Whether you have forgotten extra contact lens solution on a trip or just failed to buy it while you were out, finding a suitable substitute is imperative. You certainly can’t sleep in contacts, and you don’t want them to be ruined either.
Having worn contact lenses for years, I have been forced to get creative a few times. Luckily, there are a few easily accessible options out there that will do the trick.
1. Hydrogen Peroxide
If there’s one outstanding replacement for having to buy lens solutions that disinfect and cleans your lenses, it’s hydrogen peroxide. This is part of a lens cleaning kit that has very different storage for your lenses. It contains a catalytic platinum disc that’s inserted into the contact lens case. What you do is just fill-up each lens case with ordinary hydrogen peroxide. This is the same stuff you use for cleaning cuts and scratches on your skin.
What the hydrogen peroxide does will help to clean your contact lens overnight. The little bubbles that form on the lens are washed away, but there is one more critical point to this method. The catalytic platinum disc helps to neutralize the hydrogen peroxide within 5 hours. It helps turn the hydrogen peroxide into a neutralized liquid. In the morning, the contact lens is safe to put back into your eye again.
This is a one-step process that is easier to manage than buying several cleaning and wetting solutions. If you find yourself in a situation where you ran out of hydrogen peroxide, it’s not hard to find. You most likely have it under your bathroom sink or inside a first-aid kit. In a pinch, every restaurant or bar will have this liquid readily on-hand. So this way, you can take out your contacts before you get home.
Helpful Tip: Solution designed specifically for lenses is always the best way to go. A convenient way to get good contact lens solution is to order from Amazon. Here is a really good brand that I recommend, specifically designed for sensitive eyes.
2. Saline Solution (Saline Nasal Spray)
This is a great solution that can be used for overnight contact lens storage. Often you can find this solution in two forms. The first comes from an aerosol nasal spray intended for babies with stuffed-up noses. If you have friends with small children, they’ll know exactly what you are talking about.
This can then be sprayed into your contact lens case or a small cup, and your contact lenses can be stored overnight.
The second version of this comes in an applicator bottle with a squeeze drop-top. It’s the same exact saline solution in pure liquid form instead of being in a pressurized spray form. Both of these are good alternatives since they are PH balanced enough for your eyes. The salt content is nearly the same as your own tears would be. The next day you’ll need to go to the store to buy the regular lens solution to clean your lenses properly.
3. Distilled water
If you have a critical situation and you’ve totally run-out of contact lens solution, then you can use distilled water. This should only be used for one night. Make sure you can get the right supplies by the next day. The little case that your contacts go into is perfect for holding distilled water instead of cleaning solution. After that, you’ll need to disinfect and clean your lenses as usual.
You can’t use regular tap water since this can contain bacteria. Because you don’t know what’s in tap water, it can lead to Acanthamoeba keratitis. This is a severe infection of the cornea and will need immediate eye treatment. These come in the form of medicated eye drops to kill the amoeba living on your cornea. In the worst cases, it can lead to cornea surgery or possible blindness if not treated in time.
So for all intent purposes, don’t use tap water, bottled water, spring water, or mineral water! Distilled water is the purest of all types of bottled water since it uses steam distillation to filter ordinary water. It has no minerals or bacteria within it, making it an excellent temporary solution to store your contact lens overnight. This water is found at any supermarket or pharmacy, but finding it after regular closing hours will be challenging.
If You Can’t Find Distilled Water
If you cannot find distilled water, there is still hope. At many late-night gas stations or 24-hour stores, you can find simple products that will work. One alternative product is a spray mist that is used for refreshing the skin. Oddly enough, the product names include Evian mist spray or moisturizing spray. You would be surprised what they sell at the check-out counter or these places.
The point is that this spray is bacteria-free and can be a decent substitute if they don’t sell distilled water. One can is enough to fill your contact lens case with enough mist water to store them overnight. Be advised this spray mist is not cheap, but in a pinch will be better than nothing.
4. Eye Refreshing Drops
If the store you are visiting doesn’t have any kind of lens solution, you can always find eye drops of some sort. If they have Visine eye drops (Example shown on Amazon), meant to soothe your eyes, this is better than nothing at all. You can find these eye drops at most convenience stores.
Usually, these eye drops are at the check-out counter somewhere on the various shelves for pain relief or cough medicine. While most of these are saline-based, don’t expect they will also clean the lenses. You’ll have to find these cleansing solutions at the larger pharmacy-based stores in the morning.
5. Home-Made Saline Solution
If you have a situation where there is no distilled water, you can make sterilized water by using tap water. Into a small boiling pot, just add 1 cup of tap water and bring it to a boil on the stovetop.
To be sure you’ll kill all the germs:
- Boil the water for 15 minutes before turning off the heat.
- Add a teaspoon of regular table salt (or Kosher sea salt) to the water.
- Let the salt dissolve completely into the water.
Mix the water using a clean spoon and then pour it into a small jar when it’s cool enough. Having sterile water like this ensures that no microscopic germs had a chance to survive. It’s different than simply boiled water for drinking since your stomach produces acids. Your eyes, however, don’t have the ability to fight-off tap water bacteria.
Keep in mind that these substitutes are only meant to get you through one night until you can go buy the real thing. Actual contact lens solution contains well-balanced ingredients perfectly designed to preserve and clean lenses while they are being stored. Please do not use these substitutes long term! Be sure to get a quality solution specifically designed for contacts. Here is my favorite brand, highly recommended!
I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for stoppin’ by!
Disclaimer: I am not a medically trained eye doctor. Be sure to contact your eye doctor directly if you have any eye issues. Improper cleaning or storage can potentially cause eye issues, so use the options on this list at your own risk.
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