Can You Use Contact Solution as Eye Drops?

Have you ever run out of eye drops and wondered if your contact solution could do the trick? It’s a common question for contact lens wearers who might think these two products are interchangeable. Let’s dive into whether it’s safe or practical to use contact solution as a substitute for eye drops and what you should consider before making that choice.


Regarding eye care, it’s essential to understand the different products available and their specific uses. Contact solutions and eye drops are two everyday items many people have in their medicine cabinets, but they are different. Here’s a closer look at what each one does and why using them correctly is essential.

Contact Solution: More Than Just Liquid

Contact solution is designed to clean, disinfect, and store contact lenses. Its primary functions include:

  1. Cleaning: Removes debris and protein deposits from the lenses.
  2. Disinfecting: Kills bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause eye infections.
  3. Rinsing: Wash away cleaning solutions and debris before you insert lenses into your eyes.
  4. Storing: Keeps lenses in a moist environment when not in use.

Most contact solutions contain a combination of saline, disinfectants, and sometimes surfactants (cleaning agents). Some may also include lubricants to keep lenses comfortable to wear. However, these solutions are formulated to interact with contact lenses, not to provide direct eye relief or hydration.

Eye Drops: Targeted Relief for Your Eyes

Eye drops, on the other hand, are formulated to address various eye issues directly.

  1. Lubricating Drops: These provide moisture and relief for dry eyes.
  2. Redness Relievers: Contains vasoconstrictors that reduce redness by narrowing blood vessels in the eye.
  3. Allergy Drops: Contain antihistamines or mast cell stabilizers to relieve itching and unwanted irritation caused by allergies.
  4. Antibiotic Drops: Prescribed for bacterial eye infections.
  5. Anti-inflammatory Drops: Used to reduce inflammation and swelling in the eyes.

These drops are designed to be safe for direct application to the eyes, providing immediate relief and treatment for specific eye conditions. They do not contain the cleaning or disinfecting agents found in contact solutions.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Contact Solution as Eye Drops

While using contact solution instead of eye drops might seem convenient, it’s not a good idea. Here are several reasons why:

  1. Different Formulations: Contact solutions contain disinfectants and preservatives that irritate the eyes without lenses.
  2. Lack of Lubrication: Contact solutions must be formulated to provide the same hydration level as lubricating eye drops.
  3. Potential Irritation: When applied directly to the eye, the chemicals in contact solutions can cause stinging, redness, or even allergic reactions.
  4. Infection Risk: A product not intended for direct eye application could increase the risk of eye infections or other complications.

Safe Alternatives

If you find yourself without eye drops, consider these safer alternatives:

  1. Saline Solution: Pure saline (without disinfectants) can be used to rinse and hydrate eyes temporarily.
  2. Cold Compress: A clean, cold compress can help reduce eye irritation and provide relief.
  3. Hydration: Drink plenty of water to help maintain natural eye moisture.

The Differences Between Contact Solution and Eye Drops

Understanding the distinctions between contact solutions and eye drops is crucial for proper eye care. Both products have specific roles and are formulated with different ingredients and purposes. Here’s a detailed comparison to help clarify their unique uses and benefits.

Aspect Contact Solution Eye Drops
Primary Use Cleaning, disinfecting, and storing contact lenses Providing relief for various eye conditions
Key Ingredients Saline, disinfectants, surfactants, and sometimes lubricants Lubricants, vasoconstrictors, antihistamines, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories
Formulation Purpose Remove debris, kill bacteria, and keep lenses hydrated Moisturize eyes, reduce redness, treat infections, and alleviate allergy symptoms
Direct Eye Application Not recommended Specifically designed for direct application
Potential Side Effects Eye irritation, stinging, redness, allergic reactions Generally safe, side effects depend on the type (e.g., temporary stinging with some medicated drops)
Types Available Multi-purpose, hydrogen peroxide-based, saline Lubricating, redness relievers, allergy drops, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory
Usage Frequency Daily or as needed for lens maintenance As required for symptom relief or per doctor’s instructions

Key Differences Explained

  1. Primary Use: It ensures lenses are free from harmful microorganisms and deposits that could cause discomfort or infection. Eye drops, however, are meant to directly address eye discomforts like dryness, redness, allergies, and diseases.
  2. Key Ingredients: Contact solutions focus on cleaning and disinfecting lenses. They often contain preservatives and agents that are unsafe for direct eye application. Conversely, eye drops are made with ingredients suitable for the eye’s sensitive tissues, providing immediate relief and targeted treatment.
  3. Formulation Purpose: Each product is designed with its specific application in mind. Contact solutions ensure lenses are safe and comfortable to wear, while eye drops relieve particular symptoms such as dryness, redness, or itching.
  4. Direct Eye Application: This is a crucial difference. Contact solution should not be used directly in the eyes due to the presence of disinfectants and other chemicals that can irritate. Eye drops are formulated for direct contact with the eye, ensuring safety and effectiveness.
  5. Potential Side Effects: Contact solutions used as eye drops can lead to side effects like irritation and redness because of their cleaning agents. Eye drops, depending on their type, are generally safe but can cause temporary discomfort depending on their specific formulation (e.g., redness reducers can cause rebound redness if overused).
  6. Types Available: Contact solutions come in various types, such as multi-purpose solutions, hydrogen peroxide-based solutions, and saline solutions, each with specific uses for lens care. Eye drops, however, come in a broader variety catering to different eye conditions, from simple lubrication to treating infections.
  7. Usage Frequency: Contact solution is typically used daily to maintain lenses. Eye drops are used as needed, depending on the specific eye condition and instructions from healthcare providers.

When to Use Eye Drops and When to Use Contact Solution

Knowing when to use eye drops and when to use contact solution is essential for maintaining both eye health and the condition of your contact lenses. Here’s a guide to help you decide which product to use in different situations.

When to Use Eye Drops

  1. Dry Eyes
    • Symptom: Your eyes feel dry, gritty, or uncomfortable.
    • Solution: Lubricating eye drops (artificial tears) provide moisture and relieve dryness.
  2. Redness
    • Symptom: Your eyes are red and irritated.
    • Solution: Use redness-relieving eye drops that contain vasoconstrictors to reduce redness.
  3. Allergies
    • Symptom: Your eyes are itchy, watery, and red due to allergies.
    • Solution: Use antihistamine eye drops or mast cell stabilizers to relieve allergy symptoms.
  4. Infections
    • Symptom: You have symptoms of an eye infection, such as redness, discharge, or pain.
    • Solution: Use antibiotic eye drops prescribed by a doctor to treat the infection.
  5. Inflammation
    • Symptom: Your eyes are inflamed or swollen.
    • Solution: Use anti-inflammatory eye drops, which may be prescribed to reduce inflammation.
  6. Post-Surgery Care
    • Symptom: You need to care for your eyes after surgery.
    • Solution: Follow your doctor’s instructions and use medicated eye drops to promote healing.

When to Use Contact Solution

  1. Cleaning Lenses
    • Task: Removing debris and protein deposits from contact lenses.
    • Solution: Clean your lenses using a multi-purpose or hydrogen peroxide-based contact solution.
  2. Disinfecting Lenses
    • Task: Killing bacteria and other microorganisms on contact lenses.
    • Solution: Use a disinfecting contact to ensure lenses are free from harmful pathogens.
  3. Rinsing Lenses
    • Task: Washing away cleaning solutions and debris from contact lenses before insertion.
    • Solution: Use saline or multi-purpose contact solution for rinsing.
  4. Storing Lenses
    • Task: Keeping lenses in a moist environment when not in use.
    • Solution: Use a contact solution in your lens case to store them safely.
  5. Rewetting Lenses
    • Task: Moistening lenses while wearing them.
    • Solution: Use rewetting drops designed for contact lenses to keep them comfortable throughout the day.
  6. Removing Lenses
    • Task: Easing the removal of lenses that have dried out.
    • Solution: A few drops of contact solution moisten the lenses before taking them out.

Key Points to Remember

  • Purpose-Specific Use: Always use products for their intended purpose. Eye drops are for direct eye application, while contact solutions are for lens maintenance.
  • Safety First: Never substitute contact solution for eye drops, which can lead to eye irritation or infection.
  • Consult a Professional: If you need clarification on which product to use or if you experience eye discomfort, consult an eye care professional for advice.


Can I use contact solutions such as eye drops in an emergency?

Contact solution is not recommended as a substitute for eye drops, even in an emergency. Contact solutions contain disinfectants and preservatives that can irritate your eyes. If you’re in a pinch and need eye moisture, saline solution (without disinfectants) is a safer alternative. However, getting proper eye drops is best as soon as possible.

What happens if I accidentally put contact solution in my eyes?

If you accidentally put contact solution in your eyes, you might experience stinging, redness, or irritation.

Can I use eye drops while wearing contact lenses?

Yes, but only specific types of eye drops are safe to use with contact lenses. Avoid using other eye drops with contacts unless they are labeled safe.

How often should I use eye drops?

The frequency of eye drops depends on your specific needs and the type of drops you use. Lubricating drops can be used as needed throughout the day to relieve dryness. Medicated drops, such as those for allergies or infections, should be used as directed by your healthcare provider.

Is it necessary to use contact solutions every day?

Yes, Regular use of contact solution helps prevent eye infections and keeps your lenses safe and comfortable to wear.

What should I do if my eyes are still dry after using eye drops?

If your eyes remain dry after using lubricating eye drops, consider the following steps:

  • Ensure you are using the drops frequently enough.
  • Check if your environment contributes to dry eyes (e.g., air conditioning or heating).
  • Consult an eye care professional to explore other treatment options or underlying conditions.


Each product is vital in maintaining eye health and comfort, but they are designed for distinct purposes. Contact solution is essential for cleaning, disinfecting, and storing contact lenses, ensuring they are safe and comfortable to wear. Eye drops, on the other hand, provide immediate relief for various eye conditions such as dryness, redness, allergies, and infections.

Similarly, using eye drops in place of contact solution will not provide the cleaning and disinfecting benefits required for safe lens use. Opt for safer alternatives like a saline solution to avoid eye irritation in emergencies. Always prioritize products specifically formulated for your needs to maintain optimal eye health. By adhering to proper usage guidelines and recognizing the distinct roles of each product, you can protect your vision and enjoy the comfort and clarity that comes with well-maintained eye health. Remember, the right product for the proper purpose is critical to keeping your eyes healthy and comfortable.