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Caring for Your Urinary (Foley) Catheter

This information will help you care for your urinary (Foley®) catheter while you're at home.

A Foley catheter (a thin, flexible tube) has been placed into your bladder to drain your urine. It is held inside your bladder by a balloon filled with water.

A video demonstrating how to change your Foley catheter drainage bag can be found on the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website at:

Daily Catheter Care

Perform catheter care every day. You can do this while in the shower, but not while taking a tub bath.

You will need the following supplies:

  • Mild soap, such as Dove®
  • Water
  • A clean washcloth (not one already used for bathing) or a 4”x 4” piece of gauze
  • 1 Cath-Secure®
  • Night drainage bag
  • 2 alcohol swabs
  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  2. Using mild soap and water, clean your genital area.
  • Men should retract the foreskin, if needed, and clean the area, including the penis.
  • Women should separate the labia, and clean the area from front to back.
  1. Clean your urinary opening, which is where the catheter enters your body.
  2. Clean the catheter from where it enters your body and then down, away from your body. Hold the catheter at the point it enters your body so that you don't put tension on it.
  3. Rinse the area well and dry it gently.
  4. Use a Cath-Secure to keep the catheter from moving.

Changing the Drainage Bag

You will change your drainage bag twice a day.

  • In the morning after you shower, change the night bag to the leg bag
  • At night before you go to bed, change the leg bag to the night bag
  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  2. Empty the urine from the drainage bag into the toilet before you change it.
  3. Pinch off the catheter with your fingers and disconnect the used bag.
  4. Wipe the end of the catheter using an alcohol pad.
  5. Wipe the connector on the new bag using the second alcohol pad.
  6. Connect the clean bag to the catheter and release your finger pinch.
  7. Check all connections. Straighten any kinks or twists in the tubing.

Caring for the Leg Bag

  • Always wear the leg bag below your knee. This will help it drain.
  • Keep the leg bag secure with the Velcro® straps. If the straps leave a mark on your leg, they are too tight and should be loosened. Leaving the straps too tight can decrease your circulation and lead to blood clots.
  • Empty the leg bag through the spout at the bottom every 2 to 4 hours, as needed. Do not let the bag become completely full.
  • Do not lie down for longer than 2 hours while you are wearing the leg bag.

Caring for the Night Bag

  • Always keep the night bag below the level of your bladder.
  • To hang your night bag while you sleep, place a clean plastic bag inside of a wastebasket. Hang the night bag on the inside of the wastebasket.

Cleaning the Drainage Bags

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  2. Rinse the equipment with cool water. Do not use hot water because it can damage the plastic equipment.
  3. Wash the equipment with a mild liquid detergent (e.g., Ivory®) and rinse with cool water.
  4. To decrease odor, fill the bag halfway with a mixture of 1 part white vinegar and 3 parts water. Shake the bag and let it sit for 15 minutes.
  5. Rinse the bag with cool water and hang it up to dry.

Preventing Infection

  • Keep the drainage bag below the level of your bladder and off the floor at all times.
  • Keep the catheter secured to your thigh to prevent it from moving.
  • Do not lie on or block the flow of urine in the tubing.
  • Shower daily to keep the catheter clean.
  • Clean your hands before and after touching the catheter or bag.
  • The spout of the drainage bag should never touch the side of the toilet or any emptying container.

Special Points

  • You may see some blood or urine around where the catheter enters your body, especially when walking or having a bowel movement. This is normal, as long as there is urine draining into the drainage bag.
  • Drink 1 to 2 glasses of liquids every 2 hours while you're awake.

Call your doctor immediately if:

  • Your catheter comes out; do not try to replace it yourself
  • You have a temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher
  • You have a decrease in the amount of urine you are making
  • You have foul-smelling urine
  • You have bright red blood or large blood clots in your urine
  • You have abdominal pain and no urine in your catheter bag