When can I wash my eyes with soap and water after cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is a common and generally safe procedure to restore vision lost from cataracts. Part of the recovery process involves keeping the eyes clean while avoiding infection or irritation. Knowing when you can wash your eyes with soap and water is important.

Quick Summary

Most surgeons recommend not washing the eyes with soap and water for 1 week after cataract surgery. You can gently cleanse around the eyes with water and a soft cloth. After 1 week, you can begin gently washing the eyes with a mild, non-irritating soap and lukewarm water. Always avoid rubbing or touching the eyes, and contact your surgeon if you have any concerns.

When Can I Wash My Eyes After Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery involves making a small incision in the eye to access and remove the cloudy natural lens and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens. The incision site is delicate and takes time to fully heal. As such, surgeons typically advise not washing the eyes with soap and water until 1 week after cataract surgery.

During the first week of recovery:

  • Avoid splashing water directly into the eyes
  • Use a soft, clean washcloth dampened with cool water to gently wipe around the eyes if needed
  • Do not use soap, shampoo or facial cleansers around the eyes

After 1 week, you can begin gently washing around the eyes with a mild, non-irritating soap and lukewarm water. Baby shampoo or a gentle facial cleanser are good options.

Washing Eyes After 1 Week

When washing around the eyes after 1 week:

  • Use your hands to splash lukewarm water onto the face, avoiding direct pressure on the eyes
  • Apply a small amount of a very mild, non-irritating soap to your hands
  • Gently wash around the eye area without directly touching the eyes
  • Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water
  • Pat dry with a soft, clean towel
  • Avoid rubbing the eyes

Continue this daily gentle washing routine after 1 week. Avoid getting soap or shampoo directly in the eyes. Contact your surgeon right away if you experience any pain, discharge or changes in vision when washing.

Why Wait 1 Week to Wash Eyes After Cataract Surgery?

There are a few important reasons surgeons recommend waiting 1 week before washing the eyes with soap and water after cataract surgery:

  • Reduce infection risk: The eye incision needs time to begin healing and become more resistant to infection before exposing the eye to soap and water.
  • Avoid irritation: Soap and cleansers can irritate the delicate healing incision site.
  • Limit disturbance: Rubbing or splashing can disturb the eye and displace the implanted intraocular lens.
  • Allow proper recovery: The eyes need time to stabilize after surgery before being washed.

Once the incision has started healing and the eye has recovered for 1 week, gentle washing can begin. But it’s still vital to avoid rubbing, pressure and irritation.

Signs of Infection

Serious eye infections after cataract surgery are very rare. But it’s important to watch for possible signs of infection which require urgent medical care. Contact your surgeon right away if you notice:

  • Intense pain in the eye
  • Significant increased redness
  • Pus-like discharge
  • Blurred or distorted vision
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Feeling like something is in your eye

You may have some mild discomfort, irritation, redness and vision fluctuations during the first week after surgery as part of the normal recovery process. But more severe symptoms could indicate a serious complication that needs attention.

When to Resume Normal Hygiene

After the first week, you can typically resume your normal hygiene routine. This includes:

  • Washing your face normally with your regular cleanser
  • Using soap and water when showering or bathing
  • Washing your hair as usual

Just be sure to keep soap, shampoo and cleansers out of your eyes by tipping your head back and using a wash cloth if needed. Avoid rubbing the eye area. And see your doctor right away if you have pain, discharge or vision changes when washing.

Bathing and Showering Tips

Here are some tips for bathing and showering after cataract surgery:

  • Avoid getting shampoo and soap directly in the eyes for 2 weeks
  • Wear protective eye gear if needed
  • Tip your head back to wash your hair
  • Use a washcloth to shield your eyes
  • Keep bath and shower water lukewarm, not hot
  • Rinse away soap thoroughly
  • Pat dry with a clean towel

When to Call Your Doctor

Contact your eye doctor promptly if you have any of the following symptoms while washing or showering:

  • Moderate to severe eye pain
  • Blurry, distorted or sudden loss of vision
  • Discharge, fluid or bleeding from the eye
  • Increased redness or swelling
  • Feeling like something is stuck in your eye
  • Extreme light sensitivity
  • Nausea or vomiting

These could indicate a serious complication like an eye infection and require immediate medical care to prevent vision loss.

Using Eye Drops and Medications

Your doctor will likely prescribe medicated eye drops after cataract surgery to prevent infection and promote healing. Use these eye drops as directed. You may need to use the drops for 1 to 2 weeks.

Tips for using eye drops after cataract surgery:

  • Wash your hands before using drops
  • Tilt your head back and pull down your lower eyelid
  • Apply the recommended number of drops inside the lower lid
  • Close your eye for 1-2 minutes after using drops
  • Use drops at the proper times as directed
  • Don’t let the dropper tip touch your eye
  • Store drops properly

Let your doctor know if you have any issues using your prescribed eye medications after surgery.

When to Resume Activities

Your doctor will provide guidelines on when you can resume your normal activities after cataract surgery, including:

  • Bending at the waist: Avoid for the first week to prevent pressure on the eye.
  • Strenuous exercise: Refrain for 2-4 weeks depending on your healing.
  • Driving: Usually after about 1 week when vision has improved.
  • Desk work: After 2-4 days if not bothered by glare or focusing issues.
  • Household chores: After 1 week; avoid heavy lifting.

Discuss your activity plans with your ophthalmologist. They can evaluate your progress and advise when you can resume activities safely after surgery.

Follow-Up Eye Exams

Your surgeon will schedule follow-up appointments to check your recovery and results after cataract surgery. Regular exams may include:

  • 24 hours after surgery
  • 1 week after surgery
  • 1 month after surgery
  • 3-6 months after surgery

Don’t skip these important exams. Your doctor will monitor for potential complications, test your vision, check your eye pressure, evaluate your healing and determine if you need any additional treatment.

Signs of Recovery

Signs that your eye is recovering well after cataract surgery include:

  • Improved vision
  • Little to no eye pain
  • No discharge or excessive watering
  • Redness and swelling subsiding
  • Comfortable eye movement and blinking
  • Good healing of the incision site
  • Normal eye pressure

Contact your doctor right away if you have any worsening eye symptoms or vision changes during your recovery.

Long-Term Outlook

With successful cataract surgery, most people experience restored vision and excellent long-term results. It is common to achieve near 20/20 or better vision with an intraocular lens implant. Vision should remain stable for many years after surgery.

Routine eye exams are still recommended to monitor your eyes, check for other age-related eye diseases like glaucoma or macular degeneration, and update your eyeglass prescription as needed.

Cataract surgery does not prevent natural aging changes in vision. You may eventually require updated eyeglasses for conditions like presbyopia as you get older.


  • Do not wash your eyes with soap and water for 1 week after cataract surgery.
  • After 1 week, begin gently cleaning around the eye area using mild soap and lukewarm water.
  • Avoid rubbing the eyes for 1 month after surgery.
  • Watch for signs of possible infection and contact your doctor promptly if they occur.
  • Use prescribed antibiotic eye drops as directed.
  • Attend all follow-up exams as recommended by your surgeon.

Carefully following your doctor’s postoperative instructions, including hygiene guidelines, promotes proper healing and successful vision recovery after cataract surgery.


Cataract surgery is very common, but does require some special care during the recovery process. It’s important to know when you can resume normal hygiene like washing your eyes and face after surgery. Most doctors recommend waiting 1 week before gently cleansing the eyes with mild soap and water. Skipping this waiting period or washing too aggressively could irritate the incision site or dislodge the implanted lens. Following your surgeon’s instructions will help ensure your eyes heal properly and your vision is restored safely and successfully.

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