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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 45 million people wear contact lenses in the United States.

Although contact lenses often take the place of glasses, both forms of vision correction have different styles of wear and care.

Contact lens etiquette can feel overwhelming at first. But knowing how to safely insert and remove your lenses will become second nature with enough practice.

In this article, we provide step-by-step instructions for how to take out both soft and hard contact lenses, as well as how to handle any potential complications from contact lens use.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are two types of contact lenses that are commonly prescribed for vision correction:

  • Hard lenses. These are more rigid and sometimes prescribed for extended wear.
  • Soft lenses. These are softer and more comfortable. They include daily and extended wear, toric, colored, and cosmetic contacts

Below, you’ll find step-by-step instructions for how to remove both soft and hard contact lenses.

How to remove soft lenses

Step-by-step instructions

Step 1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Avoid using a heavily scented soap, as this may irritate your eyes. Do not apply any lotion or other substances to your hands before inserting your lenses.

Step 2. Dry your hands with a clean, lint-free cloth or paper towel. Use a freshly washed hand towel or clean paper towel to dry your hands. This can help prevent any debris or bacteria from entering your eye.

Step 3. Place a clean hand towel beneath your eye to catch the contact lens if it drops. Since most people remove contact lenses over the sink, you risk losing the contact lens if it falls out before you can catch it. Placing a towel beneath your face can help catch the lens when it drops.

Step 4. With your nondominant hand, hold open the lower and upper eyelid of your eye. It’s not necessary to use your nondominant hand to hold your eye open. However, it makes it easier to keep your dominant hand free for removing the lens.

Step 5. Use the index finger and thumb of your dominant hand to gently pinch the contact lens. Pinch on either side of the contact lens very gently to pull the lens away from your eye. Make sure not to pinch your eye directly.

Alternate Step 5. Use the index finger of your nondominant hand to slide the contact lens out of your eye. Look up and away from the bottom of your eye. Press your finger against the bottom of the lens and slide it down. As you slide the lens down and further away from the center of your eye, it should easily slide out, or you can pinch it out with your thumb and forefinger.

Here’s a helpful video tutorial for removing soft lenses.

Healthline

How to remove hard lenses

Step-by-step instructions

Step 1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Avoid using a heavily scented soap, as this may irritate your eyes. Do not apply any lotion or other substances to your hands before inserting the lenses.

Step 2. Dry your hands with a clean, lint-free cloth or paper towel.
Use a freshly washed hand towel or clean paper towel to dry your hands. This can help prevent any debris or bacteria from entering your eye.

Step 3. Place a clean hand towel beneath your eye to catch the contact lens when it drops.
Removing hard contact lenses usually requires catching the lens as it falls, as opposed to pinching or grabbing it directly. Because of this, you’ll want to place a towel directly beneath your face just in case.

Step 4. Using your index fingers on each hand, pinch your top eyelid and bottom eyelid together to pop out the lens.
Place one index finger on your top eyelid and one index finger on the bottom eyelid. Push your lids together as if you are gently closing your eye. The hard lens should be lifted from your eye and pop out easily.

Alternate Step 4. Pull the corner of your eyelids taught to pop the lens out.
Place two fingers on the upper and lower outer corner of your eyelids. Pull tightly, as if pulling your skin towards your ear. As you pull your skin, your eye should naturally close and blink shut. This will cause the contact lens to easily pop out of your eye.

Here’s a helpful video tutorial for removing hard lenses.

Healthline

Sometimes a contact lens can get stuck in your eye, causing discomfort or even pain. If this happens, don’t panic, as there are a few simple tricks you can try to dislodge the lens.

Two methods for removing stuck lenses

  1. Blink your eye while looking around from top to bottom. This can help the lens latch onto your eye normally again.
  2. Close your eye and use your finger to gently push the contact lens back into place. This is especially helpful if you know where the lens is stuck.

Here’s a helpful video tutorial for getting out stuck lenses.

Healthline

If you’re still unable to remove the contact lens by yourself, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. They can perform an eye exam to determine where the lens is stuck and remove it safely.

It can take time to learn how to take out your contact lenses. If you’ve tried the methods listed above and are still having trouble, there’s another option you can consider.

Use a contact lens remover for hard contact lenses

Although this is not the preferred method of contact lens removal, a contact lens remover, called a “plunger” can be used when you’re not comfortable using your fingers to remove a hard contact lens. Here are instructions for this removal method.

Step-by-step instructions

Step 1. Thoroughly clean and dry your hands.

Step 2. Using two fingers, hold your eye open with one hand and hold the plunger in your opposite hand.

Step 3. Wet the tip of the plunger with saline solution before applying it to the lens.

Step 4. Apply the plunger to the bottom portion of the lens and gently wiggle the plunger until the lens comes loose.

Be careful to only touch the contact lens with the plunger. Otherwise, it could injure your eye if the plunger makes contact directly with your eye.

Here’s a helpful video tutorial on how to use a plunger to remove lenses. You can purchase a contact lens plunger online.

Healthline

Also, if you’re new to wearing contact lenses, here are some tips from the CDC that will help you take care of your lenses properly.

  • Keep your contact lens prescription up-to-date, and make sure that you aren’t using lenses that are expired.
  • Don’t reuse disposable lenses or use lenses longer than prescribed, as this can cause an increased risk of infection.
  • Keep your contact lens cases clean to prevent dirt and bacteria from mingling with your clean lenses. Replace your case every 3 months.
  • Don’t swim or shower in contact lenses, as the water can damage the integrity of your lenses.
  • Don’t sleep in your contact lenses, as this can potentially lead to an increased risk of eye infections or other complications, according to a 2018 case report.

If you have any other major questions or concerns about contact lens insertion, removal, or safety, you can reach out to your eye doctor for help.

It’s important to practice caution when inserting and removing contact lenses, to avoid damaging your eyes. Here are some precautions to be aware of when taking out contact lenses:

  • Don’t pinch too hard. Although pinching the contact lens is one of the easiest ways to remove soft lenses, you risk tearing the lens if you pinch too hard.
  • Be careful near your cornea. Eyes are extremely sensitive, especially to touching, poking, or scratching. When removing your lenses, try to avoid touching your actual eye.
  • Mind your long nails. If you have long nails, you should be extra careful when removing your lenses to avoid scratching the lens or your eye.
  • Always wash your hands. Bacteria can easily find its way to your eye from a dirty finger, which is why it’s crucial to clean your hands before removing or inserting contact lenses.

The most important thing is to just be as gentle as possible around your eyes when you’re putting in and taking out contact lenses.

Contact lenses are a safe, popular alternative to glasses, especially when you practice good contact lens hygiene. However, you should schedule a visit with your eye doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • eye pain
  • light sensitivity
  • blurred vision
  • eye discharge

These symptoms may indicate an infection, damage to your cornea, or something else that requires medical attention.

When you’re new to wearing contact lenses, removing your lenses properly can take some getting used to.

There are multiple ways to remove both soft and hard contact lenses, depending on your preference. Always practice good hygiene when you remove your lenses to keep your eyes, and your lenses safe.

If you want to learn more about how to safely insert contact lenses, you can check out our guide here.