While the eyes are usually capable of cleaning themselves, a person may need to clean them manually in some circumstances. If a chemical or foreign object gets in the eye, someone should quickly flush it out to prevent further damage.

Usually, tears help clean the eyes every time a person blinks. However, tears may be unable to remove some foreign particles or dangerous chemicals quickly enough. When cleaning the eye, it may be advisable to have someone call the emergency services or prepare to take them to the hospital if the injury or irritation is severe.

This article explores when and why a person may need to clean their eyes, how to do it safely, and how to perform first aid for eyes. It will also discuss how to clean artificial eyes.

An image of an eye washing station in a lab, that a person can use to clean their eyes.Share on Pinterest
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It may be advisable for a person to clean their eyes for several reasons, which can include the below.

  • Chemicals: Individuals may urgently need to clean their eyes if a chemical gets into one or both eyes. Cleaning products and industrial chemicals are common causes of chemical burns to the eyes.
  • Foreign objects: People often get sand, dirt, or dust particles in their eyes. This is not usually a cause for concern, and the eyes will often flush out the particles themselves as the person blinks and creates tears. However, it can be more serious if an individual has glass, metal, or other artificial materials in their eyes. These objects can become embedded in the surface of the eyes and cause ongoing damage and irritation.
  • Infection or inflammation: Infections, such as pink eye or conjunctivitis, can cause pain and itching, as well as swelling and redness inside the eyelid and the whites of the eyes. It is most often due to contracting a viral or bacterial infection in the eye. A person may need to clean the area around their eyes regularly if they have an eye infection, especially if it involves discharge.

There are a few different techniques to clean the eyes.


Preferably, individuals will use an emergency eyewash solution at an eyewash station to flush their eyes. Many laboratories and kitchens may have these solutions and stations. If they are not available, a person can instead use clean water from a tap, hose, or shower.

Before flushing, people should remove any contact lenses, as they may trap irritants. They should then tilt their head so they angle the affected eye towards the ground, which will prevent materials from flowing into the other eye. The solution or water should flow from the inner eye to the outer corner.

An individual should flush their eye for 10–15 minutes, attempting to keep their eyes open and allow the fluid to travel across the eye. Some chemicals, such as strong alkalis, may require flushing for 60 minutes. A person should also look around when flushing the eye to ensure no chemicals or debris are under the eyelid. After flushing, they may wish to seek medical attention.

Particle removal

When attempting to remove loose particles, dirt, or eyelashes from their eyes, people can try the following:

  • washing the hands before touching the eyes
  • looking at the eyes in the mirror to try and find the particles
  • trying to blink the eyes and letting tears form to wash the particle out
  • if the object is in the corner of the eye, trying to remove it gently with a clean, wet cotton swab


If there is swelling in the eye, a person can use a warm or cold compress without applying pressure or rubbing.

Tea tree oil

Research has found tea tree oil to be effective at treating certain eye conditions, such as blepharitis. A person can use a tea tree oil shampoo on their eyelids or a 50% tea tree oil to gently clean their eyelids.

Eye drops

While eyewash solutions can help clean the eyes, people should use caution with over-the-counter eye drops, as they may worsen certain eye conditions and cause further irritation. Individuals may wish to speak with an ophthalmologist for a recommendation or prescription.

Learn more about cleaning crusty eyes or removing eye boogers.

If a person has a chemical or object in their eye and they need to clean it, they should avoid doing the following:

  • rubbing or applying pressure to the eye
  • applying ointment or medication to the eye
  • trying to remove objects stuck in the eye
  • using food, such as steaks, to bring down swelling, as this can transfer bacteria

If an individual has a cut or puncture of the eye, they should avoid:

  • rinsing the eye with water
  • removing objects stuck in the eye
  • putting pressure on the eye
  • taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, as these may increase bleeding
  • wearing contact lenses

A person should immediately flush their eyes if they get chemicals in them. Flushing the eye can usually clean it and remove the irritant — this is also usually true for debris, which may scratch the eye if a person does not remove it.

However, if an individual has a puncture wound in their eye, they should not rinse it. Instead, they can attach a shield consisting of material, such as Styrofoam, over the eye to protect it until they receive treatment from a medical professional.

Even after an effective eye flushing, it is advisable to speak with a doctor so they can check the eye and ensure it is healthy.

No, people do not need to wash their eyes under normal circumstances. The eyes regularly clean themselves using tears during blinking. The tear fluid in the eyes consists of a special composition, which makes it safe for the surface of the eye.

As the eyes can clean themselves, it is not advisable for a person to regularly wash their eyes, as this can irritate them and possibly lead to eye infections.

If a person has an artificial eye, it is important that they regularly clean it by following the below steps:

  1. Firstly, to remove the prosthesis for cleaning, a person should:
    • wash and dry their hands
    • look into a mirror
    • place something soft, such as a towel or pillow, on a surface in front of them, so their prosthesis will be safe if it falls
    • gently pull the lower lid down until the edge of the artificial eye is visible
    • place the thin end of the extractor between the lower lid and lower edge of the artificial eye
    • gently lever the eye forward over the lid
  2. To clean the artificial eye, an individual should:
    • use tissue or gauze soaked in water and mild, unfragranced soap to wash it
    • rinse the eye thoroughly using sterile water and ensure they rinse all the soap off
    • avoid using chemical cleaners, detergents, or disinfectants to clean artificial eyes, as these can cause damage to the prosthesis
  3. To refit the artificial eye, a person should:
    1. lift their upper lid
    2. hold the artificial eye in the other hand, ensuring it is the right way around
    3. push the eye gently under the top lid until it reaches the top of the socket

Any person who has sustained an eye injury should seek medical attention, even if they no longer experience pain after flushing the affected area. An individual should also seek emergency medical attention if they have any of the below symptoms following an eye injury:

  • swelling of the eye
  • headache
  • severe eye pain
  • changes in vision
  • metal, glass, or any object is protruding from the eye

The eyes are capable of cleaning themselves, but it may be necessary for people to wash them manually following an injury or infection of the eye. When working with power tools or chemicals, it is advisable for individuals to wear eye protection to prevent possible eye damage.

Following injury, it is vital that people flush their eyes of irritants as soon as possible. After flushing the eye, a person needs to seek prompt medical attention, even if the eye no longer hurts.