Eyewash devices are not only suitable for high-risk areas such as chemical laboratories. Families and small children with daily household cleaning supplies should have a quick way to flush out harmful substances from their eyes. Even in non-emergency situations, rinsing your eyes with water can help relieve tired eyes by increasing moisture and circulation. A medical professional may also recommend using eye washes in other situations. By knowing how to use eyewash properly, you can prepare for a variety of situations.
How to properly wash your eyes
Eyewash Method 1: Prepare to wash your eyes
1. Determine if you need immediate medical attention
Certain pollutants can cause chemical burns or other complications. Check chemical labels to make sure eyewash is appropriate.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, headache or dizziness, doubled or impaired vision, dizziness or loss of consciousness, rash or fever.
If eyewashing is ineffective in your case, you should call your doctor for help.
2. Determine the time to wash your eyes
How much time you should spend washing your eyes depends on the type of contaminants you need to flush. Times vary widely; however, when your eyes are exposed to contaminants, you can’t wash for too long. Please be careful when you wash your eyes. You should wash:
5 minutes for mildly harsh chemicals like hand soap or shampoo
20 minutes or more for moderate to severe irritants, including chili peppers
20 minutes for non-permeable corrosives, such as battery acid and other acids
At least 60 minutes for penetrating caustic substances, including household alkalines such as drain cleaners, bleach, and ammonia.
3. Store a bottle of eyewash at home
Commercial eye washes are sterile and they have an equilibrium neutrality of pH 7.0. This means that using an eye wash is always better than using water alone.
4. Use sterile water
If you don’t have eyewash, try using sterile water. Tap water still contains harmful elements that can further irritate the eyes.
You can also use bottled water.
Milk can soothe the burning sensation of foods like peppers. However, also flush the eyes with a sterile solution. Make sure the milk isn’t spoiled, as this can introduce bacteria into the eyes.
5. Make sure the solution temperature is correct
Especially when using bottled water or milk, you should make sure not to take the liquid directly from the refrigerator. No matter which eyewash method you use, the temperature should be between 15.6-37.8°C.
6. Choose an eye wash
You need some safe, clean way to introduce your water or eyewash into your eyes. Some common household items you can use include bowls, small cups, or droppers. Whatever you use, wash it thoroughly with soap and water, then let it dry before adding sterile water or solution.
Whether you need to flush out pollutants, foreign particles, or even just flush tired eyes, bowls are the way to go. The bowl should be large enough to hold your entire face.
You can use a small cup that fits snugly against the rim of the eye socket, such as a shot glass. However, this should only be used for pollutants or tired eyes, not small particles in the eyes.
In most cases, you should avoid using droppers as they are only used to treat dry, tired eyes.
7. Don’t hesitate to wash off chemicals
Still, sometimes time is of the essence, especially when exposed to acidic or alkaline chemicals. Rinsing off chemicals as quickly as possible is more important than finding a sterile solution, making sure it’s the right temperature, etc. If you come into contact with a caustic substance, you can run to the sink and start rinsing.
The longer these acids remain on the surface of the eye, the more damage they can cause to the eye. The goal is to flush them out as quickly as possible.
Eyewash method 2. Wash your eyes with a bowl
1. Take a bowl
Eyewashing with a bowl is the main method of eyewashing, and the eye has been exposed to pollutants or has a small foreign particle. It is also ideal for daily relief of tired eyes. The bowl should be large enough to fit your face in.
2. Pour the eye wash into a bowl
Whether you’re using eye wash or water, make sure the liquid temperature is between 15.6-37.8°C. Do not fill the bowl as placing your face in the bowl will cause the bowl to overflow.
3. Dip your face in a bowl
Take a deep breath and dip your entire face into the bowl so that the solution covers your eyes as well. Make sure not to tilt your head too far forward or the solution will run down your nose.
4. Open and roll your eyes
Make sure the entire surface of the eye is in contact with the water. Rolling your eyes in a circular pattern will help let water into your eyes, which will help remove contaminants or particles.
5. Lift your face out of the bowl and wink
Lift your face from the solution. With a few blinks, you’ll further ensure that the solution covers your eyes evenly.
6. Repeat as needed
For dry, tired eyes, you can simply soak your face once or twice until your eyes feel relieved. To actually rinse out contaminants, see the guidelines in Eyewash 1 for how much time you should spend rinsing your eyes.
Likewise, you can’t overwash your eyes. If you’ve been exposed to irritants, especially chemicals, it’s okay to wash for longer than recommended.
7. Wipe your face with a clean towel
Don’t rub your eyes. Dry closed eyelids with a clean, dry towel.
Eye wash method 3. Wash your eyes with a cup
1. If you have a foreign body in your eye, don’t use this method
This method is best for washing tired eyes. If your eyes are contaminated, the ideal method is the previous eye wash 2. Consult an eye care professional before using this method to wash tired eyes.
2. Fill a small clean cup with eye wash
You want to choose a clean cup that is about the diameter of your eye socket. Commercial eye wash or sterile water should be between 15.6-37.8°C.
3. Put the cup close to the eye
Tilt your head toward the cup. Hold the rim of the cup against the eye socket.
4. Tilt your head back
While you’re still holding the cup against the eye socket, tilt your head back so your eyes and the bottom of the cup are facing up. This will bring the solution into direct contact with your eyes.
Be prepared for some small leaks. As you do this, lean over the sink so the solution doesn’t run off your face and onto your clothes. If you’re concerned, wrap a towel around your neck to keep yourself dry.
5. Look around, blink
By looking around and blinking a few times, you’ll help the solution cover most of your eyes, which will help with moisturizing or removing pollutants.
6. Repeat as needed
You can then put your head down and remove the cup without splashing it on you. For dry, tired eyes, one flush is enough. However, you may need to repeat the above steps in order to flush out contaminants from your eyes.
7. Wipe your face with a clean towel
Don’t wipe your eyes. Simply dry your closed eyelids with a clean, dry towel.
Eyewash Method 4: Rinse eyes with eye drops
1. If you have a foreign body in your eye, don’t use this method
This method is most suitable for washing tired eyes or the eyes of young children who do not know other methods. If your eyes are contaminated, the ideal solution is eyewash 2.
2. Add the solution to a clean dropper
Dip the clean dropper tip into the solution or water, then press and release the dropper to draw water into the dropper.
If you have a sterile plastic syringe, you can also be careful to use a syringe without a needle.
3. Squeeze a few drops of the solution into your eyes
Tilt your head up, lift the dropper over your eye, and squeeze gently to release a few drops. Make sure the dropper doesn’t hit the eye or eyelashes.
4. Blink a few times
To evenly apply the solution to your eyes, blink a few times. Blink before the solution runs into your eyes, then runs down your cheeks.
5. Repeat as needed
You may only need a few drops to rejuvenate dry, tired eyes. However, you may need to repeat this process several times to actually flush the contaminants out of your eyes.
6. Use a towel
An alternative for young children is to dip a clean cloth into the solution and gently rub on the closed eyelid. Even with light pressure, a dab will squeeze the solution onto the lids and lashes, and the child will then apply it to the eyes by blinking.
Repeat as needed, but do not dip the same spot on the towel into the solution for hygiene reasons. Use a different dry towel section, or use a completely different towel.
Eye wash method 5. Make your own eye wash
1. Boil water. Note that professional-grade, commercially available eye washes are always preferable to homemade methods. No matter how careful you are, there is always a risk of accidentally irritating your eyes or exposing yourself to a serious infection. There have been reports of people trying to make salt water at home and getting infected with Acanthamoeba. This is a dangerous process. However, if you understand the risks and still want to make your own eye wash, there are steps you can take to make sure your eye wash is as clean and safe as possible.
First, boil a pot of water to kill bacteria and other organisms in it that could contaminate your eyes. Boil the water for at least a minute and let it cool before using.
If possible, it is best to use sterile purified water rather than regular tap water. Tap water contains more bacteria and additives than sterile water.
If you don’t want to wash your eyes, you can use tap water instead. Be aware that it can be more irritating and has a higher risk of containing bacteria.
2. Add salt to the water
When making your own eye wash, add a teaspoon of regular table salt to every glass of water. The closer your solution is to the natural salinity (salt concentration) of your tears, the less impact it will have on your eyes. Although the salt content of tears can vary depending on the emotion (pain, sadness, etc.) or just as an eye lubricant with normal use, tears are generally less than 1% salt by weight.
3. Stir to dissolve the salt.
Make sure the salt you add is dissolved in the water. Since the water is boiling, you add a relatively small amount of salt and it doesn’t take much stirring to dissolve completely. Stir until you no longer see solid grains of salt on the bottom.
4. Let the solution cool
Never use eyewash that is still hot. Burning your eyes with hot water can seriously injure you or even blind yourself. Remove the solution from the heat and cool to room temperature. You can transfer the solution to another container, as long as the container has been washed carefully with soap and sterile water. When the solution reaches room temperature (or lower) it is ready to use.
Cover the solution as it cools to ensure that no new contaminants can enter.
Keeping the solution cool can give the eyes a refreshing effect. However, do not cool the eye wash to a temperature below 15.6°C. It can be very painful and even slightly injure the eyes.
Even if you take extra care to keep the solution clean, be sure to throw it away after a day or two. Bacteria can re-enter the solution after boiling.
Eyewash Method 6: Rinse your eyes in an emergency
1. Know which injuries require immediate eye flushing
In some cases, you should not use sterile eye washes if you have introduced a serious irritant or contaminant to your eyes. Instead, your focus should be on washing your eyes thoroughly right away, and then getting help from your doctor. If you accidentally splash your eyes with an acidic, alkaline, corrosive or some other irritant chemical, stop what you are doing immediately and flush your eyes with water.
2. Call the doctor
Your doctor will advise you to either wash your eyes or seek immediate medical attention depending on the chemical contamination.
For example, some chemicals – such as most alkali metals – react violently with water. A doctor can easily identify the right steps for you to take.
If they recommend contacting your doctor and rinsing your eyes, have others around you contact your doctor for you while you concentrate on rinsing your eyes. The sooner you get to the hospital, the more likely you are to prevent serious injury or blindness.
3. Use an eyewash
Most places where you might splash hazardous chemicals in your eyes will have dedicated eyewash stations designed specifically for this condition. Go to the eye wash station immediately, press the lever (the lever should be clearly marked and easily accessible), and place your face in front of the faucet, which will spray water at low pressure. Keep your eyes open as much as possible. You may want to use your fingers to keep your eyes fully open.
4. Wash for 15 minutes
Water does not neutralize many chemicals. It just dilutes and washes them away. For this reason, we need a lot of solution. The wash volume within 15 minutes is not less than 1.5 liters/min.
5. If the eyewash station is unavailable, use tap water
If you can’t find an eyewash station right away, go to the nearest water main as soon as possible. Tap water is not suitable for eye washing because it is not as sterile as the purified water many labs use, but flushing the chemicals in your eyes is far more important than worrying about possible infection. Splash as much water into your open eyes as possible. Last for at least 15-20 minutes.
If your sink has an adjustable faucet, use low pressure and lukewarm to hold the faucet directly at your eyes and open your eyes with your fingers.
6. Seek medical treatment
See your doctor if your doctor recommends that you see a professional immediately after rinsing your eyes.