It is not recommended that you use water to store your contacts. Not only could it cause harm to your contacts, but it could also result in damage to your eyes.

When you store your contacts in water, you are allowing them to sit in a medium that is not completely free of microbes. Water will not disinfect your contacts, which could lead to infection and other issues. (Learn More)

If you continue to use tap water to store your contacts, more serious issues could occur. One example is a parasitic infection that could threaten your eyesight. (Learn More)

While tap water is definitely not recommended to store your contacts, doctors caution that you should not use any type of water. (Learn More)

Use a contact solution to store your contacts. This ensures your contacts and eyes are properly cared for and protected. (Learn More)

Short-Term Risks of Storing Contacts in Tap Water

Orthokeratology contact lenses

Even using water once to store your contacts can result in bacteria accumulating on your lenses. This could lead to a variety of eye infections.

Improper storage and cleaning of your contacts can cause an infection in several ways.

  • Microbes can build up on your lenses.
  • Fungi, bacteria, and parasites can cause an infection.
  • The herpes virus may cause an infection in your eyes.

If you experience an infection, the following symptoms can occur:

  • Blurry vision
  • Eye pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye redness
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Tearing
  • The feeling of something in your eye

Without prompt treatment, it is possible to experience permanent damage from an eye infection. Because of this, it is important to see your eye doctor as soon as you notice anything abnormal.

The type of infection and its severity will determine the course of treatment. This could include a combination of eyedrops, ointments, and oral medications.

You will also likely need to follow up with your eye doctor at least once. They will monitor your progress and determine if additional treatment is needed to clear the infection.

Long-Term Risks of Storing Contacts in Water

When you use water to store your contacts, you are putting yourself at risk for Acanthamoeba keratitis. This is a parasitic infection that can occur when you use tap water as a contact solution.

If you develop this infection, you are at risk for blindness and permanent vision loss. The organism gets into the cornea and causes damage. While tap water can cause this infection, it can also be contracted from water in oceans and lakes.

When the infection is present, you may experience the following:

  • Pain
  • Blurriness
  • Feeling like something is in your eye
  • Redness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Excessive tearing

If the infection remains untreated, severe pain can occur.

perspective of someone with blurry vision

Is One Type of Water Safer Than Others?

Even purified water may not be purified enough to be safe for storing your contact lenses. Water does not have the ingredients needed to disinfect and maintain the integrity of your lenses.

If you do not have contact lens solution available, you can use saline solution. However, this should not be used for more than a day. Before putting your contacts back in, they will need to be disinfected using a contact solution since saline does not disinfect.

Contact Solution vs. Water

Water offers no protective properties for your contacts. It may help to remove some germs and deposits, but it does not ensure that your contacts are clean enough to go back into your eye.

A contact lens solution will kill germs, so they are not transferred to your eyes. Make sure to always use fresh solution every time you store your contacts.

There are several types of contact lens solutions on the market. It is important to pick the right one to protect your eyes and your lenses. The types include:

  • Multipurpose solution. This is used for soft lenses. It works to rinse, clean, and disinfect them. When you use this solution, you should gently rub your contacts to loosen any debris on them.
  • Hydrogen peroxide solution. If you are allergic to multipurpose solutions, this may be a viable alternative. You must wait four to six hours after cleaning your contacts before putting them into your eye when you use this type of solution to prevent irritation.
  • Daily solution. This is meant for quick cleaning of your contact lenses. It does not offer any disinfecting abilities. You will need to use a disinfecting solution with it.
  • Rigid gas permeable solutions. These solutions are designed specifically for this type of contact lens. In most cases, these are part of a system and not just a single solution. For example, you will have a separate solution for cleaning, disinfecting, and wetting your lenses. You should never use these solutions on your soft lenses as damage can occur.
  • Enzymatic protein removing solutions. When deposits build on up your contact lenses, you may need this type of solution to remove them. Depending on the solution you choose, they may be for weekly or daily use.

If you run out of solution, it is best to not put your contacts in anything for a day as this is safer than using water.

References

Can You Use Tap Water With Contacts? (July 2015). University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Acanthamoeba Keratitis FAQ. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What Causes Contact Lens Infections? (May 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology. from

How to Take Care of Contact Lenses. (May 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology.