Lens Care - Rigid

Today, more than 35 million Americans wear contact lenses. For the vast majority, contact lenses provide safe, effective, and attractive vision correction. The factors most important in assuring safe contact lens wear are:

  • An eye that is basically healthy.
  • A lens that fits properly.
  • A wearer who adheres to recommended lens care routines.

As a Contact Lens Wearer, How Important Is Your Role in Ensuring the Safety of Your Contact Lenses?

Very! We know that many contact lens complications are the result of the wearer's failure to follow lens care instructions. Perhaps the greatest danger to contact lens wearers comes from infection. But faithful adherence to your eye care practitioner's instructions for contact lens cleaning and disinfection will go a long way toward reducing this risk. The following guidelines are presented to help make your contact lens wearing experience safe with minimal problems.

Rigid Lens Care

Cleaning: Unless worn in an extended wear mode, rigid lenses--both rigid gas permeable (RGP) and the older "hard" lenses (also called PMMA lenses)--must be cleaned and disinfected daily. Daily cleaning involves using a surfactant (detergent-based) or abrasive cleaner. Cleaning, like every operation in which lenses are handled, begins with washing your hands in a non-deodorant, cold cream-free, lanolin-free soap that is free of other additives. To clean a rigid lens, place the lens in the palm of your hand and put a few drops of the recommended cleaner on the lens; then with a circular motion of the index finger of the other hand, rub the cleaner into the lens for 20 or 30 seconds. Take care not to scratch the lens with your nails. (An ultrasonic unit can also be used as part of lens cleaning. Check with your eye care practitioner if you wish to use such a system.)

After cleaning, the lens is rinsed in commercial contact lens saline solution. After rinsing, the lens is then placed in a rigid contact lens compatible storage-disinfection solution for at least 4 hours, or as recommended by the manufacturer. The lens is then ready to insert in the eye. If so desired, the lens can be rinsed with sterile saline solution before inserting. To increase lens wearing comfort, a few drops of wetting solution can be applied to the lens before insertion. (Never use distilled water or homemade saline to rinse lenses.) After removing the lens from the case in the morning, discard the used solution. Because bacteria can grow in the lens case, keeping it clean is important. Rinse the case with hot water each day and allow it to air dry. Once a week the case should be cleaned with detergent, boiled, and allowed to air dry. The case must be replaced periodically, for example, when buying new solutions. Use only the cleaner and disinfectant recommended by your practitioner. These were chosen with your specific lenses in mind. Before changing brands, check with your practitioner to make sure that the solutions you use are compatible with each other and with your lenses.

Enzyme Cleaning: Many people require an enzyme cleaner to help remove built-up protein from the lens. Enzyme cleaners come as either pre-mixed solutions or as tablets that can be dissolved with commercial saline. (Again, never use distilled water or homemade saline with your lenses.) Clean your lenses with daily cleaner before using enzyme. Allow the lenses to remain in the enzyme solution for at least 2 hours. After enzyme treatment, once again clean your lenses with daily cleaner, and then disinfect before returning the lenses to your eyes.

Storage: Store lenses in disinfecting solution only. In some RGP care systems, the disinfecting solution doubles as a rinsing solution. Never store RGP lenses dry. Drying can damage the surface of the lens, reducing both the comfort and the quality of vision it provides. When lenses are stored, check the storage case periodically to ensure that the disinfectant is not being lost by evaporation. Keep stored lenses at room temperature; temperature extremes can warp the lens. When lenses have been stored for a period of several months or longer, before wearing them again, clean and disinfect the lenses. Finally, wet them with a fresh drop of wetting solution before inserting. (Never use saliva or tap water to moisten lenses.) If you have any questions or if your lenses are uncomfortable, check with your eye care practitioner.

Ongoing Care: While a rigid lens can last for several years, longevity will vary depending on the individual eye, patient, and the lens material. Some patients may need to replace their lenses more frequently than others. For this reason, it is important to have the lens checked on your eye at least once a year. This check will assure that the surface of the lens, the fit of the lens, and the power of the lens, are all as they should be. If you experience reduced comfort, blurred vision, or find a coating forming on the lens, check with your practitioner. These are signs that your lens may have to be replaced.


The following guidelines are designed to maximize the safety of your contact lens wear. They apply to all contact lenses: rigid, soft, and rigid/ soft combination lenses.

  • Always wash hands (with cold cream-free, deodorant-free soap) before handling contact lenses.
  • Remember, different solutions are used for RGP and soft contact lenses. Your eye care practitioner can inform you about which solutions can be used with your lenses.
  • Any time you remove your lenses, always clean and disinfect them before reinserting.
  • Follow your practitioner's lens care recommendations exactly. They are specifically designed to meet the needs of your eyes and your specific lenses.
  • Use only sterile, commercially-prepared contact lens solutions.
  • Clean and air-dry the contact lens case every day. Wash and boil the lens case once a week.
  • Replace lens cases periodically.
  • Always check with your practitioner before changing solutions.
  • Clean and air-dry the contact lens case every day. Wash and boil the lens case once a week.
  • Replace lens cases periodically.
  • Avoid using solution bottles for long periods after they have been opened--check with your practitioner for a recommended time to use opened solution bottles--typically 30 to 60 days after opening.
  • Never reuse solutions. Discard used solutions immediately.
  • Never wear contact lenses in a hot tub or while swimming.
  • Avoid sleeping in lenses unless they are designed for such use and your practitioner has prescribed overnight wear for you.
  • Never use saliva to moisten a contact lens; never put a contact lens into your mouth.
  • Never use home-made saline.
  • Never store contact lenses in nonsterile fluids such as distilled water, tap water, bottled water, or home-purified water.
  • Never wear an overaged or damaged contact lens.
  • Even if all seems well, contact lenses should be checked on your eyes at least once a year by your eye care practitioner. In addition, periodic eye examinations without the contact lenses are advisable.
  • Warning Signs: If an eye becomes red or uncomfortable while a contact lens is in place, remove the lens immediately. If the problem continues after the lens has been removed, see your eye care practitioner immediately. Make an emergency appointment if needed.

The above information is taken, with some revision, from the CLAO Patient Information Pamphlet titled RIGID CONTACT LENS CARE. Pamphlet Advisor was Peter C. Donshik, MD. Copyright 1997-2004, Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Inc.