11 Hacks For Worry-free Emptying Your Ostomy Bag In Public
Emptying your ostomy bag at home is probably just routine for you by now. It’s your own space. Your own four walls.
However, when it comes to emptying your stoma bag in public, things might not be as simple.
You can’t kneel or sit in a public bathroom because it’s (obviously) too gross. Maybe there is no toilet paper or a shelf to put your stuff on. It’s just a major hassle.
The problem can be even more embarrassing when using a friend’s bathroom. You’d risk causing a persistent odor or an unsightly scene in their bathroom.
So how do you go about emptying your ostomy bag in public? We will give you the answer right now:
Emptying your bag standing up is the most hygienic option in public. For seamlessly emptying your stoma pouch in public, wipes, air freshener, a mirror, and other useful supplies can make the process much cleaner and easier. Also, carry a water bottle that can double as a rinsing bottle in public.
In the following article, we’ve put together 11 tips and tricks to make emptying your ostomy bag in public a breeze (hopefully, an odorless one). Read on!
1. Keep a stoma travel bag
Living with a stoma can be a challenge. Your stoma will require some degree of special care. When emptying your bag in public, you might not have access to many useful items. Keeping a small travel kit in your car, your backpack, or as a shoulder bag can make your life MUCH easier. Your bag can contain:
- Wet wipes
- Tissue paper
- A spare bag and (if necessary) wafer
- A disposable plastic bag
…. And anything else you can think of!
These things might not be readily available at your friend’s house. Packing them all together in one travel kit can make things a lot simpler (and cleaner). Make sure to check our article on how you can create a stylish stoma travel bag to have everything you can possibly need ready!
2. Buy a travel-size air fresher
One of the most embarrassing things about emptying your ostomy bag in public or at a friend’s house is the stinky smell you might leave. So, how do you deal with the odor?
One very handy suggestion is packing a travel-size air freshener with you whenever you go in public.
An air-freshener can eliminate the stinky smell and leave the bathroom odorless after you’re done emptying your ostomy bag. You can leave your friend’s toilet smelling cleaner and fresher once you’re done.
3. Make use of specialized wipes
If you don’t already use wipes, then you’re absolutely missing out. Wipes can come in handy in a million daily situations, and not just when emptying your stoma bag in public. No toilet paper? No problem.
Specialized wipes can be used:
- To wipe the stoma bag opening
- To wipe the skin around your stoma
- To clean yourself if there’s any leak
- To put it on top of the toilet seat
- As a replacement for regular tissue paper
Wipes are an excellent alternative to rinsing, and much easier to carry around than a water bottle (after all, they are pocket-sized). If the one you’re using is not wet enough, you can always wet them at the sink or using a water bottle for your convenience.
If you don’t already use THOSE wipes, then you’re missing out twice. These stoma specialized wipes beat standard wipes in many characteristics: absorbance, durability & ideal for dermatological treatments of your sensitive peristomal skin.
4. Antiseptic wet wipes to clean the toilet seat
It might come as a surprise for you, but public toilets are usually not the cleanest there is. With dozens of people using it daily, the surface of a toilet seat can be covered with innumerable germs and bacteria.
If you like to sit down when emptying your stoma bag in public, then antiseptic wet wipes are perfect for you. Antiseptic wet wipes, which are widely available, can kill the microbes and make the toilet seat squeaky clean.
Don’t, however, use these wipes to clean your stoma or the skin around it.
Specialized stoma wipes are designed specifically for this purpose.
5. Use a small mirror or make-up mirror
Whether you’re emptying your bag in public or at home, a small mirror, especially a stand-alone one, can prove useful.
Since your stoma is not very visually accessible to you, a mirror can help you:
- check if your bag or waver is properly fixed to the skin
- check if there’s been any leaks when emptying/changing your bag
- position the new stoma bag (if you’re changing it) perfectly around your stoma
- check if there are any residual feces on the bottom of your bag or around it.
If you already carry around a small makeup mirror, it can prove useful for when you’re emptying your stoma bag as well.
6. Bring a opaque bag to dispose your waste
If you’re using a closed-end (non-drainable) ostomy bag, then disposing of it in public can be a hassle. This is especially true if you’re at a friend’s house. What do you do with the full bag? You don’t want to just throw it and leave a gross scene in the trash bin. Not to mention the odor that it will cause.
One thing you can do is use a sealable plastic bag, or even a doggy poop bag. A sealable plastic bag can effectively prevent the odor from reeking, and looks better than just throwing your stoma pouch as it is in the trash bin.
Try to find opaque plastic bags and not transparent ones for more discretion.
A doggy poop bag is another good alternative. It may not be as effective against the smell, but therefore one could assume another content..
7. Check the flushing system before emptying
One common problem that ostomates report is the failure to flush. Many times, the stool is hard to flush and requires multiple tries before everything clears out. Another problem is toilets with automatic flush, that get activated when you sit back. Now, you wouldn’t want this surprise if you’re emptying your bag with your clothes on, would you?
When emptying your ostomy bag in public, make sure to check if the flush is working, how long it takes to refill, and if you can properly reach the handle. If it’s automatic, you can simply blind the sensor with toilet paper or wipes!
8. Throw some tissue paper into the toilet
For ostomates, splashback is a nightmare. No one wants to spend their time wiping poop off the bathroom floor and walls (or even worse, their clothes). This is especially embarrassing when emptying your stoma bag in public.
A good tip to reduce splashback when emptying your pouch is to throw some crammed up tissue paper into the toilet before you start emptying the contents.
Don’t throw TOO many though. You don’t want to end up clogging the toilet.
9. Carry a water bottle with you
Around 60%* of ostomates rinse their stoma bag after emptying it. This can be easily done at home by keeping a specialized spray bottle, syringe, squirt bottle, or even a cup in your bathroom. However, how can you rinse your stoma bag when in public and you don’t always want to carry extra things?
Keeping a sports squirt bottle on you or a disposable water bottle might be the way to go.
You can pack one of these in your backpack. Nobody will ask you why you take this weird looking petri-bottle or syringe to the bathroom. If your bottle is empty, you can still fill it at the sink before you use it to rinse the bag.
Additionally, carrying a water bottle also helps you to stay hydrated which is especially important for if you have an ileostomy.
10. Avoid germs by standing or squatting
You’re in public. No wipes, no water bottle, no tissues with you. The public toilet is less-than-clean (to put it nicely). Too worrying? It’s okay. There’s still a decent way to empty your stoma bag in public even if you don’t have any of these items around.
Around 30%* of ostomates already empty their bag while standing up. You can do this when in public as well. Because, let’s face it, nobody wants to sit down on a toilet seat after it’s been used by a thousand other people. Not to mention, kneeling on the gross bathroom floor.
By emptying your pouch standing up, you can avoid all the germs and bacteria, although the risk of splashback and getting output all on yourself can be higher.
Squatting (which is a bit less comfortable but a good exercise), can reduce the risk of splashing. Squatting? Yes! Make sure you check out our other article to see how squatting is performed and to get more tips on how to avoid splashback and empty your stoma bag.
11. Use the “family” or “accessible” facility
Unfortunately, public restrooms still don’t properly accommodate ostomates’ needs. Nevertheless, most public venues, like restaurants, cinemas, train stations, malls, and gas stations do have specialized facilities for individuals with reduced mobility or for changing for babies.
These spacious specialized facilities can be very useful for ostomates when emptying their stoma bag in public. They usually are bigger and have shelves where you can put your supplies so that they are reachable to you.
You can also make use of the diaper disposal to get rid of your stoma pouch without leaving a nasty stink. Many facilities also provide wipes and cleaning products that can make the whole process much cleaner.
As time passes, emptying your ostomy bag in public can be as simple and comfortable as doing it in your own bathroom. You just need proper preparation to be ready to face any challenge that might come up. As a final note, to avoid any hygienic issue, always take Bioderm Stoma Plus cleanser with you.