The Best Way To Clean A Bedside Commode


I can’t say I love cleaning my mom’s bedside commode, but it is a job which needs to be done well, and properly. There are some ways of doing it which can make it easier, but you still have to stick to a few simple rules to make that you aren’t spreading nasty little bacteria around the home.


The best way to clean a bedside commode is to –


  • soak with hot water
  • clean with detergent
  • rinse with water
  • clean with disinfectant
  • rinse with water 
  • dry with a towel

How to clean a bedside commode ?


With a bedside commode, you have to empty the commode bucket and clean it each time it is used.


Overalls and supplies


Emptying and cleaning the commode bucket in the toilet can be a messy business, so should wear either a disposable apron, or a set of overalls used just for cleaning, to stop the spread of infectious bacteria around the home.


So you will need –

  • overalls or disposable plastic apron
  • disposable rubber gloves
  • a household detergent/cleaning fluid
  • a disinfectant
  • a dry towel
  • 2 non-abrasive sponge
  • 2 wash cloth

If you can, it is handy to have it all by the toilet, where you are dumping the contents of the commode bucket.

If you are not using a disposable commode liner with absorbent pads or gelling powder in the commode bucket, then before the commode bucket is used put 2 – 3″ of water.

You do this because –

  • water will stop some of the bacteria which cause odors to become airborne and making the room smell unpleasant
  • the water will make it easier to clean the bucket out as the water will keep poop soft

Do no put bleach into the water in the bucket before a person uses the commode. It can combine with urine to make chlorine gas, and it can splash onto the user’s private parts and cause serious skin irritations.

Do you put water in a bedside commode ?


If you are not using a disposable commode liner with absorbent pads or gelling powder in the commode bucket, then before the commode bucket is used put 2 – 3″ of water.

Don’t forget that if you use this method you can add an essential oil, mouthwash or a product such as Poo Pourri, each of which will both scent the water.

Secondly, the Poo Pourri, and other scented oil based products, will also leave a film on top of the water acting as a barrier inhibiting the release of odors, which are airborne particles. 


You are adding the water because –


  • water will stop some of the bacteria which cause odors to become airborne and making the room smell unpleasant
  • the water will make it easier to clean the bucket out as the water will keep poop soft


Do no put bleach into the water in the bucket before a person uses the commode. It can combine with urine to make chlorine gas, and it can splash onto the user’s private parts and cause serious skin irritations.

How to clean a bedside commode bucket ?


Do not rely on the bucket handle to carry the bucket. Put it in a larger container to carry it to the bathroom, or carry it from the bottom

I have had commode bucket handles come off the bucket a number of times when I was carrying it, and I had nothing in it, thank goodness !

Tip the contents into the toilet carefully ! Avoid dumping it in too quickly, and don’t do it from too high, or it will come right back up at you !


Once the bucket is empty, the cleaning process is as follows –


1/ Soaking

Sit the bucket in a large container of hot water for a minute or two. This loosens up anything which is stuck to the sides of the bucket.


2/ Cleaning

You need to only use a non-abrasive detergent cleaner and anon-abrasive sponge or cloth.

Abrasive cleaners, sponges or cloths can degrade the plastic surface, which will allow bacteria and germs to penetrate it.

The cleaning is done to remove any matter which is being stuck to the bucket.

3/ Rinsing

After you have thoroughly washed the bucket with the detergent, rinse it with hot water.


4/ Disinfecting

Follow the same process with a disinfectant and a fresh sponge – don’t use the same sponge for cleaning and disinfecting.


5/ Rinsing

Rinse the commode bucket with hot water thoroughly.


6/ Drying

Dry the commode bucket with a clean dry towel.


Remember, each time before the commode bucket is used, add 2 – 3″ of water.

Having multiple commode buckets


If you are not going to use disposable commode liners, and your commode bucket is plastic (most are) then you may want to get multiple buckets.

This way, it is possible to leave the commode bucket soaking in a disinfectant a few hours after cleaning each time after use.

Plastic absorbs odors,  and to remove them takes a good long soak in a disinfectant, so that the bacteria which cause the odors are killed – a good disinfectant should kill 99.9% of germs.

If you can get an enamel commode bucket that is even better, as it doesn’t absorb the odors and bacteria, and won’t need to be soaked, but they are hard to find.


Cleaning the frame and seat of a bedside commode


As I said at the outset, despite the fact that you may be using commode liners to avoid having to deep clean the commode bucket, you will still have to clean the commode seat, lid and frame.


To clean a frame and seat

This does not have to be done this thoroughly each time the commode is used, but it should be done a couple of times a week.

Seat and lid (and splash guard if you are using it over a toilet) 


1/ Soaking

Soak the seat, lid and any other plastic parts in hot water for a few minutes  – taking care to sponge the armrests with hot water if they don’t come off the commode – they are in a lot of contact with the user’s skin.


2/ Cleaning

Clean the parts with a non-abrasive cleaning detergent and sponge used only for cleaning, giving the underside of the seat and the parts nearest the bucket lots of attention.

3/ Rinsing

Rinse everything with hot water.


4/ Disinfecting

Clean again with disinfectant and a non-abrasive sponge or brush.


5/ Rinsing

Rinse all the parts with hot water.


6/ Drying

Dry all the parts off with a clean dry towel, and do a thorough check for cracks anywhere in the plastic.


Commode frame

Before you do anything, you need to cover all the holes for the leg height adjustments, so that water doesn’t get in and rust the internal workings. I like to use electrical tape as it is stretchy and waterproof, and it allows you to make sure that you can give things a hard clean.


The frame should also be


  • lightly soaked for a few minutes – just go over it a few times with a wet cloth and hot water
  • cleaned with a detergent
  • rinsed
  • disinfected
  • rinsed
  • dried

How often should a bedside commode be cleaned ?


You should be cleaning the bedside commode every time you use it –  it should be cleaned and then disinfected. 

By doing this, you will stop infections, and cut down on the odors which can be absorbed by porous surfaces, including unsealed wood, curtains and bed fabrics.

Leaving a commode pail unemptied is very unhealthy, as the bacteria will, after a time, become airborne, and it just isn’t healthy for anyone next to it.


How to use bedside commode liners ?


Disposable commode liners are essentially a degradable plastic bag with a plastic tie, or a sticky seal, at the top of the bag.

You place the liner inside the commode bucket and then pull the top of the liner over the and edges of the bucket, so the inside of the bucket and the top edges are all covered by the liner.

How to dispose of commode liners ?


You can use disposable commode liners in two ways –


  • with absorbent pad, gel or powder – this is then just dumped in the outside landfill trash after use because the liquids are all absorbed by the absorbent products
  • without absorbent pad, gel or powder – because you are not using absorbent products in the liner, the poop etc. must be emptied into the toilet, the bag is left in the bucket and rinsed a few times, and then carefully removed and thrown into the trash



This can spread bacteria all over the place and cause serious skin infections. Especially with the elderly who have thin and often torn skin which is easily infected by bacteria.

Commode liner brands


Brands of commode liners sold with absorbent pads or gel –


CareBag Commode Liners

Carex Commode Liners

Cleanwaste Sani-Bag+

Medaccs Commode Liners 

Medustry Commode Liners

TidyCare Commode Liners


If you want to know more about the simplest way of keeping a bedside commode bucket clean, more about the liners, bulk prices, brands with and without absorbent pads, and making your own DIY commode liners – with all the dos and don’ts – I have an article which you can read here

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”.

Bedside commode cleaning products


These are some popular products will  clean and disinfect a commode bucket – this list is not definitive list, you just have to use a household detergent/cleaner, and a disinfectant, or a combination product.

If you use a combination cleaner and disinfectant, you still need to wash and rinse the commode bucket twice.


  • Lysol
  • Lysol Spray
  • Pinesol
  • Clorox
  • White Vinegar
  • Odo Ban – it cleans, disinfects and helps control fungus and mildew if used regularly
  • Anti Icky Poo Enzymatic clean
  • Nature’s Miracle enzyme spray

What to put under a bedside commode ?


You really want to make sure that the floor under and around your commode is well covered in case of spillages.

There are lots of options, and basically you just want something which is waterproof.

Under a bedside commode, for floor protection you can use –


  • mats for bedside commodes
  • rubber floor mats
  • silicone mats
  • anti-microbial floor mats
  • bedside incontinence floor mats
  • incontinence underpads
  • waterproof potty training mats

If you want to find specific examples, you can take a look at look another article of mine – “Floor Protection For A Bedside Commode”.

Bedside commode odor control


One of the problems people encounter with bedside commodes is unpleasant odors.

But with a few measures, and prompt emptying of the commode bucket, it is easily controlled.

Really, if you don’t put off emptying it, or heaven forbid, let a person use it twice without emptying, there is no reason it should smell up the room or home.

The following are tips on how to keep the odors under control.


Regular cleaning and emptying

The bucket should be cleaned, and emptied every time it is used, and without delay, this stops the bacteria which cause the odors from becoming airborne.


Install an extractor fan

If you can, have an extractor fan put in the wall just above the commode, just like a bathroom extractor fan.

Extractor fans come with timers, so you don’t have to remember to switch them off, it will do so after 4 – 15 minutes automatically.


Materials and surfaces absorb odors

Curtains, bed coverings and all other soft furnishings are all absorbing the odors and retaining them, so they need to be washed or sprayed with Lysol disinfectant spray.

In the laundry, adding white vinegar is a popular method to remove odors.

Disinfectant sprays will kill odors

If the bedside commode in a bedroom, the bed mattress needs to be aired, and sprayed with a disinfectant spray, and the curtains should be sprayed if they are not laundered.

Lysol disinfectant spray or Dettol spray will do the job, and there is no need for a wipe down afterwards.

Just remember to clear the room for 45 minutes after spraying, as you shouldn’t breathe it in for that time period.


Cleaning around the commode

As well as all the commode cleaning, you need to regularly clean the areas adjacent to the bedside commode with disinfectants.


What about spillages ?

Should you have a spill, and it happens on a carpet, you may want to get an enzymatic cleaner such as Natures Miracle or Anti Icky Poo, which also come in sprays.

These are pet mess cleaners for the carpet, so they specially for this type of surface and mess.

Put down plastic

It’s a good idea to have a floor covering under the commode and around it – some form of waterproof covering to avoid any carpets, or wooden floors, absorbing odors from urine etc.

You can use incontinence under pads for this, some brands are disposable, and others are machine washable.

If the commode is on a surface which hasn’t been sealed or varnished, you may want to do that first, if you aren’t going to put down some sort of covering.

If you want to buy a proper commode mat or a type of floor mat, I have an article which outlines all the various options, including the bed under pads that I mention above. There are some good commode mats, but also some rubberized floor mats which are very solid and will do the job as well. You can find the article here.


Air Filters

Many caregivers recommend using HEPA Air filters, but I have never used one, so I cannot say how much of an effect they have personally.

But if you are going to use an ionizer in the room, no one should be present while it is in use. 

Removing all waste

As well as emptying the commode immediately, you want to get all the trash, toilet paper and wipes into the outside trash straight away.

Nothing should be left lying around or in a trash bin in the room with the commode, get it outside in the trash.


If you are having serious issues with the bedside commode odor control, I actually have an article devoted to that, and also how to handle the odors while you are cleaning a bedside commode, especially if you are not using disposable commode liners.
Here is where you can read that “Bedside Commode Odor Control: How To Keep It Smelling Sweet ?”

Using a bedside commode over a toilet

 3-in-1 commode and stacking commodes with adjustable legs can be used over a toilet, either as a raised toilet seat or as a toilet safety frame.

Some drop arm commodes, transport commodes, shower chair transport commodes can be used over a toilet, just so long as they are not fixed height, and don’t have a horizontal bars which obstruct the commode from going back – with these types of commode it is always best to check with the retailer.

It requires no clean up afterwards as the bucket is removed from the commode frame before use, and everything goes into the toilet, which means that the chances of infections from bacteria are reduced.


To use a commode over a toilet –


  • take the commode bucket out of the bucket platform
  • put your bathroom toilet seat and lid in their upright positions
  • play with the height of the commode legs until the commode seat level is above the toilet bowl rim
  • to adjust the leg height you depress the push buttons in the legs and pull or push to lengthen, or shorten
  • take care to have the legs all the same length
  • don’t set the commode legs so high that the user’s feet are dangling in the air when they are seated on the commode
  • set the commode in place over the toilet
  • lift the commode seat and place the splash guard under the seat in the bucket platform
  • if your commode has wheels, always lock them when in a static position for use as a commode, such as here


If you want to know more about the different bedside commodes you can use over toilets, where to buy them, and how they compare to raised toilet seats, I have written an article where I cover these points and more  – “Can A Bedside Commode Be Used Over A Toilet ?”

3-in-1 bedside commode used over a toilet

How to use, sit or transfer to a bedside commode ?


Using a walker to sit on a bedside commode can be extremely helpful. Having the walker to hold onto as you sit down and stand up gives extra stability, and can build confidence as well.


Sitting down on a bedside commode –


  • displacing and holding onto the walker as you go, slowly back up to the bedside commode
  • stop as soon as you feel the commode lightly touching against the back of the legs
  • keeping one hand on the walker and pull down any clothing, or have a caregiver lower it for you
  • reach behind you for the armrest of the commode with one hand and grip it, then reach behind you for the other armrest with the other hand – this is done one hand at a time, as you hold the walker when you reach back with the first hand, and then let go once you have the armrest of the commode in the grip of the first hand
  • firmly gripping the armrests slowly lower yourself onto the seat of the commode and sit back
  • as you are holding the commode armrests firmly, you should be able to lower yourself smoothly into the seat without causing a tipping of the commode

How to stand up from a bedside commode –


  • place the walker in front of the commode to hold onto
  • edge forwards to the front of the seat with your feet are solidly on the floor
  • with both hands gripping the commode armrests, push up to stand
  • standing with one hand still holding the armrest of the commode, with the other hand reach forward and take a hold of the walker, and then do take hold of the walker with your other hand
  • use one hand only to pull up your clothes, or have a caregiver assist you with them


When feet don’t touch the floor properly and dangle in the air, accidents tend to happen, so always have the commode low enough that a good part of the feet are touching the floor when seated.

If the person using the commode is unable to use it without endangering themselves, they should always do it when they have assistance.

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.

Gareth Williams

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