Okay, peroxide researchers, and consumer product super-sleuths: did you know that there is a commercial hydrogen peroxide contact solution? There is. CIBA Vision Clear Care cleans contact lenses with hydrogen peroxide.
This is an interesting situation, so hang on with me here, okay?
I have to start by saying I have wondered at times if hydrogen peroxide would make a good cleaner for contacts. I mean, it is great for dentures and retainers and mouthwash and cleaning toothbrushes – isn’t that a bit like cleaning contacts? So, when I found a commercial product using peroxide I thought “ah ha”!
But, as you may also know, putting hydrogen peroxide in your eyes is a huge “no no”. NEVER put hydrogen peroxide in your eyes. (It can damage your corneas, plus it huurrrrrts.)
So, what gives?
The interesting twist is that Clear Care comes with a little contact lens case, which you are told to use with the solution. The directions say NOT to use the solution in a regular “flat” contact lens case.
After I’d done it wrong (using a regular case with their solution) and I’d burned my eyes (you have to rinse off hydrogen peroxide really really really well if you do it wrong), I went back and re-read the directions.
It started to dawn on me that the “special case” must have some kind of metal in it to make the hydrogen peroxide break down. (That was my thinking.) (A number of different metals are hydrogen peroxide catalysts -- things that make peroxide break down more quickly.) Or some other kind of catalyst?
But nothing in there really looked like metal to me. Then again, there is a part that is brown, but it felt like plastic. Hummmm……
So, I called them. Talked to a very nice customer service representative who told me that part of the lens case is platinum coated to make the peroxide break down. Ah ha! So, that is what that brown-colored plastic at the bottom is!
The directions say to use the special lens case that comes with the solution and to leave your contacts in there for at least 6 hours.
Okay, so there’s the deal: after 6 hours the peroxide will be water + oxygen.
Very interesting. So, the hydrogen peroxide does a fine job of cleaning contacts, but they are intentionally making the peroxide break down. That way you are sure to have it decompose completely (to water and oxygen) in a predictable time. What a great plan!
In addition the bubbling action while it is breaking down is also intended to help clean the contacts. (The directions also say not to shake the case!)
Okay, so, with great interest, I tried it again, this time using their special case. Wow, you could buy this stuff just for the entertainment value. Okay, well, maybe not, but I did think it was fun! When I add hydrogen peroxide contact solution to the platinum-coated plastic thing, right away it starts bubbling. The teeniest tinyist bubbles I can imagine immediately start to form, all over the platinum ring. Hundreds of teensie bubbles…… and they start bubbling up. I went back to look a few minutes later, and the top of the lens container was all full of foam, some of it sputtering out. By morning, there were big bubbles all over the place in there.
Here's a video of hydrogen peroxide contact solution in action.... (the titanium-covered plastic piece is at the very bottom of the lens case)
Clear Care lists the following ingredients: micro-filtered hydrogen peroxide 3%, sodium chloride 0.79%, stabilized with phosphonic acid, a phosphate buffered system, and Pluronic 17R4 (a cleaning agent).
In other words, it is 3% hydrogen peroxide, plus some salt (once the peroxide breaks down into water, this will make it saline solution, rather than just plain water) -- plus a stabilizer and a cleaning agent.
The company website for Clear Care says "Clear Care uses hydrogen peroxide to kill germs and bacteria that cause eye infections." That sounds good to me.
They also say: "With the exceptional cleaning power of hydrogen peroxide, Clear Care cleans and disinfects lenses like no multi-purpose solution can."
It sounds to me like they know about hydrogen peroxide!
Finally, here is what they say is happening in the 6-hour time period while your contacts soak: "The solution is neutralized and turns into a gentle saline solution." Right, the peroxide turns into water. Along with the sodium chloride, it becomes saline solution.
This video is called "Clear Care Disaster". The person who posted this on YouTube writes "Have you ever had a friend over and they mistakenly put your roommate's Clear Care brand contact solution directly into their eyes? I certainly have...more than once!" (Hummm... I guess we had better watch out that other people don't accidentally hurt themselves with this product, as well as using care ourselves....)
It seems that the other ingredients are important. Here's an article by an eye doctor about why they think you should stick with products like Clear Care.
Now, let me also say that the user comments about this product are remarkable. I mean really remarkable. You can read some here. If you wear contacts, you should go read a couple of pages of reviews. (Warning: you may want to try this cleaning solution right away!) Comments include that it works better than other products, that the person can wear their contacts longer and much more comfortably; less eye dryness; less irritation and lots of enthusiasm and happiness with the results. The comments are just about as bubbly as the cleaning solution!
Several users comment that it can be hard to find this product! (Update in 2018: It now seems really easy to find this product.)
There have been other brands of hydrogen peroxide contact solution, but Clear Care is the main one now.
While camping out may not be the first thing on your mind when you are thinking of selecting a contact lens cleaner, there is a nice benefit here. I camp out every year at a campground that requests that campers bring only biodegradable soaps. So, every year I bring my biodegradable soap….. but I’ve always felt a bit guilty about the multi-purpose lens solution I bring to the campground. I only use a little bit, but it goes onto the ground. Horrible. NOT biodegradable!
CIBA vision Clear Care does have a couple of ingredients that I assume are not biodegradable – but, it is mostly water and a little salt. This seems a lot closer to the sort of thing that could safely be left out in the wilderness.
So, once again, hydrogen peroxide is an environmentally-freindly alternative to more toxic products.
One issue with Clear Care is the outer plastic container. There is another one in every box of Clear Care, and the world doesn’t need a zillion more little plastic containers. Please note that you DO need to replace the middle part (the platinum-coated part). It will only last for so long, as the peroxide catalyst will get used up! But the outer plastic container does not need to be replaced.
Yeah, I love this product. Use it all the time. It gets my contact lenses cleaner, and seems to make them last longer. I am a very satisfied with it.
It's also a clever use of 3% hydrogen peroxide for cleaning, with platinum-coated plastic to make it break down into water – all the cleaning power of hydrogen peroxide and none of the sting.