Can I store contact lens without solution?

Quick Answer

It is not recommended to store contact lenses without solution for extended periods of time. Contact lens storage cases are designed to hold solution in order to keep lenses hydrated and disinfected between wears. Storing lenses dry can increase the risk of eye infections, irritation, and damage to the lenses. If solution is not available, lenses may be stored for very brief periods in sterile saline or multipurpose solution. However, this is not considered safe long-term storage.

Storing Contacts Without Solution

Contact lenses are delicate medical devices that require proper care between wearing to remain safe and comfortable in the eyes. When not being worn, contacts sit in a storage case filled with solution. This solution serves several important purposes:

  • Keeps lenses hydrated – Contacts are designed to absorb solution to stay moist and maintain shape.
  • Cleans away proteins and deposits – Solution contains surfactants to removebuildup that can cloud vision.
  • Disinfects against microbes – Solutions contain disinfecting agents to kill bacteria and reduce infection risk.
  • Lubricates and cushions lenses – Makes insertion easier and more comfortable.
  • Prevents dryness and friction – Solution creates a protective cushion of moisture between lens and eye.

Without solution, contacts lose these crucial benefits.Dry storage allows lenses to become brittle and misshapen. Protein and lipid buildup is not removed. Germs and microbes can thrive without disinfecting. Insertion becomes more difficult without lubrication. Most importantly, dry storage significantly increases the changes of eye infections.

Risks of Storing Contacts Without Solution

The number one risk is developing an eye infection. Without disinfecting, bacteria, fungi, and amoebas can rapidly multiply on a contact lens surface. When inserted in the eye, these microbes can cause serious infections. Common risks include:

  • Conjunctivitis – Inflammation of the conjunctiva caused by bacteria.
  • Keratitis – Infection and inflammation of the cornea.
  • Corneal ulcers – Open sores on the cornea from bacterial infection.
  • Corneal scarring – Permanent clouding of vision from damaged cornea.

In severe cases, poor contact lens hygiene can even lead to blindness. Always using fresh disinfecting solution prevents microbial growth. Beyond infection, dry storage can impact lens fit and vision. Dehydrated contacts can become hard and brittle. This prevents the lens from fitting properly on the eye. A misshapen lens causes blurred vision and discomfort.

Lack of lubrication also increases friction between lens and eye. This leads to irritation, redness, and abrasions of the cornea. Overall, skipping storage solution jeopardizes the health and comfort of contact lens wear.

Emergency Storage Without Solution

While not recommended, there may be emergency situations where storage solution is temporarily unavailable. For very brief periods, lenses may be stored in sterile saline solution or multipurpose solution as a last resort:

  • Sterile Saline Solution – Saline solution contains sodium and electrolytes similar to tears. It provides basic hydration and cushioning but no disinfection.
  • Multipurpose Solution – Combines hydration, cleaning, and disinfecting. However, multipurpose solution must be changed daily unlike dedicated storage solution.

If using one of these alternatives, be sure to:

  • Use a sterile contact lens case.
  • Only store for up to 24 hours maximum.
  • Rub and rinse lenses before insertion to remove buildup.
  • Discard solution after one use.
  • Never top off or reuse solution.

This type of emergency storage should only be used for a day or two until fresh contact lens storage solution is obtained. Never store lenses long-term without disinfecting and hydration.

Storing Contacts Long-Term Without Solution

For long-term storage when not wearing contacts, they must be fully disinfected. Follow these steps:

  1. Thoroughly clean lenses by rubbing with fresh multipurpose solution.
  2. Rinse well with saline solution.
  3. Soak in hydrogen peroxide disinfecting solution for at least 4 hours.
  4. Rinse again with saline solution.
  5. Allow lenses to air dry completely.
  6. Place lenses in a dry, gas permeable storage case.

This ensures lenses are free of contaminants before extended storage. However, remember that the contacts will become brittle without solution. They may need to be thrown out and replaced with fresh lenses after long-term dry storage. Never attempt to rehydrate old dried out contacts in solution – this can cause eye damage.

Getting Emergency Contact Lens Solution

If you’ve found yourself without storage solution, get a replacement as soon as possible. Here are some options to obtain solution quickly:

  • Purchase at any drugstore, supermarket, or mass retailer with a pharmacy section. Many are open 24 hours.
  • Buy individual travel-size solution packets at a retail store if you need just a small amount.
  • Order contact lens solution online for fast delivery from sites like Amazon.
  • Visit an optometrist office or glasses store and ask if they have sample solution.
  • Call your eye doctor and request an emergency prescription for solution.

Having a spare unopened bottle at home can also prevent running out. Be sure to keep solution away from extreme heat or cold to maintain effectiveness. With some advanced planning, you can avoid finding yourself without this contact lens necessity.

Storing Different Contact Lens Types Without Solution

All contact lenses – soft, rigid gas permeable, and specialty lenses – require proper storage solution. Here are specific considerations for different contact lens varieties:

Soft Contact Lenses

  • Most common type of contact lens worn today.
  • Made of soft, flexible plastics to conform to the eye.
  • Absorb water and become fragile when dried out.
  • Prone to warping and protein buildup without solution.
  • Higher infection risk without effective disinfection.

Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Contact Lenses

  • Made of firm, durable plastics that hold shape.
  • Less prone to warping when dry.
  • Do not absorb water like soft contacts.
  • Still require solution to clean, disinfect, and lubricate.
  • Can damage cornea without proper lubricating solution.

Specialty Contact Lenses

  • Include colored lenses, cosmetic lenses, and orthokeratology lenses.
  • Often made of soft hydrogel materials.
  • Toric lenses correct astigmatism.
  • Just as prone to problems from improper storage as regular soft lenses.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions for compatible solutions.

Regardless of material and type, no contacts should sit dry for days at a time. Solution is essential for safe, comfortable contact lens use.

Can You Use Saline or Rewetting Drops for Storage?

While saline and rewetting drops can be used to insert dry lenses, they do not substitute for storage solution:

Saline Solution

  • Sterile saline solution contains water and sodium ions to match normal tears.
  • Can be used to rehydrate dried out lenses before insertion.
  • Provides very basic lubrication and hydration.
  • Does NOT clean or disinfect lenses.
  • Should never be used as long-term contact lens storage solution.

Rewetting Drops

  • Lubricating drops that contain water, salts, and polymers.
  • Can rewet and rehydrate lenses before insertion.
  • Help coat lenses for added comfort.
  • Do not clean, disinfect, or store lenses.
  • Should only be used occasionally for insertion assistance.

Neither of these drops provides the full benefits of real storage solution. At best, they are an emergency backup for the occasional insertion of dry lenses. Relying on saline or rewetting drops for long-term storage can seriously damage eye health and lenses.

Homemade Contact Lens Solution Recipes

As storage solutions are specially formulated and tested for lenses, homemade solutions are never recommended. However, some people may try DIY storage ideas in a pinch such as:

  • Saline wound wash
  • Light salt water mixture
  • Diluted hydrogen peroxide
  • Weak boric acid solution
  • Baby shampoo and water

There are several risks to these homemade solutions:

  • Incorrect ingredients or proportions can damage eyes.
  • No disinfecting ability against dangerous microbes.
  • Can introduce new bacteria during mixing.
  • Often lack necessary hydrating and lubricating qualities.
  • May warp and damage lenses over time.

It is far safer to purchase unopened FDA-approved contact lens storage solution from a reliable source. There are affordable store brand solutions if cost is an issue. Avoid homemade solutions except in the most dire emergency with no other options.

Can You Store Contacts in Tap Water?

Storing contact lenses in plain tap water is never recommended. Tap water contains microbes, minerals, chlorine, and other substances that are harmful to contact lenses and eyes:

  • Tap water is not sterile – it can transmit bacteria, leading to dangerous eye infections.
  • Water minerals can deposit on lenses, making them less transparent and comfortable.
  • Chlorine in tap water can be abrasive and damage delicate lens materials and eyes.
  • Tap water lacks the electrolytes, hydrating agents, and lubricants needed for safe lens storage.
  • Leaves lenses prone to tearing, warping, and attracting deposits when dry.

At minimum, sterile saline solution would be safer for very temporary storage than tap water. However, non-preserved multiuse solution or hydrogen peroxide systems provide the best storage environment. Investing in the proper contact lens supplies will pay off in eye health.

Storing Contacts in Distilled Water

While better than tap water, distilled water still lacks necessary ingredients for contact lens solutions. Issues with storage in distilled water include:

  • Lacks disinfecting properties against microbes.
  • Does not contain electrolytes for hydration and cushioning.
  • Will not remove accumulated lens deposits and proteins.
  • Can still potentially transmit bacteria if containers are not sterile.
  • May allow lenses to gradually warp or become misshapen.

For very brief emergency storage of 1-2 days at most, distilled water is an improvement over tap water. However, investing in FDA-approved storage solutions specially formulated for soft contact lenses is the wisest choice long-term.

Storing Contacts in Non-Sterile Solution

Contact lens solutions quickly become non-sterile when exposed to air, bacteria, and repeated use. Storing lenses in non-sterile solution carries risks:

  • Solutions are only sterile before opening.
  • Reusing old solution allows microbial growth.
  • Never top off solution – always empty and refill case.
  • Bacteria in non-sterile solution can infect eyes.
  • Replace solution regularly as directed.
  • Rub and rinse lenses before insertion if solution isn’t fresh.

For maximum safety and hygiene, use each bottle of solution only as long as recommended by the manufacturer. Discard old solution and sterilize contact cases routinely. Start each storage period with fresh, sterile saline solution or multipurpose disinfecting solution. Avoid contamination by never reusing or topping off old solution.


Contact lens storage solutions provide a safe, sterile environment to store lenses between wear. Storing contacts without solution leads to dehydration, warpage, protein buildup, and bacterial infection. In a pinch, sterile saline can be used very briefly. For long-term storage, fully disinfect lenses first. Never use homemade solutions as substitutes. With proper daily cleaning and disinfection, contact lenses can be worn safely and comfortably for years. Invest in quality lens care products for healthy eyes and clear vision.

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