Eye - Chemical In

Is this your symptom?

  • Chemical gets into the eye from fingers, contaminated object, spray or splash

Some Basics...

  • Any chemical that gets in the eye should be washed out right away. The sooner the chemical is washed out, the less chance it will hurt the eye.
  • There are harmless chemicals like shampoos. See below for a list. These cause no permanent damage to the eye but can sting.
  • There are harmful chemicals like acids and alkalis. See below for a list. These can cause damage to the eye. People with harmful chemicals in their eyes should see a doctor right away after washing.

Harmless Chemicals

The following liquid products are harmless to the eye:

  • Many bath products are harmless. Bubble bath, deodorant, lotion, shaving cream, soap and toothpaste are harmless. So are hair products like shampoo, conditioner, and hairspray.
  • Liquid laundry detergent, makeup and sunscreen are harmless.
  • Foods like lemon juice are harmless. So are glow stick liquid and most medications.

Some products are harmless but will cause short-term irritation. These include hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and vinegar.

Mace and pepper spray may result in severe eye pain and tearing. Most often, pain and tearing will go away in 30 minutes. There is no lasting damage.

Harmful Chemicals

Acids and alkalis can cause severe damage to the eye. Both need to be washed out right away. The patient should then go straight to a hospital.

  • Acids: These include hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid, oxalic acid. Any product labeled as acid is also harmful. Products like toilet bowl, drain, or metal cleaners may contain acid. Battery fluid and descalers may contain acid.
  • Alkalis: These include lime, lye, potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, and industrial-strength ammonia. Products like drain, oven, bathroom, or industrial cleaners may contain alkalis. Household bleach and ammonia are two weak alkalis. They usually don't cause any harm.

When to Call for Eye - Chemical In

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Tearing or blinking do not stop after washing the eye
  • You think you have a serious injury
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Eye redness lasts more than 24 hours
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Harmless chemical in the eye with no other problems

Care Advice

Harmless Chemical in the Eye

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Wash your eye right away. The sooner you wash the chemical out, the less the chance it will hurt your eye.
    • You can treat harmless chemicals in the eye at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Eye Wash Method #1 - Immersion:
    • Put your whole face into a sink or basin filled with lukewarm tap water.
    • With your face under water, open and close your eyes. You may need to use your fingers. Look from side to side.
  3. Eye Wash Method #2 - Flushing:
    • Slowly pour lukewarm water into your eye from a pitcher or glass.
    • Or, put your head under a gently running faucet or shower.
    • Keep your eye open while you do this.
  4. How Long You Should Wash Your Eye (Harmless Substances):
    • For harmless substances, wash your eye 2-3 minutes. These include most bath and hair products.
    • For stronger chemicals, wash your eye for 5-10 minutes. Ammonia, vinegar, and household bleach may cause irritation and stinging.
  5. Vasoconstrictor Eye Drops: Red eyes most often feel much better after the irritants have been washed out. If they are not better and still bloodshot, use long-acting eye drops like Visine. Use 1-2 drops. You may use the drops again in 8-12 hours.
  6. Contact Lenses: Switch to glasses for a short time. This will help stop damage to your eye.
  7. What to Expect: The pain and discomfort most often go away 1 hour after washing.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pain or blurred eyesight lasts more than 1 hour after washing eye
    • Redness lasts more than 24 hours
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Contacting the Poison Center

  1. What You Should Know: When in doubt call the poison center.
  2. Poison Center Phone Numbers:
    • United States: The toll-free number is 800-222-1222.
    • Canada: There is no toll-free number. You should call your local poison control center.

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 8/21/2017 1:16:34 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:36:03 PM

Copyright 2000-2017 Health Navigator, Inc. All rights reserved.

First Aid - Chemical in Eye (Glass of Water)
  • Slowly pour lukewarm water into the eye from a pitcher or glass.

Duration of Irrigation:

  • For harmless substances (e.g., sunscreen or hair spray), irrigation only needs to be carried out for 2-3 minutes.
  • For stronger chemicals that cause more irritation and stinging (e.g., ammonia, vinegar, alcohol or household bleach), flush the eye for 5-10 minutes.
  • For acids, irrigate the eye continuously for 10 minutes.
  • For alkalis, irrigate the eye continuously for 20 minutes.
  • For any chemical particles that can't be flushed away, wipe them away with a moistened cotton swab.

Special Notes:

  • Begin irrigation immediately!
  • Never irrigate with antidotes such as vinegar (Reason: the chemical reaction can cause more damage) .
First Aid - Chemical in Eye (Faucet or Shower)
  • Place the face under a gently running faucet or a shower. Hold the eyelids open during this process.

Duration of Irrigation:

  • For harmless substances (e.g., sunscreen or hair spray), irrigation only needs to be carried out for 2-3 minutes.
  • For stronger chemicals that cause more irritation and stinging (e.g., ammonia, vinegar, alcohol or household bleach), flush the eye for 5-10 minutes.
  • For acids, irrigate the eye continuously for 10 minutes.
  • For alkalis, irrigate the eye continuously for 20 minutes.
  • For any chemical particles that can't be flushed away, wipe them away with a moistened cotton swab.

Special Notes:

  • Begin irrigation immediately.
  • Never irrigate with antidotes such as vinegar (Reason: the chemical reaction can cause more damage) .
  • After you wash your eye, then call the Poison Center. The U.S. national 800 phone number is 1-800-222-1222.

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