What is a clean catheterization?

Clean catheterization uses a clean, not sterile, catheter to drain urine from the bladder.

Why is catheterization needed?

The bladder may need to be drained if there is no voiding or urine output cannot be controlled.

If the bladder overfills for a long time, urine can back up into the ureters and kidneys causing damage to both. If the bladder is overstretched, it slows blood flow, making a bladder infection more likely.

Empty the bladder on a schedule using a catheter to help prevent backflow of urine and reduce infections.

How often is catheterization needed?

Most people need to do it every 4-6 hours to prevent urine overflow. It can be done sooner if there is discomfort.


  • A clean catheter

  • Water soluble lubricant (K-Y® jelly, Lubrifax®, or Surgilube®). Do not use Vaseline®.

  • Container for urine

  • Liquid soap and water


  1. Gather equipment.

  2. If recommended, try to urinate before catheterizing.

  3. Wash hands with soap and water.

  4. Wash the genital area. Wipe from front to back, never back to front.

  5. Apply lubricant to the catheter, 2 inches from the tip.

  6. Spread the labia (the outer lips) using
    one hand.

  7. Find the opening to the bladder (urethra) by feeling or by using a mirror. Finding it by feeling is easier.

  8. Hold the catheter close to the tip. Gently insert it into the urethra. Direct it upward; guide it towards the bladder until urine flows.

  9. Allow all the urine to flow out.

  10. After the urine has stopped flowing, slowly remove the catheter. If more urine flows out at one spot, stop there to let it drain.

  11. Pinch the catheter as it is removed to avoid getting wet.

  12. Wash the catheter with antibacterial liquid soap and water. Rinse well.

  13. Drain the water out.

  14. Place on a clean towel to dry. Moisture can cause bacteria to grow.

  15. A new catheter is needed every week or as instructed.


Keep a record of the results for several weeks if asked to do so.

Plan Ahead

  • Carry extra clothing and pads if leaking is a concern.

  • Catheterize before going out if the plan is to be away from home.

  • When traveling, plan when and where to catheterize.

  • If your child needs to be catheterized at school, discuss the schedule with the school nurse.


  • Drink 8-10 glasses (8-oz.) daily.

  • Limiting fluids after supper may avoid overfilling the bladder during the night and may minimize the need to catheterize during the night.

  • If the symptoms below are noted, drink more fluids.

    • Cloudy or dark-colored urine

    • Solid flakes or mucous sediment floating in the urine

When to Call

  • Bloody urine

  • Blood from the urethra

  • Foul smelling urine

  • Temperature greater than 100.5° F by mouth

  • Chills

  • Back pain

  • Stomachache

Who to Call

UW Health Urology


UW Health East Madison Hospital Urology


UW Health One South Park Urology


UW Health Kids Urology
American Family Children’s Hospital

(608) 957-8047

After hours, nights, weekends, and holidays, the clinic number is answered by the paging operator. Ask for the adult or pediatric Urology doctor on call. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back. The toll-free number is: 1-844-607-4800.