Bedside commodes are invaluable to both those with mobility issues and their caregivers, but they can become a source of problems if they aren’t emptied and cleaned properly. If you don’t keep up with the cleaning, they can quickly be less than pleasant to be around, and not too healthy either.
With a bedside commode you should be emptying and cleaning every time it has been used, to cut down on any chances of infection, and so that your loved one isn’t breathing in the odors of urine and feces. Aside from smelling unpleasant, it isn’t good for a person’s health.
Emptying and cleaning a bedside commode
So, the first rule of using a bedside commode is to empty it and clean it each time it is used, and do it immediately.
You have two main choices for using a bedside commode bucket –
- use the bucket without a commode and to wash and disinfect it thoroughly each time
- use the bucket with commode liners and an absorbent pad to keep the cleaning easy
Before you do anything, it’s a very good idea to wear clothes that you only use for cleaning and nothing else, as this will limit the spread of any bacteria that you may get on them. You will also want to wear disposable plastic gloves while cleaning for the same reasons.
Emptying a commode bucket without a liner
Put 2 – 3″ of water in the bucket for each time it is to be used. This will help greatly with keeping the level of odors down, and also will help with cleaning matter out of the bucket.
Every time the commode is used it is important to empty the bucket, to clean it out and to disinfect it. When carrying the bucket to be emptied, you should keep the lid on it tightly so that the odor doesn’t spread.
Also be wary of the handles on the buckets, as some are not particularly reliable, and it’s a good idea to keep one hand underneath as you transport the commode bucket.
As long as you aren’t using the disposable bags, it is a good idea to have a second commode bucket, so that you can pop that into the commode while you are cleaning the dirty one.
Emptying a commode bucket with commode liners
If you are using a commode liner without an absorbent element – a pad or a gel powder – to absorb the liquids, you will still have to empty it in the toilet –
- take the bucket to the toilet and dispose of the contents
- swill and rinse out the liner with water
- pulling the top of the liner and remove it from the bucket, tying the pull handles
- if it is a liner with a sticky seal, you roll it up until you get to the seal which stick it shut
- if it is a liner with only ties, you simply tie a knot in the neck of the liner
- throw the liner in the outside landfill trash
Whatever you do, do not re-use commode liners. It is a very quick way to spread serious infections. Elderly adults have very thin skin which can have lots of little tears, and liners which are being used a second time are covered with bacteria just waiting to cause and infection.
Commode liners with absorbent pads don’t require emptying.
If you don’t want to do a lot of cleaning, you can also use disposable liners with absorbent pads in the commode bucket, and when your loved one has finished you just tie the bag up and dispose of it in the outside trash.
You will still need to clean the commode seat and frame regularly.
How to dispose of commode liners
If you are using a commode liner with absorbent pads or gel, you can –
- as soon as it has been used, pull the top part of the bag off the rim of the bucket
- pull up on the plastic ties which go around the rim inside the liner and tie a knot with them
- repeat as I described above if the liner has a sticky seal
- if the liner has no sticky seal, just tie a knot in the liner itself above the contents level
- throw the liner away in the landfill trash outside
For the commode liner without an absorbent pad, you just pop it in the outside landfill trash, once you have emptied the contents into the toilet and rinsed it – again never use them twice as this can lead to serious spreading of bacteria and illness.
The commode liners are in a sense biodegradable, will over very many years break down in the landfill – they will be ingested and broken down by microorganisms.
Popular brands of commode liners
As I already indicated, you can get the different brands either with or without absorbent pads.
Commode liners with absorbent pads or gel –
Bearals Commode Liners
CareBag Commode Liners
Carex Commode Liners
Medaccs Commode Liners
Medline Commode Liners
Medustry Commode Liners
Nurture Commode Liners
TidyCare Commode Liners
To find out more about commode liners, bulk prices, with and without absorbent pads, making your own homemade commode liners – the dos and don’ts – I have an article which outlines all of this with prices, quantities, 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 odor control
One of the most important things to do, if you are using a bedside commode without a commode liner, is to put about 3 inches of water into the bottom of the commode bucket before every usage. This will trap any odors from feces and urine, to some degree, in the water.
You can also add to this certain products such as Poo Pourri, which as well as being scented will form a film on the surface of the water to help stop the odors from escaping.
Plastic will absorb odors, so plastic bedside commode buckets will absorb all the odors they come in to contact with, and as a result and can be difficult to full disinfect.
Whereas an enameled, or metal bucket will not absorb the odors and bacteria, helping lower the level of odors in the room where the commode is used.
If you are really having problems with, one simple solution is to install an extractor fan in the wall just above the commode – similar to those found in bathrooms.
In case you can only get a plastic commode, it is a good idea to get two or three, as this will allow you to soak them in disinfectant for a couple of hours at a time and to stop the plastic from smelling – it absorbs the bacteria which causes the smells.
Cleaning around the commode
All the areas around the commode can get dirty or simply absorb odors into their surfaces, so you will also need to be cleaning and disinfecting these areas regularly.
The cleaning will reduce both the odors around the commode and the risk of infection from bacteria.
It is a good idea to have a waterproof mat of some kind that can be used under the bedside commode, and it will help greatly if you have spillages, and you inevitably will.
If you have any nasty spillages on carpets on the way to the bathroom, you may want to use enzymatic cleaners which have been designed to clean up messes from cats and dogs, such Nature’s Miracle, or another cleaner called Anti-Icky-Poo which uses live bacteria to remove matter and smells.
If you would like to learn more about how to get rid of the smells and odors associated with a bedside commode, I have an article in which I outline the main issues and numerous ways of tackling them. There is no need to have a lot of horrible smells around a bedside commode – “Bedside Commode Odor Control: How To Keep It Smelling Sweet ?”.
Using bedside commodes
To use a bedside commode properly –
- place the commode in a spot which is convenient for the user – free of all clutter
- set it up with the bucket inserted in place under the seat, and with a commode liner if you do not want to wash the bucket after use
- if there is no commode liner, it is best to put several inches of water in the bucket before every use
- the commode is then ready for use
- after use, the user should be cleaned and helped to return to bed or wherever they were sitting
- the commode bucket should immediately be emptied
- if a liner with an absorbent pad, or gel, is used, remove it, tie it up and throw it into the outside trash
- if you are not using liners without pads, the liner contents should be emptied into the toilet, the liner rinsed and then placed in the outside landfill trash
- if no liner at all was used, the bucket should be emptied into the toilet, cleaned and disinfected
- once the bucket has been cleaned, re-place it in its holder under the commode seat, adding a couple of inches of water for the next use if you are not using liners
If you want to know more about how to use a commode, using it over a toilet, stopping it from tipping, or even how to help someone sit on a commode you can read all that in my article “Using A Bedside Commode: An Illustrated Guide“.
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.