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 people, seem to find it.
How to clean a commode bucket ?
1. Put 2-3 inches of water into the commode bucket prior to its use.
2. After use, empty the bucket contents down the toilet.
3. Rinse the bucket with water.
4. Put the bucket in hot water to soak for a few minutes.
5. Scrub the bucket out with cleaner.
6. Rinse with water.
7. Clean the bucket with disinfectant.
8. Rinse the bucket with water.
9. Dry the bucket.
Contents Overview & Quicklinks
How to clean a commode bucket thoroughly ?
Let me elaborate a little on how you clean a commode bucket.
Before you do any cleaning, make sure that you have cleaning clothes and gloves. As soon as you are done, you will be removing your protective outfit to stop the spread of any bacteria, and you will be throwing way any disposable gloves.
And anything you throw away goes straight into the yard trash, not indoors.
You should also make sure that you have all your cleaning equipment and products to hand, so that you don’t have to be wandering off to get things you forgot.
Now we can start –
As a first step, you really should put the 2 to 3 inches of water in the commode bucket before it is used.
The water will –
(a) make cleaning far easier, as nothing can harden in there, and the liquid makes it pour out more easily
(b) inhibit the release of the bacteria into the air, which carry all those horrible smells you want to avoid getting everywhere
To clean a commode bucket
After you have emptied and rinsed the buckets contents down the toilet, the three main stages are –
You really want the bucket, once it has been emptied, to just sit in some hot water for a minute or two. The soaking is just to soften stuff up.
To clean the bucket, and for that matter any other plastic parts of the commode, you should use a non-abrasive cleaner.
If you use an abrasive cleaner, you can degrade the plastic surface of the bucket, which will allow bacteria and germs can get into it.
The goal of the cleaning is to remove any poop and urine which may be stuck to the bucket.
Also, don’t use an abrasive metal sponge or brush, which will roughen up the plastic.
You can use any bathroom cleaning fluid you want – I will go into suitable products once I have outlined all the cleaning.
Give the bucket a rinse, and it’s time to disinfect.
Repeat the process with disinfectant using a non-abrasive sponge or brush.
If you can, it is a good idea to leave the commode bucket soaking in a disinfectant with bleach for a few hours.
The reason for this is that plastic absorbs odors, and to remove these you need to give it a good soak, so that the bacteria which cause the odors are removed.
This will of course mean that you need to have at least two, if not three commode buckets so that you always have a clean one ready, if you can.
After all the disinfecting is done, the commode bucket should be thoroughly rinsed, as the chemicals aren’t good for the skin.
Commode cleaning products
Here’s a list of popular products that you can clean and disinfect a commode bucket with – this is not a definitive list, you just have to make sure that you have a household cleaner, and a disinfectant, or a combination product. I
f you use a combination cleaner and disinfectant, do wash and rinse the commode bucket twice.
- Lysol Spray
- 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
How to clean a bedside commode frame and seat
The steps are the same as with the bucket, just divide the task into two –
- take off the seat, lid and armrests, and clean those first
- then take the frame and clean that – if it’s easier take it apart, but do be careful that you don’t get water on any of the workings which may be corrosive, and if you do you need to dry them properly
Shower and bath bedside commode frames are made from non-corrosive materials, but a lot of 3-in-1 commodes and other types, which aren’t for the shower or bath, may have steel parts which can rust.
Clean the plastic parts in exactly the same way as the commode bucket.
You want to be the most thorough on the areas which have the most contact with the skin to avoid infections – so really make sure that the armrests and the seat are thoroughly cleaned.
The dirtiest area, in terms of poop and urine, will be the underside of the seat and the areas of the frame which support that, so make sure to check and clean those parts really well.
Once you have washed everything twice and rinsed it, you can dry the parts and put it back together.
Always check the plastic parts, and make sure there is no cracking developing, as they could break off.
Do you need to learn more about cleaning bedside commodes ?
If you do, I have a couple of articles that may help you out –
“What Is The Best Bedside Commode Cleaner ?”
“The Best Way To Clean A Bedside Commode”
Self-cleaning bedside commode
Now, if you don’t like the idea of cleaning your bedside commode bucket, then there is a solution.
But no, it isn’t a self-cleaning bedside commode, they don’t exist.
What you can do is to use disposable commode liners, which will hold all the poop and urine, and just need to be placed in your outside trash.
The liners are not exactly cheap, and you need to dispose of them after they have been used once, and replace with another.
But you don’t have to do any washing of the bucket, it is the cleanest method with no mess.
This does not mean that the rest of the commode will not need a regular cleaning, but the worst part is taken care of.
And, it doesn’t mean you want to leave a liner which has been used hanging around in the commode, otherwise that will start to release odors just the same as if you aren’t using liners, so throw them out the minute that they have been used.
The liners have chemical products which absorb some smells, but we are dealing with poop and urine here.
If you want to know more about disposable liners I have an article all about them where I outline the brands, how to use them, who sells in bulk, how to make your own homemade ones, and more. You can read that 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
If you are using a liner, or not, you are still going to have to deal with the build up of odors in the room around a bedside commode, and also if you aren’t using commode liners, you may have problems with the odors while cleaning out the bucket.
Dealing with odors while you are cleaning
What can you use to make the smell of the bucket contents more bearable ?
A lot of people have a very hard time dealing with the smells when cleaning out a commode bucket if they don’t use disposable liners, but there are a few ways of dealing with this that caregivers have come up with over time.
Some people use a mask – now there are different types, and some which are very fancy and will block all fumes and smells.
Cheaper masks, though, can be laced with different oils, so that as you breathe you have the scent of the oils to cover the odors of the bucket.
For some folk, the mask with scent on it isn’t enough, and they add a mustache of some type of liniment to their upper lip as well.
Which mask you choose really depends on how badly you are dealing with odors when cleaning the commode bucket.
Examples of liniments for the lip –
- mentholatum – used by funeral homes
- horse liniment
Examples of essential oils you can rub on a mask –
- vanilla extract
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.
How to make the bucket smell better ?
If you are putting 2-3 inches of water in the commode bucket before it is used (this is if you aren’t using commode liners), you can add a scent to the water.
The scent will leave an oily layer over the water, helping to stop the bacteria from getting into the air to create the odors, and it will also help cover any odor that does get out.
The commercial product you can use is called Poo Pourri which is also used in conventional toilets – you just spritz the water in the commode bucket.
You can also use essential oils to do the same thing – lavender or peppermint essential oil work well.
Do not put bleach (or any other disinfectant) into the water in the commode bucket for when it is to be used, as this can have two undesirable results –
- it can splash up onto the skin on the private parts of the user, causing bad skin irritation – bleach is not supposed to be gotten on the skin
- urine has ammonia in it, and this when mixed with bleach forms chlorine gas which is very bad for the lungs
Cleaning for bedside commode odor control
Wear cleaning gear
You should be wearing disposable gloves, and some kind of overall that you launder regularly to stop the spread of urine and feces.
How often are you cleaning
The bucket needs to be cleaned and emptied every time it is used, and without delay, to stop the bacteria which cause the odors from becoming airborne.
Install an extractor fan
If you can afford to, I would have an extractor fan put in the wall just above the commode to work just like the fans in bathrooms.
The fans themselves cost 30 – $40, plus a couple of hours to install it, so maybe $150-$200 total, and the fan will pull out all the odors.
The fans come with timers, so you don’t have to remember to switch them off.
Materials and surfaces absorb odors
All of your bed covers, curtains and other soft furnishings should be washed more frequently, as they are all absorbing and retaining those odors from the commode.
Adding white vinegar in the laundry wash is a popular method to remove odors.
Disinfectant sprays will kill odors
If you have the bedside commode in a bedroom, the mattress should be both aired, and sprayed with a disinfectant spray.
This can also be done to the curtains.
You can use Lysol disinfectant spray or Dettol spray, and there is no need for a wipe down afterwards.
Clear the room for 45 minutes, as the sprays are bad for the health if breathed in.
Use enameled metal or ceramic commode buckets
If you can find these, they will not absorb odors in the same way that plastic does, and it will significantly cut down on the smell.
If you can’t find them, an alternative is to get spare buckets and soak them for a few hours in bleach each time they are washed.
Cleaning around the commode
You need to regularly clean the areas adjacent to the bedside commode with disinfectants, which as well as cutting down on odors will reduce the chance of any infections.
What about spillages ?
The Lysol disinfectant, Pinesol, Odoban or Dettol will all do the job of a cleanup, but if it is on a carpet you may want to look at an enzymatic cleaner such as Natures Miracle or Anti Icky Poo, which also come in sprays.
These cleaners are developed for when pets mess on the carpet.
Put down plastic
Under the commode and around it, it may be wise to tape down some waterproof covering to avoid any carpets, or wooden floors, absorbing odors from urine etc.
You can also use incontinence bed covers for this, as they are disposable.
You may also want to make sure that if the commode is on a surface which hasn’t been sealed or varnished, that you do that first, if you aren’t putting down some sort of covering.
A lot of caregivers recommend using HEPA Air filters, but I must confess that I have never used one, so cannot comment on that.
If you are using an ionizer in the room, no one should be present in the room during use.
Removing all waste
As soon as the commode has been used, as well as the commode bucket contents, you must remove all wipes, toilet paper and gloves, and put them in the outside trash.
Don’t put any soiled papers in the trash in the house, or it will start to smell as well, even after it has been emptied.
So throw everything out in the trash outside.
How to stop a commode from tipping
In a situation where no one is present to help a loved one with using the bedside commode, and tipping is a worry, there are only a few of credible solutions –
- you can learn to sit on the commode in a controlled manner without jolting back
- you can try to jam the bedside commode between the bed, or another piece of furniture, and the wall so that it has no wiggle room and can’t be toppled
- you can buy a Derby Corner Commode Chair – this is an armchair commode which has been built in such a way that the user’s back is facing into the corner of the room, and it is blocked on both sides by the two walls – it can’t topple over
- if your elderly loved one is unable to use a commode on their own without accidents, you should set up a bed alarm which signals you when they need assistance
If you want to know more about bed alarms, I have a very thorough article on the different types that I have used and owned, where I outline all the options, and how to use them. You can read that here.
Bedside commode transfer
If your loved one can get out of bed and stand, with or without help, then you can use a static, or a transport bedside commode.
If your loved one is bed bound and can’t stand, then you will need a transfer commode, which allows them to slide over from the bed onto the commode.
You would raise the bed to be a touch higher than the commode so that gravity will help them slide over onto the commode, and then make the bed a bit lower for when they slide back onto the bed.
For a loved one who can stand, it is best if you have a walker that they can hold onto as they back up to the commode.
If your loved one can stand, they should learn to use the commode as follows –
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 the legs
- if you are assisting the person, you may need to help them to 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 too 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
- shunt forwards on the seat to almost the front edge
- place both hands on the armrests and push up to stand
- reach forward with one hand and take a hold of the walker with that 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 your 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
If you want to learn more about using a bedside commode, you can take a look at my article, “Using A Bedside Commode: An Illustrated Guide”. The article discusses –
How to use a bedside commode ? Tips for using a commode –
- Where to position a bedside commode ?
- What supplies are needed next to the commode for after use ?
- How to stop a commode from tipping ?
- Bedside commode liners
- How to prepare the commode pail if you are using commode liners ?
- How to prepare the commode pail if you are not using liners ?
- How to empty and clean a bedside commode ?
- Bedside commode odor control
- How to transfer to a bedside commode ?
- How to assist someone using a bedside commode ?
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.