What is a clean catheterization?

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

The Urinary System

The urinary system consists of the kidneys, bladder and ureters.


The kidneys filter waste and excess water from the blood stream and make urine. The urine then flows down the ureters to the bladder. The bladder holds the urine until you empty your bladder.

When the bladder is full, nerves in the bladder send a message to the brain and to the spinal cord. The message causes the muscles that hold urine in to relax and the bladder to squeeze urine out of your body through the urethra.

Bladder Problems

Your doctor or nurse will explain your bladder problem. These are some common problems:

  • Messages from the bladder to the brain and/or spinal cord are not complete.

  • The bladder has weak muscles. All the urine does not empty out.

  • The sphincter does not open properly. The bladder overfills.

  • Obstruction of urine flow out of the bladder due to enlarged prostate.

Why do I need to catheterize?

You may need to drain the bladder if you cannot void or control urine output.

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

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

Catheterization helps you stay dry. If you have bladder spasms or a weak sphincter muscle, catheterization alone may not keep you dry. Your doctor may suggest one or two medicines to stop the spasms and tighten the sphincter.

How often do I need to catheterize?

Most people need to do it every 4-6 hours to prevent urine overflow.


  • A clean catheter

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

  • Container for urine

  • Liquid soap and water

Step by Step Guide

  1. Gather the supplies.

  2. If your doctor or nurse has told you to urinate, do so before you begin.

  3. Wash your hands with soap and water.

  4. Wash the tip of your penis with soap and water. Dry.

  5. Lubricate the catheter from its tip down about 2 inches.

  6. Grasp the sides (not the underside) of your penis below the tip. Push back the foreskin if present. Hold the penis up at a 60° angle. (See picture).


  7. Gently insert the catheter. You may meet some resistance. Use gentle, but firm pressure until the muscle relaxes. Insert the catheter 1-2 inches further after urine starts to flow.

  8. Allow all the urine to flow out.

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

  10. Pinch the catheter as you remove it to avoid getting wet.

Plan Ahead

  • If you leak urine, carry extra clothing and pads with you.

  • Catheterize before your scheduled time if you plan to be away from home.

  • If you travel, plan when and where you will be able to catheterize.

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


  • Empty your bladder every 4-6 hours, day and evening.

  • You may catheterize sooner than 4 hours if you have discomfort.


  • Drink 8-10 glasses (8-oz.) of fluid daily.

  • Limit fluids after your evening meal to stay dry and avoid overfilling your bladder. This may allow you to go through the night without needing to catheterize.

  • Drink more fluids if you notice the symptoms below:

    • Cloudy or dark-colored urine

    • Foul smelling urine

    • Solid flakes, mucous sediment floating in the urine

When to Call

  • Blood in urine

  • Blood from the urethra

  • Fever over 101° F (taken by mouth)

  • Chills

  • New back pain

  • New pelvic/bladder pain

Who to Call

UW Health Urology


East Madison Hospital Urology


One South Park Urology


After hours, weekends, and holidays the clinic number is answered by the paging operator. Ask for the 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.