Tube Feeding: How to Unclog Your Feeding Tube

Amy Long Carrera, MS, RD, CNSC, CWCMS
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
12/03/15  8:54 AM PST

If you notice resistance when you try to take water or formula through your feeding tube, the tube may be clogged. Follow these tips to learn how to unclog your feeding tube, or watch our video:

First check to make sure the tube is not clamped or kinked anywhere.

Feeding tubes can become clogged with dried formula or medication that sticks to the side of the tubing.

You may be able to clear the tube yourself, using warm water and a 60-milliliter syringe.

TIP: Water is the best choice to unclog your tube. Research shows that other fluids, such as carbonated beverages and juice are ineffective and may actually make the clog worse.

To unclog your feeding tube, you will need:

  • 60-milliliter catheter tip or oral syringe
  • Cup of warm water
  • Towel or washcloth

How to Unclog Your Feeding Tube:

TIP: Always wash your hands before handling the feeding tube and supplies.

1. Attach a 60 mL syringe to your tube and pull back on the plunger to remove as much fluid as possible.

2. Draw up at least 15 mL of warm water into the syringe, or enough to fill the part of your tube that you can see.

3. Push the water into your tube with a 60 mL syringe.

attach syringe

4. Gently push and pull the plunger to loosen the clog.

push syringe

5. If the clog doesn’t release right away, clamp your tube and let the water “soak” for 15 minutes

clamp tube

6. Try gently massaging the tubing with your fingertips

massage tubing

7. Unclamp the tube and repeat steps 1 through 5.

If you cannot clear the clog or if you are still unable to use your feeding tube, contact your doctor or nurse.

How to Prevent a Clogged Feeding Tube:

  • Flush the tube on a regular basis with the amount of water your doctor or dietitian recommends.
  • Always flush the tube before and after you use it to take formula or medications.
  • It is more common for medication to clog the tube so be sure to dissolve medications properly and flush your tube afterward.
  • Flush the tube every few hours and keep the tube closed when you are not using it.

Click here to watch a video about How to Unclog Your Feeding Tube.

For more information, see related articles and feeding tube resources here:

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1 comment

  1. In 1988 my wife had surgery and required a nasal feeding tube it clogged often and replacing it was painful. I got a syringe and used it to flush it with warm water I showed the nurse what I had done and I hoped she past it along. This happened at Columbia Presbyterian hospital being an engineer paid off

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