Do Bedside Commodes Smell ?


This is probably the job that is least enjoyed by caregivers, but it does need to be done properly and without fuss, and doesn’t have to be nearly as unpleasant as, so many, seem to find it.

A bedside commode, which is not emptied and cleaned quickly after each use, is always going to smell. The bacteria which cause the odors become airborne and then spread to the surrounding area. If the commode is emptied promptly, properly cleaned, and the room ventilated, the problem can be greatly diminished.

Bedside commode odor control factors

Using a bedside commode, you have a certain number of options which will affect the amount of odors that are going to be generated –


  • if you use disposable commode liners with absorbent pads
  • if you use disposable commode liners without pads
  • if you make your own homemade commode liners
  • if you use the commode bucket without liners, how do you prep the bucket before use ?
  • how quickly you remove the liners or bucket contents from the room
  • how you clean the commode buckets after use
  • remove all waste from the room immediately – toilet paper etc
  • how you clean the room and surrounding area

Before we look at each of these, there is one thing that you can do if you are going to use a bedside commode which can make a huge difference.

Have an extractor fan put in the wall above the bedside commode – this does of course need an outside wall – just like the fans in bathrooms, which are there to remove the humidity and bad odors.

Of course opening a window if it is possible will provide good ventilation and rid a room of smells pretty quickly too, but it is not always possible, but an extractor fan can be turned on and on any time.


To learn more about keeping things under control, I have an article all about – “Bedside Commode Odor Control: How To Keep It Smelling Sweet ?”

Disposable commode liners with absorbent pads or gel


One way of cutting down on the problem with the commode odors is to use disposable commode liners and absorbent pads.

These are basically bags which have a pad or gelling agent in them for liquids, and which you place over and into the commode bucket.

Once the bucket has been used, you simply tie the liner strings or seal it with a sticky seal and throw it in the outside trash for landfill.

Like everything, it all depends on how quickly you tie up the liner – if you leave it there for hours untied, and also don’t put the lid back on the bucket, the smell will get everywhere, but if you take it straightaway and dispose of it, the smell will be much less.

If you don’t use disposable liners with pads, you will also have to carry the bucket with the contents to the bathroom to dispose of it in the toilet – this will spread more of the airborne bacteria during the emptying and rinsing, and so the smell.

I have used them for my mom after her hip replacement surgery, and we found them really quick and easy.

I have a long article all about commode liners, the different brands with pads, brands without pads, where to buy in bulk and do-it-yourself liners. You can read the article “How to dispose of commode liners ?” here.

Disposable commode liners alone


If you use a commode liner on its own, you can’t put it in the trash without first emptying it in the toilet, as the liquids have nothing to absorb them, and you can’t put them in the trash like that.

This becomes rather self-defeating if it is the odors that you are worried about, as you will have to carry the bucket to the toilet, empty and rinse it, and so will waft the airborne bacteria all over the place spreading the smell.

Once the liner has been rinsed, it should be thrown into the outside landfill trash.

Do not use disposable liners more than once, as it will spread bacteria and cause infections.


Homemade commode liners


Homemade commode liners have become quite popular, using plastic bags and different kinds of kitty litter.

The problem with them is that the bags are not in the least biodegradable, and the kitty litters can be very unhealthy if they are made from clay dust.

Now, you can make these more environmentally friendly if you use a biodegradable kitty litter made from wood, paper, grass or maize, and then use a commode liner instead of a polyurethane shopping bag.

That is not to say that commode liners are actually very biodegradable – they have cellulose and starch mixed into the plastic they are made from, and this decomposes in the landfill, but the plastic remains, simply in a powder form.

Anyhow, back to the issue of odors, the bag will work to cut down odors if you tie it up and dispose of it immediately, but not if you leave it there for hours.

The natural kitty litter will be scented in some way, so that could mask things a little, or just start to make a mix of different smells !


No liners, but prepping the commode bucket before use


If you don’t want to use commode liners for environmental, or cost reasons, there are still things that you can do to cut down on odors from the commode bucket.

Before each use, put about 3″ of water into the commode bucket. The water will make it harder for the bacteria to become airborne – we are talking about enough water to cover any poop.

The next thing that you can do is to put a scented essential oil, or a product like Poo Pourri in the water, this both scents the water and also creates another barrier through which the bacteria have to pass to create the bad odors.

The water also helps a great deal with emptying out and cleaning the commode bucket after use.


Emptying a bedside commode quickly


I have tried to stress, but can’t do it enough, that the speed with which you empty the commode bucket contents will really determine how much odors build up around a bedside commode.

You have to be on it in a flash and either seal it up and throw it out, or slap a lid on the bucket and get if down the toilet as fast as you can.

How to clean a commode bucket thoroughly ?


Before you clean, make sure that you are wearing cleaning clothes and gloves. Having clothes only used for cleaning limits the spread of the bacteria from the urine and feces.

Have everything you need in the bathroom ready before you clean the bucket.

The cleaning takes place in three stages –

  • soaking
  • cleaning
  • disinfecting

The bucket should be soaked in hot water for a few minutes to soften anything up.

Once this soaking is done, you should use a non-abrasive cleaning fluid and remove any material that is stuck to the bucket.

If you use an abrasive cleaner or sponge or brush, it will roughen up the surface of the bucket, which will then make it easier for bacteria to adhere and penetrate the plastic.

You can use any non-abrasive cleaning product you want to.

After cleaning, give the bucket a rinse.

Next, disinfect the bucket with a sponge or cloth and a good, strong disinfectant – you can use any good bathroom disinfectant of your choice.

If you can buy several buckets for your commode, this will allow you to leave one to soak in disinfectant for a few hours at a time, helping to kill any bacteria which have been absorbed into the plastic, and to kill off odors.

One of the problems with plastic is that it has a strong propensity to absorb odors.

One last trick with the commode bucket is to try to find an enamel or ceramic bucket, as these do not absorb odors and will not require the longs soaks in disinfectant to get rid of them.

If you want to find out about the best cleaning products, you can take a look at my article – “What Is The Best Bedside Commode Cleaner ?”.

Remove all trash from the room immediately


You should remove all wipes, toilet paper and gloves from the room straight away, and put them into the outside trash.

Don’t put any soiled toilet paper in the trash cans in the house, or they will start to smell as well, even once they have been emptied.

If you do forget and put some stuff into a trash can in the house, just sprinkle some bi-carbonate of soda in there to remove the smell.


Cleaning around the bedside commode


Cleaning around the commode is a little more than it sounds.

I am not just talking about putting down a  mat and wiping down the odd surface.

All the fabrics in the bedroom, or whatever room you have the bedside commode, will absorb the odors and smells from the commode, and as such will need regular cleaning to remove them.

Cushions, curtains, mattresses and bed clothes will all need to cleaned to remove the build up of odors  – you can use disinfectant sprays such as Lysol disinfectant spray to remove odors without any wiping afterwards, but you will need to clear the room for 45 minutes after spraying.

Wood which is not varnished, or waxed, will also absorb the surrounding odors, so it’s a good idea to make sure any wooden furniture which is in the same room as a bedside commode is sealed – and this is very important for a floor as it is such a large area.

If you have spillages on carpet and rough surfaces you can use enzymatic cleaners which have been made for cleaning up after pets, and as you can imagine you will find these in pet stores – Nature’s Miracle is a good example.

If you are looking for more information about properly cleaning bedside commodes, I have another article you can read – “The Best Way To Clean A Bedside Commode”.

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”.

Assisting someone to use a bedside commode


If your loved one can stand, they should learn to use the commode with a walker as follows –

to sit down on a bedside commode –


  • have your loved one back up until they feel the commode against the back of their legs (using the walker as they back up)
  • help your loved one to lower any clothing as they stand
  • holding onto the walker with one hand, your loved one should reach back with the other to find the armrest of the commode on the same side
  • then with the other hand reach for the armrest on the other side
  • gripping the armrests firmly, your loved one can now carefully sit back on the bedside commode seat
  • they must try not to sit down too quickly, as it may cause tipping
  • when seated, your loved one’s feet should touch the ground


While your loved one is using the commode, it is much nicer if you give them some privacy, and have them call you when they are ready to stand up. If you get a little bell, they can ring it when they need your assistance again.

It’s nice to let them preserve some dignity whenever you can.


To stand up from a bedside commode –


  • your loved one should shunt forwards on the seat to towards the front edge
  • then placing both hands on the armrests push up and stand
  • then reach forward with one hand, taking a hold of the walker and then the other


Your loved one may not be able to clean themselves, so you may have to assist them with this as well.

Assisting a person with cleaning themselves on a bedside commode


To assist your loved one with cleaning themselves –


  • you will know if your loved one needs help, so have everything ready in advance
  • it is good to have a supply of toilet paper, wet wipes, some warm water in a bowl, a dry soft towel and some gloves
  • put on the gloves before you start anything
  • help your loved one to stand and to hold onto the walker for balance while you help them clean up
  • clean your loved one with toilet paper or wet wipes, or both
  • if your loved one is a woman, it is important to clean from front to back to prevent urinary tract infections
  • use any warm water you need to clean any further and then dry them with the soft dry towel you prepared
  • have your loved one rinse and dry their hands if they helped at all
  • help with lifting any pants or other clothing back up while they are standing holding the walker
  • assist your loved one back to their bed or chair
  • if you are using the commode bucket without liners, put the lid on it and go empty it into the toilet
  • if you were using a commode liner, tie that up straight away
  • remove all the toilet paper and wet wipes – put all the rubbish in the outside trash
  • finally, remove your gloves and throw those away
  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap after helping your loved one, this also help them stay clean


Other aspects of using a bedside commode


If you want more information on –


  • the setting up and placement of the commode for your loved one’s safety
  • the emptying and disposal of the commode waste
  • the cleaning of the commode and the surrounding areas
  • the bedside commode odor control
  • use of a commode over a toilet


I have an article all about using bedside commodes, the different types, cleaning them, disinfecting them, how to set them up properly, ways of stopping them from tipping, where to put them, the different supplies and so on. So if you want the long version, you can find that article here.

And I have another long article“Do You Put Water In A Bedside Commode ?” all about prepping the bedside commode bucket with water and other products, odor control, special cleaning products for difficult commode spillages, commode frame cleaning and maintenance, as well as different products you can use to make the whole cleaning process a little more bearable if the smell is really getting to you.

Benefits of bedside commodes


Bedside commodes can be of great benefit for anyone who has problems with mobility, or standing and sitting.

My elderly mom has been happily using a bedside commode for a number of years, and won’t try anything else.

The bedside commode gives us both peace of mind at night, knowing that Mom has an easy and safe way of using the toilet.


The Benefits of bedside commodes are –


  • safety
  • creates 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
  • comfortable option for bedridden individuals
  • can increase user confidence
  • height adjustable
  • 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 caregivers than a conventional toilet
  • more sleep for caregivers


If you want to find out more about the benefits of a bedside commode, and especially for elderly loved ones, I have an article on the different ways in which it can really help – “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.

Gareth Williams

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