Emptying an Ostomy in Public Restrooms

For those people who have an ostomythey have most likely had to empty it in a public restroom. Although when I got my first ileostomy as a teenager, I would only empty it in my own house. But things change though and you begin to get back into life with responsibilities that pretty much force you to have to do your business in a public restroom.

I don’t know about other ostomates but it is so different emptying my bag in a public restroom versus my own home or a familiar/comfortable setting. I had to use the restroom twice each way on the plane to Chicago. I gotta say- trying to squeeze into that tiny bathroom, unclip the bag, make sure the contents actually fell into the toilet, and that everything was cleaned up properly was a whole ordeal. I am starting to believe it takes skill sometimes to empty an ostomy in these weird, inopportune environments.

If I can go off tangent for a minute… As a teenager, I would go to keg parties in the woods where there was obviously no restroom. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I would run to a part of the woods where I knew no one was or had any intention of going in order to empty my pouch. I would wipe the bottom of the bag and clip with a leaf or something else I had found to clean it. Kind of gross but it worked. Sometimes you need to do what you have to in order to not miss out on.. well, life.

One of the reasons I like when the output is liquid is because it makes it so much easier for me to empty. And I am so much quicker too. A fellow IBDer and ostomate commented yesterday on my blog post saying that he hates when the output in his ostomy is liquidy because it makes him worry more about it leaking. I think the opposite is true; leaking occurs more frequently for me when the output is thick. Just goes to show you everyone has a different mindset (and physical anatomy) when it comes to pretty much everything.

Anyway, you do get used to emptying your pouch in all sorts of bathrooms. I used porta potties at Get Your Guts in Gear and have used them many times since. You do learn the ropes with all of this like anything else.


My diet is also different if I know I am going to be going out (and therefore, emptying in a public restroom.) While I allow myself certain soups that contain minimal and specific vegetables, I wouldn’t feel comfortable eating that if I wasn’t home. Anything that doesn’t digest comes out too thick and it becomes time consuming and very annoying to deal with. Not to mention, I can feel my stoma working which isn’t something I want to even think about when I am out having a good time.


I always love hearing from other people who have ostomies. What are some tricks you do when you have to empty your ostomy in a public place? How long did it take before you became comfortable using a restroom outside of your own home/comfort zone? What type of appliance do you use? Comment or email me at Marisa.IBD@gmail.com. If you have a trick/tip, I can even add it to my blog in the “Every Little Tip Helps” section which was created (and still new) so we can all help each other.

  • http://veganostomy.blogspot.com/ veganostomy

    I’ve been to some very tight public washrooms since getting an ostomy, and it really does require some skill (and sometimes luck). If I was overweight or had other physical challenges, I don’t know how I’d be able to empty my pouch in those places.

  • http://gravatar.com/fabgrandma Karen

    When I got sick and went in the hospital and wound up having the surgery that gave me my colostomy, I was working for the National Park Service at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was a 200 mile drive from my RV home to the hospital in Flagstaff. I stayed in the hosptial for 34 days, and then had to return to Flagstaff once a week for six weeks for followup with the surgeon, and to have stitches removed. The last stitches came out on July 18, surgery was on May 24.

    Anyway, on the first trip back to Flagstaff, I had the big “D” and my pouch filled up halfway to the first place we could stop with a restroom, out in the middle of no where. I was still weak from surgery and could barely stand up. My husband and my daughter had to hold me up while I emptied that bag on the side of Hwy 89A, one of the most traveled scenic highways in the state of Arizona. I was embarrased but it was entirely necessary to empty the pouch. It was that, or wear the diahrrea. This post reminded me of that day. I can laugh now…..

  • http://twitter.com/UlcColitisProbz UC Problems (@UlcColitisProbz)

    What do you do about smell?? Every time I empty my bag, I want to vomit. HELP!!

    • http://risaroo86.wordpress.com Marisa Lauren

      Hollister makes drops that you can put in the bag to neutralize the smell. I would look on their website. Tweet to me if you can’t seem to find it and I’ll try to help you out :) @JournalingIBD