Managing Bathroom Smell with Ostomy Bags

Dec 18, 2022 3:49 pm

My mate is an ostomate. It's been about 6 months now. I change his flanges for him and really monitor his skin - and none of that bothers me. Right now we have one bathroom in a rented condo. I don't mind the initial smell. We turn on a fan and open the condo doors and it leaves in 20 minutes or so. He uses the drops in the bags, and uses air sprays. I don't complain, but he knows I have a sensitive nose and I'm allergic to everything. I think the lingering smell is from the reusable bags hanging around. They hang in the shower while they dry, then I put them on a towel rail when I shower. What I want to know is, once they are dry, can I store them in a ziplock? I don't want bacteria to grow in the bags in between uses, so I am concerned about doing that. I don't say anything to him because I really, really don't want him to feel badly, but I really hate doing anything that takes longer than a minute in that bathroom! Thanks for your help.

Dec 18, 2022 4:03 pm

I didn't know they made reusable bags. Or, are you just washing out the ones that are meant to be thrown away after use? He must really have some bad smelling output if you turn on fans, open doors, and it takes 20 minutes to air out. My aromatherapy is over as soon as I'm done in the bathroom. &zwj

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Dec 18, 2022 4:18 pm
Reply to AlexT

He has a two-piece system and the bags are supposed to be used two or three times before disposal. So he washes them out, puts the Hollister brand smell stuff in and hangs them to dry. The condo is a stopover for us while waiting for our house to be finished. It has horrible circulation in the bath. So the air has to get from a corner bathroom with no window and no real fan through the bedroom and out the door. It takes a floor fan and a little time. But the lingering smell... I clean, but it doesn't seem to leave. Plus, I have an extremely sensitive nose. I can't be around people that wear perfumes, everything I use on me is unscented. My question is more about how I can store these reusable bags without causing him any problems.

Dec 18, 2022 4:21 pm

My colostomy output has a horrible smell. I irrigated it for about 10 years and would reuse the collection bag. Because I could never get the smell out after using, I would store it in a plastic sealed bag, but I would wash it with soap and dry it with a paper towel first.

Dec 18, 2022 4:34 pm
Reply to Ostomatemate

I've just never heard of truly reusable bags. I've heard of people washing them out and reusing old bags. In my opinion, if there's a smell leftover after washing/drying, they're obviously not clean yet. As far as storing, as long as they're completely dry, either a Ziplock or a sealed tote should work fine.

Stories of Living Life to the Fullest from Ostomy Advocates I Hollister
Dec 18, 2022 7:23 pm

Hello Ostomatemate.

Thanks for your question as it tells us so much about you and your relationship. Congratulations on being so helpful!
I rarely use what we might call 'bags' because I irrigate. However, I do use irrigation sleeves, which I wash out and hang up as you describe, so the principles and practice will be much the same. 
Once I have washed it thoroughly, I spray it with an antibactial spray which is the same type as we use for the everyday surface cleaning, I then hang them on a hook in the shower cubical. This, not only prevents bacteria but also cleans. My sleeves usually last a month (using them every day). They would last a lot longer, but I think a month is long enough! And, even with the washing and spraying, they will begin to stain and have a slight smell after that period. 

Hanging them in the warm will dry them off quicker, but the downside is that any heat encourages that stale residual smell.

Prior to my present routine, I used to simply wash them out, spray them, roll them up and put them in a sealed container. This worked fine for years, and certainly contained any smell until the container was opened. As with anything that is sealed away for any length of time, any smell will accumulate inside the container and be released when it is opened. 

I have no experience with condo's, but have you tried hanging them outside (in the fresh air to dry)? Even if this is using just an open window, the outside air will take any residual smell away from the inside of the property, and something as small as a stoma bag would not be an excessive adornment to a domestic window. 

'Outside', is what we used to do with any dog towels and equipment that needed cleaning and drying. At least the smell did not linger inside the house!  If you don't like the thought of other people seeing stoma bags hanging on the line, or out of a window (or ventilator)  then hiding them inside a recognisably 'acceptable' cloth sleeve might be the answer. (dry-wipes made into a bag would do it, as would the bags that are provided by some supermarkets for vegetables, pillow cases, handkerchiefs, shirts, hairnets, underpants and a whole range of other things would easily disguise a stoma bag whilst drying outside).
Alternatively, you could use one of those large 'hoses' that are used for ventilating tumble driers, I often see those dangling out of windows and everyone knows and appreciates what they are for. Indeed, you could even rig up your fan so that it blows air through the tube and dries off the bag hidden inside.

In a couple of places around my house, I have different sizes and shapes of ventilator fans and I feel sure that whatever type of windows you have, somewhere there will be a fan to fit.

I hope some of these ideas might help you to think around the problem and come up with a suitable solution.

Best wishes


Dec 18, 2022 9:06 pm

Why don't you just start using disposable bags? I too have never heard of reusable ones. Disposable bags are the norm and it seems that would solve your problem.


Dec 18, 2022 9:50 pm
Reply to TerryLT

Stupid insurance. They will only give enough bags to have three a week. So he has to constantly clean them and reuse them. I've looked into buying additional bags. He empties 3x a day. So we'd be looking at about another 100 or so a month for bags. He has the Hollister two-part system. Is there something I'm missing here? We are such newbies at this.

Dec 18, 2022 9:52 pm
Reply to Ostomatemate

Drainable bags. I use about 8 per month.

Dec 18, 2022 10:08 pm
Reply to Bill


Thank you for all of the ideas. I was actually worried about bugs outside. I constantly worry about bacteria and about bad chemicals getting on the stoma, etc. He had really, really bad sepsis and was in the hospital for 40 days and tried to die on me three times. So afterward there was months of home health care where I learned to pack wounds (the scar opened up and drained), and change dressings and Tagaderms on two abscess drains, and worry that an incorrectly done colostomy wafer would leak and infect the other wounds... well, I've become a worry wart. Now with just replacing the wafer every 4-5 days, I can start thinking about how to lessen the impact of the colostomy.

We are right on the Gulf and get lovely breezes from the ocean and I don't see bugs on the balcony - so maybe we could hang them outside. As long as no one can see them - wow, condos have a lot of rules! It will be better when our house is built and we have two baths.

I think we will try at least drying them outside.



Dec 18, 2022 10:11 pm
Reply to Ostomatemate

Three a week should be lots. Like Alex said, you need drainable bags. Is that not what he is using? I only go through 5-6 bags a month.


Dec 18, 2022 10:12 pm
Reply to AlexT

So maybe my best question is the best process to clean these drainable bags.

Dec 18, 2022 10:26 pm

The use of odor eliminators in the bag may help. There are various makes he can try and perhaps room sprays. I have one that carries all the perfumes of Arabia in one container, made in Dubai, but perhaps unsuitable for you and not available there. A separate bathroom for him will solve the problem in the best way.

Dec 18, 2022 11:08 pm

Hi again Ostomatemate, my previous responses were done in a rush, had to go out. I just wanted to add that I am impressed with what a supportive spouse you are, and that your husband is lucky to have you! I am hoping that from what you have said, you've been using 'closed' bags, and that once you get disposable, drainable ones, your life will be a lot easier. No more time wasted cleaning out bags, and a more pleasant smelling bathroom! Good luck.


Dec 19, 2022 9:10 am

Henry swears by baking soda. It's cheap. Give it a try.

Dec 19, 2022 10:46 am
Reply to Axl

Someone suggested putting Tictac into the bag. Unfortunately, these don't work so well. Coloplast has an odor eliminator that you spray in the pouch and another that you spray in the room. Easily available in the US compared to the problems in getting prompt supplies here. Voila! Ostomates' problem is resolved! The reference to the scents of Arabia is from Lady Macbeth alluding to the murder of Duncan: "Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! oh! oh!"

Dec 19, 2022 1:24 pm

You sound like a wonderful support to him and that is so lousy that his insurance limits his choices. Does he have a colostomy or an ileostomy? It seems that colostomates don't empty (can actually irrigate instead) or change their bags as often and the odor isn't as bad. We ileostomates are different and need supersized bathroom exhaust fans. I also swear by Hollister M9 odor eliminator drops.

Dec 19, 2022 9:08 pm

M9 comes in both a spray and drops for the bag.

Dec 20, 2022 4:17 am

Just use two-piece bags, and the bag should be drainable. You can wear them for 4 days at a time and then replace it all, the base and the bag, and throw the lot away and NEVER wash bags out ever. Three a week is more than you can use. Talk with a Stoma Nurse.

Dec 20, 2022 6:00 am
Reply to IGGIE

Yes, this is what I do. I have a Hollister 2-piece system with drainable bags. I'd simply empty it a few times a day and leave the bag on. Every now and then, I have a reason to want to change out the bag entirely, but I don't wash it. I just throw it out in one of the disposal bags that comes in the box with the ostomy bags and put a clean bag on. But really, they last a long time, longer than the wafers. It would save him a lot of time and effort washing these bags out and leaving them around to dry.

Daria Luna
Dec 28, 2022 1:36 pm
Reply to Ostomatemate

I use the Hollister 2-piece system and I change the whole thing out every 3 days and am supposed to dispose of each one. Luckily, my insurance allows 20 per month.

Dec 30, 2022 4:52 pm
Reply to Ostomatemate

I got more info from the company I order from than doctors and wound care nurses. They will advise what is best for him. They have drainable bags... you get 20 a month but don't have to change it every day, just drain out the bottom when full. Or get 60 a month. It's got to be a better bag, don't have to empty it out.

John A
Jan 02, 2023 2:45 am
Reply to Ostomatemate

I use a disposable 7" bag which I empty several times a day and toss out. Sometimes I can use the same bag for 2 days. I'm thinking this might be a lot better for your husband. He can bag the used bag and run it outside to the trash bin. There is not much difference in cost and it's much better overall in my opinion. Same thing when he burps his bag. (Letting the air out) Smell is offensive so I suggest he steps outside the condo to do this. I live alone with my dogs but when I travel with my gal pal, I always do what it takes so she smells nothing. Irrigating is a pretty cool alternative which I started doing this summer. Maybe that could be an option for your husband.

Jan 05, 2023 9:35 pm

This is a life saver, kills the worst smells in minutes, by the time you walk out of the bathroom, the smell is replaced with a flowery relaxing scent. It's worth the price if you have smell issues. I now have a well-balanced low-calorie diet which includes fruits and vegetables, the smell is now less offensive than a regular person who uses a public toilet.

I use a two-piece system from Hollister with a ring. The ring is super important because it elongates the life of the wafer by days and diminishes leaks almost to nothing.

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Jan 05, 2023 9:36 pm

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This is the spray. Poo-pourri.

Jan 05, 2023 9:57 pm
Reply to Mr.Heart2Win

If you go to Poo-Pourri site, they usually have a special for first-time buyers. I bought 3 bottles for about $10 a while back.

Jan 28, 2023 4:36 am

We just discovered Ozium spray. You can get it from Amazon. A small spray completely eliminates the odor! So happy as now I will feel comfortable visiting my bachelor son who lives in a beautiful apartment but it only has one bathroom.

Jan 28, 2023 9:10 pm
Reply to Teebull

I never heard of that before. I just looked it up... sounds great!

Jan 28, 2023 10:46 pm
Reply to Teebull

I just ordered some on Amazon upon your suggestion - thanks!

Feb 01, 2023 12:04 pm

I use M-9 drops and that helps a lot. I also use drainable bags and when I empty, I usually pour water in the bottom, close it up, and swish it around to help clean the bag. I then wipe the opening really well and add a good squirt of M-9 to my bag and close it up. When I change my appliance or bag, I put it in a scented doggy poop bag, tie it up, and throw it in the trash can.