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. 


Ostomy Care Tips: Showering with an ostomy

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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 taking 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.

Info: I’ve got an entire article dedicated to using filter stickers HERE.

Tip: 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

Info: 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.

Taking 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?

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2 years ago

I shower and bathe with my pouch on. My stoma is way too active and powerful. She (Rose) has shot a good 4 feet across the room a few times so not anymore, Too much clean up.  I had bought a few hand towels at the dollar store and cut them in half, now, once out of the shower, I wrap that around my pouch and keep it in place with a clothespin clipped on at the top, and it dries quick enough for me.  

2 years ago

I usually shower with my pouch on and I use a shower cap to cover the pouch. I find the pouch fits inside nicely and it’s a good enough cover to prevent the pouch becoming wet during my shower. Cheap and cheerful :)

1 year ago
Reply to  Sarah

I use shower caps too. I use two at a time. I find that excess water will collect in the shower cap on the outside, with some water ending up in the cap closest to my skin. The shower cap pulls most of the water away from the appliance. Yes, the appliance gets wet, but not soaking wet. I use a towel pressed against the appliance once the shower caps are removed. The appliance dries very quickly on its own as I brisk my teeth, etc.

2 years ago

Hello all, I am very new to this, my ileostomy is only 22 days old. My stoma-tech gave me a trick that works quite well.
He gave me a bag one size up from my normal size. So basically I put the normal sized bag in the over sized bag, hold everything in place with a simple clip-on belt (all Hollister products). 99% dry for the bag, a little 2 min hair dryer for cloth flange or air dry if time allows.
Shout out to Eric for this site. Incredible amount of info for newbies and veterans.
Bonjour from Montreal!

Kathy MacPherson
Kathy MacPherson(@kathymac)
3 years ago

Showering is a snap. I use a Zip-Loc bag slid up over the bottom of the pouch and bring the upper outside area of the Zip Loc right up over the top of the stoma and fold it over a bit towards the stomach.. Next, I use Hy-Tape (waterproof 1″ wide) to tape across the whole top of the Zip Loc bag leaving about a 1″ excess tape on either side. I now put tape from the top down the sides of the Zip Loc – about 3 to 4″ The pouch and wafer are completely sealed. Experiment and find out the best way for you. I do use the quart-size Zip Loc bag and can use it over and over again after drying it with a hair dryer.

If showering naked, make sure you use a film/glue remover wipe on the skin and hot water in the shower will take care of any residue left on the skin around the stoma. About 99% of the time I can tell if my stoma is going to be quiet or not.

Hope this helps.

3 years ago

Thanks Eric I will be giving it a try probably on days when I change only the bag not the barrier . If nothing else it would rinse out the area  . Butch I actually use a hair dryer on medium heat to warm up my barrier to help it stick after I put it on . Warm it up and rub it with my hand to help make it stick . I change everything  twice a week and take hot showers .  

3 years ago

My wafer tends to stick BETTER in warmer weather, as long as I don’t have a break down from sweating.  My skin dries out badly in cold weather, which I think contributes to why I seem to have more issues getting it to stick in the winter. I don’t worry to much about showering with the bag on, on my non-change days, unless I’m getting some edge peeling.  If that is the case, I’ll tape the edge back down with water-proof tape and be on my way.  I used to be overly concerned about getting it wet and coming off, to the point that I’d wear an ostomy belt in the shower.  I’ve finally proven to myself I don’t need to worry about getting it wet.  

3 years ago

Eric, I think extra heat on hyrocolloidal (sp?) breaks it down quicker  maybe psychological  

1 year ago
Reply to  VeganOstomy

I use a heating pad to seal my appliance after changing it. It works very well in sealing all the edges down. There is probably a fine line between just enough sealing heat and too much heat that may melt down the ring or skin barrier too much. I have never had any trouble with hot water unsealing the barrier.

3 years ago

Here its a concept I have never tried but hey that could be very useful.

3 years ago

Hi Eric and everybody . Eric I just wanna make sure I am understanding this . I can take off my bag and leave my barrier (wafer) on and you don’t think there would be a problem ? That would be great to do . Took me over a year before I would even take everything off and take a shower and that was thanks to advice I received here from several friends and (ostomates) on here . Like Dona said it all goes down the drain disinfect and move on .  Now I do that on change days and its great to get it all off even if only for a few minutes . I use a shower bag for the bag only but doesn’t always keep the bag dry . Then I just dry barrier and bag with towel its no big deal . Only thing I don’t like is water sometimes gets in the folding closure of my bag . I use the Velcro closer bags so then I have to open that and dry it . I use regular bar soap nothing fancy , shampoo n conditioner never had a problem with anything loosening up . If for any reason the edges start to peel I use a Q-Tip with a little spray of medical adhesive and that takes care of it . Sorry long winded here . But Eric if you think it would be no problem I will try barrier n no bag when I can . It would be like a little more freedom ……….

3 years ago
Reply to  Robert

Take it all off Robert, then a new personal appliance.  so enjoy your shower when it is time to change Norman’s tux. other wise, tape that filter…  Enjoy your bike..

Gurwinder Singh
Gurwinder Singh(@singh-gurwinder2)
3 years ago

Can i take the pouch off but leave skin barrier on when I take a shower? will the water cause it to peel off faster?

Anna Rappaport
Anna Rappaport(@traveladdict14)
4 years ago

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!

4 years ago
Reply to  VeganOstomy

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?

4 years ago

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.

4 years ago

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.

4 years ago

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.

4 years ago
Reply to  Poppy

It really does feel nice to shower without the bag! Keep on enjoying those showers! =)

3 years ago
Reply to  VeganOstomy

I take HOT  showers with bag on, but, using a flex shower head keep it from direct contact with wafer thinking it may compromise adhesive