Each time you blink, tears clean the surface of your eyes naturally. In addition to a watery component that flushes away dust, your tears also have anti-microbial components that fight bacteria.

That said, you may need to clean your eyes if dust or chemicals get into them. We’ve written a whole post on when and how to flush your eyes correctly.

You can also clean your eyes and eyelids as a way to soothe them, or to remove makeup or mucus. In today’s post, we’re focusing on how to clean your eyes at home in non-emergency situations.

Let’s start with the eyewash you can use to clean your eyes.

How to Make a Homemade Eye Wash

It’s better to wash your eyes with sterilized water or bottled water rather than tap water. The latter may contain chlorine and other substances that can irritate your eyes. But if chemicals or other irritants get into your eye, lose no time—use tap water to flush out your eye.

The best eye wash is made professionally to ensure it's sterile. You can find it in pharmacies. Making your own homemade eyewash increases the risk of infection, irritation, and other accidents.

But if you don’t have a pharmacy-bought eye wash or don’t want to use one, you can make your own at home to use for rinsing your eyes.

The simplest homemade eye wash is a saline solution with a salt concentration under 1%, which is similar to the amount of salt in tears, blood, or saliva.   

Things you need:

  • 4 cups of distilled water (you can also use tap water provided you boil it for at least 20 minutes and let it cool before use)
  • 2 teaspoons (not tablespoons!) of non-iodized table salt
  • bottle, jar, or another container with an airtight lid
  • wooden spoon or another clean utensil for mixing

closeup of tablespoon of salt against dark blue background

How to make it:

  1. Boil the container and mixing utensil in water to sterilize them.
  2. Wash your hands well with soap.
  3. Pour the distilled water or boiled tap water into the container.
  4. Add the salt and mix until dissolved.
  5. Wait for the solution to cool before use.

Important: It's best to make the saline solution just before using it as bacteria may grow in it quickly. Store the saline solution in the fridge to reduce the risk of bacterial growth and use it within 12 hours or sooner. Discard it after use.

How to Clean Your Eyes at Home

The most thorough way to clean your eyes at home is using a bowl. You can use this method for both removing small particles and contaminants and to soothe dry tired eyes.

Things you need:

  • Washing bowl large enough for you to put your face into it
  • Eyewash solution, gently heated up to 100° Fahrenheit (37.8° Celsius)
  • Clean pot or container for heating the eyewash
  • Thermometer (optional)

How to wash your eyes safely:

  1. Clean the bowl thoroughly.
  2. Warm the eyewash on the stove or in the microwave. Use a thoroughly clean pot or container. (If using a microwave-safe bowl, you can skip to the next step and heat the eyewash bowl after filling it.)
  3. Fill the bowl with the eyewash. Don’t fill it to the brim or it will overflow.
  4. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and dry them on a clean towel to reduce the risk of infection.
  5. Use the thermometer to check the temperature of the water. Or dip a finger into the water.
  6. Take a deep breath and submerge your face in the bowl. The solution should cover your eyes.
  7. Open your eyes and rotate them clockwise under water.
  8. Lift your head from the bowl and blink several times.
  9. Repeat steps 6 to 8 a few more times if needed to bring relief to your eyes.
  10. Dry your face with a clean towel. Close your eyes and pat the eyelids gently with the towel. But don’t rub at them or apply pressure.

Important: Cleaning your eyes regularly isn’t a good idea. It may cause irritation and increase the risk of eye infections.

How to Clean Your Eyelids

You can clean your eyelids as basic eye hygiene to remove mucus, pus, or makeup, or before using eye drops or eye ointments. As with the eyes, clean your eyelids only if necessary. Cleaning your eyelids in front of a mirror makes the entire process easier.

Things you need:

  • Sterile gauze swabs
  • Eyewash, distilled water, or homemade eyewash such as saline solution
  • Small sterile glass
  • Mirror

closeup of closed eyelids

How to:

Pour some of the eyewash into the glass. You can heat it in a microwave up to 100° Fahrenheit (37.8° Celsius) or use it at room temperature. Be careful not to touch the solution.

  1. Wash your hands carefully with soap.
  2. Fold a gauze swab and moisten it into the eyewash.
  3. Close one eye and bring the swab close to it.
  4. Clean the eyelashes. Wipe the eyelashes in one movement, from the inside (the nose) out.
  5. Throw away the gauze swab.
  6. Dip another gauze swab into the eyewash.
  7. Look up with both eyes.
  8. Clean the lower eyelid. Hold down the lower eyelid with your free index finger. Clean with the swab gently along the eyelid margin with one movement, also from the inside out.
  9. Discard the used swab.
  10. Dip another gauze swab into the eyewash.
  11. Look down.
  12. Clean the upper eyelid. With your free thumb, ease the upper eyelid against the rim of the eye socket. Don’t put pressure on the eye. The movement should be gentle, again from the inside out.
  13. Discard the swab.
  14. Repeat for the other eye.
  15. If you’re dealing with mucus or pus, you may have to repeat each step several times.

Important: Don’t reuse swabs. Also, make sure to throw away any leftover eyewash solution.


You don’t have to clean your eyes the way you clean the rest of your body. But washing them helps if you want to remove mucus, dust, and other mild chemicals from them.

Washing your eyes can also soothe them if they feel dry and tired. Your eyes may feel dry if you’ve been exposed to wind, dust, or smoke, if you spend hours in front of screens, or take anti-allergy medication. Diet and other factors may also make your eyes dry.

However, while cleaning your eyes may sometimes soothe dry eye symptoms, it won’t treat dry eye disease. To manage this condition, you have to address the underlying causes.

Before you clean your eyes at home, take our quick and easy online dry eye test to find out whether you may have dry eye disease. Understanding what causes your symptoms is the first step to an effective treatment.

Take the Dry Eye Test.

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