Dr. Clay here. Recently I answered a question about the safety of cleaning contact lenses with hydrogen peroxide. Because it is such a common question, I would like to address it here.
Most solutions designed for cleaning and disinfecting soft contact lenses can be divided into two different groups: multi-purpose solutions and hydrogen peroxide solutions.
Multi-purpose solutions are very popular for their ease of use. You can use the same bottle of solution to rinse, clean, and disinfect your contacts. Although most people have no problems when using a multi-purpose solution, these solutions can contain preservatives and other components that a few people may be sensitive to.
Hydrogen peroxide solutions (such as Clear Care by Alcon) do not contain any preservatives and can be a good option for people with more sensitive eyes or for people who have a lot of allergies. Hydrogen peroxide solutions also do a very thorough job of breaking up proteins and deposits on the lenses during the disinfection process, and this can benefit people who tend to produce a lot of build-up on their lenses.
When using a hydrogen peroxide solution, it is critical to remember that the solution or a contact rinsed in the solution cannot be put in the eye directly without first going through a neutralization process. This process is accomplished by using a special case that is included with every bottle of solution. The case contains a grey colored disk that creates a chemical reaction when combined with the hydrogen peroxide and slowly turns the hydrogen peroxide into a sterile saline solution that is safe to put into the eye. This chemical reaction produces bubbles inside the case as it is working and takes several hours. The neutralizing disc loses its effectiveness over time, so it is important to change the cases and disc every time you open a new bottle of solution.
If you happen to accidentally put hydrogen peroxide solution directly into your eye, it will cause a significant burning sensation and can even be quite painful. Remove the lens immediately and flush your eye with sterile saline. If saline is not available, flush with water or an artificial tear drop and see your eye doctor as soon as possible. Although this can be uncomfortable if it happens, it will not cause any permanent damage to your eye.
Updated May 14th, 2015
Clay Mattson, O.D. has been practicing optometry at EyeMax in Nicholasville and Lexington, KY since 2000. Dr. Mattson also serves as a consultant, lecturer, author and advisor to the eye care industry and to other eye doctors.