Cleaning bedside commodes is not the most enjoyable job there is, but it is important that it’s done properly. Unfortunately, that may not be all you have to do to keep unpleasant odors from taking over. Luckily, there are other measures you can take that will help you keep those odors in check.
With regular cleaning, prompt emptying of the bedside commode bucket and some disinfecting, you can keep any unpleasant odors under control.
If you are using a bedside commode in a bedroom next to the bed, or near to it, or in any room for that matter, you want to be taking certain measures to control the odors coming from the commode.
As well as it’s not smelling great, it’s also not healthy to be exposed to the odors of urine and feces over an extended period of time.
Content Overview & Quicklinks
- What protective gear are you using ?
- Cleaning products
- Frequency of cleaning ?
- Emptying the commode bucket ?
- Properly preparing the commode bucket
- Using multiple commode buckets
- Put in an extractor fan
- The area around the bedside commode
- Floor protection under the bedside commode
- Proper handling of trash from the commode and incontinence products
- Washable soft coverings and fabric
- Air filters
Bedside commode odor control
What protective gear are you using ?
You should be wearing disposable gloves when cleaning to protect against the chemicals in the disinfectants and other products, and also disposable aprons or overalls to protect from particles of feces and urine – and should be throwing away the disposable items after each use, and disinfecting overalls regularly.
This is not just done to protect yourself from chemicals, it is also done to inhibit the spread of bacteria around the home – if you are cleaning in your clothes which you wear around the home, you could be getting the bacteria from the feces and urine on those clothes, and then spreading them around as you sit and lean on various pieces of furniture, and so on.
You need a household cleaning fluid/ detergent to remove “material”, and a disinfectant which contains bleach to kill all the microbes.
Products such as –
Lysol, bleach, Odo-Ban (cleans and disinfects), Pinesol, and white vinegar.
Another type of product which can be used to tackle spills on carpets and other surfaces where cleaning is more tricky is an enzymatic cleaner of the type used for cleaning up cat and dog messes, such as –
Anti Icky Poo Enzymatic cleaner, Nature’s Miracle Enzyme Spray – you can find a number of brands in pet shops
On curtains, cushions and mattresses you can spray an antibacterial disinfectant spray which will kill bacteria and remove odors, – not to say that washing curtains from time to time is not a bad idea either –
Tide and Lysol make antibacterial fabric sprays for use without laundering.
For more information, you can take a look at my article “What Is The Best Bedside Commode Cleaner ?”.
Frequency of cleaning ?
Other than the bucket, you want to be cleaning the frame, the plastic or padded armrests, and the seat with a quick wipe after thoroughly once or twice a week.
It’s nice if you can give the seat and armrests a quick wipe off and dry after each use, but that may not be possible.
I have a section on the correct cleaning procedure further down the page – if you want to do it properly there are specific ways of doing it.
Emptying the commode bucket ?
You should be emptying your commode bucket every time after use – this applies even if you are suing disposable commode liners, and even more if you are not.
When you empty the bucket after each use without any liner, you need to
- rinse it several times
- soak the bucket in hot water for a few minutes
- clean it with a household cleaning solution/detergent
- rinse it in water again
- wash it in disinfectant
- rinse it in water again
- dry it with a towel
You can clean with any toilet cleaner which doesn’t degrade plastic and disinfect with a household disinfectant.
Properly preparing the commode bucket
If you are not using commode liners with absorbent pad or powders for the commode bucket, you may want to pour 2 – 3 inches of water in the bucket so that the odors from urine or feces are partially inhibited from being released into the air.
This will not stop all the odors from being released, but it will stop some, as the water covering any waste will stop the bacteria which carry the smells from becoming airborne en masse.
Putting water in the bucket prior to use also helps with cleaning, as the extra water keeps things soft and also makes pouring the contents into the toilet a little easier.
If you want to do more than just adding water, you can add products like Poo Pourri which are made for covering smells in the toilet bowl.
You spray the product on the water in the bucket, and which –
(1) creates a film over the surface of the water providing another partial barrier to the release of the odors to a certain degree, and
(2) the product is scented, helping to mask the odors as well.
You can also use essential oils to do the same job. You can use lavender or peppermint essential oils if you want a scent
I have even read of one carer who uses Listerine mouthwash – a cap full.
There is one mistake that you do not want to make
– DO NOT PUT BLEACH OR ANY OTHER CHEMICAL CLEANERS IN THE WATER –
there are two reasons for this –
- it can get on the skin of the user’s private parts if it splashes up, and cause nasty skin irritations
- urine + beach = chlorine gas which is not great for the health
Using multiple commode buckets
It is quite a good idea to buy multiple commode buckets, so that after each use the bucket which has just been cleaned can be soaked in disinfectant for several hours to kill any bacteria it may have absorbed from the urine and feces.
Plastic is extremely absorbent, and soaking it in something which kills the bacteria will eliminate odors which have built up.
Alternatively, you can use a bucket which is enameled as it won’t absorb bacteria and start to smell.
Put in an extractor fan
If you really are not able to open windows, and the commode is being used a great deal, all these different measures may not be helping, but you can always spend around $150.00 and get a bathroom extractor fan fitted into the outside wall of the room and place the bedside commode beneath it.
Bathroom extractor fans have timer switches which can be set to go off after a certain number of minutes, which means that no one has to get back up and turn the fan off.
The area around the bedside commode
Cleaning around the bedside commode will need to be done regularly.
Cleaning the floor, laundering fabric covers and wiping down any furniture will remove a lot of the odors, and get rid of bacteria which can cause infections.
Don’t forget that you will want a disinfectant to kill the germs which make the odors.
Any unfinished wood and fabrics are going to absorb the odors, so it’s a good idea to seal any unfinished wooden furniture or move it to another room.
And as I noted earlier spray any curtains mattresses and fabrics that can’t be laundered with fabric disinfectant spray.
At the time that you spray with a fabric disinfectant spray, you should have the room unoccupied, and leave it empty for a further 45 minutes, so the spray is no longer in the air.
For any spills you on carpets, and for getting the smells out of carpets, enzymatic cleaners, such as Nature’s Miracle can be very effective – they are designed for cats and dogs.
You can find enzymatic cleaners at pet stores, and they’ll be able to tell you more about them.
There is also Anti Icky Poo which was developed for cleaning up decomposed matter, and is very popular on forums.
Floor protection under the bedside commode
Any wooden floors, or furniture, will absorb odors and liquids if they haven’t been sealed with a non-porous sealant – a varnish, paint or epoxy finish.
The best thing you can do is get a rubberized floor covering, and there are lots of mats out there – I have an article all about this, and also lots of DIY solutions if you don’t want to spend too much on the floor covering. You can read that article here.
Proper handling of trash from the commode and incontinence products
Wipes, or tissues, that have been used after using the bedside commode, should not be thrown in the trash in the bedroom.
All of that should go into a separate trash bag and into the outside garbage immediately.
Toilet paper, or tissues, can go down the toilet, but wipes don’t break down well and can block the toilet and have to go in the outside trash for landfill.
Any paper towels, wipes and tissues that are used to do the cleanup around the bedside commode, to wipe surfaces in the room, should also go into a separate trash bag and then straight into the outside trash – as they will carry the odors of the commode and also of the cleaning products.
Diapers need to go into a trash bag and be removed fast, and into the landfill trash outside.
If you forget and put any of the waste into a trash can inside the home, you want to disinfect it thoroughly.
Baking soda in the bottom of trash cans is very good at absorb some odors.
You will probably find that with all the diapers and other trash going in that your outside trash may start to smell, so it’s a good idea to disinfect that from time to time and to put baking soda in the bottom sometimes.
Washable soft coverings and fabric
The bed covers will absorb odors, so you want to wash all of these as often as possible.
A popular addition to the laundry is white vinegar to help remove odors.
Soiled bed linen and clothes, or items which have urine in, should be laundered straight away, and once more white vinegar is something that a lot of people like to add to remove the smell.
I have to admit I haven’t done this, and don’t know if it works, but a method suggested by many people on forums to control the odors in the room is to use HEPA Air filters, or by using an ionizer.
If you are using an ionizer the room it should be empty of people during use.
How to handle odors while you clean
Lots of caregivers have a rough time dealing with the odors from commode buckets, especially when emptying and like to wear a mask to help.
The mask you choose to wear depends on how hard you are finding it to deal with odors when cleaning the commode bucket – you can get a simple dust mask or go the whole hog and buy a mask for vapors, such as those used when spraying certain paints or resins. You’ll have to decide on that.
With a mask you can also put some liniment on your upper lip, or rub an essential oil onto the mask (a cheap dust mask one for this) before you put it on, and these will mask the odor
Vanilla extract is also rubbed into the mask by many people on forums.
Liniments you can put on your top lip –
- mentholatum – used by funeral homes
- horse liniment
Essential oils commonly rubbed into a mask –
Others people suck very strong mints, or menthol sweets, and push them into the top of their palettes with their tongue, and then breathe in through their nose, which will draw up the smell of the sweet to mask the odors.
I read that gastric surgeons sometimes rub oil of clove onto masks before a procedure they suspect may release particularly pungent odors.
Why not use disposable commode liners ?
Bedside commode liners with absorbent pads or powder, will help greatly cut down on odors, not only because the pads absorb some smell, but because the bag is sealed immediately, and you are not carrying a bucket around the home to the bathroom from the bedroom – it also cuts down on the chance of spills en route and around the toilet when emptying the bucket.
To use a commode liner, place it in the bucket, fold the top out over the top edge of the bucket, and place the absorbency pad at the bottom of the liner in the bucket.
The liner pad will turn urine and feces into a solid in very little time.
Infection risks also go down as you are not emptying the contents of the bucket into the toilet and then doing all the deep cleaning process, but instead removing the liner from the commode bucket, tying it up and disposing of it in the outside landfill trash.
Disposing of commode liners
Using a commode liner with absorbent pads or gel –
- once the commode liner has been used, pull the top part of the liner off the rim of the bucket
- draw up the plastic ties which go round inside the top of the liner closing the top, and tie a knot with them
- repeat as I described above if the liner has a sticky seal and then fold and seal the bag
- if your commode liner doesn’t have sticky seal, you can tie a knot in the liner itself
- immediately dispose of the commode liner in your landfill trash outside
Using a bedside commode liner without an absorbent pad, once you have disposed of the contents in the toilet and rinsed the liner with water into the toilet a number of times, pull it out of the bucket, tie it up and throw it in the outside landfill trash.
Don’t use bedside commode liners twice, as this a great way of spreading of bacteria and illness.
Popular brands of commode liners
You can get the different brands either with, or without, absorbent pads or powder.
Commode liners with absorbent pads or gel –
Bearals Commode Liners
CareBag Commode Liners
Carex Commode Liners
Medaccs Commode Liners
Medline Commode Liners
Medustry Commode Liners
Nurture Commode Liners
TidyCare Commode Liners
I have a longer article about commode liners, buying in bulk, with and without absorbent pads, DIY commode liners – the dos and don’ts -and outlines all of this with prices, quantities, which you’ll find here.
Cleaning the bedside commode frame and seat
Even if you use commode liners, you still need to clean the frame and seat once a week to keep it from smelling.
To clean the frame and seat
This does should be done a couple of times a week.
Seat and lid –
Take the seat, lid off the frame and soak plastic parts in hot water for a few minutes – sponge the armrests separately with hot water if they don’t come off the commode.
Clean the plastic parts with a non-abrasive cleaning detergent and sponge, give underneath of the seat and the parts near to the bucket a good clean. The sponge or brush you use should only be for cleaning with the detergent.
Rinse each part with hot water.
Clean everything with disinfectant and use another non-abrasive sponge or brush.
Rinse all the parts with hot water.
Dry everything off with a dry towel, and do a check for cracks
Commode frame –
Cover the holes for the leg height adjustments, so that water doesn’t get in, with electrical tape, as it is stretchy and waterproof.
To clean the frame –
- lightly soak for a few minutes – go over it a few times with a wet cloth and hot water
- clean with detergent
- dry with a towel
How to stop a bedside commode from tipping ?
Now of course, all the precautions, and cleaning in the world, will not help you if the bedside commode tips over when the user sits down.
Weaker and more elderly adults sometimes tend to sit back with quite a jolt due to a lack of strength in the legs, and this may cause a bedside commode to tip without meaning to.
You may need to take a number of precautions to avoid this outcome –
- Setting up a bedside commode in a safe space
- Properly positioning the commode without hazards
- Nighttime lighting
- Bed alarms or pagers
- Positioning the commode so that it cannot fall if it tips
- Derby Corner Commode
The Derby commode is a special bedside commode which fits into a corner in a particular way, which makes it impossible for it to tip over.
You can find out about these points, and more, in my article “How To Keep A Bedside Commode From Tipping ?”.
While you are looking for bedside commodes, there is lots more that you can do to make your bathroom a safer place for seniors, or anyone else with mobility issues.
To find out all the different things you can do, to have an instant impact on bathroom safety, take a look here, “54 Bathroom Safety Tips For Seniors – A Helpful Guide”.
Setting up a bedside commode over a toilet
Using a bedside commode over a toilet, if that is an option, will avoid all the cleaning of the bucket, and the odors will all be contained in the bathroom.
With transport commodes, don’t forget to lock the wheels once it is over the toilet.
3-in-1 bedside commodes, some transport commodes and some shower transport commodes can be used as a raised toilet seats over a toilet.
To learn more about using a bedside commode over a toilet, you can read my article “Can A Bedside Commode Be Used Over A Toilet ?”, in which you will learn about –
- exactly which commodes will go over a toilet
- 25 Inch seat height bedside commodes
- 24 Inch seat height bedside commodes
- 23 Inch seat height bedside commodes
- 22 Inch seat height bedside commodes
- 21 Inch seat height bedside commodes
- 20 Inch seat height bedside commodes
- 19 Inch seat height bedside commodes
- how to set up a commode over a toilet
- where to buy a bedside commode
- how much they cost
- and the pros and cons of bedside commodes vs raised toilet seats
The benefits of bedside commodes
Are you still a little put off by the idea of bedside commodes and the odors ?
If so, take a quick look at some benefits of using a bedside commode for an individual who has problems with strength and mobility –
- safety – the large armrests make it easier for a fragile or elderly adult to sit
- creates a sense of greater independence, freedom and control
- can lead to increased privacy and sense of dignity
- easy and quick access
- wheelchair users may find it easier than a toilet
- much more comfortable option for bedridden individuals than a bed pan
- can increase user confidence
- height adjustable, so the user can customize it to their height perfectly
- models in all sizes
- low-cost option
- no need for home renovation
- can be placed anywhere in the home
- extremely portable
- models with wheels
- some models have multiple uses
- can be used over an existing toilet
- a safe option after hip or knee replacement surgery
- less stress for the user worrying about getting to the bathroom
I have another article which deals with all these points at length if you still require a little convincing, and you can also find out about how to transfer to a bedside commode, and also how to assist someone using a bedside commode.
You will find all of that in “19 Benefits Of Bedside Commodes: Making Life Easier For Seniors”.
I’m Gareth, the author and owner of Looking After Mom and Dad.com
I have been a caregiver for over 10 yrs and share all my tips here.