Ostomy Appliance Won’t Stick? Here Are Some Tips (w/ video)

Ostomy WaferNot Sticking header

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.


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

Ostomy wafer not sticking? Here are a few tips.
Watch this video on YouTube.
By playing the above video you agree to YouTube's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

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:


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.

Ostomy Care Tips: Dealing with Pancaking
Watch this video on YouTube.
By playing the above video you agree to YouTube's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

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


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.

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 the 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:


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.

Possible Solutions:

  • Always follow your stoma nurse’s 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:


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.

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 your 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.

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.


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.


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?

32 thoughts on “Ostomy Appliance Won’t Stick? Here Are Some Tips (w/ video)”

  1. Been having trouble with the base of my stoma leaking, I try to keep it as dry as I can when I apply everything. But after I put the barrier ring and then the wafer on obviously the dampness underneath causes the wafer to unstick. Do you know what I can do about this cuz it’s getting very frustrating. Been going on 3 months and my doctors and the stoma team that I had when I had my surgery in May, has been no help. I know the health care industry has changed immensely since COVID and vaccine mandates so a lot of the good people in those departments are gone. Any help would be grateful. Thank you in advance

    • Hi Ann,

      I’m sorry to hear about that.

      It’s important to try an identify what’s causing this dampness before you can address it.

      Do you know if it’s sweat? Is your skin raw or irritated and “weeping"? Is the leak causing your wafer to unstick or does the unsticking happen first and causes the wafer to leak (this will be hard to know, to be honest)?

      How long can you keep your wafer on before it leaks?

    • My son has what he call slimy skin around where his stomach is so his flanges are not sticking what can I do to make them stick how do I get the sliminess to go away

      • Hi Jennifer,

        It may be helpful if we can identify the source of this slimy skin. It could be the skin itself being oily, or even something with the wafer (i.e. old adhesive) that hasn’t been cleaned off.

        Either way, the skin should be clean and dry before putting the appliance on for the best chance at getting a good seal.

        I often use just plain water and a gauze pad to clean the skin; other people will use mild soap.

        I also use rubbing alcohol on the skin to help remove any residue and to help make it dry. This isn’t something I’d suggest without caution, but it’s what I’ve done for years now.

        Good luck!

      • Jennifer … when is your son finding this slimy skin??   Its pretty typical to have it just after removing a pouch to put on a new pouch. The skin under the wafer will be softer then when it was put on.  As Eric said, its very important to spend time cleaning the area of skin under the wafer to make it secure for the next pouch. 
        If he’s using the adhesive remover wipes or spray (I use both),   He needs to use several of them to clean the old residue off & not get build up. He can rinse with just plain water & use a wipe to help wash the skin too. I find this cuts down on wipe use as well, but make sure to dry the skin thoroughly.   I can feel the difference in my skin under the adhesive remover cloth when I have it all off.   Then using a barrier wipe or spray & letting it dry helps protect the skin from nasty rashes. That barrier skin spray or wipe should be put on right to the edge where skin meets stoma.  It is safe to get the skin barrier on the stoma or he can use tissue or a piece of gauze to dry his stoma & prevent the skin barrier from getting on his stoma.  Drying a typically fluid producing stoma before applying a new pouch or wafer is important here too. 
        I’m 14 yrs with an ileostomy & my skin is always slimy around my stoma area under the edges of wafer to my pouch every time I change it. 
        Your son is lucky to have a good supportive Mom helping him out here!! Feel free to introduce yourself & your son here on a new forum & tell his ostomy journey here too,  its always nice to get to know the newbies a bit & who is supporting them here.  All the best! 

    • Hi Ann… it sounds like your putting the barrier ring & wafer on seperatly…? 
      Maybe try placing the ring on the wafer & pressing it into the shape of your cut hole before it goes on your skin then it all goes on at once.  If your stoma is long enough… I’m able to wrap mine in tissue paper while my skin is drying from Barrier spray or wipes. I use 3 ply as the  2 ply seems to leave pieces behind & that can cause issues also. Bcuz I have a very active ileostomy, named Rose, I prepare a whole roll of tissue as described above, then I’m always ready plus when my stoma works while changing my pouch, the tissue wrapped around my stoma directs the output away from my skin as it flows through the open end even after I’ve twisted it for further security. 
      I take 3 squares, fold them in half, then fold the tissue now  1 1/2 squares long  due to the fold, then fold again kitty corner & this makes like a triangle flag of sorts. Then place the nearest point under your stoma sticking away from you & wrap it up tucking an edge point under nearest you to help keep it in place & I always twist the end a bit to help keep the paper snug. My stoma produces a lot of fluids so this has helped me a lot. I also tightly wrap 1 square into a triangle & twist it tightly then holding it between my teeth until I need it. Then before placing my stoma into the hole of the pouch I use that twisted piece to stick my stoma into the bag.  Remove it just before sticking on your wafer. 
      Folding the wafer away from you & starting at the bottom allows you to stick the wafer right where you need it. Roll it up & use that piece in your teeth to stick your stoma in & toss that tissue.   Then, once on, Press gently all around the opening nearest your stoma  concentrating at areas of leakage first then work outward. Place the palm of your hand over the wafer & stoma for a few min. to let the heat of your hand encourage more sticking. 
      I hope this helps. No question is a dumb question here.  You can ask anything you need to ask.  

      • Hi, I’m Krista. I also have a very high output ileostomy. I do similar with toilet paper to absorb the outer “juices" from my stoma. I take 2 squares, fold it in half, and then again. I don’t tuck it in, the wetness usually keeps it on. I just wrap it underneath and around, like a U. I’m having issues with my belly button. After a day, it turns white underneath by my belly button. I’m on IV fluids and TPN, so I tend to retain water and my abdomen shape changes a bit. And thoughts??? Thank you.

        • Hi Krista,

          Changes to skin colour should be looked at by a nurse or doctor, just to rule out any cause for concern.

          Does it look like your skin is turning white from pressure, as if something has been pushing on it for a while? Or is the colour on top of your skin?

        • @KRISTA SOBOTNIK … Hi Krista!! Welcome to VO!  I agree with Eric, just to be sure there is nothing going on with skin pressure & whatever else can change with our tender skin, it is best to get it checked out.  I learned a long time ago to lean on what I was taught… " if in doubt, check it out!"…  Something my Mom often said to us kids! 
          That said, I’ve had my Ileostomy for many years now & my skin beneath my wafer is something I baby very well!  It has’nt seen the sunshine like it used to, lol, so it is WHITE under there!! You’ll find skin changes here & there. For instance, your skin will toughen up around your stoma, but it takes time & caution from leaks..  Always be gentle taking a wafer off, I have carelessly had small  areas of skin pull off around the outer edge & it can be hard to heal & even feel like a burn of sorts. 
          So glad you joined us today! Don’t be shy! 

  2. My home care nurse has told me to put the barrier spray, let it dry, and then apply powder. I have had 2 nurses tell me this. Is this incorrect? Or is it just better to do it in the opposite order (powder & then spray)?

    Hi Susan, I tend to prefer a spray or dabbing a barrier wipe over the powder so that the wafer has a better substrate to stick to.

    If you try to apply the wafer on top of the powder, it won’t stick well. 

    In either case, after applying the powder, it’s best to tap or shake any excess powder off the skin. 

  3. I had an emergency surgery with part of my colon removed about 6 weeks ago, but fortunately, this will be reversed. I am still learning and having many problems.
    I am having trouble with the seal leaking or bursting, but for numbers reasons, I believe.
    Last night I realized that I had pancaking going on. I couldn’t get it all moved down, so early this morning, I had another seal leak pretty badly. Thank you for the information on this…I was not aware of that before. Thanks to your video, I will keep an eye on it and start using a lubricating pouch deodorant!

    My question today is about the technique that you use for applying the barrier spray and powder. My
    home care nurse has told me to put the barrier spray, let it dry, and then apply powder. I have had 2 nurses tell me this. Is this incorrect? Or is it just better to do it in the opposite order (powder & then spray)?
    Thank you so much for your help. Your provide a great service here!

  4. Other suggestions:

    Using opiates every so often will make the stool output thicker so using a stool softener or a laxative (ie. RestoraLax) the same day or the day after will thin the output and increase the time you can wear the wafer without it falling off. Other drugs may also thicken the output.

    When cutting the wafer opening to fit the stoma, the sizing may be further optimized by cutting it a bit smaller or larger depending on how thick your output is.

    Shave under the area where you are going to apply the wafer. Body hair may reduce adhesion and make the wafer painful to remove.

    Consider a larger or smaller wafer opening when buying the wafers depending on your physique. If your body around the stoma is perfectly flat under the wafer you are lucky but if it is raised up around the stoma you don’t want to use a wafer with too big an opening because rocking back and forth of the wafer may occur when you sit down or lie on your side. Experiment with the size of the opening.


Leave a comment. (Your email will not be published)