How to Irrigate Your Colostomy

Two Methods:Using the Irrigation SleeveIrrigating Your Stoma

When you irrigate your colostomy, the water enters your stoma, causing your muscles to contract. This process expels anything that is in your bowel. Doing this can help you to feel like you are in control of your fecal continence.[1] In addition to this, if you do not want to wear a colostomy bag, irrigating your colostomy can help you to transition to wearing a stoma plug or cap. To manage this irrigation process, you will first have to attach the irrigation sleeve, and then irrigate your colostomy.

Method 1
Using the Irrigation Sleeve

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    Try to irrigate your colostomy at the same time each day. You should try irrigate your colostomy at the same time every day; doing this reduces the chance that you will have problems with leakage from your colostomy. This leakage is reduced because a predictable elimination pattern is established.[2]
    • Once this pattern is established, you may not have to wear the colostomy pouch anymore. Instead, you will use a stoma plug or cap. Talk to your doctor about this.
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    Close the clamp on the tube and fill the plastic container with the amount of lukewarm water recommended by your physician or nurse. The amount of water used for irrigation ranges from 16 to 50 oz (500 mL to 150 mL). In general, most stoma nurses recommend 16 oz (500 mL) or less during the first few irrigation procedures.
    • If your home has a water softener, you will need to use bottled water. Water from a softener contains increased levels of sodium and salt, which can be absorbed into your body.
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    Sit on a chair placed next to the toilet. You could also sit up straight on the toilet itself. Drape a bath towel around and across your waist. Hang the plastic container next to you in a position level with your shoulders.
    • If desired, put on the rubber gloves.
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    Attach the irrigation sleeve to your stoma. To do this, attach the adjustable belt to the irrigation sleeve; this belt should go around your waist. Place the irrigation sleeve (which should already be attached to the adjustable belt) over your stoma.[3]
    • The end of the irrigation sleeve should be directed to allow the irrigation water to run into the toilet.
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    Eliminate any air bubbles that are in the tubing. Release the clamp to allow some of the water to flow into the irrigation sleeve. Re-clamp the tubing once all of the air bubbles have been removed.
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    Insert the cone’s tip into your stoma. Using water, or a product like K-Y Jelly or Lubrifax, moisten the pointy end of the cone. Gently insert the cone’s tip so that it goes roughly three inches into your stoma. Never force the pointy tip into your stoma.
    • The tip should fit snugly so that the amount of leakage is minimized during the irrigation process.

Method 2
Irrigating Your Stoma

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    Allow water into the cone by releasing the clamp. Slowly release the clamp on the tube, allowing the water from the plastic container to gradually flow into the cone and enter into your stoma.
    • This process should take between 5 to 10 minutes.
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    Hold the cone in place for a moment before removing it. Once the plastic container has emptied, hold the cone in the same position for about 10 seconds. Carefully remove the cone after this time has passed.
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    Drain the output. Drain the output through the irrigation sleeve for about 10 minutes, allowing the contents to empty into the toilet. Once the output has been partially removed, dry the bottom of the irrigation sleeve.[4]
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    Use the tail closure to close the irrigation sleeve so that you can move around while the output continues to drain. You will need to allow the output to drain completely. Completely draining the output could take as long as 45 minutes; however, because the bottom of the sleeve is now closed with the tail closure, you can move around while it drains.[5]
    • Once the output drains completely, empty the contents of the sleeve into the toilet.
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    Wash the irrigation sleeve and the area around your stoma. You can use your irrigation sleeve several times; remove the irrigation sleeve and rinse it using cool water. Gently clean the area around your stoma using a washcloth, mild soap, and water. Do not rub the skin around your stoma.
    • Pat your stoma dry with a paper towel, toilet paper, or tissue. Apply your new stoma plug or cap.


  • If you are having troubles irrigating your stoma, ask your doctor or nurse to show you the proper procedure at your next appointment.

Things You Need =

  • A clean, plastic container that has a long tube with a clamp
  • A plastic cone
  • An irrigation sleeve
  • A tail closure
  • An adjustable belt
  • A mild soap that contains no perfumes or oils
  • A clean washcloth
  • Soft paper towels/toilet paper/tissue
  • A clean bath towel
  • Water-soluble lubricant (K-Y Jelly)
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Bottled water – if you have a water softener
  • A stoma plug or cap

Sources and Citations

  2. Lippincott's Nursing Procedures. Fifth ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009. 700-02. Print.
  3. Humphrey, Carolyn J. Humphrey J. "Intestinal Problems." Home Care Nursing Handbook. Third ed. N.p.: Aspen, n.d. 233. Print.
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