Colostomy Irrigation: Hints and Tips

Your doctor or stoma care nurse may recommend colostomy irrigation. If so, learn the basics, including helpful hints and tips.


Learn about colostomy irrigation.

Colostomy irrigation is used to manage faecal output by cleansing the bowel. It involves using specialist equipment to introduce a measured amount of water into the bowel via the stoma. 


Talk to your surgeon first to see if this method is suitable for you. Irrigation should always be taught by a stoma care nurse. 

Colostomy irrigation hints and tips 

Irrigation requires access to a toilet and clean water for at least one hour. Normally, irrigation is done at a regular time, every one or two days. It usually takes two to three weeks to establish a routine.

Some helpful tips to consider:

  • Plan ahead so you can irrigate at a time of day when you will not be disturbed
  • If you need to clip clothing out of the way, a peg can be useful for this
  • Don’t irrigate when you are ill or have diarrhoea. You can resume when you’re well again.
  • If you are dehydrated the bowel may absorb too much water, which results in an unsuccessful irrigation. Alcohol consumption may cause dehydration.
  • Use luke warm water, ensuring it’s not too hot or too cold

Difficulties you may experience

If you encounter any problems inserting the irrigation cone, do not apply due pressure. Try to relax and move the cone around in the stoma opening. Some people say they experience discomfort or pain when inserting the water. If you do, try these steps: 

  • Stop the water flow
  • Gently massage your abdomen
  • Slow down the rate at which you instill the water
  • Make sure that the water is neither too hot nor too cold
  • Try to move around and change position

If the water doesn’t flow in, increase the height of the water container. You may also try gently altering the position or direction of the funnel inside your stoma until you feel the water start to flow. If the water still doesn’t flow, try changing your position or moving around. Some patients have also reported that having a hot drink may be helpful.

If your stoma works between irrigations, please consult with your stoma care nurse. They may advise you to adjust the water volume you’re using or reduce the time in-between each irrigation.