How To Put in Contacts

If you are new to wearing contact lenses, it can be a challenge to put them in your eyes. Knowing the right steps can help. Even if you have been wearing them for years, it's good to review the right way to put in contacts and to know the precautions you should take.

Some 45 million Americans wear contact lenses, many without any problems. But if you don’t use and care for your contact lenses properly, you run the risk of developing serious complications, such as scratching your cornea or developing eye infections that can jeopardize your sight and your overall eye health.

Contact lenses act like prescription eyeglasses worn directly on the surface of the eye. These small, thin discs sit on the tear film that covers the cornea of your eye. They help correct what’s known as “refractive errors,” such as nearsightedness and farsightedness.

How to Put in Contacts

Verywell / Jessica Olah

How To Insert Contact Lenses

The thought of popping something directly into your eye can be unnerving. Your natural instinct is to flinch and blink. But once you get the hang of it, inserting your contact lenses will become second nature.

Follow these steps to make it easier—and safer:

  1. Wash and dry your hands. Dirt and debris from your hands can easily stick to your contacts, so start by sudsing up. Steer clear of soaps with added fragrances and moisturizers as they can stick to your hands and get on your contact lenses, aggravating your eyes. Dry your hands with a lint-free cloth or tissue.
  2. When you’re handling your lenses, make sure you’re working over a clean, flat surface. If you can’t avoid working over the bathroom sink, make sure the drain is plugged so the lens won’t be lost down a pipe if you drop it.
  3. To avoid mixing up the right and left contact (each can have a different prescription, based on the strengths and weaknesses of each eye), make it a habit to always start with the same lens, be it right or left. The same goes for when you’re removing your lenses.
  4. Gently take the contact from its case with your fingertips (not your nails, which can scratch the lens).
  5. Wet the lens with contact solution, rub the lens gently with your clean finger and then rinse it with more contact solution (follow the guidelines on the bottle of solution—some will instruct you to rub for between two and 20 seconds and rinse for about 10 seconds). Don’t use water, saliva, or any liquid that isn't a commercial solution. These are not sterile.
  6. If you happen to drop the lens while inserting it, clean it again before taking another try.
  7. Check the contact lens on your fingertip (experts recommend using your index finger or the middle finger of your dominant hand). Look for tears or other damage. If the lens has rips, don’t use it. Those tiny tears can scratch the surface of your eye and make lens wear uncomfortable.
  8. Make sure the lens looks like a bowl, with edges curved up. If the lens looks like a dome (edges are down), flip the lens the other way.
  9. Look in the mirror and use the hand not holding the lens to hold your upper lid. Use a free finger on your other hand to hold your bottom lid.
  10. Bring the lens close to your eye and look up. Place the lens on your eye, then look down and close your eye, and massage gently.
  11. Once the lens is in, close your eyes for a few seconds and gently massage your eyelids with your fingertips to get the lens in the right position.
  12. You’ll know your lens is in properly if it feels comfortable and you can see well.

Cleaning After Wear

Wet the lens with contact solution. Rub the lens with your clean finger and then rinse it with more contact solution (follow the guidelines on the bottle of solution—some will instruct you to rub for between two and 20 seconds and rinse for about 10 seconds).

How To Deal With Uncomfortable Lenses

When contacts are placed in the eye properly, you shouldn’t feel them at all. If you have any discomfort, try blinking several times to moisten the lens and get it to move into position. If things still don’t feel right, remove your lenses and follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the solution isn’t expired.
  2. See if you may have put it on inside out instead by mistake.
  3. Repeat the cleaning process. Using contact lens solution, rub the lens with your clean finger and then rinse it.
  4. Examine the lens again for any tears or rips. 
  5. If the lens looks good, reinsert it into your eye. If it doesn’t, use a new lens.
  6. Blink, then blink again to ”float” the lens into position.
  7. If your lens still feels uncomfortable, take it out. Try a new contact lens or make an appointment to see your eye care professional.

When To See Your Doctor

Remove your contacts and see your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following for more than 24 hours—you may have an infection or damage to your eye that needs prompt attention.

  • Pain around your eyes
  • Blurred or reduced vision
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Eyes that are very sensitive to light
  • Scratchy eyes
  • Discharge coming from the eye

Cosmetics and Your Contacts

Depending on what kind of contacts you’re using, you may need to apply eye makeup before or after you insert your contacts (read the manufacturer's label). Remove your contacts before removing your makeup.

Use cosmetics around your eyes carefully:

  • Avoid using lash-lengthening mascara (it contains fibers that can get into the eyes, irritating them).
  • Don’t use waterproof mascara, which can stain some contacts.
  • Opt for oil-free foundations, concealers, and moisturizers around your eyes. Creamy ones can leave a film on your contacts.

Other Tips

Your eyes and your contacts will thank you if you:

  • Don’t sleep in your contacts, even if the manufacturer says it’s OK to do so. Sleeping in contacts has been linked to eye infections that can cause vision loss.
  • Don’t wear your contacts around water. That includes at the beach, pool, or shower. Water is teeming with microorganisms that can lead to infections. Wearing contacts around water can specifically cause an acanthameoba eye infection, which can cause vision loss and or need/require a corneal transplant.
  • Wear your nails short to avoid scratching your lenses and your eyes when you insert them.
  • Don’t use old or expired contact lenses. Get an annual eye exam and replace your contacts according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Wear goggles whenever you’re in a particularly dirty or dusty environment or if you’ll be exposed to materials, like flying sawdust.
  • Do not reuse contact lens solution from the previous day. Always use and store in fresh solution.
  • There is no such thing as a no-rub solution, read and adhere to the manufacturer guidelines for cleaning your lenses.

If this is your first time with contacts, your eye doctor may recommend wearing them for only a few hours each day and then building up wear time to a 10-12 hour day. Usually, people initially start with 4 hours and then add an of wear each day until a follow-up visit is done to assure that you are wearing a lens that is not causing harm and is the right fit for you.

A Word From Verywell

There’s a learning curve when it comes to putting in contact lenses. But as with most things, practice makes perfect. If you’re finding it particularly challenging to get your contacts in, make an appointment with your eye care professional who can give you extra training. And once you get used to them, be sure to schedule follow-up visits as recommended by your eye doctor.

7 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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Protect your eyes.

  2. Kellogg Eye Center Michigan Medicine. Contact lenses.

  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. How to put in contact lenses.

  4. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Dos and don’ts of contact lens wear.

  5. American Optometric Association. Contact lens care.

  6. US Food and Drug Administration. Contact lens solutions and products.

  7. Cleveland Clinic. 6 do’s and don’ts for contact lens wearers.

By Donna Christiano Campisano
Donna Christiano is an award-winning journalist, specializing in women and children's health issues. She has been published in national consumer magazines and writes frequently for leading health websites.