Bedside Commode vs 3 In 1 Commode ? What’s The Difference ?

by | Beginners Info, Personal Hygiene

My mom loves her 3-in-1 commode. Around 22 months ago, after hip surgery my mom used one both at the bedside, and then after that, over our actual toilet. It’s easy to put up in a room, or over a toilet, and just as quick to remove. But there are other bedside commodes which are also great options for different situations and needs.

The difference between a simple bedside commode and a 3 in 1 commode, is that the 3 in 1 is a multi-functional type of bedside commode. As it’s name would indicate, this type of commode can be used for 3 different functions – bedside commode, raised toilet seat and toilet safety frame.

More about 3 in 1 commodes

If you type “bedside commode” into google, the 3 in 1 commode is generally the type of commode that you will be shown.

The frames are usually made from steel, or aluminum, and the seats are either a hard plastic, or soft and padded.

Just because these commodes are said to be for these three particular uses, that doesn’t mean that there are not others – as a spare chair for instance, or if you cover it with something to protect it from water, you can wash arms and legs with a sponge without risking getting water onto any corrosive parts, especially if it’s an aluminum model.

My mother was given sponge baths on hers by nurses in our home, and they just covered it with a large heavy towel.

What is a bedside commode ?

Bedside commodes actually come in a variety of types, of which the 3 in 1 commode is one example of the static types.

There are in fact a selection of static types of bedside commode –

 

  • simple folding bedside commodes which can only be used as a static bedside commode
  • stacking commodes which don’t fold, but can be stacked, but have only the one function as a static bedside commode
  • static shower bedside commode is one which can be used either as as bedside commode or as a shower chair
  • static drop arm bedside commodes, of which the 3 in 1 is sometimes one, as it can have drop arms
  • static transfer bench bedside commodes which are combined bath or shower transfer benches and commodes
  • 3 in 1 beside commodes which distinguish themselves by their multiple functions

 

And their are mobile types of bedside commodes –

  • transport bedside commodes
  • shower transport bedside commodes

 

So as you can see the term bedside commode refers to a broad range of commodes with different functions, and we will be comparing them all with the 3 in 1 commode.

Before I go into the comparisons, I am going to give a short description of each type of bedside commode.

After that I will make a comparison of each type with the 3 in 1 commode, and discuss their differences with it.

All of the commodes that I am about to outline, except for the static folding bedside commode, static stacking commode and static shower commode (in short the first three and most basic types) have bariatric models with a range of maximum weight capacities going as high as 1500 lb.

For those of you who are new to the caregiving world, the term bariatric, which comes from the Greek word baros, means weight.

Most equipment which is destined to be used by larger individuals is either referred to as bariatric or heavy duty.

Bedside commodes which will support around 400 lb and over are called bariatric or heavy duty.

There are also wide and extra wide versions of bedside commodes and also tall version, and it is typically stated in the model name.

If you want to know more about the weight capacities of bedside commodes weight capacities, I have an article which I keep fully up to date with lists of all the models of the different types of bedside commode and their model number and their maximum weight capacity. All the data was taken from the manufacturers data they publish on their commodes. The article is “Bedside commode weight capacity: over 140 examples” and you can read it here.

Static bedside commodes

Static folding bedside commodes

Static folding bedside commodes, which fold like a normal folding chair, are very much the most basic model, and are usually rather lightweight, and not for larger individuals.

These commodes are typically made from aluminum or steel, and come with a backrest, fixed armrests, seat, lid, commode pale and splash guard.

These bedside commodes function only as a bedside commode – due to their horizontal bars between the legs they can’t be used over, or around toilets.

Some examples of the most basic static folding bedside commodes are –

 

  • Aidapt folding commode, Prod.No. C017, 280 lb weight capacity 
  • Drive folding commode, Prod.No. VR252F, 264 lb weight capacity 
  • Shelden Healthcare folding commode, Prod. No.–, 330 lb weight capacity 

The simple static folding commode in comparison with the 3 in 1 commode is –

  • lighter than a 3 in 1 commode,
  • folds up slightly smaller, and quite a bit more easily, than a 3 in 1 commode
  • has just the one function as a lightweight bedside commode
  • can be moved more easily by an elderly person
  • can be set up by an elderly person on their own if they are a mobile
  • only has models supporting a maximum weight up to 330 lb

The 3 in 1 commode is –

  • far more versatile – has 3 functions – bedside commode, raised toilet seat, toilet safety rail
  • is much more solid in construction
  • certain models have a maximum weight capacity of 1500 lb
  • can be bought with drop arms or fixed arms
  • may be too hard for some elderly adults to set up on their own

 

In short the basic static folding commode is a lightweight commode for smaller elderly adults, or disabled users, with an advantage that it is easier to set up and fold away.

The 3 in 1 is a much more solid, versatile bedside commode which can be used by many more larger individuals.

If you are looking for a bedside commode for the long term, which is solid and hard wearing, I would choose the 3 in 1.

My mom’s 3 in 1 is almost two years old and there is no sign of wear at all, and it is as solid as ever.

If you need one as a toilet safety frame or as a raised toilet seat, then you can only choose the 3 in 1 in this case. 

Static stacking bedside commodes

Static stacking bedside commodes, are another simpler bedside commode design, although they are rather more solid than the simple folding commode, and some have adjustable height legs and removable arms.

These commodes can be made of either steel or aluminum, and can hold a user of a greater weight than the lightweight folding commodes I just described.

The stacking bedside commode has two functions, if it has adjustable leg height, those of bedside commode and raised toilet seat over a conventional toilet.

Some examples of these stacking bedside commodes are –

 

  • Aidapt Essex height adjustable stacking commode, Prod.No. VR161BL, 375 lb weight capacity 
  • Homecraft Stacking Commode, Prod. No. 5121A , 418 lb weight capacity 
  • Homecraft Stacking Commode, Prod. No. 5121D , 418 lb weight capacity
  • Langham Ashby adjustable height commode stool, Prod. No. 6247/OA, 350 lb weight capacity 
  • Langham Ashby adjustable height commode chair, Prod. No. 6248/OA, 350 lb weight capacity 
  • Shelden Healcare stacking, Prod. No.–, 330 lb weight capacity  

The static stacking commode in comparison with the 3 in 1 commode  –

  • does not fold up like a 3 in 1 commode so is not practical for storage in a limited space like a 3 in 1 commode
  • some models have two functions (if you get an adjustable height model) – bedside commode and raised toilet seat
  • the stacking model comes pretty much set up as it doesn’t fold, so that is easier than the 3 in 1
  • can be set up by an elderly person on their own if they are a mobile
  • only has models supporting a maximum weight up to 418 lb, which is far less than 3 in 1 commodes
  • they are slightly more attractive commodes, or at least look less rudimentary than a 3 1n 1 commode

The 3 in 1 commode is –

  • more versatile – has 3 functions – bedside commode, raised toilet seat, toilet safety rail
  • can be more solid in construction
  • certain models have a maximum weight capacity of 1500 lb
  • can be bought with drop arms or fixed arms
  • may be too hard for some elderly adults to set up on their own

 

The static stacking bedside commode is a non-folding commode for smaller elderly adults, or disabled users, who weigh up to 418 lb.

The designs are a bit more stylish, but they are hard to store away in a cupboard or under a bed.

The 3 in 1 can be much more solid, is more a versatile bedside commode and can be used by a far wider range of larger individuals.

Because you can also get 3 in 1 commodes with drop arms they can be used for transfer, and also allow the caregiver greater access if they are helping to clean the user.

For me, the 3 in 1 is again a far better longterm solution, is more portable, and all of them can be used as a raised toilet seat, not just some, and also as a toilet safety frame which the stacking versions cannot.

Static shower bedside commodes

Static shower bedside commodes are bedside commodes which can be used both as a bedside commode, and also in the shower – in the title it says “bath” quite often, but I think you would need a very wide tub for some of these.

The commodes are made from aluminum or a coated steel as they have to be water proof.

This type of commode has two functions – bedside commode and shower or bath chair.

 

Some examples of these commodes are –

  • Lumex padded bedside commode bath and shower chair, Prod. No. 7947KD, 300 lb weight capacity
  • Medline microban bedside commode, Prod. No. MDS89664ELMB, 400 lb weight capacity
  • Platinum Health UltraCommode bedside commode and folding shower chair, Prod. No. –, 300 lb weight capacity

The  static shower bedside commode in comparison with the 3 in 1 commode  –

  • some fold up and are as practical for storage in a limited space as a 3 in 1 commode
  • the non-folding models are not great for easy storage all 
  • some models have removable or drop arms, which makes them practical for cleaning and transfer just like the 3 in 1
  • they have two functions – bedside commode and shower/bath chair 
  • they are waterproof, which a 3 in 1 is not, so as well as being used in the bathroom you can give sponge baths without worrying about water getting on them
  • the assembly of the non-folding models is more complicated than a 3in 1 commode
  • only has models supporting a maximum weight up to 400 lb, which is far less than 3 in 1 commodes

The 3 in 1 commode is –

  • more versatile – has 3 functions – bedside commode, raised toilet seat, toilet safety rail
  • can be more solid in construction
  • certain models have a maximum weight capacity of 1500 lb
  • may be too hard for some elderly adults to set up on their own
  • is not waterproof, so is not usable in the bathroom or shower

 

The static shower bedside commode main reason for existence is that it is waterproof and can be used in baths and showers as well as a bedside commode, so the comparison with a 3 in 1 is a bit redundant if you want something for the shower or bath.

Both types of commodes offer drop arm models giving access from the side and a transfer capability.

I have to say though, that I have only found the examples that I have listed here of the static shower bedside commodes, so there is a far wider range of 3 in 1 commodes to choose from.

These commodes are just completely different from one and other in their essential uses, so the choice is simple if you need something for the shower which is static and a commode.

Drop arm bedside commodes

As the name suggests, these bedside commodes have drop armrests which can be moved out of the way if the user needs to slide out of the side of the chair into a wheelchair, for instance.

The drop arm model can also be more practical if the person using the seat needs some help cleaning themselves.

With a drop arm, the armrest can be dropped away, flipped up, or sometimes removed, so you can stand on the side and help.

The drop arm bedside commodes can also be used –

  • a bedside commode
  • a toilet safety frame
  • a raised toilet seat over your toilet

The frames are steel, or aluminum, the seats and lids are either a hard plastic or a padded seat on some models. 

The drop arm models can be both static bedside commodes and rolling models as well, and can be combined with other functions, as in on a 3 in 1.

Some examples of drop arm commodes are –

Static commodes

  • Drive Medical deluxe steel drop arm commode, Prod. No. 11125KD-1, weight capacity  300 lb
  • Medline steel drop arm commode, Prod. No. MDS89668, weight capacity 250 lb
  • Nova Drop arm transport commode chair, Prod. No. 8805, weight capacity 250 lb

Transport commodes

  • AMG deluxe transport commode w/ 3″ rubber wheels, Prod. No. AMG770344, weight capacity 250 lb
  • AMG Medical MedPro Euro commode with drop down arms, Pro. No. AMG 770365, weight capacity 350 lb
  • Nova Drop arm transport commode chair, Prod. No. 8805, weight capacity 250 lb

Shower transport commodes

  • AMG Medical MedPro Euro commode with drop down arms, Pro. No. AMG 770365, weight capacity 350 lb
  • AMG Medical MedPro Euro commode with flip up arms, Pro. No. AMG 7703755, weight capacity 350 lb
  • Etac Swift mobile shower chair with swing-away arms, Prod. No.–,weight capacity 352 lb
  • Nuprodx Foldable travel shower transport commode chair (drop arms optional), Prod. No. 4000TX, weight capacity 300 lb

A comparison of drop arm commodes with 3 in 1 is pointless, as you will have understood that 3 in 1 commodes can have drop arms.

Transfer bench commodes

Transfer bench commodes are specialty commodes which combine a commode and a bath, or shower transfer bench.

These function as a transfer benches  and as commodes.

These commodes can be made out of steel or aluminum.

 

Some examples of transfer bedside commodes are –

 

  • Go Anywhere transport commode and transfer bench (also a transport commode when detached), Prod. No. CST, 250 lb weight capacity
  • Carex transfer bench and commode, Prod. No. 081295278, 300 lb weight capacity
  • Eagle Heath toilet to tub 55″ base sliding transfer bench commode, w/out armrests, Prod. No. 77963, , 350 lb weight capacity
  • Drive Medical Padded transfer bench commode, Prod. No. 12005KDC-1, 400 lb weight capacity
  • Drive Medical Plastic transfer bench commode w/ opening, Prod. No. 12011KDC-1, 400 lb weight capacity

The transfer bench commode in comparison with 3 in 1 commodes –

The transfer bench commode is a very specialized type of bedside commode, so a comparison is rather difficult.

The transfer bench commode is a lot wider, and is used for transferring people into the bath or shower.

The transfer bench is for people who are able to step into a bathtub or shower.

Examples of transfer bench commodes

  • Drive Medical padded transfer bench w/ commode, Prod. No. 12005KDC, weight capacity 400 lb
  • Nova padded transfer bench w/ commode, Prod. No. 9073, weight capacity 300 lb
  • Lumex padded transfer bath bench w/ commode, Prod. No. 7956KD, weight capacity 300 lb

The 3 in 1 in comparison

  • both function as a commode
  • the 3 in 1 cannot perform the function of helping a person in and out of the bath or shower
  • the 3 in 1 can be used as a toilet safety rail and as a raised toilet seat which the transfer bench commode cannot
  • the 3 in 1 commodes have many many more models to choose from

Transport or rolling bedside commodes

Transport or rolling bedside commodes are mobile bedside commodes.

They come in steel, aluminum and in a medical grade PVC for individuals who are immunocompromised.

Transport bedside commodes can be one of two types –

  • attendant transport commodes, which are pushed by a caregiver, and
  • self-propelling transport commodes which have a wheelchair wheel at the back and allow the user the independence of using the commode as a wheelchair themselves – the chairs do though also have handles at the back of the seat so the chair can also be pushed

 

The transport bedside commode can be used as –

  • a transport chair
  • a commode
  • placed over the toilet

If you are using the commode over the toilet make sure that –

  • the commode has adjustable height legs, or if it is a fixed height
  • the seat of the commode is higher than the rim of your toilet bowl
  • there are no horizontal bars between the back legs which will stop you from being able to position the commode frame over the toilet

Finally, when your loved ones are using the commode make sure that the wheels are locked in position to avoid any accidents.

 Examples of Attendant transport bedside commodes are –

  • Nova drop arm transport commode, Prod. No. 8805, weight capacity 250 lb
  • Drive Medical drop arm commode with wheels with padded armrests, Prod. No. 11101W-2, weight capacity 300 lb
  • Lumex Versamode drop arm transport chair commode w/5 ” wheels, Prod. No. 6810A, weight capacity 300 lb
  • TFI Healthcare commode w/ elongated seat, Prod. No. 3217, weight capacity 300 lb
  • AMG Medical MedPro Euro commode with flip up arms, Pro. No. AMG 7703755, weight capacity 350 lb

 

Examples of Self-propelled transport bedside commodes are –

 

  • HBing transport commode wheelchair, weight capacity 198 lb
  • Yezijaju transport commode wheelchair, weight capacity 220 lb
  • LHSS transport commode wheelchair, weight capacity 220 lb
  • Belltower folding transport commode wheelchair, weight capacity 220 lb 

The transport bedside commode in comparison with the 3 in 1 commode  –

  •  a transport bedside commode has wheels and is not static like a 3 in 1
  • some models require a caregiver who can push the user, and others are self-propelled
  • these commodes are intended for users who have no mobility, or virtually no mobility without assistance, where as a 3 in 1 commode can be used by an individual who is largely more mobile
  • the transport commodes come in ranges of models which support up to around 400 lb
  • both types of bedside commode have drop arms and allow for some form of transfer and access for caregivers
  • there are a lot of transport commodes which fold, but set up is a bit more complicated, due to foot rests and other parts such as padded seats and seat inserts, which are found more frequently on transport commodes than on 3 in 1 models
  • the transport bedside commode has three functions – transport a person, bedside commode and raised toilet seat
  • the transport commode has as many functions as a 3 in 1, just one of them is different

 

If you are buying a commode, you will get a transport commode if wheels are needed, you will obviously not buy a 3 in 1 commode.

Transport commodes, (and not shower transport commodes) are a few hundred dollars more than 3 in 1 commodes due to the brakes and wheels.

The self-propelled transport bedside commodes being the more expensive.

 

Shower transport bedside commodes

These are commodes which have been designed to used in the shower – either with a caregiver pushing the chair in, or a self-propelled model, and are entirely waterproof.

These commodes won’t work if there is a lip, or a step, to the shower of course, so bear that in mind.

Like the transport commodes you have the “attendant” models, and the “self-propelled models”.

Shower transport commodes are available in stainless steel, coated steel, aluminum alloy and medical grade PVC.

The commode can be used as –

  • a shower chair
  • a transport chair
  • a bedside commode
  • some can be used over the toilet as a raised seat

As with the transfer bedside commode, lock the wheels when your loved one is using it in a static position.

Examples of Attendant shower transport bedside commodes are –

 

  • Drive Medical shower padded commode w/ wheels, Prod. No. 11114KD-1, weight capacity 300 lb
  • Mor Medical New Era PVC bariatric 26″  rolling commode shower chair w/ footrest, w/out insert, Prod. No. DNE-126-4TWL-SF, weight capacity 435 lb
  • Freeway T40 Standard shower transport commode chair, Prod. No. T40B, weight capacity 440 lb
  • Rebotec Dallas bariatric shower commode chair, Prod. No. TRE-359, weight capacity 440 lb
  • Drive Bariatric Aluminum Rehab Shower commode chair, Prod. No. NRS185008, weight capacity 500 lb
  • Arjo carmina bariatric shower and commode chair, Prod. No. ARJ-BLB1000-013, weight capacity 705 lb

 

Examples of Self-propelled shower transport bedside commodes are –

 

 

  • Healthline EZee Life shower/ transport bedside commode w/ wheelchair wheels, Prod. No. 180 -24, weight capacity 300 lb
  • Invacare Mariner rehab shower/ bedside commode wheelchair (16″ x 16″), Prod. No. 6795, weight capacity 300 lb
  • Invacare Mariner rehab shower/ bedside commode wheelchair(18.5″ x 18.5″), Prod. No. 6895, weight capacity 300 lb
  • Nuprodx Multichair Ultra narrow shower commode wheelchair (drop arms optional), Prod. No. 4020RX, weight capacity 300 lb
  • Showerbuddy Roll-inBuddy Solo, shower commode wheelchair, prod. no. SB6w, weight capacity 300 lb
  • Invacare Aquatec Ocean Ergo self propelled shower/ bedside commode w/ wheelchair wheels, Prod. No. INV-OCEANERGOSP, weight capacity 330 lb
  • Tuffcare Bariatric shower commode wheelchair, Prod. No. S990, weight capacity 450 lb

The shower transport bedside commode in comparison with the 3 in 1 commode  –

  • a shower transport bedside commode has wheels and is not static like a 3 in 1, it is designed for transporting a person and for showering
  • shower transport bedside commode require a caregiver who can push the user, and others are self-propelled
  • shower transport bedside commodes are intended for users who have no mobility, or virtually no mobility without assistance, where as a 3 in 1 commode can be used by an individual who is able to stand and is a little mobile at least
  • just like the 3 in 1 commodes the shower transport commodes come in large ranges of models which have hugely varying weight capacities, and some support as much as 750 lb
  • both types of bedside commode have drop arms and allow for some form of transfer and access for caregivers
  • shower transport commodes are waterproof, and 3 in 1 commodes are sometimes not at all waterproof, or may be partially waterproof, but are not designed to be used in water
  • the shower transport bedside commode has four functions – as a shower chair transport a person, bedside commode and raised toilet seat
  • the shower transport commode has more functions than a 3 in 1

 

Both these two types of bedside commode are very versatile, just in different areas.

There is though one other big difference, and that is in the area of price.

The shower transport commodes are in general a lot more expensive than a 3 in 1 commode.

The self-propelled models can be in the thousands of dollars, whereas your average 3 in 1 commode is in the 100 to 200 dollar range – with the exception of some of the biggest bariatric models of 3 in 1 commode which cost a bit more. 

How to set up a bedside commode over a toilet

To install the commode over a toilet –

  • remove the pale from the commode
  • if you have a small toilet, you may wish to remove the backrest from your commode 
  • put the lid and seat of your toilet into the upright position
  • adjust the height the legs of your commode so it is high enough to place it over the toilet
  • you push in the metal buttons on the legs to adjust the length of the commode leg
  • make sure that the legs are all the same length for stability and safety
  • check that all the push buttons have properly popped out of the holes when you have set the height
  • don’t make the seat so high that when seated the user’s feet dangle in the air – this can cause people to fall when they try to stand up
  • place the commode over the toilet 
  • insert the commode splashguard under the commode seat – you don’t have to use the splash guard if you don’t want to, especially if the seat is only an inch or so above the bowl

Summing up…

Whether or not you choose another type of bedside commode over a 3 in 1 commode really depends on the physical condition of the person using it, and their circumstances.

If you need something static, the the 3 in 1 is probably a better option than a simple folding bedside commode, which lacks the flexibility and multiple functions of the 3 in 1.

If you need something which is waterproof and good for the shower, then a 3 in 1 is not a great idea because parts of it may be made of steel and could rust and lead to accidents.

If you want a commode with wheels, then a transport commode is probably a better answer, and some can be used for the same functions, except for toilet safety rail which it cannot be used as.

If you are looking for a shower/transport and bedside commode combined, then a 3 in 1 commode again won’t do the job for you.

If you don’t need a raised toilet seat, or a toilet safety frame, and can’t foresee the need for them, then a simpler folding model may well do the job, and a 3 in 1 could be a waste of the extra money.

I hope this was of help and made it a little easier to choose your equipment.

I’m Gareth and I’m the owner of Looking After Mom and Dad.com

I have been a caregiver for over 10 yrs and share all my tips here.

Gareth Williams

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