Dry eyes? Warm compresses may help soothe symptoms and help your tear glands work better.

Preparing a dry eyes warm compress takes only minutes and doesn’t require any special props.

Find out more about the benefits and how to make one.

Benefits of a Warm Compress for Dry Eyes

A warm compress can hydrate and clean your eyes. The combination of heat and moisture it provides soothes inflammation and alleviates pain.

The tear film that lubricates and protects the surface of your eye is made of oily, watery, and mucin layers. A warm compress can help stabilize the tear film, making your eyes feel less dry.

When applied to dry eyes, a warm compress can help slow down tear evaporation. It can open up the meibomian glands in the top outer corners of your eyes, just under the eyebrows, improving tear flow into the eyes.

A warm compress can be particularly effective when dry eyes are the result of meibomian gland dysfunction.

Good to know: You can also use warm compresses to treat other mild eye conditions such as red eyes, styes, black eye, or swollen eyelids (blepharitis).

closeup of brown human eye

Applying a warm compress can also help improve circulation. It will make it easier for your eyes to get rid of bacteria and debris. Plus, it’s a good excuse to sit back or lie down and give your eyes a few minutes of rest.

Tip: While the warm compress soothes your eyes, you can meditate, breathe mindfully, or just pause your thoughts and relax.

You can use a warm compress for dry eyes daily, nightly, or several times a day. 

A warm compress is not a replacement for any treatments your eye doctor prescribes. But you can use it in combination with eye drops, ointments, gels, and eye health supplements.

Note: You can treat mild to moderate dry eyes with a warm compress on your own. But it’s good to discuss this treatment option and how often you should do it with your eye doctor.

How to Make a Warm Compress for Dry Eyes Step by Step

Making a dry eyes warm compress is quick and easy. Only make sure to use a washcloth or small towel that is large enough to cover both your eyes.

Things you’ll need:

  • Clean washcloth or small towel
  • Basin or large pot
  • Boiled water or hot tap water

Step 1 – Fill the Basin or Pot with Hot Water

The best water temperature for a dry eye compress is between warm and comfortably hot. Eye compresses should never be scalding hot, or they may damage the eye and surrounding skin.

You can boil the water on the stove or use an electric kettle. You can also use water from the tap if it’s warm enough, provided the quality of the water is good.

Tip: Chlorine is often added to tap water. In stronger concentrations, it may affect the tear film. Ideally, you should use filtered water.

Step 2 – Wash Your Hands with Soap

Washing your hands is important before handling the washcloth to minimize the risk of infection. It will also prevent dust or small debris from under the nails from getting into your eyes.

Step 3 – Soak the Cloth in Water

Give the cloth a good soak and then squeeze the excess water from it. The cloth should be moist, not wet.

Make sure that the cloth you use is clean. If you plan to use a dry eye compress regularly, reserve a few washcloths or towels and use them only for this purpose.

Wash them after every use, especially if you also use eye drops or other eye treatments.

Step 4 – Fold the Cloth into a Compress

Before applying the cloth over your eyes, fold it so that it’s wide enough to cover both your eyes. It can also cover part or all of your forehead and cheekbones.

But it shouldn’t cover your mouth or get in the way of breathing. Also, it should be thick enough for light not to reach your eyes through it but not heavy.

Step 5 – Place the Compress on Both Your Eyes

Lie down on one or more pillows so that your head is reclining comfortably above the rest of your body. You can also sit back in a reclining chair.

Close your eyes and place the compress over both your eyes. Water shouldn’t be dripping down your face.

Important: Keep the compress on your eyes for 5 to 10 minutes or as long as it remains warm. At the very least, keep it for at least 5 minutes.

You can repeat applying a warm compress to your eyes every day, twice a day, or according to your eye doctor’s instructions.

How to Make a Hot Compress with Herbs

Optionally, you can infuse natural herbs into the water before soaking the compress to make it more potent. Try chamomile or mint.

Chamomile can help restore moisture and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The menthol in mint stimulates tear production and improves tear film stability.

chamomile infusion in glass teapot with dried chamomile on gray cloth background

Here’s how to infuse herbs for a dry eyes warm compress:

  1. Use preferably organic mint or chamomile leaves or tea bags. Don’t use essential oils as they are too concentrated and may burn, sting, and damage the eyes and skin.
  2. Steep the leaves or tea bags in boiling water for 10-15 minutes in a teapot or covered pot.
  3. Remove the tea bags or strain the leaves. If the water still feels a bit too hot to the touch, wait a few more minutes.
  4. Once the water is warm, soak the washcloth into it.

You can also use herbal tea bags for your eyes.

What About More Severe Dry Eyes?

A warm compress can help you treat mild to moderate dry eyes, but it’s not going to cure the condition. It can also provide relief if the symptoms are more severe, but only as a complementary solution to other treatments.

Dry eye disease can have manifold causes including tear gland dysfunction, environmental factors, diet, lifestyle, medication, or certain diseases.

To manage dry eyes effectively, it’s important to understand what’s causing your condition and address the underlying causes.

Worried that you may have dry eyes?

Take the Dry Eye test online. It takes only minutes and can be the first step to reducing symptoms and managing the condition.

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