Bathroom odors can be an embarrassing challenge for anyone, but ostomates have a few advantages when it comes to odor control. In this post I’ll be going over the most popular (and a few DIY) options of dealing with ostomy pouch odors.
Before I offer these tips, it’s important to remember that you should only notice odor from your ostomy pouch when emptying it or doing an appliance change; a sealed pouch should NOT smell. If you notice odors at any other time, it could indicate a leak, defective ostomy appliance, improperly cleaned pouch outlet or a non-functioning filter (if it’s clogged, it may leak out odor). You should talk to your ostomy nurse if you are having any problems like that.
I’ve put together a short video below, but this article does have more info to consider.
Pouch Deodorants (both scented and unscented) This option may be covered by your insurance plan.
This is one of the most popular ways of controlling pouch odor, and it’s one of my preferred methods because it offers several advantages over the other options.
In-pouch deodorants are either liquids or gels that are poured into your ostomy pouch with each bag change and/or every time you empty your pouch. Some of these deodorants, like the Coloplast Brava Lubricating Drops are lightly scented, while others like the Perfect Choice pouch deodorant are designed to kill odour-causing bacteria. I’ve tested many and have success with most. They are often convenient to use and nobody around you will be affected by the bombardment of scents that often comes with using the next option: room deodorants.
Room deodorants (both scented and unscented)
This is a popular option that is used in bathrooms, not only those occupied by ostomates. This is my least favorite option for the following reasons:
- They usually bother me a lot: My eyes get itchy, my nose stings, I often get a headache and I cough when I’m around these products. I don’t think I’m the only person who experiences these “side-effects”, and I certainly don’t want anyone else who might be using the bathroom after me to be affected either.
- Most don’t work. What’s worse than walking into a room that smells of crap? Walking into a room that smells of crap with a slightly “floral” chemical smell. Products that are designed to mask odors usually don’t mask them well.
- They are inconvenient to use in public. If it’s an aerosol, people will hear you using it, and if it’s a liquid spray, it’s usually not going to be effective enough and you may find yourself spraying before and after you use the bathroom.
- I question their safety when using it 5-10 times a day. If you’re exposing yourself to chemical scents, you’re probably not going to do your body any favors. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that some may be downright dangerous [SOURCE].
There are some products that aren’t meant to mask doors, but are designed to eliminate them from the air (this could just be a marketing gimmick), but I haven’t used anything like that. The closest I’ve used would be a product I received in the hospital during my ileostomy surgery. It’s called “Hex-On” by Coloplast, and it claims to not only remove odors, but it also leaves a “fresh linen” scent that, in all honesty, nauseated me.
Toilet Deodorants This option may be covered by your insurance plan.
This would include products like Poopourri and Just a drop Ostomy (Extra Strength). The idea behind these is to stop odor from coming up from your toilet water. I haven’t tried this solution (yet), but I have a hard time believing that it will effectively handle odors coming from gas or output as you empty your pouch – before it hits the toilet water.
Some people do find this option to be both effective and convenient, so there’s no harm in trying it before making it your long-term solution.
I frequent several forums and come across a lot of very creative solutions to dealing with pouch odor. While some of these may work, I hesitate to recommend them as I don’t know if their “off-label” use is safe. Remember, our stoma (especially with an ileostomy) has the potential to absorb nutrients, as well as chemicals. It’s also made of delicate tissue that isn’t adapted for exposure to certain chemicals found in these DIY solutions.
Here are a few that I’ve come across (use at your own risk!):
- mouthwash used in pouch.
- hydrogen peroxide used in pouch.
- essential oil drops.
- fabric softener(Please don’t!!!!!)
- baking soda
- putting mints like Tic Tac in your pouch
Chlorophyll tablets This option may be covered by your insurance plan.
While you can still find these on the market, it was shown in 1984(!) that these don’t offer any benefit over placebo when it comes to pouch smells. SOURCE
Devrom Tablets This option may be covered by your insurance plan.
This product contains no animal ingredients.
This option requires some effort, as you’ll have to watch what you eat and eliminate things that might cause your output to come out smelling stronger than usual. Each food affects us differently, and you’ll have to experiment for yourself to determine what the offending foods are for you.
Foods that can cause odor
- Baked Beans
- Cod liver oil
- Peanut butter
- Some vitamins
- Strong cheese
I don’t eat fish or eggs (obviously), but from what I’ve read on forums, those are the worst offenders. I do eat garlic, onions, broccoli and beans quite often as they are very nutritious foods and I’d rather not eliminate them from my diet, even if they did cause an odor (since you can still deal with odor in other ways).
Foods that might help reduce odor
- Cranberry juice
- Orange juice
- Tomato juice
Many people eating plant-based diets will likely agree that our poop isn’t as offensive as our meat-eating friends. You’ll read a lot of anecdotal evidence supporting this, but I’d love to know if there’s actually been a study done to confirm this (there is at least one study linking meat-eating to “less attractive” body-odor in men [SOURCE]).
BONUS: What About Soiled Appliances?
Managing odor from what comes out of your bag is one topic, but we also need to watch out for odors coming from our used appliances as well.
Not everyone has the convenience of taking their soiled appliances outside to a trash bin, so here are some things to help contain odors until you can properly dispose of them.
- Odor-proof bags. These can range from products made specifically for ostomates, like THIS product, or even bags used to pick up dog poop.
- OstoSolutions seals. These work great when all you’re doing is swapping your two-piece bag.
- A “Diaper Genie”. I know many ostomates who use these to dispose of their used appliances.
- Scented “kitchen catcher” bags. These are what I use at home as these medium sized bags are really handy during appliance changes (see how I use them in THIS video).
I’ve experimented with ZipLock bags but find that they don’t contain odors very well.
As you can see, we have a lot of options to choose from, and you can even double-up on a few options at once. I prefer the in-pouch solutions as they don’t require any change to my diet and they are often really convenient to use and effective.
- Can chlorophyll reduce fecal odor in colostomy patients? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2675439
- Ostomates Food Reference Chart http://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/resources/ostomates-food-chart.html
- Common Air Fresheners Contain Chemicals That May Affect Human Reproductive Development http://www.nrdc.org/media/2007/070919.asp
- The Effect of Meat Consumption on Body Odor Attractiveness http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/content/31/8/747.full
Title Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net