Could a Warm Compress Help My Eyes?

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on August 16, 2022
2 min read

When you have a dry, itchy or painful eye problem, you want to feel better. One way to do this is with a warm compress.

What is it? Simply put, it’s a warm, wet cloth. You put it on your eye to ease the pain or discomfort of eye problems like:

It may or may not help other eye issues. Your doctor will tell you if you should use one.

A compress is soothing. It can make your eye feel better right away. It can also:

  • Add moisture. It can ease the gritty feeling that comes with dry eyes.
  • Keep natural oils from clogging. Glands in your eyelids make oil. Sometimes it can get thick or clumpy and clog them up. Your eyelid might swell (blepharitis), or you could get a stye or chalazion. The heat from a compress can thin the oil, which may help it drain easily.
  • Relieves pain. If you have redness or discomfort from pinkeye or another infection, a compress can give you quick relief.
  • Muscle spasms or pain. The wet warmth can relax your eye.

Fill a bowl with water that's warm but not hot. Put a clean washcloth in it. Cover it completely. Wring it out so it’s damp but doesn’t drip. Fold the washcloth and place it on your eye. Leave it there for several minutes or as long as your doctor says to.

When the washcloth gets cold, you can dunk it into the water again and repeat the process. The doctor may tell you to do this several times a day. Use a clean washcloth for each session.

When you make the compress, remember your eyes are delicate. Don’t do anything that could cause an injury.

  • Stick with plain water. It’s really all you need. Don’t use tea bags. Don’t put chemicals like Epsom salts in the water. They could burn your eye or the skin around it. Always use a washcloth soaked in water rather than a store-bought hot pack filled with chemicals. If it leaks, it could burn your eye.
  • Make it warm, not hot. Don’t use boiling or very hot water. The skin on your eyelid and around your eye is thin and sensitive. It could burn easily.
  • Keep things separate. If both your eyes are affected, use a different washcloth and bowls of water for each. This will lower your chances of spreading an infection from one eye to the other.