What to Know About Clean Intermittent Self-Catheterization

April 23,2019 |

Everything You Need to Know About Clean Intermittent Self-Catheterization 

The process of going to the bathroom takes muscle control. You contract and relax the muscles in your bladder to release urine into the toilet. Unfortunately, not everyone has the muscle strength needed to regulate this process effectively. Muscles weaken over time and stress or surgery strains your bladder so if you’re having problems, don’t worry. You’re not alone. In fact, over 25 million adults in the United States are dealing with some sort of urinary incontinence.1 

If you’ve been having problems with your urinary tract, you might benefit from using a catheter. Catheters help you empty your bladder, without needing to strain your muscles. While many people have adverse feelings towards catheterization, especially doing it themselves, there are a number of benefits to using a catheter. The benefits grow when you learn how to properly handle catheterization in the comfort of your home. In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about clean intermittent self-catheterization.

What is Clean Intermittent Self-Catheterization? 

First things first, clean intermittent self-catheterization refers to the process of inserting, using, and replacing a catheter on your own, without the assistance of a healthcare professional. Unlike indwelling catheters that are kept in all the time, intermittent catheters are used and removed multiple times throughout the day. Clean intermittent self-catheterization is done every six hours and before bed at the very least. This is beneficial, as most people complain that indwelling catheters restrict their lifestyle.

If your doctor recommends using intermittent catheterization, he or she will tell you how many times you need to insert and remove the catheter based on your specific condition and medical history.

The “clean” in clean intermittent self-catheterization simply refers to the fact that you need to be sterile and practice good hygiene when performing this procedure to avoid any complications or infections. Always wash your hands thoroughly prior to insertion to ensure that you don’t contaminate your urinary tract.

Who Requires Clean Intermittent Self-Catheterization?

Some people that require clean intermittent self-catheterization include people with nervous system disorders, women who have recently undergone gynecologic surgeries, and people who have difficulty emptying their bladders on their own.3

In certain circumstances, such as debilitating nerve-disease, self-catheterization may not be the best option. If you have limited mobility, talk to your doctor about exploring other solutions.

If you’re unable to empty your bladder to completion on your own, using a catheter is integral to the health of your urinary tract system. When you don’t fully empty your bladder, you’re at a greater risk for urinary tract infections, which can lead to kidney damage.3 If you’re experiencing incontinence or think you might benefit from intermittent catheterization, talk to your urologist today.

How to Perform Clean Intermittent Self-Catheterization

Always talk to your doctor or a trained healthcare professional prior to performing intermittent self-catheterization for the first time. There is a specific process to use to ensure that your catheter works effectively and you are staying safe and free of infection. 

There are a few different types of catheters. Some of them stay inserted into the bladder indefinitely while intermittent catheters are used sparingly, throughout the day, as directed by your doctor. Due to the continuous insertion and removal, it’s important to understand how to properly perform clean intermittent self-catheterization.

The first step is making sure that your hands are thoroughly washed. Don’t skip this step. Take a few extra minutes to make sure that they’re sterilized enough and if need be, top off hand washing with a dab of hand sanitizer. You will also need to wash your genital area. This helps reduce the risk of infection from bacteria that may have accumulated near your urethra.

Clean Intermittent Self-Catheterization for Men

To begin, wash your hands and the area around the top of your penis.3 Lubricate the catheter tip generously and insert it into the urethra—the urinary opening of your penis.3 Make sure the catheter is in far enough, about eight to nine inches.3 If you feel resistance, you are likely passing the sphincter muscles and need to continue insertion to reach the bladder. Only remove the catheter once the urine has stopped flowing completely. Measure your output, clean the catheter, and hang it to dry.

Clean Intermittent Self-Catheterization for Women

Again, always wash your hands first. You also need to wash the area around your urinary meatus—the opening where urine flows.3 Make sure you’ve located this correctly, lubricate the catheter generously, and insert the catheter into the urinary meatus. Once inserted, allow urine to flow until completion. Remove the catheter, measure your output, clean your materials, and let them dry.

Both men and women will need to empty their bladder roughly every four to six hours, or four to six times a day.3 This includes immediately upon waking and right before going to bed. Talk to your doctor for specific instructions and to make sure you’re using your catheter correctly.

What to Expect 

When you insert the clean intermittent catheter, urine will start to flow through the catheter and drain out. To avoid making a mess, make sure you’re always near a toilet or have a special container ready to catch the urine. Your doctor or healthcare professional will show you how to use the catheter before you bring it home. As with everything, practice makes perfect. If you have limited mobility, you may need assistance with insertion. Talk to your doctor and find a trusted friend or family member to help in times of need.

After continued use, you will need to replenish your supplies and/or replace your catheter. Most doctors recommend using single-use catheters to avoid any chance of infection. After you have your prescription, you can shop at any medical supply stores. Byram Healthcare is a full-service urological care supplier that offers discrete delivery, so you can keep your private life to yourself.

Some catheters are reusable, while others should only be used once. Make sure you know which version you have and never re-use a single use catheter.

The Importance of Cleaning Your Catheter

Keeping your catheter clean is just as, if not more, important as washing your hands prior to insertion. Using a dirty catheter will lead to infection and avoidable complications.

While most catheters will be single-use, some are reusable. If you have a reusable catheter, follow these steps for cleaning.3

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  2. Rinse out your catheter.
  3. Clean your catheter. We recommend getting a specific cleaner for this or using at-home supplies. You can mix one part vinegar with four parts water, soak your catheter in hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes, or clean it with warm soap and water.3 As long as your catheter is clean, you’ll be fine. You don’t have to worry about hospital-grade sterilization.
  4. Rinse your catheter again.
  5. Hang your catheter to dry.
  6. Store your catheter in a plastic bag—only when it is completely dry.

If you notice any signs that your catheter is wearing out, becoming brittle, or breaking easily, it’s time to replace it. Even if your catheter seems fine, you should still replace it every two to four weeks.2

Monitoring Clean Intermittent Self-Catheterization 

During your time using clean intermittent self-catheterization, you will likely need to keep track of your daily liquid input and ouput.2 This helps your doctor monitor progress and see whether or not your kidneys are working properly. Any disparities between liquid input and output should be brought up and discussed with your urologist. Be specific and include the type of liquid you’re consuming. Aim for about 2.000mL of liquid per day, preferably water.2

Side Effects

The main side effects of intermittent self-catheterization include discomfort. This is usually from a lack of experience and should subside as you continue to practice. If pain or discomfort continues, call your doctor.

When to Call Your Doctor

If you have trouble with insertion or are noticing any signs of leakage during catheterization, call your doctor. They will be able to help you find out what’s going wrong. If you notice any rashes, sores, strong odors, or pain, call your doctor immediately.3 Similarly, if you experience burning or have a fever, call your doctor. These are signs of infection and need to be addressed before continuing clean intermittent self-catheterization.


Using clean intermittent self-catheterization, you can live an active lifestyle and reduce incontinence related accidents. As long as you practice good hygiene habits when using your catheter, you will reap the benefits. If you notice any signs or symptoms of a UTI or other infection, don’t hesitate to call your doctor. When it’s time to order more supplies, or if you need any educational resources, head to Byram Healthcare’s educational support page or product selection guide. Byram is a full-service urological care supplier and offers a wide selection of high quality urological supplies that are discreetly delivered to your home. We also offer a team of knowledgeable urological customer service specialists to help answer questions and offer you personalized, confidential services.