How to Put In Contacts, Clean Them, And Remove Them

Contact lenses are a great alternative to glasses and can provide patients with a new look and feeling of independence. For some patients, contact lenses can even offer better vision than glasses. This can make sense if you know how contact lenses work.

If you already have a prescription for contact lenses, you can easily use this price comparison tool to see which online store has the lowest price. Here’s a list of coupons you can use to save on your order as well.

Contact lenses are considered medical devices, and they sit on the clear front part of the eye (called the “cornea”) to correct vision.

Patients wear contact lenses for many reasons, with the main one usually being for aesthetic purposes. Many people want to be able to see clearly without having to wear glasses. Contacts can also be used to change your eye color, cover corneal scars and ocular abnormalities, and to even treat some forms of disease. Contact lenses can treat nearsighted vision, and many other refractive errors like astigmatism and presbyopia.

  • There is no age limit for contact lenses, and they can be fit in the very young and the very old.
  • Certain eye diseases, active infections, and some jobs may disqualify you from wearing contacts. It is essential to talk to your doctor to see if contacts make sense for you.
  • Contact lenses can be broken into two different categories: “soft” and “hard”.
  • Soft lenses are made from silicone hydrogel or hydrogel material and tend to be more comfortable and easier to adapt to wearing. Most patients with healthy eyes can use soft contact lenses.
    • These lenses tend to be larger and sit on the white part of the eye and can lead to an increase in dry eye symptoms because they don’t allow as much tear exchange across the eye.
  • Hard lenses are made from a firmer, more durable plastic and cover just the cornea.
    • These are smaller than soft lenses and cover just the cornea.
    • These lenses tend to be uncomfortable for patients at first and require a ~1 week adaptation period to reduce the sensation of the lens.
    • Scleral lenses are included in the “hard lens” category and cover more area than even soft lenses.
      • These tend to be more comfortable than corneal hard lenses.

Over 150 million people worldwide wear soft contact lenses, and the idea of using contact lenses dates back to the 19th century!

No matter what kind of contact lens you’re using, you should always handle lenses with clean, dry hands and never use tap water or saliva to rinse lenses.

You should always ask yourself, “Do my eyes…?”

  • Look well?
  • Feel well?
  • See well?
  • If the answer to any of these is no, contact your eye doctor.

Inserting Soft Contact Lenses

Before you handle soft disposable contact lenses, make sure to wash your hands for 30 seconds with non-scented soap and water

  • Using lotions or fragrances can get your lenses dirty and make them uncomfortable to put into your eye
  • Make sure your hands are completely dry (preferably with a microfiber towel) and that they are free of debris
  1. Open the lens blister pack 

    • Make sure you’re opening it on a clean, flat surface like your bathroom sink. 
    • NEVER put a lens in your eye if the pack has been opened or compromised in any way.
      • If you do put a lens in your eye and it starts hurting, immediately remove it, clean it, and assess it for tears. Sometimes a dirty lens can be uncomfortable but torn, or ripped lenses are painful and should be discarded immediately.
    • Make sure to store the lenses in a cool, dry place to prevent warpage.
    • Take note of when you open the pack— your lenses should be disposed of daily, every two weeks or every month.
      • This is from when you open the pack, no matter how many times you’ve actually worn the lenses.
      • Much like food, our lenses have strict expiration dates, and wearing or using them outside that can make you susceptible to serious eye infections.
  2. Using your dominant hand, scoop the lens out of the solution and place it on the tip of your index finger.

    • The lens should be resting on your finger pads.
    • Use this opportunity to inspect the edges of your lenses for any tears and for any debris that could enter your eye.
    • If the lens is torn, throw it away immediately and open a new package.
    • If the lens is dirty, clean it in the palm of your hand using a few drops of multipurpose solution
    • Make sure the lens is right side up! The edges of the lens should curve upwards, like a bowl. If the edges are parallel to each other or look like a taco, flip it out!
    • Some brands of lenses have markings (usually ‘OK’ or ‘123’) on the lens that— when seen right side up, indicate that the lens is right side out. I haven’t seen this personally, but something to potentially look out for.
    • This is harder to tell with daily lenses because they are so thin.
      • Make sure you’re only using the pads of your fingers to manipulate a lens, as your fingernails can be sharp and dirty.
        inside out contact lens
  3. Open the eyes

    • This is the most difficult part for many first-time contact lens wearers.
    • Our eyes are adapted to preventing things from entering it, so be patient if this step takes the longest time.
    • It is vital to ensure that your eyelashes are completely out of the way.
    • This method gets your eyes the most open, but there are many different ways to do this.
    • As you get more comfortable and skilled with using 
      • Use your non-dominant eye, and hold your upper lashes from above (make sure you’re gripping at the lash line and pinning the lashes down at the brow bone. If you slip and only hold the lids, the eyes will easily be able to close). You should almost look like a monkey.
    • Here is a great example of gripping the upper lashes well.
  4. Using the middle finger of your dominant hand (the top of the index finger of this hand should contain the contact lens, right side up), pull down your lower lid

    • Combined with your non-dominant hand, hold the lash line of your eyes open, your eyes should be nice and wide.
  5. Slowly touch the contact lens to the cornea

    • Some people find it to be intimidating to look at your eye while you’re doing this; however, a contact lens is made to settle on the front part of your eye. If the contact is on any other part, it will be harder for it to adhere.
    • Contact lenses also generally stick to whichever is wetter between your finger and eye, so make sure your fingers are really dry!
    • It may be helpful to look slightly up or even “past” the contact lens in order to forget about it coming near your face.
  6. Once the lens is on your eye, gently release your upper and lower lids.

    • Releasing too quickly can cause the contact lens to pop out 
    • Make sure to look around before blinking to ensure that the contact can settle properly on your eye.

Removing Soft Lenses 

Unless recommended by your doctor, it is important to remove your soft lenses every single night.

  • If you have daily lenses, make sure to throw them away.
  • If you sleep in your contacts, you can reduce the amount of oxygen that gets in your eye and cause blood vessels to grow in the clear cornea. This is irreversible.
    • The cornea is avascular, meaning there’s no blood supply going through it.
    • It must stay clear to bring good vision to your eyes. If any blood vessels grow on your cornea, your vision can be reduced.

Make sure to store your contact lenses in fresh multipurpose solution every night.

  • “Topping off” or adding new contact lens solution to old solution, can increase your risk of eye infections. Dump out all old solution before storing your lenses. 
  • Make sure to clean your case (either with rubbing alcohol wipes or multipurpose solution) and leave it face down to dry every single night. 
  • Replace your case every three months (or, whenever you get a new bottle of solution—which generally come with contact lens cases included) to reduce your chances of fungal infections
  • NEVER use tap water to store or clean your lenses. Tap water contains microorganisms that may produce a visually devastating infection.
    • Along with this, you should NEVER shower or swim in contact lenses.
    • Throw away any lenses that have been in contact with tap water! It’s not worth it, even if you clean it afterwards!

Just like with inserting contacts, you should always wash your hands before removing contacts.

  1. Open your eye as described in the insertion

  2. Look away from your finger

    • Since you are removing the lens, it is recommended to look away since the contact lens is less likely to adhere to the eye when it is off the cornea.
      • Looking up gives more surface area to work with, but looking towards your nose or ear works too
  3. Drag the lens off of your cornea to the white part of your eye using the pads of your fingers

    • Never pinch the lens off of your cornea, this can lead to a painful abrasion.
  4. Pinch the contact lens off from the white part of your eye using the pads of your fingers

  5. Store your contacts in fresh solution

Here is a great video (removal starts at 4:26) demonstrating this:

Related: See what to do if you have a contact stuck in your eye.

The best soft contact lenses

Soft lenses are commonly worn for increased comfort and ease of use. You can find a list of the best contact lenses here!

Inserting Hard Lenses

Gas-permeable (GP) or “hard” lenses are used mainly for patients with abnormally shaped corneas (for example, keratoconus) or very large refractive errors.

  • These lenses are a lot smaller than soft lenses and are meant to sit on the cornea (where soft lenses extended to the white part of the eye)

GP lenses also have the added benefit of having less dry eye symptoms and lasting longer (~1 year depending on your lens)

  • These lenses may also be used to reshape the cornea for myopia control and worn overnight
  • Discuss the wearing and replacement schedule with your doctor

However, GP lenses take about a week to adapt to and can cause symptoms of discomfort during this period

GP lenses require more specific care instructions than soft lenses, but like soft lenses, you should never use tap water to rinse your contacts

  • Cleaning solution: Your doctor will recommend a solution that must be used nightly to remove any debris or buildup. Make sure to rub, but not too hard (as it can actually change the power of the lens)
  • Saline: This will be needed to rinse the cleaning solution off of your lens before it is placed in your eye. NEVER use tap water.
  • Cushioning solution: Also called a conditioning solution, this is placed on the lens before insertion to provide comfort. This is also the solution that the lenses should be stored at night. 
  1. Clean your hands with fragrance-free soap and dry them thoroughly 

  2. Scoop the hard lens out of your case (it should be covered in conditioning solution) and place it on the index finger of your dominant hand

  3. Hold open your upper lid using your non-dominant hand, making sure to pin down your upper lashes to your brow bone

    • This is the same as the technique described above in soft lens insertion and removal.
  4. Place the lens directly on the center of your cornea

    • Because these lenses are so small, it isn’t possible to put the lens anywhere else
  5. If your lens becomes decentered

    • Close your eyes
    • Find your lens using your fingertips through your eyelids
    • Look in the opposite direction of that lens
    • Drag it back to the center of the eye 

Here is a great instructional video on GP lens care.

Removing Hard Lenses

There are two commonly used methods to remove GP lenses. However, the first step of removal for both methods is the same–wash and dry your hands thoroughly.

The “Blink” Method

  1. Look straight ahead
  2. Use the middle finger on the side of the eye you’re removing the lens from (ie, use your left hand to remove your left lens) and firmly grasp the outer portion of your eye
  3. Pull the outer corner of the eyelid, making it taught
  4. Forcefully blink, making sure to catch the lens as it comes out

The “Squeeze” Method

  1. Use your non-dominant hand to grasp your upper eyelids at the lash line, pinning the lashes to the brow bone
  2. Use the index and middle finger of the dominant hand to grip your lower lash line
  3. From here, either push or pull the lower and upper lashes to dislodge the lens

Here is a great video that shows both methods:

Inserting Scleral Lenses

Scleral contact lenses are considered hard lenses but are larger than GP lenses. They sit on the sclera, the white portion of the eye, to treat advanced ocular disease and dry eye

    • These tend to be much more comfortable than GP lenses because the sclera doesn’t have the same density of pain receptors that the cornea does.
    • All the same solutions that are needed for GP lenses are used for sclerals.
  1. Wash and dry your hands with a lint-free cloth

  2. Place a mirror flat on a clean countertop underneath you

  3. Open the vial and place the lens on a clean, plastic plunger

    • The plunger can be cleaned with an alcohol wipe
  4. Fill the lens with saline (or approved) solution

    • This is very important and what gives the clear and comfortable vision for scleral lens wearers
    • NEVER fill a lens with tap water
  5. Hold your upper eyelids with your non-dominant hand, making sure to pin the lashes to the brow bone

  6. Looking downward at the mirror, use your dominant hand and the plunger to place the lens on the eye

    • Once you feel the saline touch your eye, let go, the lens should adhere to your eye
    • Some saline spillage is normal, so make sure to keep some paper towels handy

Sometimes, large air bubbles can get trapped in the lens and cause feelings of discomfort

  • As with any lens, if it is uncomfortable— remove it immediately!

Here’s a great video about insertion using three fingers the “tripod” method:

Here’s a great video about insertion using the plunger method:

Scleral Lens Removal

  1. As always, start with clean, dry hands.
  2. Look straight ahead
  3. Wet the end of the plunger with saline for traction
  4. Apply the plunger to the lower 1/3rd of the lens and pull up and out
    • Imagine the motion of a garage door opening 

Here’s a great video about removal:

Here’s a great video about removal without a plunger:

If you already have a prescription for contact lenses, you can easily use this price comparison tool to see which online store has the lowest price. Here’s a list of coupons you can use to save on your order as well.

Don’t Forget To Keep Your Eyelids Clean

If good eye hygiene is important to you, cleaning your eyelids is a critical step. You can use a baby shampoo scrub or tea tree eyelid cleanser to clean your eyelids of oils, deposits, and other substances which can clog ducts! This is super important if you wear make up.