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How to Catheterize Yourself—for Men

Some men have medical problems that keep the bladder work working the way it should. A catheter is used to drain urine out of the body. Doing this yourself when you need to will make you more independent.

What You Will Need

  • Catheter
  • Water soluble lubricant
  • Plastic bedpan or other large container
  • Soap and water

Steps to Take

  1. Try to pass as much urine as you can before using the catheter. Log the amount of urine passed if your care team wants you to.
  2. Wash your hands.
  3. Clean your penis with soap and water. Start at the tip and move downward toward the base. Pull back your foreskin and clean around it if you are not circumcised.
  4. How To Use a Catheter_Man\JPG\Catheter_4.jpg Put some of the lubricant on the outside of the catheter.
  5. Hold your penis up about 60 to 75 degrees from horizontal with one hand.
  6. How To Use a Catheter_Man\JPG\Catheter_6.jpg Begin inserting the catheter with your other hand. Hold the catheter about one inch (2.5 centimeters) away from the tip. It should insert easily without pain. The catheter may be a little harder to push in when the tip is a the start of the bladder. Gently push it through this area.
  7. How To Use a Catheter_Man\JPG\Catheter_7.jpg Urine should start to flow when you have pushed the catheter in about 6 to 8 inches (15.2 to 20.3 centimeters). Insert the catheter about 1 inch further at this point.
  8. Wait until the urine stops flowing. Push down on your belly muscles to fully empty the bladder.
  9. How To Use a Catheter_Man\JPG\Catheter_9.jpg Remove the catheter. Sometimes, urine may flow while you are removing it. Let all the urine drain first. Record the date, time, and how much urine was passed if your doctor wants you to.
  10. Throw the catheter away, or wash, air dry, and store it for reuse.
  11. Wash your hands again.

Common Questions

Q. What are the advantages of putting in the catheter myself rather than having it in all the time?

A. It lowers the chance of a bladder infection. It also gives you more freedom because you use the catheter for a few minutes a day. A bladder with a catheter drains urine all the time. This causes it to shrink, leaving less room to store urine.

Q. How often can I use the catheter before throwing it away?

A. Catheters can be used for many weeks. Soak it in a solution of one part vinegar to 3 parts of tap water. This will keep urine crystals from forming inside of it.

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if at any time you:

  • Are unable to insert the catheter—never force it if it will not go in
  • Notice that your urine has a bad odor
  • Notice that your urine is cloudy, has mucus, blood flecks, or a rust color
  • Have pain or lasting burning in your urethra, bladder, belly, or mid or lower back
  • Have signs of infection such as:
    • Fever or chills
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Increase in urgency to pass urine or pass urine more often
    • Problems thinking clearly—older adults
  • Much lower output of urine in 24 hours

Possible mishaps to watch out for:

  • Cannot remove the catheter—This may be due to a bladder spasm. Try to relax until the spasm goes away.
  • Pain with catheter insertion, bleeding, and no urine flow—The catheter may not be inserted far enough or you may need to irrigate it.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Urology Care Foundation


Public Health Agency of Canada

The Kidney Foundation of Canada


Caring for your urinary (Foley) catheter. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website. Available at: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/caring-your-urinary-foley-catheter. Updated March 20, 2019. Accessed April 30, 2019.

Placement and management of urinary bladder catheters in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T921376/Placement-and-management-of-urinary-bladder-catheters-in-adults. Updated September 5, 2018. Accessed April 30, 2019.

Steps in male catheterization. Queen's University School of Medicine website. Available at: https://meds.queensu.ca/central/assets/modules/ts-urinary-catheterization/steps_in_male_catheterization.html. Accessed April 30, 2019.

Urinary catheter, intermittent (straight): Inserting in the male adult patient. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at:https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated April 27, 2018. Accessed April 30, 2019.

Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN  Last Updated: 4/30/2019