Sterilization of Urinary Catheters

Intermittent bladder catheterization is done by many people for a variety of urinary tract problems. It is generally done using "clean technique." This means that not all bacteria (germs) are kept from coming into contact with the person being catheterized.

Sometimes "sterile technique" is used, which means all equipment, including gloves, is sterile.

No matter which technique you use, if you re-use catheters, it is important to clean them between uses.

  • Resealable freezer bags
  • Tupperware or similar plastic or metal container with a cover
  • 70 percent isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  1. Rinse catheter with tap water for 30 seconds.
  2. Place catheter on paper towel to dry for one hour.
  3. After it is dry, place it in a container with the alcohol for five minutes. Make sure that the entire catheter is covered with alcohol.
  4. Store catheter in freezer bag without rinsing off the alcohol.
  5. Just prior to using the catheter, rinse it with tap water. (If you have well water, it is probably better to use distilled water.)
  6. If you have not used the catheter within seven days of soaking it in the alcohol, remove it from the freezer bag and soak it again.
  7. You may re-use the freezer bags until they show signs of wear or begin to leak.
  8. You may soak several catheters in alcohol at one time, but store each one in a separate freezer bag.
  9. Discard the alcohol from the container once a month and fill with a fresh supply. Keep the container of alcohol covered between uses.

If for some reason you are unable to use alcohol to sterilize your catheters, you may use household bleach with tap water in a 1:4 mixture or betadine solution with tap water in a 1:2 solution. The research that has been done using these two solutions is not as thorough as that done with the alcohol. These two solutions may be just as safe, but the research has not been done.

It is no longer recommended to use a microwave oven to sterilize urinary catheters. The studies that showed sterilization of catheters with the microwave technique were made of latex. Non-latex catheters have not become sterile when microwaved. 

  • You have trouble inserting the catheter into the bladder
  • There is pain when inserting the catheter
  • Fever (temperature over 100.4) or other symptoms of urinary tract infection are present

Last Updated 06/2013