This handout will help you learn about your compression stockings. It has information about why and how to use them, how to care for them, and when to call a doctor or nurse with questions or problems. To view a video about putting these stockings on, please use the QR code or link to uwhealth.org on the last page.
• If you have any questions or problems with your stockings that are not
answered in this handout, please call the clinic where you were fitted for your
stockings or your doctor.
• If any information in this handout is different from what your doctor has told
you, please check with your doctor.
• If you were fitted at one of the UW Health CareWear sites or you would like
more information, you may call one of the UW Health CareWear sites listed at
the end of this handout for an appointment. During your visit, one of our
CareWear staff members will review parts of this handout with you before
you leave for home.
A Few Facts
Compression stockings help your veins work by putting mild pressure on your legs to decrease the swelling in them. The special knit of a compression stocking massages your veins so they keep your blood moving back to your heart.
It is best to put on your stockings at the start of your day, before you even get out of bed. Legs are often less swollen at this time, so stockings go on easier. You should wear your stockings as long as you are able to during the day. Take them off before you go to bed (unless you have been told something else by your doctor or nurse).
When you lose or gain weight, you may need to be measured again. If your leg measurements are outside the size ranges, you may need to be measured for a custom stocking.
Compression stockings don’t work well when they are worn out. If your stockings are stretched out or have large holes or tears, you should get new ones.
Medicare doesn’t pay for most compression stockings, but there are some that
are covered. This is because a few compression stockings are ordered for certain diagnoses and compression levels that Medicare covers. If you have insurance, you may want to find out if it will help pay for your stockings.
• Stockings from UW Health CareWear may be returned or exchanged within 30
days of the date you receive them.
• Keep your nails short and take off your rings before putting on or taking off
your stockings. This helps prevent runs or snags.
• Rubber gloves may help you hold onto your stockings when you put them on,
adjust, or take them off.
• Dry your legs and feet before you put on your stockings. Wet legs and feet
can make them stick.
• If needed, moisten your skin at night after you have taken off your stockings
rather than in the morning. Oil-based creams, ointments, and petroleum
products shorten the life of stockings by breaking down the fibers that
provide the compression you need. If you do put lotion on your legs before
putting on your stockings, use a lotion that does not have an oil base.
How to Put on and Take Them Off
• To put on one of your stockings, reach into one of them with your palm up
and grab the fabric just above your heel. While holding this area, pull your
arm out to turn the leg part of the stocking inside out until your thumb pops
• Stretch the stocking as wide as you can and pull it over your foot and heel.
Hook your heel and turn it right side out.
• Release the fabric a little at a time, while you slowly pull your stocking up
near your knee. Your heel should be in place. Smooth out wrinkles or
creases. Be sure you have 1-2 fingers between bend of your knee and top of
• To take off a stocking, fold it down and keep going until it gets stuck, which
often happens just above the ankle. Stick your thumb or finger like a shoe
horn down the back of your stocking. Pop your stocking off your heel and
then slide the rest off of your foot.
More about Putting On and Wearing Them
• Be sure you do not put your stockings on by pulling them up by the top
band. This may tear the fabric.
• Do not fold or roll the top band over on the top of your leg. This may slow
blood flow and cause more swelling.
• Swab the silicone bands in thigh-high stockings once a week with rubbing
alcohol to remove body oils and lint. This can help thigh-high stockings stay
in place. A roll-on adhesive product called “It Stays” can also be used to help
keep stockings in place.
• Adjust thigh-high or full length stockings if you notice that part of a stocking is
bunching behind your knee.
• Wear a loose fitting stocking or sock over your stockings, if you wish.
• Be sure to take care of the foot part of your stockings by wearing socks,
slippers, or shoes on your feet.
How to Wash Them
Compression stockings must be washed after every time they are worn. Use a soap made for your stockings, like Medi-Care Wash® or Jolastic Washing Solution.® These soaps help your stockings last longer and maintain their pressure. If you are unable to use these soaps, you may use Dreft® or Ivory Snow.® Dreft® or Ivory Snow® are in the baby laundry section of most grocery stores.
Do not use chlorine bleach, detergents, fabric softeners, or delicates washing products such as Woolite® as these products can damage the elastic in the stockings. Do not dry clean.
Hand wash in warm water (like the temperature for hand-washing dishes) or machine wash on delicate cycle in a mesh bag. Warm water prevents a build-up of skin oils and maintains the fabric of the stockings so that they keep their shape and support. Rinse well with warm water.
Squeeze stockings to remove excess water. Do not roll in a terry cloth towel as the fibers from the towel can become stuck in the stocking fabric and break it down. You may use a lint-free kitchen towel or flour-sack towel for rolling. Do not wring or twist.
Hang your stockings to dry away from sunlight or direct heat. Do not machine dry, unless on “Air Dry” cycle.
Do not cut off the ends of any threads because this may unravel knots that are part of the stockings.
When to call your doctor or nurse
• If you have any new or increased numbness, tingling, pain, redness, or
swelling of your feet or legs while wearing your stockings.
• If you have any new open skin areas, drainage, or redness of your feet or
legs at any time.
The UW Health Clinics that have CareWear
The UW Health Clinics that have CareWear with compression stockings are listed below. Appointments are needed.
UW Health CareWear
UW Health West Clinic
451 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717
1-800-323-8942 ext. 2-2609
UW Health CareWear
UW Health East Clinic
5249 East Terrace Drive
Madison, WI 53718
1-800-323-8942 ext. 2-2609
To view a video about putting compression stockings on, please use the QR code below or view this Health Fact for You containing the video on www.uwhealth.org.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #6296.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 09/26/2013
Copyright © 09/26/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5362
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