What Should I do with Expired Saline Solution

Improve vision concept. Contact lenses in container on pink background top view.

Many cleaning products need to be disposed of in a particular way to prevent them from damaging the plumbing in your home.

Expired saline solution can be safely poured into the sink, as it is just salt water. Since it doesn’t have any additives in it, it doesn’t have any chemicals that could possibly damage plumbing or a septic tank. Because of this, it can be disposed of the same way dirty water might be.

But how do you know when to get rid of an old saline solution? And is it safe to use expired saline solution instead of throwing it out?

How To Get Rid Of Expired Saline Solution

As mentioned above, saline solution is literally just water with salt in it. Saline mixed for cleaning wounds or keeping contact lenses sterile is 0.9% salt, which is enough that you couldn’t get rid of your old saline solution by drinking it like a tiny shot, but not enough that it could cause any damage to the plumbing in your bathroom or the decomposers in your septic tank.

This is the same for the saline solution used for rinsing wounds and the saline solution used to rinse contact lenses, as they are essentially the same solution. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Because of this, the only thing that you probably shouldn’t do with old saline is poured it into a plant, as plants hat saltwater just as much as we do. However, that begs the question, why does saline solution expire in the first place?

How Do You Know When Your Saline Is Expired?

The fact is that as long as a bottle of saline solution is sealed, it won’t expire. Even if it’s past its expiration date, it’s unlikely to have anything in it that could contaminate it. Obviously, if a bottle of saline solution is several years old it might be time to throw it out anyway, but if it’s only been a couple of months it’s probably still okay to use.

However, saline solution that has been open will eventually go bad. While salt water is good for cleaning, there are all sorts of bacteria and algae that can grow and thrive inside of it, and once the bottle has been opened the chance for it to be contaminated raises significantly.

It’s recommended that bottles of saline solution be thrown out once they’ve been open for about a month. This is how long it takes for the solution to consistently become contaminated and for those contaminants to develop into something dangerous.

It’s important to remember that saline solution is different than contact lens disinfectant. Saline is used for rinsing contacts only, and not for cleaning them. Using expired contact lens cleaners can be incredibly dangerous, as most contact cleaners slowly lose their cleaning power over time. If they are expired, they won’t be able to properly clean your contacts, which can result in dirt or bacteria getting into your eyes.

The saline solution that is left over from certain disinfectants can be safely poured down the sink just like any other saline solution.

If you use saline solution to store your contact lenses, make sure to replace them fully every day. A saline solution that has had a contact lens in it is very likely to have been contaminated, so using the same solution to store your contacts every day is a great way to end up with an eye infection.

What To Do With Expired Contact Lens Solution

While there are many different kinds of contact lens solutions, all of them are safe to pour down the sink. Think about it, they’re meant to be used every day to clean contact lenses, and then poured out into a sink, and since expired contact solution has lost a lot of its acidity it should be even less harmful going down the drain than it normally is.

You may be worried about your septic tank. Fortunately, the contact solution is well within the acceptable PH for pouring into a septic tank, even when it’s at its full strength. Even if it weren’t, it’s weak enough that in order to significantly change the PH of a septic tank you would need to pour several gallons of it all at once.

What To Do With Old Saline Solution Bottles

Bottles for both contact lens solution and saline solution can be safely rinsed and recycled in a bin for number five plastics. Like most plastic bottles, they should always be cleaned out before being put in the recycling. If any solution is left in the bottle when it gets to the recycling center, they won’t be able to process it and it will be thrown away, so doing a quick rinse should save everyone a bit of heartache.

You can also reuse them yourself if you feel confident that you’ve cleaned them properly. They can be filled with pretty much any liquid, although their small size might limit their usefulness.

contact lenses, on pink-blue background

What To Do If You Accidentally Use Expired Solution

If you accidentally use saline solution or contact solution that has gone bad, then don’t panic. Most of the time, if it’s only expired for a little while, you’ll be fine. Pour the old solution into the sink and go get a new solution to use next time.

Pay close attention to your eyes to the next couple of days after the event. While they will probably be fine, if you experience pain, discoloration, or abnormal vision problems, visit a doctor immediately. All of these things are signs of a potential infection, but if you catch it early doctors may be able to take care of it.

If you accidentally use expired saline to rinse a wound, don’t worry about it. Just rinse again with good saline and clean it as you usually would with rubbing alcohol to prevent an infection. Since you’re going to be cleaning it out anyways, it’s probably not a big deal.

Watch the wound over the next few days as you usually would, and see a doctor if you experience discoloration or unusual pain or swelling. Take these symptoms seriously, as an infection can become threatening very quickly and are easy to treat if caught in the early stages.

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