Twenty patients entered a prospective controlled trial of colostomy management by three techniques--natural evacuation, colostomy irrigation and foam enema. Every patient spent 2 months using each technique. The mean number of colostomy actions weekly was 17 during natural evacuation, 6 during irrigation and 10 with the enema. There was no significant difference in the time taken to manage the colostomy by each technique. Eighteen patients considered that both irrigation and the foam enema improved the quality of their life, and opted to continue with irrigation on completion of the study. There were no major complications during the trial but leakage of foam and an increase in flatus were problems with the foam enema. It is concluded that patients should be made aware of the alternative methods available for colostomy management and be encouraged to use the method of their choice.