How To Get Pepper Spray Out Of Your Eyes


Pepper spray is a combination of inert ingredients and Oleoresin Capsicum (or OC). OC comes from hot cayenne peppers with at least two million Scoville heat units.

OC works as an inflammatory agent and produces results immediately. The spray must come into contact with a person’s mucous membranes in the nose, throat, eyes, or lungs. It can cause temporary blindness and difficulty breathing.

The effects of pepper spray are not permanent or lethal. There have been reported deaths that were linked to the use of pepper spray. However, the pepper spray in question was both stronger than commercially available products and contained abnormal ingredients, such as alcohol and hydrocarbons.


How to Protect Your Eyes

Kimberley K. Gokoffski, an ophthalmologist with USC Roski Eye Institute at Keck Medicine of USC, says barrier methods can be an effective way to prevent exposure to chemical irritants.

“Swim goggles create a tight seal around the eyes, which will help prevent things from getting in, but the nose and mouth may still be irritated,” she says. “If you escalate to a scuba goggle or a gas mask, it’s more likely you’ll be protected, and a face shield is also helpful.”

Avoid contact lenses and opt for glasses instead — contacts can trap harmful particles from tear gas and pepper spray in your eye and make the effects worse. According to Gokoffski, the eye tears as a response to irritants. Contact lenses trap tears on the eye and prevent them from self-cleaning.

If law enforcement is spraying with chemical irritants, try to move to higher ground, like onto a flight of stairs. “Particles from tear gas and pepper spray are heavier, so they like to fall down,” Gokoffski says. “If you’re at a higher elevation [from where the chemicals are sprayed], there’s a lower risk.”

Does Pepper Spray Expire?

Yes, pepper spray does expire and don’t let anyone tell you different. The good news is that just about every manufacturer includes an ‘end of life’ or expiration date on the canister, and they’re generally 36-48 months from birth date, which should also be on the canister. The reason pepper spray expires is not as much about it losing its potency as it is about the canister losing its pressure. To assure the effective spray range or eliminate the potential chance of total propellent degradation, its critical to maintain the expiration date and purchase a new spray when that date comes.


Yes, I’ve Been Pepper Sprayed

Just so you don’t think I am shooting my mouth off here, yes I have been pepper sprayed in the face.

It was during a pepper spray course, and I volunteered to get sprayed with Saber Level II stream spray (0.5% capsaicinoids.)

The instructor pulled no punches on me, he got both eyes, my nose and mouth. Twice.

It wasn’t too bad at first, and then he told me to open my eyes, and I almost fell over.

The biggest takeaways from that experience for me were:

  • It took about 15 seconds to have an impact on me and reach its full strength, enough time to grab a hold of the person who sprayed me if that were my intention
  • It was very hard to breathe once the stuff penetrated into my mouth and lungs, I wouldn’t have been able to chase anyone or run very well after that
  • I couldn’t open my eyes for at least 10 minutes, even after washing them thoroughly
  • It caused me to drool like crazy and have to mouth breathe
  • My face, neck and arms burned for an hour afterwards
  • I had to change my clothes to keep from reapplying the stuff to my skin

All this and what he used on me wasn’t even the Level III stuff!

The main thing I learned: I was more or less totally incapacitated after 20 seconds.

Had this been a life or death situation for me, I would have been in a lot of trouble.

I could not see, could not breathe well, and was in a lot of pain – even after immediately washing up with solvent and soap.

Bottom line, getting sprayed not only sucks bad, but it can take you right out of a fight. You need to avoid it at all costs in a life or death situation.

How to protect yourself from pepper spray

The measures that will keep you safe from pepper spray will also reduce your chances of catching or transmitting COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, so make sure you take proper precautions before heading to a protest.

✔️Keep your distance: To limit your exposure to infectious pathogens and chemical agents, “the most important thing is keeping the distance,” Jordt says. While we know it’s easier said than done in large crowds, six feet is ideal.

✔️Protect your face: Jordt recommends wearing protective glasses or goggles, which will protect your eyes from pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets (which have the ability to blind people). It’s difficult for pepper spray to penetrate protective eyewear. Make sure you also wear a face mask, and bring extras to change into, if possible.

✔️Cover up: Long sleeves and pants leave less skin exposed to chemical agents. Wearing layers is a smart choice—you’ll protect yourself from pepper spray while also preventing sunburn and being prepared for shifts in weather.

Best Keychain Pepper Spray

  Wildfire Keychain Defense Spray

Sabre Red 3-in-1 Hardcase Keychain

Mace Keyguard Mini Spray


4.9 / 5

4.7 / 5

4.4 / 5




.5 oz

.5 oz

.1 oz

Spray Pattern




Up to 8 ft.

Up to 10 ft.

Up to 5 ft.


One of the most popular places to keep our personal pepper spray is on our keychains because it allows us to carry it everyday, yet is still somewhat out of the way. It’s also a natural place to tote a very small personal defense item and gives us peace of mind when we’re constantly on-the-go. In our experience here at Guardian Self Defense, the best keychain pepper spray will have a keyring breakaway mechanism, have greater than 1.1% MC, and be .5 ounces or less. Let us explain.

The most imperative thing when looking to purchase

The most imperative thing when looking to purchase keychain pepper spray is to make sure the unit has a breakaway mechanism from your keyring. This is critical to personal protection because attacks often happen in a split second, and the victim fumbles with keys while trying to find and use the spray. With a breakaway piece, the spray can quickly become detached from the keys and within seconds can the victim acquire the target and disperse the spray.

We also want to share a pro tip that no one else will tell you – having your keys and pepper spray in separate hands is a huge asset because you can distract the attacker by throwing your keys at them with one hand, putting them on defense, immediately followed by OC spray from the opposite hand. Before they know what happened they’ll be on the ground and you’ll be able to safely get away. This is a distraction technique similar to what boxers do to successfully land a punch, and it’s very effective.

It is also important for your keychain OC to have a major capsaicinoid percentage greater than 1.1% and be smaller than .5 ounces. Our experience shows the MC percentage needs to be high because keychain canisters are generally small, and your unit needs to be small if you’re planning to carry it on your keychain every day. Most ½ oz. units only have 4 to 6 one-second bursts, which means you will need to make the most of those bursts, so a high-heat spray is very important.

We especially love the Wildfire keychain quick-release pepper spray because it meets every piece of criteria we just mentioned. It comes in a small .5 oz canister that is lightweight and easy to attach to keyring. With 1.4% MC is it one of the hottest sprays you can buy, and has an effective range of up to 8 feet. The stopping power of the Wildfire line is unlike anything we’ve seen from other keychain units. It also comes in different options with a either a hard case, a soft cases like plain leatherette or leatherette with some bedazzle, or halo leather cases which offer more protection over the firing mechanism.

A close second is the Sabre Red 3-in-1 keychain unit. This popular formulation is Sabre’s best selling line and is well known amongst people that have been hit by it as being the most excruciating 30 minutes of their lives. We love the hardcase as its plain and simple and doesn’t draw attention to the unit.



The use of pepper spray is regulated by law. Unlawful use of pepper spray can lead to court cases and fines.

The lawful use of pepper spray is in self-defense. For example, if an attacker is threatening harm, wielding a weapon, or is larger or stronger than you, you can use pepper spray to protect yourself.

The use of pepper spray is considered unlawful when it involves excessive force or is sprayed recklessly in a crowded area, causing harm to innocent bystanders. It is also unlawful to use pepper spray offensively rather than defensively.

In other words, you may use pepper spray against someone who is clearly trying to cause you harm. While you want to practice hyper-awareness, you do not want to overreact when you are startled by someone who is merely passing by.

How to use Pepper Spray

There are several steps for effective liquid or gel pepper spray delivery to your target.


Store your spray or gel where it is easily accessible, and quick to deploy. In a pocket, on a belt clip, at the top of your bag or purse.

If you are in a situation where you feel nervous, get it in your hand with a firm grip, get it ready should you need it.

Someone who is 20 feet away from you can close that gap in less than 2 seconds. You need to be ready.

There’s nothing illegal with showing that you have the spray in your hand to deter a would-be assailant, but don’t advertise it unless you need to.

Be mindful of wind, and try to minimize or avoid splash back onto you if you are downwind of an attacker.

If you are indoors you will likely be affected by the spray to some degree. Leave the area as quickly as possible.


If possible take a defensive stance like this: Empty arm forward, hand open.

Arm with the spray behind the extended hand, at head level and inline with your nose.

This serves two purposes:

This serves two purposes:

  1. You attacker will likely go for that arm first, giving you more time to deliver the spray.
  2. You will block some spray that might come back in your direction.

Move & Spray

If you are rushed by an attacker, move. Get off the “X” is the expression.

Step to the side or move at a 45 degree angle. Try to avoid stepping backwards, you could trip and fall over your feet or an unseen object.

To apply to your target, spray in an sweeping burst pattern across eyes and head, it will get around glasses if the target is wearing them. Spray into nose and mouth if possible.

Move again. Side step and apply again from another angle if possible, move offline at a 45 degree angle.

Don’t just spritz them, soak them down until they drop.


Get away from your attacker quickly, it takes several moments for the spray to reach full impact on the target.

In that time they could still reach you and get a grip or a blow onto you.

Watch This Video

This is the best video I’ve found about the technique I’ve learned and advocate.

What he is using here is a cone spray to fill an area. Cone sprays are a little harder to find in the US, and the downside to them is they can contaminate you. They can fill a big space, but don’t travel as far as the concentrated sprays.

If you want to get a cone type sprays: Sabre Red 2.0 oz Max Strength Pepper Spray, Cone Delivery or Pepper Enforcement PE510MF-FT Fogger Pepper Spray

What should you do if you are sprayed?

“The most important thing to remember is not to rub your eyes if you get sprayed. This will spread the compound deeper into your eye,” Dr. Glatter has explained to Men’s Health.

Use clean hands to carefully remove contact lenses if you wear them. Blink so you help your tears wash away the oily pepper spray.

“Applying baby shampoo to the affected eye is the most effective for neutralizing and removing the oil resin contained in pepper spray,” he says. Then irrigate your eyes. Ideally, use sterile saline, but it’s unlikely that you’ll have that with you, so use water. “Often several liters is necessary to adequately irrigate the eye after exposure. A 20-ounce bottle of water poured over your eye is just not enough,” he adds.

If you get pepper spray in your mouth, rinse that with huge amounts of water, too. “Sucking on ice chips may also help to alleviate burning on your lips, tongue, gums and roof of your mouth,” Dr. Glatter says. “While rinsing with milk may reduce pain in your mouth, it will not remove the oils present that are causing the pain.”

Wash yourself as soon as you are able, and wash your clothes, too (separately from other clothes). Over one to two hours, the pain should gradually dissipate. Seek medical attention if you think the spray has caused burns to your eyes or skin, or if you’re having trouble breathing.

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