What to Do if Paint Gets in Your Eyes?

Painting a home is an exciting time but not without its risk. If you don’t wear the right protective gear (safety goggles) you might end up with paint in your eyes. Your immediate actions afterward may dictate if this is a minor or major incident.

You need to flush your eyes (for up to 15-20 minutes) with clean water (tap, distilled, or saline solution) when paint gets in your eyes. You can then lay on one side to eliminate any residue. Visiting a doctor is advised afterwards to prevent long-term vision problems.

Getting paint in your eyes is an unpleasant and potentially dangerous accident for your eye health. Many people know you need to rinse your eyes but not many know how to do it or to visit a doctor afterward.

This article is a reminder of what to do in the case of an emergency situation where you get a small or a large amount of paint in your eyes.

How to act when paint gets in your eyes

Rising or flushing your eyes is recommended soon after you get paint in your eyes, just as with other chemicals. You need to do this regardless of the paint that’s reached the eyes (latex, oil-based, acrylic, etc.)

Wash your hands thoroughly

You need to wash your hands before starting to flush your eyes. Chances are your hands are still dirty. Paint, dust, or other dirt particles might be on your fingers and you need to ensure you keep them out of the eyes while trying to remove paint.

Flush the eyes with clean water

You need to flush your eyes whenever your get paint drops or spray paint out of your eyes. This is a process that takes 10-20 minutes. Keep your lids open using your fingers and let clean water flush the eyes, ideally in the shower.

This is the standard procedure for those who get paint in the eyes at home. If this is your case, you can use the shower or running tap water by turning your head to one side.

Pro tip: remember to turn the head to the right side if you get paint in your right eye or to the left side if you get paint in your left eye whenever you flush the eyes in the sink. This avoids dripping paint and water from entering the other eye.

If you get paint in the eye at work you need to check the closest emergency eyewashes or showers. Eyewashes might be a better choice for efficient flushing, especially if they run with distilled water. Emergency eyewashes are mandatory in certain facilities where there’s a risk of getting paint in your eyes such as warehouses, paint manufacturing facilities, or even construction sites.

Lay on one side

You can then lay on one side on a bed to allow any remaining paint to be removed by blinking often. You may need to flush your eyes again if you notice other symptoms of paint in eyes such as irritation or a burning sensation.

Repeat the flushing process a few times

You may flush your eye or eyes again to ensure there’s no more paint left in the eye, especially behind the eyelids.

The flushing process is repeated and you can clear out all of the remaining paint in the eye before going to the doctor.

Visit a doctor or the nearest hospital for a checkup

A doctor’s visit following an accident with paint in the eye is advisable. You should visit a specialist even if you think there’s no more paint left in the eye so that you know for sure your vision or eye health isn’t affected by the chemicals in paint.

A few things to remember when clearing paint out of the eyes.

Panic is normal whenever your get pain in your eyes. However, you should try to remain as calm as possible before heading to the nearest source of water to flush the eye.

Rapid sources of water to use

·         Shower

·         Tap

·         Clean gardening hose with running water

·         Bottled drinking water

·         Distilled water

·         Saline solution

These are water sources you have at home where most accidents tend to happen, mostly due to not wearing protective eyewear which is mandatory for professionals.

A few tips on efficiently flushing your eyes

Not all paints are the same, not all paint in eyes accidents are the same either. There are plenty of variables in these accidents. Here are the top tips to consider if this happens to you.

Consider saline solutions which are gentler than tap water

Saline solution can be a better choice than running water from the tap as it’s sterile. A normal saline solution for eyes can be purchased at a local pharmacy if there’s one nearby.

Distilled water may be better than tap water

Tap water has chlorine in it and it might irritate the eye that’s already suffering from the irritation caused by paint. Distilled water is considered a superior choice to tap water. However, you should only pursue shopping for distilled water after you’ve flushed the eyes with tap water as you don’t want to leave chemicals irritating the eyes for a long time.

Use a (mandatory) eyewash station if paint gets in your eyes on a construction site

Construction sites and other areas where employees are exposed to open paint accidents need to have eyewash stations. You can ask your manager about the location of these emergency stations if you cannot remember their location from your induction day.

Some common questions and answers about paint in eyes

What to do about acrylic paint in the eye?

Acrylic paint is water-based but should be treated just as any other paint in the eye. Your eyes should be flushed and rinsed properly if you get acrylic paint in your eyes. A doctor’s visit is to follow.

What to do about latex paint in the eye?

Latex paint in the eyes should be flushed with water immediately. Flushing the eyes for at least 15 minutes and up to 20 minutes is recommended. Distilled water or clean running water is used to clean the eyes.

Can you go blind from paint?

Going blind from paint is possible, as with any type of chemical. You need to flush your eyes with water immediately and visit a doctor or the nearest hospital to avoid paint-caused vision problems.

What to do about paint overspray in eyes?

You should flush your eyes with water for 15-20 minutes when you spray paint in your eyes. You need to keep your eyes wide open during this process to wash away all paint articles. A doctor’s visit is recommended afterward.

What not to do when you get paint in your eyes

Do not use soap to clean the eyes – this can inflict further eye irritation

Don’t limit yourself to flushing eyes once only – paint residue can be eliminated with multiple eye flushes

Don’t rub the eye – rubbing is detrimental to the eyes as it can irritate the eye

Don’t apply ointments – ointments aren’t sterile

Don’t postpone a doctor’s visit – mandatory

Don’t wear contact lenses – you should refrain from wearing contact lenses after you’ve had paint in your eyes for as long as the doctor recommends.

Summary of what to do when you get paint in your eyes

  • Wash your hands before touching the eyes to inspect the situation
  • Flush your eyes with running water, distilled water, or saline water anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes
  • Lay on one side afterward to allow tears or other residues to come out
  • Visit a doctor

Resources

American Academy of Ophthalmology – I got paint in my eye – what should I do?

United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration – Requirements for emergency eyewashes

Harvard Medical School – Chemical Injury to the Eye