What is a warm compress?

A warm compress is a longtime, traditional home remedy for many mild ailments. Compresses are also recommended by doctors and medical professionals for managing certain conditions.

Compresses involve a clean cloth soaked in warm water. The warm cloth is then applied and compressed on the skin, wound, or other site.

Bringing heat and moisture to certain conditions may help alleviate pain, inflammation, and other issues.

Warm compresses may help mild eye conditions, too. These include styes, itchiness, dryness, red eye, and infections.

Using a warm compress for the eye is simple.

Simply apply it straight to the eye while keeping your eye closed. You can apply it to both eyes at once if the cloth is large enough.

Hold it there for as long as it improves comfort and symptoms. Re-soak it in warm water and re-apply as often necessary, or when the compress gets cold.

Warm compresses have been a popular home remedy for many reasons. For the eye, they can improve circulation, soothe inflammation, and unclog swollen eyelids.

For this reason, they can be very helpful for the following eye conditions:


A warm compress is a common approach to treating styes. These may also be called hordeola (hordeolum singular) or chalazia (chalazion singular).

Styes occur when a localized part of the eyelid becomes swollen, either due to gland blockage or infection.

Warm compresses are a common approach for relief. They may soften and drain away any blockages.


Besides styes, eyelids can become inflamed or swollen for other reasons. The swelling of the eyelids is referred to as blepharitis.

According to a 2012 review of multiple research studies, compresses have shown to be helpful in relieving blepharitis symptoms.

Swollen eyes

Though styes and blepharitis involve swollen eyelids, swollen eyes or eyelids may occur for other reasons. Warm compresses can help these symptoms, too.

Causes for swollen eye may include:

Rarer causes include Graves’ disease or eye cancer, which can also cause the condition.

With each these conditions, applying a warm compress may provide some relief of symptoms. It is not proven to cure any of these conditions.

Dry eyes

Warm compresses may even help with dry eyes. The heat from the compress helps glands that produce tears to work better.

Warm compresses are a common approach to dry eye-related conditions, including meibomian gland dysfunction. They can provide relief, but they cannot cure dry eye conditions.

Pink eye

Using a compress may also be helpful for a common type of eye inflammation, pink eye. Pink eye (also called conjunctivitis) is a swelling of the inner conjunctiva of the eye. It is typically caused by bacteria, virus, or allergy.

Warm compresses may help with pain, itchiness, discharge, and inflammation. It will not cure any infection.

Make sure to use antibiotics or other infection-fighting medicines if recommended by your eye doctor in addition to your warm compress if you have been diagnosed with an infection.

Black eye

Black eye (also called periorbital hematoma) is caused by trauma to the eye. It causes bruising and subcutaneous (under the skin) bleeding, pain, inflammation, and discoloration around the eye.

A warm compress may help with pain from a black eye. It is often recommended as a first-aid measure, specifically a few days after the major primary swelling has gone down.

If using a compress isn’t easy enough, making one at home is even simpler.

To start, you can warm water in a clean pot on a stovetop. You can also run warm water from your tap.

Soak a clean cloth in water at the ideal temperature. Right between warm and comfortably hot is recommended, or at a temperature most comfortable for the person receiving treatment.

Be careful not to make the water too hot because the skin around the eyes is quite sensitive.

Next, apply the compress as described earlier.

For those who want to incorporate extra benefits to their warm compresses, herbal extracts and teas may be used.

Add five drops of herbal extracts or tinctures.

Compresses can be made from an herbal tea or infusion before being applied, too. Just make sure to fully strain out any herbal matter before applying to eyes.

Herbs like garlic and echinacea have antibacterial properties. They could help reduce infection in pink eye, styes, or other infections.

As with any warm compress, make sure to keep your eyes closed and be aware that some herbs may irritate the skin.

Warm compresses are widely accepted home treatments for many mild medical conditions. They’re especially popular and useful for eye conditions.

Doctors may recommend them for easing uncomfortable eye symptoms at home. This includes symptoms of pink eye, styes, black eyes, infections, swelling, allergies, dry eyes, and blepharitis.

They are not known or proven to cure any of these conditions. Still, warm compresses are known to improve mild symptoms like inflammation, pain, itchiness, dryness, or swelling.

Make sure to see your eye doctor if your symptoms worsen, if your vision becomes blurry, or if you experience pain around your eyes.