July 11, 2022 | Cataracts

The Safest Way To Do Housework After Cataract Surgery

By Barrett Eubanks, M.D.

The Safest Way To Do Housework After Cataract Surgery

Dust, chemicals, sweat, and the satisfaction of a spotless clean home…no issues there, right? Whether you love housework or hate it or just somewhere in between, it's gotta be done. But what do you do if you've just had cataract surgery?

Don't worry, you don't have to give up housework after cataract surgery. Unless you want to…

While it is important to avoid heavy lifting and bending over after cataract surgery, some simple modifications to your housework tasks can allow you to safely keep your house clean. While cleaning, it's also important to protect your eyes from exposure to household chemicals and dust.

A little preparation goes a long way to ensuring that your recovery after cataract surgery remains on course. First let's cover why this is all important anyway.

Avoid Bending Over & Heavy Lifting After Cataract Surgery

You never really realize how much you bend over during the course of your day until someone tells you to avoid it.

And that's what happens after cataract surgery. Your cataract surgeon tells you to avoid bending over for at least one week after having your cataracts removed. No, this isn't some useless restriction. It has a purpose.

Cataract surgery is a very quick and efficient procedure. One thing that makes it very refined is that the surgery requires no stitches or sutures at all. All the micro incisions made during cataract surgery are constructed to be self-sealing. This speeds up vision recovery after cataract surgery quite a bit.

But while these incisions are sealed at the end of the surgery, they don't reach their full strength until later. The one to two week mark after cataract surgery is when the incisions have reached "mostly healed up" status. Until that time, there are situations that can cause these incisions to leak.

Inside the eye is a liquid called aqueous humor. Outside of the eye is air. If the incision isn't sealed up, fluid will flow from the high pressure inside the eye to the low pressure outside the eye - ie, it will leak out. Physics!

A leaking incision puts the eye at risk for developing an infection.

But at normal eye pressures, this incision is sealed up. The problem starts if we start to experience swings in eye pressure. Pressures that are too high can cause the incision to leak. Pressures that are too low can open up that cataract incision and again cause leaks. Ultimately, we want to avoid any swings or fluctuations in the eye pressure of the eye after cataract surgery.

Bending over and heavy lifting will cause the pressure inside the eye to increase. This increases the fluctuation of pressure in the eye and can increase the risk of developing a leak and infection.

Risky Housework Activities

It really is surprising all the different activities around the home that can involve bending over or heavy lifting.

  • Laundry. Unless you have side loading washing machines and dryers at waist level, doing the laundry can involve bending over, grabbing clothes from the bottom. Also problematic is picking up clothes off the floor. Suggestion: If you have long arms, you can reach into a top loading washing machine without much bending over. To pull clothes out of the floor standing dryer, squatting down or sitting on a stool can help. Using a grabber tool can help you pick things up off the floor.
  • Taking Out The Trash. If you let the trash build up too much, it will get heavy. Easy Suggestion: Take out the trash more frequently after cataract surgery before it gets very heavy.
  • Mopping. Using a water pail with your mop can be heavy and also involve bending over. Suggestion: Use a wet cloth mopping solution such as Swiffer
  • Scrubbing The Toilet. It's gotta be done, but it's hard to avoid bending over during this less than pleasant task. Suggestion: Pull up a stool and sit down if you really want to clean the toilet after cataract surgery.
  • Sweeping. Sweeping works perfectly fine. That is until you bend over to sweep everything into a dust pan. Suggestion: Vaccuuming can work better instead.
  • Vacuuming. Not much here, unless your vacuum is very heavy. Perfect excuse for a Dyson?
  • Cooking. Lots of bending over potentially heavy things. Check out Are There Dangers Cooking After Cataract Surgery? for more information.
Avoid bending over getting clothes from the dryer
Avoid bending over getting clothes from the dryer; Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Housework Can Irritate The Eye

It may surprise you to hear that many things inside the household can really irritate your eyes. In fact, eye exposure to household cleaners happens a lot more than you would expect. Over 19,000 cases occur each year in the United States!

Of course, in normal times you want to avoid extra irritation of the eye. And after cataract surgery, it's even more important to avoid extra irritation of the eyes. Because cataract surgery causes its own short-term irritation.

For the first few weeks after cataract surgery, your eyes will be a little more irritated than usual. While using preservative free artificial tears is a good idea to help treat this irritation and help things resolve quicker, it is also important to avoid scenarios which can cause even MORE inflammation.

  • The eye can be exposed to household cleaning products by direct contact to the eye or by splashes or mist from sprays. Which household chemicals are problematic? Well, most of them: bleach, vinegar, general purpose cleaners, drain cleaners, all stuff you probably already own and use on a regular basis. Even the vapors from these chemical can also cause eye irritation. Ammonia commonly found in glass cleaners especially can irritate the eyes when dispersed into the air. Definitely will want to open a window or have other forms of ventilation when using household cleaning chemicals.
  • But household chemicals aren't the only issue, cleaning can kick up a lot of dust around the house (especially the case if you are actually dusting). Dust is a very common cause of allergies - including eye allergies. It will cause the eye to become inflamed, red, irritated with watering and itching. These are all signs of allergic conjunctivitis and won't help the eyes heal after cataract surgery.

So what can be done? Well, one good practice is to protect the eyes while you are cleaning around the house. This can be done with a cheap and effective pair of safety glasses (in fact, this is probably a good idea regardless of whether or not you recently had cataract surgery). And of course, you can avoid using heavy chemicals or doing major dusting work immediately after having your cataracts removed.

Note: if you do have a chemical exposure to the eye, you will want to immediately rinse the eye with sterile water (sterile saline or eye wash is ideal) and go to the emergency room. Certain chemicals can cause severe damage to the eyes if let to sit and soak into the eye.


Many housework tasks involve bending over and / or heavy lifting. But many of these tasks can be performed after cataract surgery with a few simple adjustments. In addition, keeping your eyes protected with safety glasses will keep your recovery on track after cataract surgery.

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