Showering With an Ostomy (w/ Video)


When you’re a new ostomate, the inevitable questions about showering tend to come up: Can I get my appliance wet? Should I remove my appliance? Will water hurt my stoma? Fortunately, these questions are pretty easy to answer, but there are certain considerations to keep in mind. 


Common Issues

In general, showering with your appliance shouldn’t be an issue, since both bags and wafers are designed to be waterproof, however, some ostomates may find the following to be annoying:

Bag Gets Wet

Not so much of a problem if you are used to wearing clear pouches since there’s little to no fabric on them, but things are a little different if you’re wearing an opaque, fabric-covered bag.

One of the gripes I have with Hollister pouches is that they absorb water and need to be thoroughly dried off after getting wet.  By contrast, the Coloplast Sensura Mio’s do a great job repelling water and need no special aftercare when getting out of the shower.

Coloplast Sensura Mio wet
The Coloplast Sensura Mio handles water like a champ!

If your bag gets wet, you can use a towel to pat it dry, but I prefer using a hairdryer instead.  It takes maybe a minute to get things fully dry with a hairdryer and I find that helps to dry my wafer too. Just use common sense when you’re using a hairdryer since you will be burned if you’ve got the heat cranked up and have it pointed at your skin.

The Wafer Peels

This may or may not be an issue depending on the appliance you use, but I sometimes find that exposure to water causes my wafer to peel on the edges a bit.  When this happens, I find that drying the wafer with a hairdryer while pressing down on the edges can get it to stick back onto my skin.

If this happens often, you might want to consider a wafer extender (like Aqua Seal Rings), or medical tape (although you’ll need to use the right tape or it’ll get messy).

Wafer extenders will keep your wafer from peeling when wet.
Wafer extenders will keep your wafer from peeling when wet.

The Filter Gets Wet

Most bags with filters on them will include stickers that you’d place over your filter before having a shower.

When a filter gets wet it no longer works at removing gas from your pouch to prevent ballooning, so it’s important to protect it when you can.

These stickers will help to keep the filter dry, and they can be removed after your shower.

Assortment of ostomy filter stickers
Filter stickers can come in various sizes, shapes, and colors.
I’ve got an entire article dedicated to using filter stickers HERE.
If you’re recently out of surgery, you may have some fresh wounds to keep covered. It’s best to speak with your doctor or wound care nurse about specific instruction on showering with fresh incisions, but I found that simply protecting them from water worked best for me until the wounds healed.

Use a Removable Shower Head!

Perhaps one of the most useful things to have in your bathroom, a removable shower head allows you to aim water in exactly the spots you want to get wet.  This offers you control over simply standing under a stream of water, but it does require some maneuvering if the goal is to avoid your incision wounds or appliance.

Another bonus with using a shower head is that it allows you to quickly rinse your tub.

Make a DIY Cover

While not very pretty, practical or time-saving, you can fashion your own cover out of medical tape and plastic wrap (yup, like the stuff you use to keep food fresh).

DIY ostomy shower cover
One of the first DIY shower covers I wore. Note that the tape used in this photo has tiny holes in it, and was not very effective in keeping the water out.

Originally, I had used standard medical tape which didn’t work well because of the tiny holes in it.  I later switched to using Hy-Tape, which seems to stick better to skin, and is waterproof, but it can still be difficult to handle.

One trick I learned was to prepare my tape before cutting the plastic wrap; I would simply cut four 6″ strips of Hy-Tape (usually 1″ wide) and hang them on a nearby rack that was within reach. I would then cut about 12″ of plastic wrap and lay it over my appliance (which I had folded in half to make smaller).  I would then tape the top of the plastic wrap, making sure that most of the tape was on my skin, then I’d do the sides and bottom, making sure that there are no tunnels that water could get in from.

I did experiment with leaving the bottom uncovered to save time, but I found that the steam from my showers would get trapped under the cover and would still cause my appliance and wound to get wet, so I’d recommend covering all sides of the plastic wrap.

This system isn’t perfect, and it will take practice, but it’ll do a good enough job to keep your appliance and fresh incisions protected from water and moisture.

Try a Shower Cover

Not covered by insurance (at least not mine), these are commercial products that are designed to keep your appliance dry.  They are worn much like an apron around your waist and can be dried off and reused.

I have tried one brand that features a pouch pocket that protects your entire pouch from getting wet.  You can read the full review on that one HERE.

Wearing the Blue Crown Club Shower Guard
Wearing the Blue Crown Club Shower Guard
To read my guide on shower covers, please check out THIS article.

Take the Bag off and Go Completely Naked!

Many ostomates (including yours truly) love to have showers completely in the nude without a bag on. This can be so satisfying, but you do want to hop in during a time you know that your stoma will be inactive.

Having a shower when you’ve got an active stoma can be a messy affair, so I always have a few gauze pads at the ready to wrap around my stoma before and after I use the shower. If you happen to poop while in the shower, keep calm and rinse it off your skin and shower floor (that removable shower head will be quite handy at this point!). You can use bleach or a similar cleaner to disinfect the tub after you get out of the shower.

Keep in mind that water will not hurt your stoma, but you should avoid any shampoo, conditioner or soap that has extra moisturizer or it may leave a film on your skin that makes it difficult for your pouch to stick.

Special Considerations: Anal Wounds

When I had my rectum removed, I had showers with my wound VAC dressing still attached (only the nurse could remove it!), but with the VAC hose disconnected. When the VAC treatment was finally discontinued, and I still had an open wound, I didn’t have to pay any special attention to it.

Question : Have you had any difficulty showering with your ostomy appliance? What about naked showers?

9 thoughts on “Showering With an Ostomy (w/ Video)

  1. This is silly but how much soap/shampoo/conditioner CAN drip down? I’m so paranoid when I shower the shampoo/conditioner from my long hair and body wash is dripping down on my wafer-I’m trying to not to but it’s obviously unavoidable. I have tried using the no-oil, no moisturizer, totally plain soaps and my skin goes nuts!

    • As long as your skin is clean and free of any residues from the soap/shampoo/conditioner, you should be fine. I use all kinds of soaps and shampoo in the shower and it’s never been an issue, but I don’t go out of my way to get special types that have added moisturizers.

      Conditioners will likely be the most problematic as they are meant to leave something behind on your hair where shampoo would prefer to be washed off clean.

      Are you showering without your appliance on? This should only matter if your appliance is OFF of your skin.

      • Thanks for responding so quickly. I’ve been having a nightmare of a time since getting my ileo last weds. Lots of skin allergies and still can’t get a fit without leaking due to the stoma emptying out from the bottom which is under my skin.

        I’m scared to get my appliance wet but have been doing it anyway. I haven’t gotten to shower bagless yet on a change day since I’ve had such unpredictable changes:(

        If I condition my hair you’re saying it’s best to keep the whole appliance on?

        • Keeping your appliance on means that any soap/shampoo/conditioner will be on the outside of your appliance and not where the wafer sticks to. This would be a good option to consider if you think your conditioner leaves a residue.

          Have you been able to see a dermatologist regarding your skin allergies? You may need to be tested as each brand uses a different adhesive that may or may not be compatible with your skin.

  2. I too enjoy removing the bag, usually in the mornings are best. For those other times I have good luck with the Glad Press and Seal.

  3. I’ve always showered with my bag and used the hairdryer method. I can’t shower with the bag off, because I can’t predict my stoma output AT ALL. It’s basically always at least a little active, which makes bag changes fun and exciting completely stressful and awful. When I use the hairdryer, I just make sure it’s on low heat and I try to pat as much excess water off as I can with a towel, especially around the wafer tape. For the skin under my bag, I clean it when I do my bag changes once a week and that seems to have worked for the last 25 years.

    • Thanks for your comment :) If your system works, stick with it! Many people would find it alarming to shower without an appliance and a very active/unpredictable stoma, so I wouldn’t feel bad about it or anything.

      Take care!

  4. I have never showered with my bag on in the 2 weeks since I have had the ileostomy. The stoma nurse said it wasn’t necessary and I must admit it is the one time that I feel really clean. Haven’t had an active moment yet in the shower but I guess it will come some day. Still have the stitches but no issues with getting it wet at all. Go for the naked shower.

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