We've all been there: you've run out of contacts and are rummaging through your drawers, looking for a spare blister pack. You grab it, thinking it's all sorted, but realise the pack has an expiration date on it. You quickly click on your calendar app to check the date, then back on the pack and realise: it's expired.
And then come the questions: why do contact lenses expire? Can I use expired contact lenses? What do I do if I've used them? How can I tell if they've expired? We feel you - stay tuned, and we've got answers to all of your worries.
Why do contact lenses expire?
The lenses themselves can't actually expire; it's the saline solution in the blister pack that does.
During the manufacturing of contact lenses, each lens gets sterilized and packed in an air-tight blister along with saline solution. Brands then state the maximum amount of time they can guarantee that the saline solution and packaging, can keep their condition, usually between 1-4 years after manufacturing.
Beyond that date, the active ingredients within the saline solution can lose their form, becoming acidic or more alkaline and in turn, damaging the lens. Additionally, manufacturers assume that after that time frame there's a high chance that the seal will lose its grip, letting oxygen or bacteria through that might contaminate the lens, causing corneal ulcers, eye infections or other more serious infections.
This happens with all kinds of contact lenses — daily disposable lenses, monthly lenses. Even coloured contact lenses have an expiration date!
How do I find my contacts expiration date?
Your contact lenses expiration date can be found in two places: the box and the aluminium fold of the blister (by your contact lens prescription, the manufacturer and lot number).
It usually appears next to an hourglass (⌛) or the EXP abbreviation and can be displayed in two formats:
- YYYY-MM — 2025-08 — August 2025
- YYYY-MM-DD — 2025-08-03 — 03rd of August 2025
What to do if you accidentally wore expired contacts
Did you wear expired contact lenses without realising? Don't panic - if it happens once or twice, most people don't really notice any consequences.
Just take them out as soon as you notice it and throw them away. If your eyes feel different or uncomfortable, get in touch with your optician as soon as you can to get an eye test.
The effects of wearing expired contact lenses
If you wear expired contact lenses, you might experience blurry vision, as well as headaches, or more serious infections.
Oxygen is the perfect environment for bacteria. If the blister pack seal is broken, oxygen can seep through and pollute the saline solution, the lens and therefore, your eye. You might not even notice it - it could be the tiniest gap - so it's important to stick to the expiration date and avoid infections and corneal ulcers.
How to dispose of expired contact lenses
As with lenses in general, it's important to remember not to throw expired contacts in the sink or the toilet, as they can have a big impact on the environment. The best way to dispose of them is to put them in the bin.
You can also recycle expired contact lenses by sending them to us. As part of TerraCycle recycling scheme, you can post us for free a box with your lenses, cases, blister packs and we will send them to TerraCycle to be recycled.
Download and print our Royal Mail label, stick it on the box and send it for free to Vision Direct. We'll take care of the rest!
Can I use expired contact lens solution?
Contact lens solutions can also expire. Once your solution expires, the best case scenario is that the acidity of the solution (pH) may have changed and will lose its disinfecting power. The worst case scenario is that it could be infected with bacteria, putting your eyes at risk. Both scenarios are things you really don't want from your solution!
The date listed will also be next to an hourglass (⌛) or the EXP abbreviation on the label, on the side or bottom of the bottle. As solutions come in larger bottles that you might end up using for a while, keep an eye on the date to make sure you don't go past it. Once you notice it has expired, throw the bottle away and give your contact lens case a clean, if you're wearing monthlies.