One of the mysteries that some ostomates encounter, is an appliance that simply won’t stick.  You might think that adhesives that are designed to stick to human skin would do their job, but sometimes they don’t, and it can be frustrating to deal with.

Disclaimer: Always try to seek guidance from a stoma nurse if your problem is ongoing.

A Note if You Are Having Problems

I know that having an appliance that refuses to stay stuck can be incredibly discouraging, and I’ve shared these experiences with you – believe it, it will get better! There’s always a cause for adhesives failing, and once you find that cause, your life will become infinitely more enjoyable.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and keep your stoma nurse handy for situations like this.

Video

If you want to know some of the top causes for wafers not sticking, this short video will help:

https://youtu.be/lEIcbajxDbY

Possible Causes & Solutions

Skin Care Products

Problem: The ingredients in many soaps, moisturizer, shampoo/conditioner, baby wipes and creams often contain ingredients that interfere with the adhesives in our wafers.

Oils in particular can cause issues, but even if your skin doesn’t feel oily after using these products, it can still create problems.

Possible Solution:  

  • If possible, avoid the use of these products,or at least avoid using them near your stoma.
  • Try another brand of soap that doesn’t have extra moisturizer. Mild soaps are likely to work better.

Incision Wounds

Problem: Common with new ostomates, incision wounds can interfere with wafers and/or give them less surface area to stick to.

Possible Solutions:

  • You can try cutting your wafer to avoid the incision, but I caution you on cutting too much or you may end up with a leak, like I did.
  • Reinforce the wafer with a wafer extender or medical tape.
  • Work with your home care nurse or stoma nurse to come up with a way of dressing your incision wound that makes it easier for you to apply your wafer.

Body Hair

Problem: Body hair, especially on men, can create a unique challenge for ostomates. When hair gets too long on the skin that your wafer is on top of, it can impact the adhesive and create tunnels for output to leak through.

Possible Solutions:

  • Shave the area around your stoma before putting on your appliance.
  • Change your appliance more often if you find that hair grows back quickly (for me it’s 3-4 days tops).

Further Reading:

Applying Wafer onto Wet Skin

Problem: Wet skin is a big no-no when it comes to adhesives; ostomy wafers, and other supplies like barrier rings, need to be applied to dry skin.

Possible Solutions:

  • Be sure to dry your skin before applying anything to your skin; some ostomates let their skin air-dry, while other use the gentle air from a hairdryer.
  • If you like to have showers before an appliance change (like I do), make sure that you’ve gotten rid of as much humidity from the bathroom as possible: open a window, open a door, use or use a ceiling vent.
  • If you live somewhere that’s always humid, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier to help with appliance changes.
  • If you’re using iodine or calamine lotion on your skin (as required), you may need to give it extra time to dry.

Further Reading:

Not Using Enough Pressure or Heat on Your Wafer

Problem: Some wafers require heat and/or pressure in order to properly activate the adhesive.

You’ll want to do this before and during your appliance change.

Possible Solutions:

  • Gently heat your wafer before applying it to your skin. This can be done by putting it under your arm, rubbing on it between the palms of your hands, or even using a hair dryer on warm.
  • After applying your wafer, use the palm of your hand to apply gentle pressure to your wafer (for a minute or two).
  • To get good adhesion around my stoma, I’ll often push down between the flange and my stoma using my fingers, a cotton swab or gauze.

Further Reading:

“Pancaking”

Problem: Commonly referred to as “pancaking”, when stool gets stuck around your stoma or on the top portion of your bag without falling to the bottom, it can put pressure outwards and cause the wafer to come off.

https://youtu.be/3EIC4zrUups

Possible Solutions:

  • Loosen thick output by drinking more fluids or by changing your diet around.
  • Use a lubricating pouch deodorant to help stool slide down your pouch easily.
  • If you find that your pouch filter causes the bag to seal up and vacuum, try adding some air to your pouch or cover the filter.

Further Reading

“Ballooning”

Problem: “Ballooning” happens when gas is stuck in your pouch, and gets to the point where it literally looks like you’ve got a balloon stuck to your abdomen.

Ballooning can put a lot of pressure on your wafer, and can often result in a leak or full appliance failure.

Possible Solutions:

  • Experiment with different filtered pouches to see which one works best at releasing gas from your pouch.
  • Consider using a gassing vent, like the Osto EZ-Vent.
  • Modify your diet to reduce gas output.
  • Keep your pouch as empty as possible (of both stool and gas).

Further Reading:

Skin Issues

Problem: If you’ve got damaged skin, weepy skin, irritated skin, fungal/yeast infection, psoriasis or eczema near your stoma, you will likely have a lot of difficulties getting your wafer to stick.

A protective sheet can be used on your skin, and a wafer can be applied on top of it.

A protective sheet can be used on your skin, and a wafer can be applied on top of it.

Possible Solutions:

Because each case is unique, and my require special attention, I HIGHLY SUGGEST you seek medical advice in these situations. Skin problems around your stoma don’t tend to just go away, and often get worse, but treating it quickly and effectively is the key.

  • Have a WOCN (stoma nurse), dermatologist or family doctor have a look at your skin. You may need to be prescribed medication or special topical drugs to heal your skin.
  • Rule out allergic reactions to the adhesive by testing the wafer on another part of your body to see if it causes the same issue.
  • There are non-adhesive wafers available, but they are not common and your stoma nurse should be the one to recommend their use.
  • The use of a protective sheet between your skin and wafer may help if your skin is damaged or weepy.
  • Use barrier wipes to help protect your skin from mechanical damage caused by tape or wafers.
  • There is a brand of skin protectant called Marathon, which could help to keep wafers sticking better to damaged skin. The company has some clinical data to back that up.

Further Reading:

Flush or Recessed Stoma

Problem: If you have a stoma that retracts or is flush with your skin, you may get leaks under your wafer, preventing it from sticking properly.

Convex wafer

An example of a convex wafer. Note the bulge on the bottom half. Photo: Courtesy of The Front Butt YouTuber

Possible Solutions:

  • Using a convex wafer is often the recommendation for these types of stomas. Because convex wafers increase the risk of pressure ulcers around the stoma, it’s highly advisable that you seek help from your stoma nurse, who can assess if a convex wafer is right for you.
  • In extreme cases, you may need to have your stoma revised. Your surgeon would be the only person qualified to assess and recommend this to you.

Further Reading:

Perspiration

Problem: We all sweat, but sweat under our wafer can cause a lot of issues with the adhesive.

For ostomates living in hot, humid climates, this can be an ongoing issue that needs to be dealt with continually.

Possible Solutions:

  • I’ve heard some stoma nurses suggest using unscented antiperspirant on the skin around your stoma. While I haven’t tried this, it seems like a novel idea. Check with your stoma nurse to see if it’s right for you.
  • Try using an extended wear wafer, or one that’s suited to excessive moisture. You may find that some brands were better than others, so sample, sample, sample when you can!
  • Change your appliance more often. If you’re only sweating during certain times (i.e. after a strenuous workout), it might help to change your appliance after those activities. If you live in a constantly hot and humid environment, change your appliance a day earlier to see if it helps.
  • Try to keep your wafer cool by using a product like the coolWafer, which I’ve written an overview on HERE.

Further Reading:

Misusing / Overusing Supplies

Problem: Using ostomy supplies incorrectly, or using too many ostomy supplies at once, can cause issues with your wafer.

Ostomy supplies for skin prep

You might have a lot of supplies, but that doesn’t mean you should use a lot of supplies!

Possible Solutions:

  • Always follow your stoma nurses directions when it comes time to change your appliance.
  • If you us stoma powder, make sure to dust off any excess powder, or better yet, apply a barrier wipe/spray to the area to give your wafer something to stick onto (it won’t stick directly onto the powder).
  • If you use a barrier wipe, know that it may not be compatible with extended wear wafers. Check with your manufacturer to see if their product is compatible or use regular wear wafers instead.
  • If you use stoma paste, know that it’s not meant to be smeared all over your wafer, it’s meant to be used to fill in gaps and spaces between your stoma and wafer.
  • Some supplies may not stick on their own, and may require the use of tape or additional adhesives. Check the instructions that came in the package so you know if this is the case for your supplies.

Further Reading:

Using Expired Products / Improper Storage

Problem: Expired products may lose their ability to stick properly; not storing your supplies properly may also cause this problem, regardless of whether or not they are expired.

Possible Solutions:

  • Keep an eye on the expiry date on supplies and use them before they expire.
  • Store your products according to the instructions found on either the box and/or product insert.

Further Reading:

Adhesive Remover Residue

Problem: If you use an adhesive remover to help get your wafer or medical tape off your skin, you may not be aware that it can leave a residue that makes it hard for the next wafer to stick properly.

Some products, like the AllKare adhesive remover wipes leave an oily film on the skin, and must be cleaned off before applying your wafer.

Niltac adhesive remover wipe packet

Niltac won’t leave an oily residue, but you’ll still want to rinse the area after use.

Possible Solutions:

  • Avoid using adhesive removers if you don’t need them.
  • Clean your skin with plain water after using a silicone-based adhesive remover, like Niltac.
  • You may need to clean your skin with soap and water for oily products like AllKare.
  • Use only enough adhesive remover product as necessary (don’t spray half a can onto your skin if you don’t have to!).

Further Reading:

Regular Wear Appliances

Problem: Regular wear wafers are meant to be changed more often, and don’t usually last for more than 3 days. They contain adhesives that are more prone to breaking down, but allow for easier removal from the skin.

These products may begin to peel prematurely, and so the appliance may not stick as well as you’d like.

Possible Solutions:

  • If you change your appliance often, and prefer to use regular wear wafers, consider looking at other brands to see if offer a better fit without peeling.
  • You can use a wafer extender or medical tape on the edges of your wafer to keep it from peeling.
  • if you tend to use regular wafers for 3 days or more, consider looking at extended wear products instead.
  • Consider using an adhesive product.

Further Reading:

Your Skin and Wafer Don’t Get Along

Problem: Our skin chemistry is different from person to person, and some people may have oily skin, while others have dry skin. Sometimes, our unique skin simply isn’t compatible with the adhesives in certain wafers, and they either don’t stick well or fail completely.

Possible Solutions:

  • Sample as many products as you can so that you can find one that works best on your skin.  Many manufacturers and suppliers offer offer free samples – just ask!
  • You can consider using additional adhesive products, protective sheets or tape to keep your appliance on better. These are more like band-aid fixes, rather than complete solutions, but it can help while you find a product that works best for you.
  • Keep an eye on what you’re eating, if you find that it contributes to oily skin.

Further Reading:

Leaks

Problem: A properly fitted ostomy appliance should keep your stool or urine in the bag without breaking the seal between your wafer and stoma.

Due to many factors, leaks can happen and they inevitably cause your wafer to fail completely.

Possible Solutions:

  • I’ve identified over 20 causes of appliance leaks, and it’s probably best to read my guide on dealing with leaks HERE.
  • Be sure to keep your skin clean and dry before applying a new appliance.
  • Make sure that you know how to properly cut the hole for your stoma into your wafer.
  • Prevention is key when it comes to leaks, but if you do find yourself with one, a wafer extender or medical tape might be able to buy you some time before you can do a full appliance change.

Further Reading:

Pouch Support (or a lack of it!)

Problem: When your bag fills, it can cause tugging on your wafer. This can not only cause leaks, but may also cause your entire appliance to come off.

True story, when I was in hospital following my proctecomy, I shared a ward with a gentleman who had such a high-output stoma that his appliance would literally COME OFF because of the weight and not being unable to empty it fast enough.

Nu-Comfort belt with clear Hollister pouch

The Nu-Comfort Belt or other accessory belts can help support the weight of your pouch.

The Stealth Belt can also help keep your pouch secure.

The Stealth Belt can also help keep your pouch secure.

Possible Solutions:

  • Empty your pouch before it gets 1/3 to 1/2 full. This will make sure that it’s not getting too heavy.
  • Use a support garment, wrap or accessory belt for added support. I’ve reviewed many of them HERE.
  • If you already use a 1″ accessory belt, consider the Nu-Comfort belt, which offers far greater support all the way around your flange.
  • Wear a smaller pouch to prevent it from getting too heavy. You will need to empty it more often though.
  • Try a larger wafer. A larger wafer sticks onto more surface area, so it may be able to hold up better than a smaller one.
  • Try a different style or brand of wafer that gives less pull on your skin.

Further Reading:

Not Giving Your Appliance Enough Time

Problem: Using a new brand of appliance for the first, or even second time isn’t usually enough time for your skin to get use to the adhesive on that appliance. Our skin changes as we wear our appliance, and sometimes we don’t get a good experience at first, but it gets better with time.

Possible Solutions:

  • When I test a new wafer, even if it’s from the same brand that I’ve been using, I try to give it at least 2 weeks to a month before I know whether it works well for me or not. You probably don’t have to go that long, but give your skin at least one week before knowing how an appliance sticks (or stays stuck!) to your skin.
  • Don’t switch between brands too often, or at least make sure there’s enough time in-between trying products that you’re skin has had time to re-adjust.

Cancer Treatments

Problem: If you are receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy, there may be unintended consequences that could cause problems for you and your stoma.

It’s not uncommon for cancer patients who are going through treatment to have sensitive skin, liquid output, skin ulcers, or experience changes to their stoma; any of these can cause issues with your wafer not working properly.

Possible Solutions:

  • Talk to your stoma nurse and oncologist about your concerns before starting treatment, that way, you’ll have a plan in case problems arise.
  • Refer to the following guides if you’re experiencing:
  • If your skin is sensitive and damages easily, try using an adhesive remover when changing your appliance.

Further Reading:

Water from Showers, Pools, Beaches, Etc.

Problem: While wafers are designed to be waterproof, some ostomates may still experience peeling edges or worse when theirs gets wet for prolonged periods of time.

Wearing the Blue Crown Club Shower Guard

A shower guard can help keep your appliance dry during showers.

Applying half the Aqua Seal at a time

Wafer extenders (like the Aqua Seal) can help protect your wafer from peeling.

Possible Solutions:

  • Wafer extenders can help to keep the edges of your wafer protected from water.
  • If you don’t have wafer extenders, you could also use medical tape in a pinch.
  • If you don’t swim, but would like to protect your wafer during showers, you could try using a shower guard, like THIS one.
  • Many ostomates who swim will change their appliance after getting out from the water.
  • Salt water will apparently degrade wafers very quickly, so use a wafer extender at the very least when dealing with salt water (from oceans or swimming pools).

Further Reading

Changes in Weight

Problem: Changes in our weight can affect how the wafer sits on our skin.

Photo Credit: Nye Holgate. Used with permission (thanks Nye!)

Photo Credit: Nye Holgate. Used with permission (thanks Nye!)

Possible Solutions:

  • Getting to an ideal weight will allow your wafer to stick on with more consistency.
  • Since weight loss or weight gain can take some time, consider using wafer extenders, an accessory belt or a support garment to help keep your pouch and wafer secured.

Further Reading:

  • A Mini Guide to Ostomy Supplies: Wafer Extenders
  • For reviews on support garments and bands, please see my review page HERE.

Hernias

Problem: Both parastomal hernias (alongside your stoma) and peristomal hernias (around your stoma) can create bulges and uneven surfaces, which make it difficult for your wafer to stick well.

Possible Solutions:

  • Consider a hernia support belt if you’ve got a hernia.
  • In some cases, surgical correction may be necessary. You should speak with your surgeon about this.

Further Reading:

More Resources

You can find a list of my ostomy guides HERE.

If you need the help of a stoma nurse, you can search for one in your area on the Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society’s search page HERE.

Conclusion

If you have trouble keeping your wafer on, I hope that this guide gave you some starting points on where to look as you troubleshoot.

QUESTION: Have you ever had a wafer that won’t agree to stick around? What helped?