neutralisation process to occur. Your lenses should sit in the holder like this for at least six hours or overnight, after which you can either wear them or store them in saline solution.
- Make sure to rinse the contact lens holder with saline solution and replace it every month to prevent bacterial growth. Even if you don’t wear your lenses, you should replace the solution in the container every 72 hours.
It’s important to note that hydrogen peroxide solution should never touch your eyes directly and it can cause serious damage to your eyes if it’s not neutralised, so it’s essential that you follow the correct steps to ensure it’s safe to use. If you’re unsure how to use the solution properly, speak to your optician who can offer you further advice.
How long should you wear contact lenses before cleaning them?
Lenses shouldn’t be worn for longer than 16 hours. Most people will find that 8 hours is their maximum before their lenses start to become uncomfortable and dry, however this will vary depending on your level of sensitivity. Remember that single-use lenses aren’t designed to be worn for extended periods and that incorrect maintenance can cause your lenses to deteriorate quicker so it’s an important step of the process. If you find that the maintenance is too time consuming for you and your lifestyle, you may be better suited to disposable lenses which are a convenient alternative. Speak to your optician to find the right option for your budget and lifestyle needs.