Can You Save Dried Out Colored Contact Lenses

Whether it's forgetting your lenses on the counter, or running out of contact solution, dealing with a dried out contact lens is a conundrum. What do you do when you discover a dried out contact? Can you still use it? What are the risks of wearing it after it's dried?

Here’s what you can do to save your dried out colored contact lenses.

Proper Contact Lens Care

contact lens solution being put into a contact case with lenses on a table

You can prolong the life of your contact lenses with a few simple steps:

  • Always wash your hands before handling your contacts and removing them from your eyes.
  • Use a multi-purpose or all-purpose contact solution to clean and disinfect your contacts.
  • Using the solution, rinse and rub your contact lens gently with your fingertips for about 20 seconds.
  • Keep your contacts in a case filled with fresh solution. Close the case tightly. Just one flush from a toilet can spray germs into the air with the likelihood of them landing in your contact solution.

Perform these steps for both lenses and let them soak in the solution overnight.

It may be tempting to use water or even saliva to give your contact lenses a quick clean, but never do it! Water can contain parasites and saliva is full of bacteria. Make sure you use only fresh contact solution every day. It's recommended that you regularly clean and also replace your storage case every three months.

Skipping one of these steps could potentially lead to eye infections or irritation, so make sure you follow them for healthy, happy eyes.

What to Do With a Dried out Contact Lens

Close up of contact case full of solution, restoring dried out contact lens soaking inside

It's possible to resurrect a dried contact lens, but before you try, there are a few things to consider. First, thoroughly inspect the lens. Take extra precautions when handling the dried lens because it could crumble. Throw away cracked, split, scratched, or noticeably ruined lenses. These lenses can expose your eye to further irritation and infections.

If the contact lens looks fine, but you experience discomfort while wearing it, take it out and dispose of it immediately. If your lens has simply shriveled up on the counter, you can soak it in your contact case filled with solution for 24 hours. However, because it has sat out for so long, it's more susceptible to breakage and may not last very long.

After a 24-hour revitalizing soak, check out the lens to make sure it's clean and wear it as you normally would. Just because it may look normal though, doesn't mean it won't hurt your eye. Remove it if it causes you pain or any unusual discomfort.

Risks of Using Dried Contact Lenses

Woman with one healthy eye and one infected eye

Finding a missing contact lens and seeing that it's clean doesn't mean it is, no matter the location. Bacteria, dirt, and other debris can still contaminate your contact lens, making it unsafe for your eyes.

Contacts that are improperly cleaned or unprotected from bacteria can add to a host of eye problems or permanent loss of vision, such as:

  • Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pinkeye
  • Keratitis, which is an infection of the cornea
  • Staph infections
  • Introduction of harmful parasites, such as Acanthamoeba
  • Various types of fungi

Upon finding your contact on the kitchen floor or the bottom of your bag, avoid the risk and throw it out. The cost of buying new contacts is insignificant compared to the cost of treating an infection caused by a contaminated contact lens.

More Contact Lens No-Nos

Bacteria thrive in moist environments, so rinse out your contact case every day. Washing your case once a week with soap and water will also keep it clean and safe for your contacts. Be sure that the case is completely dry before using it.

Eyes need oxygen to function properly, so don't wear your lenses too much! Find a routine that works for you and stick with it, and remove your contacts before sleeping. Sleeping in contacts carries the risk of not only drying out your eyes, but also scratching and damaging them.

Being in water while wearing contacts exposes them to different bacterias. These could lead to Acanthamoeba keratitis, which can cause permanent vision impairment or blindness. Keep your contacts out of pools, showers, and hot tubs. If water touches your contacts, disinfect them quickly or discard them.

Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes. This can not only infect your eyes with bacteria, but it can also damage the contact lens. When eyeliner or powder gets on your contact lens, clean it right away in the same fashion as above.

Consider Disposable Lenses

Though leaving contact lenses out of their case may happen, if you find it happening frequently, you may want to reconsider the lenses you're using. Disposable lenses are convenient and require little maintenance. There’s no need to worry about them drying out, because you throw them away and use a fresh pair the next day. The risk of infection is also extremely low. Daily contacts still offer the same amazing vision as bi-weekly or monthly contacts. They're also available in different tints and colors.

Can I Avoid Dried out Contact Lenses?

Woman with two different eye colors holding a color contact lens on her finger

Sure! Just follow the steps for taking care of your contacts. Accidents will happen, of course, but ensuring you stick to a solid routine you can follow is the best way to prevent any problems. A dried out contact lens is an inconvenience, but there are steps to take if it happens. Keeping them clean and protected is your first defense against bacteria and other pollutants.

Make sure you are well stocked on a high-quality contact solution and case if you aren’t using dailies. Also, change your contact lenses regularly and follow the expiration dates. After all, “dry,” “contacts,” and “eyes” are three words that should never go together.

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