Reusing ostomy bags: How long is too long?

Feb 10, 2020 3:55 pm

Hi gang,

Ok, maybe that's not the question. Bear with me...... So I change my barrier/bag, which is a Hollister 2-piece, every other day. Obviously, I go through supplies pretty quickly. And they're expensive. Yes, my insurance bears the brunt of that, but only after I've met my ordering things after the New Year gets pretty deep in my pockets. Now I'd never thought to re-use my bags until I got on here and read how long some of you can go without a bag change. And I got thinking if some folks are going 7 days without a change then the bag can easily last a week, maybe more. I had been saving and stockpiling my used bags for some time now, I guess just as emergency supplies if I ever ran out of new ones, I'd just clean them real well after removing them. Yeah, it can be an EWWWWW! thing for some, but it's only crap.......about the most natural thing since dirt, so don't be such a pussy. Anyway, I wash them out with soap and warm water, pat dry and then let them air dry.

A few months ago I started re-using them on weekends only, as a trial. I only re-use them once and then toss out. But I looked at one I took off this morning and washed and dried it just for shits and grins. Still looks fine to me. So now I'm wondering if I should try to re-use them twice? Not really seeing a reason not to. So I'd like to hear from anyone who's as much a cheapskate as me, or has any info on why or why not to re-use. It's just a plastic bag, so I'm just saving the planet by recycling and depriving the medical supply company of much unneeded profit. Sounds like a win-win, no? What say ye oh wise and honorable ostomates?



Remember.....sticks and stones might break my bones....but if not I'm going to pick up the bitches and throw them back at ya!

Feb 10, 2020 4:05 pm

I usually use two per week. Every 3 to 4 days. I am very fortunate. In Manitoba, Canada, we get our supplies for free. We are the only province that does this. I have to pay for other things like the deodorant and Diamond Sachet, etc. I still have skin issues under my skin seal.

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Feb 10, 2020 5:07 pm

Hey Bob, I think your post might have been a great service to some folks.  There's reason to believe some folks can't imagine reusing their stuff.  Maybe some never even thought about it so thanks for the suggestion.


Past Member
Feb 10, 2020 5:31 pm

At first my bags would last 2-3 days, now they last 7-10 days. I thought about cleaning them, ya know just in case of a zombie apocalypse LOL. I use Hollister too, they are expensive, I'm lucky the province of Ontario is paying for now, my question is what to do about adhesive.

I have used one piece right from leaving the hospital, I guess they are not reusable.

Feb 10, 2020 6:03 pm

Bob, the only problem I see with recycling bags is possible infection. After washing with soap, a dip in vinegar would kill off yeast. My niece, who was a CNA at a nursing home, told me they used to recycle bags all the time. She felt it should not be done, but never heard any patient caught an infection.

Words of Encouragement from Ostomy Advocates I Hollister
Feb 10, 2020 6:32 pm

I have a Hollister two-piece system also. I only use the drainable bag when I have a colostomy exam and I am taking prep. If I was careful draining it, I think I could get a few days out of it, but only use it for the day of the test. My closed bags that I wear regularly, I usually change and dump every day, but once on vacation when I thought I was running low, I would rinse my bag, towel dry it, and just put it on again. The filter would be ruined; they do not work that well anyway. I am glad I can just toss them.

Past Member
Feb 10, 2020 6:51 pm

Hey Bob,

Recently, this batch (Hollister) has been leaking almost every day or two. Before, it was three, maybe four, like clockwork. I have noticed that after cutting the hole and peeling off the plastic from the adhesive part, it wants to stop and start lifting the main plastic adhesive center up. It's a convex shape in the center. The frequency of leakage into the adhesive is the problem for me.

Feb 10, 2020 10:14 pm

Bob, my time of use for the bags varies according to how many times I have output. Sometimes it may be more or less. I use baby oil to help it slide out of the bag and squirt water in the end of the bag to rinse it out and put a little more oil back in. I change when I can smell it through the bag. I would think if you have watery output, you could either rinse it out from the top or bottom, put some deodorant in the bag, and go several days. My insurance only pays for 20 bags a month. I wonder who decided that. I guess they don't know there are more days in a month than 20. Do you think they ever had to clean a bag? I doubt it. LOL There are also plastic gloves you can use to wash and clean if that is what you want to do.

Feb 11, 2020 12:17 am

Same here

Feb 16, 2020 4:14 pm

All of our colostomies are different, so they may require a lesser or greater frequency of changing. It depends on how high in the large intestine the colostomy is and whether one's stoma is an "inny" or an "outy" and how much of either. Mine is quite near the bottom of the large intestine and a moderate "outy". My appliance usually lasts about a week. I use the two-piece Hollister system with a drainable bag. I drain the bag into the toilet after each bowel movement. By "appliance" I mean both pieces. I would suggest a mild bleach solution in a spray bottle for cleaning the bag for re-use. Fortunately, many Medicare Advantage plans cover 95% of ostomy supplies, so hang in there!

Feb 16, 2020 4:49 pm

I totally agree with r15437. I've been an ostomate for 42 years and also have an ileal conduit. Everyone is different and everyone's insurance may differ as well as financial situations. Over the years, I've gone from changing once a week to twice a week. Now it's every other day. I must admit, I've never reused a bag. However, I've been able to afford to change my bags without reuse. Prior to retirement, my insurance covered 80%. I'm blessed because I'm retired now and can afford supplemental insurance on top of my Medicare. The only concern I would have is infection from reuse. Bacterial growth. My infectious disease doctor pointed out that because of our "extra baggage," we can be more prone to infections. At first, I took offense because I thought he was insinuating I wasn't a clean person. However, I gave it further thought and he's right. With all the viruses, etc. going around today, I'm very cautious. If you prefer to reuse, you may also consider using vinegar or ask your ostomy supplier if they sell anything. I wear a one-piece Hollister and love it compared to what I had to wear in the early days. I wish you well!

Past Member
Feb 16, 2020 5:25 pm

I go through 2 appliances a week, generally. I wear a 2-piece, so I could change the pouch and leave the flange a bit longer, I guess, but I would rather replace the whole thing every time. If I choose to irrigate, I wear a stoma cap for however long I can go without output, generally 36-48 hours. In Ontario, I get about 1,000 a year from the provincial government, but I also get the federal Disability Tax Credit because I have an ostomy, which varies according to income. For me, it's about 1,500 a year. I also have private health insurance for things like prescriptions, dental care, physiotherapist, travel insurance, etc., so they pay 80% of the cost of ostomy appliances. I am actually making money from having an ostomy.

For all you Canucks out there, make sure you apply for the Disability Tax Credit if you have a permanent ostomy. And whatever you do, don't let your doctor send it in for you! If they make a mistake, you will be turned down. Send it in yourself after you check to make sure all the boxes are ticked correctly, and when you are describing how the function of elimination takes you up to 3 times longer than it would without an ostomy, be sure to include ALL the nauseating details. Don't leave anything to the imagination! If you make the poor clerk reading it vomit, the better your chances of getting approved. Check out for more info.

Feb 16, 2020 6:24 pm

I find it most hygienic to change the bag every morning. I use Coloplast SenSura Mio 1-piece bag. Sometimes I use a 2-piece system. Then I still change the bag every morning and the adhesive plate every second or third morning. I would never think of reusing the bags, as it would be unhygienic and the carbon filter would be damaged during cleaning.
In Denmark, where I live, we have free healthcare (medical and surgery) and all supplies are free (adhesive plates, ostomy bags, skin barrier wipes, skin barrier cream, adhesive remover, and non-woven pads for cleaning).

Marilyn Flowers
Feb 16, 2020 6:30 pm

Hi, I use a Convatec 2-piece system and change the bag every 2 weeks. I change the adhesive plate every 5-6 days as needed. I've been doing this for many years -- I've been an ostomate for more than 1/2 century (56 years, but who's counting?) Best of luck.

Feb 16, 2020 6:52 pm

I use one or two a week. It depends on the quality of my output. Since I started taking loperamide with every meal and no longer eat foods with a lot of butter or oil, my output is usually quite manageable and I can remove it before it falls down into the bag.

Feb 16, 2020 7:07 pm

Hi guys,

Thanks for all the replies. I guess I made it sound like the money spent on bags was an issue. It's not. Buying ostomy supplies isn't a challenge for me, I make plenty of money and my insurance is good. But I was noticing some folks on here claiming to not have to change their stuff for a week or more, which got me thinking how long these bags actually last. Guess I'll have to do an experiment and keep reusing a bag until it fails. I'm curious as to how it would fail, being all plastic. My bags don't have filters and I use the plastic clip, not the Velcro closure style. I'm guessing the bag would get a tear from something hard inside, like a seed or large grain of undissolved salt. I'll let you know.



Feb 16, 2020 11:10 pm


I have had bags fail. I use a one-piece Coloplast system for my ileostomy and the bag comes apart at the bottom. The plastic comes apart, which makes it very difficult to fold up. Usually, it happens on the 3rd day if it lasts that long.


Feb 17, 2020 3:25 am

Hey folks, Bob got lots of us thinking about this stuff in different ways.  So I'm wondering what determines when we change our bags if it's a one or two piece appliance, colonostomy, ileostomy or urostomy. When do we change the entire appliance?  How do bags fail except from outside influnces?  How does Annofsd remove the output before it falls down into the bag?  How much harm do we do to our skin if we change too often or not often enough.  For a lot of us the answers might be like common sense but not for all.  Anything we can do to make our "ostomatic" situations better would be a blessing.



Feb 17, 2020 6:21 am

Greetings Bob,

I have a single fitting pouch and I have to change it about every 4 to 5 days depending upon diet and output. I have heard that irrigation will help to manage how often a pouch needs changing.


Past Member
Feb 17, 2020 2:51 pm

I can tell you how Annofsd likely does it because I do it too. I also take loperamide (Imodium) regularly to control output consistency, and it helps a lot. When I have output, I open the 2-piece appliance from the top and remove the output with toilet paper before it falls into the pouch. I use a 2-piece Mio Sensura appliance. It's the stickiness of the pouch attaching to the flange that fails long before the pouch itself. I can usually get away with about 4 days before repeated openings will compromise its ability to stick. The consistency of my output has been altered by chemo and radiation, I believe, and I don't anticipate that it will ever be like it was before my cancer treatment. I was worried about taking the loperamide long term, but my surgeon tells me that she has many Crohn's and colitis patients who take more than I do every day, so not to worry. I generally take 2-4 quick dissolve tablets per day, depending on my fiber intake; more fiber = more loperamide. Generally, this works quite well. So well, in fact, that I don't irrigate as often as I might otherwise. If I don't do this, I end up with the pancake from hell.

Feb 18, 2020 2:19 am

Hey, Padfoot, thanks so much for explaining.  It wouldn't work for me but I'm happy you guys have adapted a method that improves the quality of your lives.  Great!


Feb 19, 2020 1:33 am

Hi Pad,

That much Loperamide is perfectly safe. I was taking 4 tabs 4 times per day of Loperamide and 4 Diphen-Atropine tabs 4 times per day for a couple years and it didn't affect me. Well, except for a slight stu...stu...stu....stuttering problem I now have and a small third arm growing out the middle of my back. But you'd be absolutely amazed at what you can do with a third arm!

But seriously, Loperamide is a pretty safe drug. Just wished it actually did something for me.

Take care,


Feb 19, 2020 3:58 am

Bob, I change my bag when my output sticks to the bag and is so thick I can't get it out, or when the odor can be smelled.

Feb 19, 2020 4:50 am

How long does an ostomy bag last? I believe their half-life is about 1,000 years...

Feb 25, 2020 10:39 am

Hi Bob, my name is Marsha, and I've had my ileostomy for over 51 years....since I was a teen. That was the dark ages, when pouches were made out of rubber, and the wafer was a plastic disc. We used actual "glue" / Skin Bond, to attach the disk to the pouch, and used a hinge round clasp to hold them together... And the pouches were reusable. I had two at a time, and alternated between them, washed them out, and reused... That was then.. These days I use Convatec 2 piece model. Until recently, my wafer stayed firmly planted on my belly for about a week, so I never bothered changing the pouch.. Depending on output, and the food I was eating, the pouch remained pretty much odor-free. If it didn't, I sometimes changed the pouch, but not the wafer.. There are/were times that the wafer only lasted a day or two (with a leak), so I'd remove both....throw out the wafer, but if the pouch seemed ok, I'd reuse it again. I advise the surgical supply co. that I use 2 or three a week, (and sometimes I do) so I have a lot of extra supplies.. I wouldn't hold old pouches for any length of time, however.. Even though you wash and dry them out, I'd be concerned with bacteria regrowing. But there's no reason not to use one that you feel is still in good condition. There are some people, however, who actually get rid of a pouch when it fills up, instead of emptying. That means that if they're out and about, and using a public bathroom, they take off a pouch and wafer, dispose of the old one, and put on a new one.. People find all different ways of managing their ostomy. Best of luck to you.. Marsha

Feb 25, 2020 2:01 pm

Marsha! Where have you been, girl? Haven't heard from you in ages. Ok, blowin' off the Ostomates all winter.........I see how you roll. Anyway, good to hear from you, hope all is well. Definitely hear ya about the possibility of bacterial growth. I rotate my "used bag" stock so they sit dry for weeks before being reused. And I inspect each one very carefully before re-use. But your point is a good one. No one needs any bacterial-related problems with their wise advice! As usual, common sense plays a significantly large role in all this ostomy stuff, and as you say, I imagine folks do manage their ostomy in a variety of ways. Which is what makes this interesting. Again, good to hear from ya.........don't be a stranger! There's a continuous flow of folks on here that can learn a lot from folks like you!



Feb 26, 2020 7:37 pm

I use a convex 1- or 2-piece, depending on what is on hand. I change every 4 days, unless there is a leak. I then take a "naked" shower. The longest wear time was 17 days while hospitalized. The shortest wear time was 30 minutes when I suffered a catastrophic leak. I then discovered that my stoma was actually situated in a skinfold.

Feb 27, 2020 12:37 am

17 days? Have you checked the Guinness Book of World Records? You might be eligible for one. That's amazing. The most I've gone is 4 days. And that was because I was afraid to take it off. I also remove my barrier/bag before I shower. But I have a very narrow window each morning when I can shower, and if I miss the window... it gets ugly. Ah, what fun.



Feb 27, 2020 2:26 am

17 days because the nursing staff did not know what to do, and the only WOCN finally came to see me...In order to have an easy bag change, I eat a light supper and don't eat anything past 7 PM.

Mar 03, 2020 2:39 am

Personally, I prefer clean underpants every day :) so I change my Sensura Mio daily after enjoying my totally naked shower.   However, considering they are plastic, I guess I'm not really doing my fair share at "recycling".   Supply costs are exactly why national health care is necessary.   Pharmaceutical and medical supply costs are OUTRAGEOUS.