Can You Put Contacts in Plain Tap Water?

Learn how to safely clean and store contact lenses

Contact lenses should neither be stored in tap water nor should they be rinsed with it. Tap water often contains microorganisms that can latch onto the lenses, encouraging eye infections. You should never put your contacts in plain water.

Person with fainted fingernails with a contact lens on the index finger
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Studies have shown that an organism called acanthamoeba is a water-loving parasite and is sometimes found in tap water. Acanthamoeba has been known to cause a devastating eye infection that can destroy the cornea and sometimes the entire eye. Always use a contact lens solution for storing your contacts. Place your lenses in a clean lens case and fill with solution for soaking and disinfecting. Rinse the storage case every day with sterile rinsing solution, and always allow the storage case to air dry.

Contact Lens Solutions

A contact lens solution is a liquid used to properly clean contact lenses. There are two types of contact lens care systems: multipurpose contact lens solutions and hydrogen peroxide-based care systems. Both systems are used for properly cleaning and storing contact lenses.

Multipurpose Solutions

Many contact lens wearers use multipurpose solutions for rinsing, disinfecting, cleaning, and storing their soft lenses. Some people are afraid that multipurpose solutions are not effective at disinfecting certain types of bacteria, including acanthamoeba, from the lens.

Hydrogen Peroxide Systems

Some people believe that hydrogen peroxide is the best way to disinfect contact lenses There are two types of hydrogen peroxide systems: "two-step" and "one-step" systems. When using a "two-step" product, the hydrogen peroxide must be rinsed away with saline before wearing the lenses. A "one-step" system allows hydrogen peroxide to react completely, becoming pure water. These systems do not require the lenses to be rinsed prior to inserting them.

Caring for Your Contact Lenses

  1. First, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Washing will ensure that you don't transfer dirt and germs into your eye. Dry your hands with a lint-free towel, as lint may stick to your contacts and get into your eyes.
  2. Clean one lens with a contact lens solution to remove any buildup, makeup, and other debris. Rub the lens gently in the palm of your hand with a few drops of solution.
  3. Rinse the lens thoroughly to remove the loosened debris, following the lens solution package instructions. 
  4. Place the lens into a clean contact lens case or lens holder. Fill the container with fresh contact lens solution. The solution will disinfect the lenses, making them safe to wear in your eyes. 
  5. Repeat each step with the other contact lens.

What You Should Know

If you wear contacts, be careful when it comes to hygiene. Keeping your contacts clean will help protect your eyes from infection. Carefully follow your eye doctor's instructions for disinfecting and caring for your lenses. Having an annual eye exam will help ensure that your eyes are healthy.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Danger of Using Tap Water With Contact Lens.

  2. Carnt NA, Subedi D, Lim AW, et al. Prevalence and seasonal variation of Acanthamoeba in domestic tap water in greater Sydney, Australia. Clinical and Experimental Optometry. 2020;103(6):782-786. doi. 10.1111/cxo.13065

  3. Lorenzo-Morales J, Khan NA, Walochnik J. An update on Acanthamoeba keratitis: diagnosis, pathogenesis and treatment.Parasite. 2015;22:10. doi. 10.1051%2Fparasite%2F2015010

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contact Lens Care Systems and Solutions.

  5. Fears AC, Metzinger RC, Killeen SZ, et al. Comparative in vitro effectiveness of a novel contact lens multipurpose solution on Acanthamoeba castellaniiJ Ophthal Inflamm Infect. 2018 Oct 24;8(1):19. doi:10.1186/s12348-018-0161-8

By Troy Bedinghaus, OD
Troy L. Bedinghaus, OD, board-certified optometric physician, owns Lakewood Family Eye Care in Florida. He is an active member of the American Optometric Association.