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What is bladder irrigation?

Bladder irrigation is a procedure used to clear the bladder of mucus and debris. People who use urinary catheters may collect mucus, stone crystals, or bacteria in their bladder. This buildup can result in bladder infections and bladder stones. Think of your bladder as a snow globe: when the water is disturbed in a snow globe, the "snow" flies around inside it, similar to what irrigation does to debris in the bladder. Irrigation disturbs any mucus and debris in your bladder, encouraging it to move away from the bladder walls. Once floating, the debris can leave your body through your catheter. This process can prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and the formation of bladder stones.


What supplies do I need for bladder irrigation?

For bladder irrigation, you will use your usual catheterization supplies as well as:

  • 60mL catheter-tipped syringe: the syringe does not need to be sterile, just clean. You can use the same syringe for at least a month as long as you clean it with diluted vinegar between uses (see below for instructions on cleaning your supplies with diluted vinegar).
  • Plastic container for water or saline: the container does not need to be sterile, nor does the water.
  • Tap water or saline to use as irrigation solution: more than 300mL.
  • Urinal or basin to collect the urine

How do I irrigate my bladder?

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Pour water or saline into the plastic container.
  3. Catheterize as you normally would to empty your bladder and drain urine.
  4. Using the catheter-tipped syringe, push 60mL of water or saline into your bladder through your catheter. Pinch off the catheter and draw up another 60mL of water or saline into the syringe. Push this solution into the bladder as well. (There is now 120mL of solution in your bladder.) Use enough force when pushing the solution to stir up the mucus and debris at the base of your bladder, but do not use enough force to cause pain.
  5. After you have 120mL of solution in your bladder, pull back on the syringe plunger to remove 60mL of the used irrigation solution. Leaving the rest of the solution in your bladder helps keep the catheter from sucking up against the bladder wall when you pull on the syringe, as this can be painful. Look at the syringe of used irrigation solution and inspect it for mucus or debris, then discard the used solution.
  6. Pull up another 60mL of clean solution into the syringe and push it into your bladder. Then repeat step 5.
  7. Continue to repeat the 60mL instillation, 60mL withdrawal and and discard process until the output from your bladder is free of mucus and debris. This should use up at least 300mL of solution but may require more if your bladder's output still contains mucus or debris.
  8. When irrigation is complete, pull back the remaining used irrigation solution from the bladder 60mL at a time, leaving the last 60mL of solution in the bladder.
  9. Allow the last 60mL to drain out of the catheter. This is to avoid having the catheter suck up to the bladder wall.
  10. Wash your hands thoroughly and clean all your supplies with diluted vinegar.

How do I make my own saline for bladder irrigation?

To make saline at home, mix 1 gallon of distilled water with 8 teaspoons of table salt and shake until all the salt is dissolved.

You may also use bottled saline from the pharmacy.

Alternatively, you may boil 2 quarts of tap water for 10 minutes before adding 4 teaspoons of table salt to the boiling water. After your homemade saline cools, pour it into a plastic bottle (preferably the one you got from the hospital).


How do I clean my bladder irrigation supplies with diluted vinegar?

  • Mix 1 1/2 cups of white vinegar with 2 quarts (8 cups) of water.
  • Disconnect the syringe and set the syringe, plunger, and container used for irrigation into a bathtub, sink, or large basin to allow the mixture to soak for 30 minutes.
  • Drain the mixture and rinse the supplies with clean water. Dry the outside of the bag and tubing. Do not use a bleach solution during this process, as it can damage the equipment.

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your health care providers. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or others on your health care team. If you are a Gillette patient with urgent questions or concerns, please contact Telehealth Nursing at 651-229-3890.