Nobody likes cleaning bedside commodes, and I am no different, but it has to be done punctually and properly. If you don’t clean and disinfect a commode thoroughly, the bacteria from the poop and urine will get airborne and cause odors to hang around in the room, getting absorbed by porous surfaces, and more importantly they can cause your loved ones to get infections.
Every time a bedside commode is used, it should be cleaned and then disinfected.
You want to do this to stop infections, and to cut down on odors which can be absorbed by porous surfaces, including unsealed wood, curtains and bed fabrics.
It is also very unhealthy to leave a person in a room with an unemptied commode, as the bacteria will after a time become airborne, and it just isn’t healthy for them.
Contents Overview & Quicklinks
How to empty a bedside commode ?
So every time you use a bedside commode, it should be cleaned –
- if the bucket is being used without liners, it should be emptied straight away after use into the toilet, cleaned and disinfected
- I would never rely on the handle to take the full weight on your way to the bathroom, support the pail from underneath – I have had the handle come off pails which were empty…
- when cleaning a pail which has been used, after the contents has been emptied, and the pail rinsed, the pail should then be soaked for a few minutes, before being cleaned with a non-abrasive bathroom cleaning fluid, and then disinfected with a strong bathroom disinfectant
- if you are using commode liners they should be removed and disposed of in the outside trash as soon as they have been used, and the bucket should get a quick wipe down
- each time the commode is used you should really take a damp cloth with disinfectant and give the seat and armrests a quick wipe, and then follow that with a rinse with water on a cloth, and then dry it off
- any wipes should be removed to the outside trash, as well so odors don’t linger from them, and toilet paper should go down the toilet
- every week at least, if not more frequently, it is a good idea to take the frame, seat and lid of the commode and give them a proper clean and disinfecting, and then clean the area around the commode, especially the floor
Bedside commode liners ?
I am going to start with the least messy, and quickest way of dealing with the cleaning of a bedside commode, and that is using disposable commode liners.
Commode liners are essentially a bag with a plastic tie or a sticky seal at the top, which you place over and push down into the commode bucket.
If you are going for the easiest method, you will place an absorbent pad into the liner inside the bucket, which will absorb the liquids and some odor as well.
As soon as the liner has been used you tie the top using the ties which are there, and if there is no sticky seal you just tie a second knot in the top of the liner. If it has a sticky seal, you can stick that down instead, and then put it in the outside landfill trash.
If you don’t like putting human waste in the trash, but you don’t like the idea of cleaning either, you can use a commode liner without the absorbent pad, and empty the contents into the toilet.
You then rinse out the commode liner a few times with water, remove it and put it, empty, into the outside trash – this way you don’t have to do all the deep cleaning and disinfecting of the commode bucket, just a quick wipe with a cloth and put it back under the seat of the commode.
How to dispose of commode liners ?
After using the bedside commode, to dispose of a commode liner, you just remove it from the commode pail and pull the ties at the top.
Make a knot with the ties, and then another with the top of the bag, and dispose of it in the outside trash.
Commode liners are made to be biodegradable (which is debatable) and are allowed in landfill.
Whatever you do, don’t ever put commode liners or down the toilet.
Popular brands of commode liners
You can buy commode liners with or without absorbent pads.
Here are some examples of brands of commode liners sold with absorbent pads or gel –
CareBag Commode Liners
Carex Commode Liners
Medaccs Commode Liners
Medustry Commode Liners
TidyCare Commode Liners
If I have piqued your interest in the simplest way of keeping a bedside commode bucket clean, you can find out more about the liners, bulk prices, more brands with and without absorbent pads, even making your own homemade commode liners – the dos and don’ts – I have an article outlines all of this with prices, quantities and different brands, which you can read here
How do you clean a bedside commode without liners
I will repeat, because if you are not using liners it is critical, the first rule of using a bedside commode is to immediately empty it and clean it each time it is used.
Have clothes and supplies ready
As you are going to be emptying out the commode bucket and then giving it a deep clean and disinfecting it, it could get messy.
For this reason, you should have a set of overalls or clothes that you use just for cleaning. This may sound a little odd, but if you change your clothes after cleaning, and you have urine and feces on your work clothes, it cannot spread once you have changed, whereas if you don’t the bacteria can spread wherever you go.
So you will need –
- work clothes
- disposable rubber or latex gloves
- a household or bathroom cleaning fluid
- a disinfectant
- a dry towel
- a non-abrasive sponge
- a wash cloth
Have it all together next to the toilet, as you don’t want to be wandering around if you forgot something that you needed.
Put water in the bucket before it is used
Before the commode bucket is used, put 2 – 3″ of water in the bucket for the next use.
The reason for doing this is twofold –
- the water will stop some odors from escaping into the air once the commode has been used – the unpleasant smells are airborne bacteria, a lot of which you can trap if you put enough water in the commode to eventually cover any feces
- the water will also help with cleaning matter out of the bucket by keeping everything moving fluidly when you tip it into the toilet
To clean a commode bucket
Once the commode has been used immediately pop the lid on the commode bucket, and as soon as you have helped the user back to wherever they are sitting or lying, take the bucket to the toilet for emptying.
Do this with the lid on, as it will stop the odors from spreading everywhere.
Very important: Do not rely on the bucket handle to carry the bucket – either place it in another large container and carry that with both hands, or hold the bucket with both hands, but not by the handle.
This is the voice of experience – I have had commode bucket handles come off the bucket when I was carrying it, on a number of occasions!!! Luckily there was never anything in there, as that is not a mess you would want on a carpet.
Once the contents is emptied and rinsed down the toilet, the three main stages of cleaning the bucket are –
Once it has been emptied, just sit the bucket in some hot water for a minute or two. The soaking is will soften stuff up.
To clean the bucket, and any other plastic parts of your bedside commode, you need to only use a non-abrasive cleaner.
Using an abrasive cleaner can degrade and damage the plastic surface, which will in turn allow bacteria and germs to penetrate it.
The goal of the cleaning is to just remove any matter which is stuck to the surface of the bucket.
As with the cleaner, don’t use an abrasive sponge or brush with the cleaning fluid, as this will roughen up the plastic also.
Use bathroom cleaning fluid you want.
Once you have washed the bucket thoroughly with the cleaning fluid, give the bucket a rinse.
Now it’s time to disinfect.
Do it all again with disinfectant using a non-abrasive sponge or brush.
If you get a number of replacement buckets for your commode, you can leave the commode bucket soaking in a disinfectant with bleach for a few hours each time after use.
Due to the fact that plastic absorbs odors, you need to give it a good soak if you want to remove them, so that the bacteria which cause the odors are killed.
Once the bucket is disinfected, the commode bucket should be thoroughly rinsed and dried.
And, before it is used again 2 – 3″ of water are added for the next use.
Cleaning your bedside commode frame and seat
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
Seat and lid (and splash guard if you are using it over a toilet)-
You need to soak, clean and disinfect the plastic parts of the commode – the seat, lid and the armrests.
- remove the seat, lid and any other plastic parts that you can and soak them in hot water for a few minutes to soften any hard matter up – it also removes grease
- take care to sponge the armrests with water if they don’t come off the commode as this is where your loved one’s skin has a lot of contact
- the underside of the seat and the surrounding parts will also need a lot of attention as they are closest to the bucket
- use a non-abrasive cleaner and sponge or brush, and rinse off with water
- then clean again with disinfectant and a non-abrasive sponge or brush and then rinse with water again
- dry off each part and check for cracks anywhere in the plastic as you do so
Commode frame –
The frame should also be lightly soaked, and then cleaned and disinfected.
A little trick for the frame though, as it has holes, with parts which can rust inside –
before you go through the process of cleaning, wipe around the holes with a damp cloth, and when dry, cover them with a little piece of electrical tape to stop any water entering.
Once that’s done you can to wash frame in the same way as you did the seat and lid.
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 odor control – keeping it smelling good
The first point here is to remember to put about 3 inches of water into the bottom of the commode bucket before every usage, if you are not using commode liners, as this will help trap any odors from feces and urine, to some degree in the water.
Products such as Poo Pourri, or scented essential oils, will form a barrier/film on the water surface to help stop the odors from escaping, and at the same time give off a perfume to help cover odors up.
As I also said earlier, plastic will absorb odors, so plastic bedside commode buckets can be difficult to stop from smelling. One solution is to buy several of them, so you can soak them for several hours in disinfectant.
An enameled, ceramic or metal bucket does not absorb odors and bacteria, so using a bucket from these materials can help to lower the level of odors in a room where a commode is used.
Installing a bathroom extractor fan in the wall just above the commode is another solution, as it will remove odors to the outside immediately, and they are not that expensive.
Cleaning around the commode
Areas around and in proximity to a bedside commode can get dirty, and also absorb odors into their surfaces.
So, you need to be cleaning and disinfecting these areas around the commode regularly.
As well as reducing the odors around the commode, the cleaning will help reduce the risk of infection from bacteria.
Having some sort of waterproof mat underneath the bedside commode is a good idea if you have spillages, and you inevitably will. There are dedicated mats for this that you can find in big retailers, or use an incontinence bedside floor mat.
For any spillages on carpets, and on the way to the bathroom, there are enzymatic cleaners which have are designed to clean up messes from cats and dogs, such Nature’s Miracle, or Anti-Icky-Poo, which use live bacteria to remove the matter and odors from the carpet.
To learn more about how to get rid of the smells and odors associated with a bedside commode, and with cleaning it, I have an article in which I outline in much more depth the main issues and ways of tackling them. There is no need for everyone to have to suffer a lot of horrible smells with a bedside commode. You can find the article here.
If you’re interested in knowing more about how to use a bedside commode, using one over a toilet, how to stop one from tipping over, or how to assist someone with sitting on a commode, you can find all that, and more, in my article on using bedside commodes here.
What is the purpose of a bedside commode ?
A bedside commode makes it possible to go to the toilet in rooms without running water, making it easier, simpler and safer for those individuals with mobility issues.
Typically, it is used by people who are disabled, or have limited movement due to a medical condition, surgery, and injury or simply old age.
Most bedside commodes are height adjustable, so they can be set to the needs of the user, making it much easier for the user to sit and stand, by reducing the distance that they need to bend.
The portability of commodes serve to reduce the distance a user needs to walk to use a toilet, or to make it no distance at all if the user is bedridden.
If you are looking for a post which covers all aspects of the different types of bedside commodes –
- the types
- set up
- who needs one
- using over a toilet
- liners emptying
- odor control
- where to buy
- top brands
- bedside commodes for larger people
- using over the toilet
- and more
Benefits of bedside commodes
For a person with reduced mobility, a bedside commode can be of great benefit.
My elderly mom has been using a bedside commode for a number of years, and to say she is happy with it is an understatement.
The bedside commode gives us both peace of mind at night, knowing that Mom has an easy and safe way of using the toilet, which makes it easier for her to sit and stand at the toilet.
The Benefits of bedside commodes are –
- 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 learn more about why a bedside commode can be of great benefit, and especially to elderly loved ones, I have an article on the many 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.