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Sterilization of Urinary Catheters

How Do You Sterilize 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. This means all equipment, including gloves, is sterile.

No matter if you use “clean technique” or “sterile technique,” if you re-use catheters they need to be cleaned between uses.

Needed Supplies

  • Resealable freezer bags
  • Tupperware or similar plastic or metal container with a cover
  • 70 percent isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol

Sterilizing the Catheter

  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. Remove the catheter from the alcohol container and place in a freezer bag.
  5. Store the catheter in a freezer bag without rinsing off the alcohol.
  6. Right before using, rinse the catheter with tap water to rinse off the alcohol. (Use distilled water if you have well water).
  7. 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.
  8. You may re-use the freezer bags until they show signs of wear or begin to leak.
  9. You may soak several catheters in alcohol at one time. Store each catheter in a separate freezer bag.
  10. Discard the alcohol in the container once a month and replace it with fresh alcohol. Keep the container of alcohol covered between uses.

Safety Tips

If for some reason you are unable to use alcohol to sterilize your catheters, you may use household bleach with tap water. Mix one part bleach with four parts water (for example, mix ¼ cup of bleach with 1 cup of water). You can also use one part betadine solution with two parts water. Alcohol is the best way to sterilize catheters. Bleach and betadine solutions may be just as safe, but there has not been research done on these solutions.

Do not use a microwave oven to sterilize urinary catheters. Studies have shown non-latex catheters have not become sterile when microwaved.

Call Your Child's Doctor If:

  • 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 (burning feeling when urinating or catheterizing, abdominal pain, sometimes cloudy urine)

Last Updated 09/2022

Reviewed By Shelley Simandl, RN

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For more information or to request an appointment, contact the Division of Urology.

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