A clean catch urine sample or specimen is one of the least invasive procedures for a urine culture or urinalysis. The clean catch method aims to prevent bacteria from the skin of the penis or vagina from contaminating the urine specimen. It’s important to follow the clean catch process to have accurate results from an uncontaminated sample.
The most common reason to get a clean catch urine sample is to test for a urinary tract infection (UTI). Symptoms of a UTI include pain or burning and a constant urge to urinate. Even if you have no overt symptoms, your doctor may request a urine culture as part of a complete physical.
However, urine cultures can also check for the following:
- unusual infections of the bladder or kidney
- stress incontinence
- pH levels in pregnant women
- the presence of kidney stones
- drugs in the system
Your doctor may ask for a urine sample at any visit. Before your appointment, ask if you’ll need to provide a clean catch sample. If you can’t urinate at the clinic or doctor’s office, ask for a clean catch kit to take home. After completing the clean catch at home, drop off the sample as soon as possible. You’ll need to refrigerate the sample if it will be more than 30 minutes until you can drop it off.
Some clinics provide a clean catch kit consisting of a plastic container with a lid, a label for you to write your name on, and an individually wrapped, moist towel. Others ask that you use soapy water instead of providing a moist towel.
Note that it’s important to collect a urine sample midstream. This means that you should start urinating, then stop your flow. Place the collection container underneath your genital area and then release your urine flow again.
You can usually find instructions similar to those below listed on a sheet of paper provided by someone in the clinic or on a laminated instruction sheet posted in the clinic bathroom.
- Wash your hands.
- Remove sterile container from packaging and write your name on the label, if provided.
- Females should use a packaged, moist towel to clean the vulva and perianal areas starting from front to back. Repeat with a second moist towel.
- Males should retract the foreskin from the penis if necessary and use the packaged towel to clean the penis from the tip to the base. Repeat with second towel.
- Females should then spread their labia with one hand and start urinating into the toilet. With the other hand, they should put the urine container under the genital area to catch the stream of urine without touching any skin.
- Males should retract the foreskin if necessary with one hand and start urinating into the toilet. Then, position the urine container with the other hand to catch the stream without touching any skin.
- Don’t fill urine to the top of the sterile container. No more than half a container is necessary.
- Place the lid on the container and set it on the sink or someplace stable while you finish urinating into the toilet.
- Screw the lid securely on the container and wipe it off. Wash your hands and drop off the container to the lab as instructed.
It will take 24 to 48 hours for the lab to culture the sample. Ask your doctor how they will notify you of the results.
Note: If an infant is providing the urine sample, the clean catch kit will consist of a plastic bag with a sticky strip on one end that fits over the baby’s genital area, as well as a sterile container. Use the same cleaning methods and the plastic bags for collecting the urine. Pour the urine into the sterile container.
Cultures with greater than 100,000 colony-forming units (CFU) of a single bacteria provide a positive test result. This usually indicates an infection that needs an antibiotic for treatment.
No growth, or a negative result, indicates there is no infection present.
If the test results show the growth of several different types of bacteria, it likely means that the urine sample was contaminated during the collection process. The clean catch protocol reduces the chance of contamination.