A Mini Guide to Ostomy Supplies: Ostomy Pouches/Bags (w/ video)

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What is An Ostomy Pouch or Bag?

An ostomy pouch, which can also be referred to as an ostomy bag, is the most important part of an ostomy appliance.  It’s used to collect waste, urine, and even mucus from something called a “mucus fistula” as it exits the body, and it’s what’s attached to the wafer stuck to your skin.


Commonly made from plastic, ostomy pouches come in a variety of styles and sizes. Depending on whether or not a pouch is permanently attached to a wafer, the appliance can either be referred to as a one-piece or two-piece.  I explain all the differences in THIS article, but regardless of the style, the appliance functions in the same way.

Outlet and closure

Most manufacturers will offer a drainable and close-ended pouch.  Most ileostomates and urostomates will use a drainable pouch, which allows them to empty the contents of the pouch when they like and without having to replace the pouch or change their appliance. By contrast, a colostomate my prefer a close-ended pouch as it can be discarded and replaced when it gets full.  Each brand will have their own unique closure for the outlet on a drainable pouch, but the most common types are:

  • Clips.  These are made of hard plastic and are separate from the pouch.  While many ostomates use this type of closure, they are bulky and prone to getting damaged compared to outlets with built-in closures. You can find newer clips that are slimmer and more secure.
Ostomy bag clip open
This is one style of clip. Note that this is not clamped on the pouch yet.
Ostomy bag clip nu-hope closed
This clip is a different style and is secured to the pouch outlet.
  • Velcro/velcro-like closure.  A modern alternative to clips, these are built into the bottom of the outlet and can easily be opened and closed, however, some closures are more difficult to secure and ostomates with mobility challenges my find them hard to work with.  Some ostomates may even find that Velcro closures tend to get soiled and are difficult to clean.
Coloplast SenSura Click velcro closure
Coloplast SenSura Click w/ velcro closure
  • Spouts/Valve outlet. Most common on urostomy and high-output ileostomy bags, spouts allow you to empty liquid from your pouch while offering more control compared to wide-mouth outlets.
Hollister New Image Urostomy pouch
Urostomy pouches by Hollister. These have valve closures.
Filters and odor control

Filters are sometimes also found on pouches.  They allow gas inside of your pouch to exit without creating odor.  Colostomates tend to have better luck with filters, since dry, infrequent stool is less likely to clog filters compared to liquid output. Many ostomates with liquid output will find that filters tend to clog within 48 hours of wear.

Coloplast Sensura Mio filter
Filter on the Coloplast Sensura Mio. This pouch also has a very large pre-filter.
Hollister AF300 filter
The Hollister AF300 filter from the inside. The black portion is charcoal, which eliminates odor as gas passes through it.
To see or not to see, that is the question.

Most manufacturers offer both opaque and clear pouches.  Opaque pouches are usually lined with a thin, cloth material that hides the contents of your pouch; clear pouches allow you to see inside of your pouch, which can come in handy to inspect your stoma. Some brands feature opaque covers with a “window” that allows you to examine your stoma and pouch contents freely.

Hollister ultra clear_transparent_beige pouches front
Hollister offers three types of pouch covers: “Ultra Clear”, “Transparent” and Beige cloth.

I explain more about the differences between pouch opacity in THIS article and video.

Does size matter?

Pouches come in many sizes, and manufacturers tend to give each size their own unique name (just like how Starbucks likes to name coffee cup sizes). The most common of these are as follows:

  • Small, mini, stoma caps. These pouches have a very small capacity and are best used in situations where you don’t expect much output in a short period of time (i.e. during intimacy).  Colostomates who irrigate their stoma may use these smaller pouches more regularly. People with a “mucus fistula” may also use these smaller bags.
You can find more information about stoma caps HERE.
Coloplast Stoma Cap 2501 front and back-small
This stoma cap by Coloplast is perfect in discreet situations – but only if you don’t have an active stoma.
  • Medium pouch (7″ in length and approx. 400 – 500ml capacity).  This one offers a compromise between size and capacity.
Coloplast minicap and Sensura Click Midi ft Thaila Skye
Left: Coloplast Assura Minicap Right: Coloplast SenSura Click Midi (medium). Photo courtesy of the magnificent Thaila Skye! http://www.thailaskye.me.uk/
  • Large pouch (12″ in length and approx. 600-650ml capacity).  A common size that is ideal for most ileostomates.
Hollister New Image 18183 full frontal
This is a large (12″) Hollister New Image pouch.
  • X-Large. High-output pouches can hold up to 1200ml (depending on the style). They can come in handy for ileostomates with short bowel syndrome or jejunostomates, and I find that they are useful when staying in hospital or if you need to do some special bowel prep.  These tend to have a spout outlet since they handle mostly liquid output.
Coloplast Magnum vs Sensura Mio high output
The “Magnum” (left) and SenSura Mio high-capacity pouches by Coloplast are ideal for high-output stomas.
  • Night drain bags! Intended for overnight use, these bags are HUGE, and boast a capacity of nearly 2000ml! Ostomates with high-output stomas might want to look into these bags since they could help to get a full night’s sleep.
Coloplast Overnight Ileo pouch
Overnight drainage bag from Coloplast. Photo courtesy of Coloplast.ca.
When deciding on a pouch, go with something that is large enough to hold enough output where you don’t feel rushed to empty it.  You can’t really go too big unless it considerably reduces your clothing options.
Special features

While many pouches are very plain, some manufacturers have gone out of their way to offer features that are unique. Some of these features include:

Coloplast SenSura Click lock open
Locking mechanism on he Coloplast Sensura Click 2-piece pouch.
  • An inspection window that allows you to see inside your pouch through the cloth covering (i.e. Coloplast Sensura Mio, Coloplast SenSura 1-piece drainable with soft outlet)
Ostomy inspection window Salts
This inspection window is a feature on several products from Salts.
Coloplast Sensura Mio folded in half
Sensura Mio folded
  • Vent hole to manually allow gas to be released, in a similar way to the Osto EZ-Vent (i.e. Oxmed ZenSiv Colostomy bag w/ vent). Be forewarned, that unlike filters, these vent holes do NOT deodorize.
Oxmed ZenSiv Colostomy bag w_vent
The Oxmed ZenSiv Colostomy bag features a built-in vent for degassing your pouch. Photo courtesy of oxmedinternational.com.
  • Replaceable filters (i.e. both Hollister and ConvaTec offer products with this feature)

How Ostomy Bags Usually Are Sold

Most pouches are sold in boxes of 10 or 20, but some brands include more than that in a single box.  For two-piece appliances, it’s important to get the size and brand that is compatible with the flange part of your wafer or you’ll have a very hard time getting the two pieces to fit together!

If you have a two-piece appliance, you can also swap between different sizes or styles of pouches, provided they are the right brand and size for your wafer. This is common when someone might need a night-drain bag, but prefers to wear a smaller size during the day.

Purchase on Amazon

You can purchase ostomy bags on Amazon (affiliate links): USA | CANADA

How to Use an Ostomy Bag

On a one-piece appliance, you don’t have to do anything special, since your pouch is already attached to your wafer, you simply apply your wafer and you’re done.

When it comes time to change your appliance, you remove and discard both the wafer and pouch at the same time.

Two-piece appliances offer many options for connecting the pouch to the wafer.  There are two ways in which pouches can be attached to your appliance:  a mechanical or adhesive coupling. Mechanical couplings allow the pouch and wafer to snap together, while adhesive couplings allow the two pieces to stick together. I get into more details in THIS article.

Because a two-piece system allows you to replace pouches without having to change your wafer at the same time, you might find that replacing your pouch when your filter stops working will keep ballooning at bay and will help to extend the life of your wafer.

Tips When Using an Ostomy Bag

  • If your pouch has a filter, you may need to cover it with a sticker (usually found in the box of pouches) if you plan on getting your appliance wet.
  • Some ostomates wear their pouch at an angle or horizontally. They do this in order to accommodate certain accessories, but also for comfort.
  • If you develop a tear in your pouch (cats are most often to blame for this), replace it with a new one, as repairs can often lead to leaks or odors.
  • I know of ostomates who wear two-piece appliances who rotate between two pouches, washing one when the other is not in use.  This can help save a considerable amount of money if you’re ok with spending the time to properly clean and dry each pouch.

Are Ostomy Bags Vegan-Friendly?

With the exception of one-piece appliances that have wafers containing animal ingredients, pouches are not a concern for vegans. Refer to my list of vegan/non-vegan products if you’d like a list of confirmed products.

Additional Resources

Pouches are nothing without the wafer, so you can check out my mini-guide to wafers HERE.

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Janice Marinuzzi
Janice Marinuzzi
1 year ago

Change it out of the stoma grows to at least 6 inches! It bleeds when I change the bag because the hole is too small! I need help!!

1 year ago

When lying down at night the bag I have breaks down the seal even if I use powder and paste. I think seems that even when the bag is not full lying flat allows the urine to break the seal down causing it to leak badly wetting me each night. How do I get around this issue

1 year ago

I’m new to this world
I’m having problems with my 2 piece blowing off at night
I empty it before bed. Then wake up to a smell I can’t describe !!
Any suggestions!

1 year ago

Do the coloplast bags feat everyone.

1 year ago

Can some one tell me if I Need a prescription to get the coloplast bags

2 years ago

Thank you to all for your input. I am looking at using the 2 piece from coloplast sensura 2. I seem to be having better luck on not having blow outs/leaks like have had with the Hollister products. I have noticed that if I use the silicon barrier I have better luck with all the products. I have ordered a stoma shield from Stoma Gear. Since my stoma is located where the seat belt sits and also my pants waist band is. I’ll let you all know who the stoma shield works for me..thanks Cyndi

2 years ago

I have a colostomy myself.  certainly try as many samples as possible.   2 big points for me are: easy of emptying and wear time/failure early warning signs.  I use 1 piece, 2 piece does not suit a  very active lifestyle, in my opinion.cymed was on top of my list til they made changes this spring, now at bottom.hollister worked pretty good, would fail without warning from lots of flexing/bending. wouldn’t fall off but I would get stink leaks without warning.coloplast has the absolute best tail piece for cleaning, i think.  i would modify hollister bags so they emptied like coloplast.    also coloplast sensura can withstand a lot of bending with far less failure and I usually can predict a failure several hours in advance.I never liked convatec.I also look for a bag that doesn’t droop on body(stick out). like to wear a tee shirt without hardly knowing a bag is underneath.Good luck!

2 years ago

Hi Cyndi, Their is a lot of choice and not always a case of one size fits all. Stick with the big familiar brands. As Eric points out they are big for a reason! From a personal point of view I  like a 2 piece but for a lower profile one piece is not as bulky. My thoughts would be read the reviews and request samples. plus it takes a little time to adapt to a new system not just a few days. And the golden rule is keep it simple, the rings etc are great but you may not need them.

2 years ago

I am now 6 weeks into having a colostomy bag and need to make a choice on which product to go with, does anyone have a product or brand that they love? It seems like the Hollister seems popular. That is the brand I am seeing on all the videos that I have watched. All I am looking for is some guidance in this process.. thx

Sierra Wilkins
Sierra Wilkins
2 years ago

I’m looking for the right bag for my 9 month old son. Can’t seem to keep one bag on for an entire day. I change his bag like 4 times a day. Were in need of something better. I’d like some samples or some ideas on how to fix the problem.

Curtis Dalrymple
3 years ago

Need free bags for my girlfriend she is homeless and uninsured. How can I get some free bags. I am Low income and can not afford to buy them all the time.

Thaila Skye
6 years ago

You’re always so informative! :) Great post!