Do You Put Water In A Bedside Commode ?

by | Beginners Info, Personal Hygiene

It’s hard to imagine that any caregiver enjoys the job of cleaning up bedside commodes, or the odors associated with this, but it doesn’t need to be a nightmare. And don’t forget that it isn’t great for the person using the commode, either. So, the more you can do to make it pleasant for everyone will go a long way.

Do you put water in a bedside commode ? Yes. If you are not using disposable liners, you would do well to put 2-3 inches of water in the bucket to help with cleaning and odor control, but you can do a lot more.

Bedside commode odor control

If you are not using disposable commode liners, and the commode is in a bedroom next to your loved one’s bed, or near to it, there will be a number of things that you can do to reduce the odors of urine and feces.

Aside form the odors being unpleasant, it’s also not healthy for your loved one to be exposed to the odors of urine and feces over an extended period of time.

It is best to fill about one third the volume of your commode bucket with water to trap odors, but what you can do doesn’t just stop there.

Other things you need to look at – 


  • what are you wearing when cleaning ?
  • how often are you emptying the bucket of the commode ?
  • how are you cleaning the bucket ?
  • how are you cleaning the frame, seat and armrests of the commodes ?
  • do you have a spare commode bucket ?
  • are you using a plastic, ceramic or enameled metal bucket ?
  • are you cleaning the floor and general area around the commode ?
  • what are you using to clean up spills ?
  • is the floor covered under the commode incase of splashes and spillage?
  • are you washing the bed clothes – sheets and blankets – regularly ?
  • how are you washing clothes which get urine on them ?
  • are you washing, or spraying, the curtains occasionally ?
  • are you using some kind of air filter to clean the air ?

What protective gear are you using ?


Caregivers should always be wearing gloves when they are cleaning to protect themselves from the chemicals in the cleaning products, and overalls to protect their clothes from particles of feces and urine.

Frequency of cleaning ?

Are you emptying the commode bucket every time it is used ?  Because you should be. This will get rid of odors, and it is not healthy to have all the air born bacteria in the room that your loved one lives in.

It is important to empty the bucket after each use, to clean it and then disinfect it. You can clean with any toilet cleaner and disinfect with a household disinfectant.

Although this may sound stupid, do put the lid tightly on the bucket to stop the odors getting out on the way to the bathroom, because they will.

And be wary of only holding the handle – I have done this and had the bucket hit the floor, luckily it was empty, but it’s just to say the bucket handles are not a lot of good on some models.

Popular Cleaning products


A lot of people use Lysol, bleach, Odo-Ban (cleans and disinfects), Pinesol, Anti Icky Poo Enzymatic cleaner, Nature’s Miracle Enzyme Spray and White Vinegar. 

Don’t forget the frame


The frame and seat of the commode also need daily cleaning – you can just wipe down to remove any spillages that are on there, but make sure that you clean the seat and armrests thoroughly, as they have contact with your love one’s skin.

If you use bleach to disinfect these areas after cleaning them, make sure you rinse properly as it isn’t good for the skin.

Have a back up bucket, or pale

If you have a spare commode bucket you can leave the used bucket to soak for a number of hours in disinfectant – plastic will absorb odors and it helps to leave it soaking.

Alternatively you can use a bucket which is enameled, ceramic or metal commode bucket which will not absorbs odors.

Cleaning the surrounding areas

As well as cleaning the commode, you will need to clean and disinfecting all the surrounding areas – a lot of people like to use Pine-Sol, Lysol, Dettol or white vinegar (these are all disinfectants). Cleaning these areas will remove a lot of the odors, and get rid of bacteria which can cause infections.

How to deal with spillages ?

To clean up spillages you can again use the same cleaners and disinfectants, but if it isn’t working for you, the enzymatic cleaners (such as Nature’s miracle), which also come in sprays can be very good for getting the smells out of carpets etc – they are designed for cats and dogs, or for cleaning up decomposed matter in the case of Anti Icky Poo.

To avoid spillages

One way to help avoiding spillages contaminating the area around the commode is to tape down waterproof covers on the floor (you can use the disposable mattress covers) and when there is a spillage just throw them out. Don’t forget that any wooden floors, or furniture, will absorb odors and liquids if they haven’t been sealed with a non-porous sealant.

Different materials absorb odors

All the bed covers will absorb odors unless they are regularly washed, so you need to wash all of these as often as possible. White vinegar is a very popular addition to the laundry to help remove odors.

Washing out urine


Bed linen and clothes which are soiled, or have urine in, will need to be laundered immediately, and again a lot of people add white vinegar to help remove the smell.

Using disinfectant spray to kill odors


The mattress can also be aired or sprayed with freshener regularly. Some people spray the mattress with Lysol disinfectant spray or Dettol disinfectant spray.

Lysol or Dettol spray can also be used on any curtains, as they will also absorb odors that they are exposed to. If you are spraying with Lysol you want to do it in an empty room, and to keep the room empty for at least 45 minutes so the spray is no longer in the air. These sprays don’t need wiping down afterwards.

Try air filters to help remove the odors


Another way to control the odors in the room is by using HEPA Air filters or using an ionizer.

Remember, if you are using an ionizer the room is not meant to have people in it during use. 

Dealing with odors while you are cleaning

  • are you wearing a mask ?
  • what else can you use to make the smell of the bucket contents more bearable ?

Lots of caregivers wear a mask to help to cut out some of the odors.

There are of course different types of mask, from simple dust masks to masks you can wear to stop inhaling paint fumes and solvents.

Which mask you choose really depends on how badly you are dealing with odors when cleaning the commode bucket.

Many people also combine a mask with either some liniment on their upper lip, or an essential oil rubbed on the mask before they wear it, and which they can breath in while they clean the commode bucket.

I have also heard of people using vanilla extract.

Examples of liniments for the lip –

  • mentholatum – used by funeral homes
  • Vicks
  • horse liniment

Examples of essential oils you can rub on a mask –

  • lavender
  • peppermint

Others control the problem by sucking very strong mints, or menthol sweets, and by pushing them right up into their palettes with their tongues, and breathing through their nose.

Surgeons sometimes rub oil of clove onto masks before they operate if they suspect the procedure may release particularly difficult odors.

Commode Bucket Prep

  • are you putting anything in the bucket before it’s used to kill the odors of urine and feces ?
  • can you add anything to water in the bucket ?

To keep the odor of the urine or feces under control you can fill the commode bucket with two or three inches of  water, but the odor will still be able to get out of the commode.

There are products like Poo Pourri which you can spray on the water in the bucket, and which maintains a film over the surface of the water which inhibits the release of the odor to a certain degree. Poo Pourri is also scented to help cover up the smells.

Essential oils can also be added to the water to help cover the smell, and they will also leave a film which can inhibit the escape of the unwanted odors from the bucket –

  • lavender essential oil
  • peppermint essential oil

Some carers I have read about use listerine mouthwash – a cap full.

You can also use oils which have a natural disinfecting quality and some caregivers add those to the water – such as oregano oil or melaleuca oil.

A mistake that a lot of people make is to add bleach, or other chemical cleaners, to the water they put in the commode. You shouldn’t do this as bleach and urine combine to make chlorine gas which is bad for the lungs.

A second reason not to do this is that the bleach can splash up on your loved ones genitals and cause nasty skin conditions.

Other room odor treatments

  • are you removing all wipes and paper towels you have used to clean your loved one, the commode and the room immediately ?
  • are you using diapers for your loved one, where are they going ?
  • if you are using a trash can in the room, are you treating that for odor control ?

You don’t want to leave any wipes, or tissues, that you may have used when helping your loved one to clean themselves after using the commode, in the trash in the bedroom.

You need to get all of that into a trash bag and into the outside garbage straight away.

You can always flush any toilet paper, or tissues, down the toilet, but wipes should go into the trash as most of them don’t break down well.

The same applies for any paper towels, wipes and tissues which are used to wipe up surfaces in the room, as they will carry the odors of the commode and also of the cleaning products – get it all out in the trash straight away.

If your loved ones is wearing diapers you need to put them in a bag immediately they are removed, and straight into your trash outside.

If you put any of the supplies for cleaning in the room trash can, you need to clean and disinfect it very regularly. You can do this with any of the products that I have listed below which come recommended not just by me, but by numerous caregivers across different caregiver forums.

You can also put baking soda int the bottom of trash cans to absorb some of the odors.

Most commonly used cleaning products for bedside commodes spillages and their odors

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

Why not use disposable commode liners ?

If you can afford it you can get disposable commode liners which will greatly cut down the odors, prevent spillages and will also remove the necessity of cleaning the bucket.

To use one you simply place the liner over the bucket. Place the absorbency pad at the bottom of the bag in the bucket, it will turn urine and feces into an odorless solid in very little time.

It’s safer for disposal, the commode doesn’t need cleaning, and infection risks go down greatly as no urine or feces can escape the bag.

Remove the bag from the commode bucket, tie it up and dispose of it in the outside trash.

Homemade Commode Liners

You can make homemade commode liners with a couple of plastic bags and some kitty litter.

I must admit that I have never tried this method as I just bought the disposable liners, but they are rather expensive and should only be used for once.

The method suggested is to place the bags over and into the bucket, and then put in a good amount of kitty litter. After your loved one has been to the toilet, you then cover again with kitty litter and let it all get absorbed. Once you have done that, tie the bags and put them into the outside trash.

You will have to experiment with the amount of litter that you need.

How to set up a bedside commode over a toilet

If you can get your loved one to the bathroom, you can always use the commode without the bucket over your toilet.

This will avoid all the cleaning of the bucket, and the odors will all be contained in the bathroom.

With a transfer commode which has wheels, if you have the time, you can remove the bucket, wheel it into position over your toilet, and then lock the wheels, all with your loved one on the commode.

To set the commode up over a toilet –

  • remove the bucket from under the seat of the commode
  • you may need remove the backrest from your commode depending on how deep your toilet is – just push the buttons on the two ends of the back rest bar and slide the bar out – on a transport commode you may not be able to do this
  • put the toilet seat and lid in the upright position
  • place the commode next to the toilet and check if your need to adjust the height the legs to place it over the toilet
  • to adjust the length of the commode legs you just push in the metal buttons in and adjust by pulling or pushing on the legs
  • always keep the legs all the same length
  • the legs should not be so high that the user’s feet are not on the floor when they sit on the commode
  • place the commode over the toilet
  • if you are using a splash guard then lift the seat and lid on the commode and place the guard in position
  • if you have a commode with wheels, don’t foget to lock them 

How to clean a bedside commode frame and seat

To clean a frame or commode

  • you clean first and then you disinfect
  • remove the armrests, the seat, the seat lid and the splashguard, and clean one by one with a non-abrasive household cleaner and wipe them off afterwards
  • following that you need to disinfect them with a household disinfectant
  • pay particular attention to the armrests and seat, as this is where your loved one’s skin has the most contact
  • the underside of the seat, and all the parts around it need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected as they will be exposed to the most urine and feces
  • after the disinfectant you should rinse thoroughly and then wipe everything dry
  • do the same for the frame
  • check that the plastic of the seat is not cracking anywhere


Don’t to forget to check the commode when you are cleaning –

  • that the joints aren’t rusting on the frame
  • that there are no cracks in the plastic seating, or the different plastic joints to avoid accidents
  • that the rubber tips on the legs are working and not splitting – they are called “ferrules” and can be bought easily online
  • make sure that the metal buttons/ pegs, if spring loaded, are securely engaged and are are sticking out properly – that they can’t move and cause the leg to change height
  • after you have cleaned make sure all the bits that fasten are properly in place 

How to stop a commode from tipping

The best way to stop a commode from tipping is to help the user to sit down on it.

If you can’t be there to help them, placing the commode in a corner, or at least against the wall will mean it can’t go backwards.

All obstacles around the commode should be removed to avoid any tripping, which may lead to falling back onto the commode.

Pay attention to the clothing which your loved one is wearing as well – pants, as in trousers, or pajama bottoms are much easier to use on a commode than night shirts or dresses which can end up in the bowl.

It’s also a very good idea to make sure that if your loved one is using the commode on their own, that they know how to sit back properly, and that they can see the armrests clearly. Make sure that the lighting is strong enough for them.

You should teach your loved one to

  • back up to the commode slowly
  • stop when they feel the commode against the back of their leg
  • lower their clothing
  • reach back for the armrests
  • once they have the armrest in their grip, they can sit back

If the seat is too low you can adjust the height of the commode for them, and this should make things much easier, as they won’t have to bend so far.

If your loved one is unable to do this on their own without risking injury to themselves, then you, or a caregiver, will need to give them assistance. 

How to assist a person to use a commode

If your loved one can get out of bed and stand, then you can use a 3-in-1 or a transport commode.

If your loved one can’t stand, then you will need a transfer commode which allows them to slide over from the bed onto the commode.

It is best if you have a walker that your loved one can hold onto while they back up to the commode.


To sit down on a bedside commode –

  • use a walker to back up to the bedside commode
  • keep holding onto the walker while backing up to keep balance
  • back up until the commode frame touches against the back of your legs
  • if you are assisting the person you may need to help them remove any items of clothing
  • reach back with one hand to find the armrest on that side
  • reach for the armrest on the other side
  • holding the armrests sit back on the bedside commode seat
  • try not to sit down to quickly, or jolt the commode, as it may cause tipping
  • when seated your feet should touch the ground

To stand up from a bedside commode – 

  • make sure that a walker is in front of the commode to hold onto when standing 
  • place both hands on the armrests and push up to stand
  • reach forward with one hand and take ahold of the walker with one hand and then the other

Helping your loved one if they can’t clean themselves –

  • your loved one may not be able to clean themselves
  • have all provisions you need to hand – you don’t want to have to go and get something and leave your loved one standing there
  • you will need toilet paper, wet wipes and gloves 
  • start by putting on the gloves
  • help them to stand and have them hold the walker
  • clean them with toilet paper or wet wipes
  • if your loved one is a woman, clean from front to back to prevent UTI’s
  • after you have helped them clean themselves assist them back to bed
  • 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 every time after helping your loved one, as it will also help them stay clean

I’m Gareth and I’m the owner of Looking After Mom and

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

Gareth Williams

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Do you put water in a bedside commode ?
Yes. If you are not using disposable liners, you would do well to put 2-3 inches of water in the commode bucket to help with cleaning and odor control, but you can do a lot more.
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