Contact lens safety

More than 3 million people in the UK wear contact lenses, but many don't follow the instructions on safe use.

Wearing contact lenses increases the risk of eye infections. Failing to follow the instructions raises that risk considerably.

Here's some advice on how to use contact lenses safely.

Follow the instructions

The two main types of contact lens are rigid gas permeable or soft. Instructions for using and caring for your lenses will vary accordingly. It's vital to follow your practitioner's instructions.

Whether you're using contact lenses to correct your vision or change the appearance of your eyes, under UK law they have to be fitted by a registered optometrist, a qualified dispensing optician, or a medical practitioner.

Reusable contact lenses

For lenses that are reused, rather than worn once and discarded, the following guidance applies.

After removing your contact lenses, it's essential you disinfect them as this prevents harmful organisms building up on the lens.

Your practitioner will advise you on the best contact lenses for you and how to care for them. This may include extra cleaning procedures, such as using a protein remover and rubbing or rinsing your lenses.

Disinfection tips:

  • to disinfect your lenses, soak them in solution in a storage case for a specific amount of time – your practitioner will advise you
  • never reuse disinfecting solution or top it up – it must be discarded and replaced with fresh solution each time the lenses are stored
  • only use the care products recommended by your practitioner, and follow the instructions carefully

Dirty contact lens cases are a major source of infection.

To avoid infections:

  • rinse your storage case, leave it open to dry after use each day, and replace it monthly
  • clean the storage case each week using a clean toothbrush and contact lens solution

Disposable lenses

Daily disposable lenses don't need cleaning or disinfecting because they are only worn once and then thrown away.

Don't reuse these lenses as they're unsuitable for repeated use. Even if you wear daily disposables, it's still important to have regular check-ups with your practitioner.

Extended wear lenses

Extended wear lenses are specially designed for wearing overnight, and can be worn continuously for up to a month before being discarded.

Don't sleep while wearing lenses unless your practitioner advises it. They will also advise you on how to look after the lenses if you need to remove them temporarily.

You may need more frequent check-ups if you wear this type of lens.

All types of contact lens

You should always:

  • wash, rinse and dry your hands thoroughly before handling your lenses
  • have an up-to-date pair of spectacles to wear when you need to remove your lenses
  • keep the contact lens packet with the batch number on in case you have a bad reaction
  • only use the lenses for the time recommended
  • replace the lenses and lens solution at intervals specified by your practitioner
  • have regular check-ups with your practitioner
  • seek professional advice if you're having problems with your contact lenses.

Ask yourself these three important questions when wearing your lenses:

  • Do my eyes look good?
  • Do my eyes feel good?
  • Can I see well?

If you can't answer "yes" to all of these questions or you have any other doubts about your contact lenses, remove them immediately and talk to your practitioner.


  • if you develop blurred vision or painful, red or swollen eyes, seek advice immediately
  • if a lens looks damaged or torn, don't put it in your eye
  • never wear someone else's contact lenses
  • never rinse your lenses with or store them in tap water – you risk getting a severe eye infection
  • don't transfer contact lens solution into smaller travel-size bottles – it may not be sterile any more
  • never wet your lenses with saliva – it's not sterile and could cause an eye infection 
  • never wear your lenses while you're having a shower or going swimming (unless you use water-tight goggles)

Page last reviewed: 25/06/2014

Next review due: 25/06/2017


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