How to clean a colostomy bag

Written by denise stern
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A colostomy is a surgical opening that is made in the abdomen through which a bag is attached to bypass normal routes for excretive waste from the body. The opening, called a stoma, allows stool matter to drain into a watertight pouch called a colostomy bag. Those suffering from injury or disease must undergo a colostomy, and learning how to properly clean a colostomy bag is essential to preventing infection.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Warm water
  • Non-scented soap
  • Skin protection products for sensitve skin if necessary

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  1. 1

    Change a colostomy pouch when it is about one-third to one-half full. To prevent accidents, do not wait until it is full to change the bag. It is best to use a rest room for the cleaning process. Clean the colostomy pouch frequently if it's not disposable.

  2. 2

    Sit on the toilet and (if using an open ended pouch) you may simply remove the clamp from the bag and empty the contents into the toilet. Grasp the pouch in two hands, hold the clamp end up, and slide or unclasp the clamp holding the colostomy bag closed. Tip the now open end into the toilet and squeeze or press the contents out.

  3. 3

    Remove the pouch from the stoma if you wish to empty it that way. Hold the colostomy bag in one hand, and press the skin of the abdomen away from the pouch with the other. Remove the clamp at one end of the pouch and empty contents into the toilet.

  4. 4

    Clean the skin around the stoma with warm, soapy water. Use a clean towel or paper towel to dry the area.

  5. 5

    Rinse the pouch, if desired, with warm soapy water before reattaching the clamp or the pouch to the stoma, depending on which method you used. If you do not rinse the pouch, at least make sure the end of the bag is clean and dry. Then, reattach the clamp to the pouch.

Tips and warnings

  • Don't wait until the pouch is full to empty. Sometimes, this puts stress on seams that may split or tear.
  • Always make sure the open end of the pouch with the clamp is clean and dry.

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