How To Empty A Bedside Commode ?


If your parent or loved one is using a bedside commode, you really want to be emptying and cleaning the commode every time it is 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.

How to empty a bedside commode ? The bucket of the commode is removed from the chair, the contents are flushed down the toilet, and the bucket or basin is washed first with a cleaner and then a disinfectant, or you can use a disposable liner and simply tie it up and place it in the outside trash.

Tips for the bedside commode cleaning


Tip 1 –

For any cleaning and emptying of the commode, a carer should always be wearing gloves and protective clothing.


Tip 2 –

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 airborne bacteria in the room that your loved one lives in.


Tip 3 –

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.

I actually have an article about how to use the commode without disposable liners, which can be found here – “Do You Put Water In A Bedside Commode ?”.


Tip 4 –

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.

Tip 5 –

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.


Tip 6 –

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.


Tip 7 –

Plastic commode buckets will absorb all the odors and can be difficult to full disinfect.

An enameled, or metal bucket will not absorb the odors and bacteria, so it will help if you are having problems with smell in the room where the commode is used.


Tip 8 –

As long as you are using a plastic bucket, it is a good idea to soak it for a couple of hours in a disinfectant to kill all the bacteria from the feces and urine.


Tip 9 –

You will also need to be cleaning and disinfecting the areas around and adjacent to the bedside commode.

Cleaning these areas will reduce the risk of infection from bacteria and help to remove odors. This should be done daily if possible.

Tip 10 –

To avoid spillages contaminating the area of the bedside commode you can tape down waterproof covers on the floor – the type used for mattresses which will absorb and protect and which can be easily disposed of.


Tip 11 –

For spillages which are difficult to remove, you can use enzymatic cleaners (such as Nature’s miracle), which also come in sprays and 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.


Tip 12 –

If you are having a hard time  dealing with the odors while cleaning, you can wear a mask and rub an essential oil on the mask to perfume it.

You can also put Vicks, or another type of liniment, on your upper lip to mask the bad odors.


Tip 13 –

Like with a toilet, you can fight the odors by using either an essential oil, or a product like Poo Pourri, in the water in the commode before your loved one uses it. The odors are inhibited from entering the air, as the oils form a film on the surface of the water.


Tip 14 –

Lavender and peppermint oil are among the most commonly used of the essential oils.

Poo Pourri comes in a range of different scents.


Tip 15 –

You can also put oils like oregano oil or melaleuca oil into the water in the commode bucket, which both have a natural disinfecting quality.


Tip 16 –

Don’t put bleach in the water in the commode bucket as it can splash up onto the private parts of your loved one, and this can cause skin problems.


If you want to read more about keeping the odors under wraps, I have an article about multiple ways of handling that – “Bedside Commode Odor Control: How To Keep It Smelling Sweet ?”.

Tips for cleaning a bedside commode frame and seat


To clean a frame or commode


  • 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 surrounding parts, 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 wipe them dry
  • do the same for the frame
  • check that the plastic of the seat is not cracking anywhere

Tip 17 –

As with the bucket, you clean first, and then you disinfect.


Tip 18 –

Start by removing the armrests, the seat, the lid and the splash guard – clean them one by one with a non-abrasive cleaner and rinse.


Tip 19 –

After removing any marks and deposits with the cleaner, it’s time to go over them again with disinfectant.


Tip 20 –

Clean thoroughly the armrests and seat, as this is where your loved one’s skin has the most contact with the commode and will help to cut down on skin infections.


Tip 21 –

The underside of the seat, the splash guard and the frame around that area will need the most thorough cleaning as they will have the most contact with urine and feces.


Tip 22 –

After disinfecting, rinse and dry the different elements that you have removed.


Tip 23 –

Now repeat the process for the frame and re-assemble the seat and lid on the frame.


Tip 24 –

Check that the plastic of the seat doesn’t have any cracks to avoid any accidents.


For more about cleaning, you can read my article, “The Best Way To Clean A Bedside Commode”.

The following is a list of products for cleaning a bedside commode


  • Lysol
  • Lysol Spray
  • Pinesol
  • White Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Odor Ban
  • Anti Icky Poo Enzymatic clean
  • Nature’s Miracle enzyme spray


Homemade Commode Liners


If you can’t afford to buy disposable commode liners, you may want to attempt to make your own. In general, people do it with a couple of plastic bags and kitty litter.

I have never tried this method – I bought the disposable liners, which aren’t cheap and should be changed each time the commode is used.

For the homemade liners, it is suggested to place the bags over the edge and into the bucket, followed by a good amount of kitty litter.

Once used, you cover the contents again with kitty litter and wait a moment for it to absorb all liquids.

Finally, tie the bags up and put them in the trash outside.

The kitty litter will help to mask the odors as well as to absorb the liquids.


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”.

How to set up a bedside commode over a toilet ?


If your loved one is able to walk, or if you have a bedside commode with wheels, you can use the commode over the toilet in the bathroom.

This requires no clean up, and reduces the chances of infections from bacteria in the bedroom.


To use a bedside commode over a toilet –


  • remove the bucket
  • remove the back rest – to do this, just depress the push buttons on the bar and slide it out.
  • raise the lid and seat on your toilet
  • check the height of the commode legs to make sure it is raised above the height of the toilet bowl rim
  • depress the push buttons to lengthen, or shorten, the legs of the commode
  • make sure the legs are all the same length
  • make sure that your loved one’s feet touch the floor when they are seated on the commode
  • put the commode in position over the toilet
  • place the splash guard under the seat – I have never used ours, and there have been no problems
  • for bedside commodes with wheels, you need to lock them, so it doesn’t move

How to stop a bedside commode from tipping ?


If you can’t help your loved one to sit on their commode, the best way to stop them from tipping their bedside commode over is to make sure that the know the best way to sit down on it.

You can also place a commode in a position against a wall so that it can’t tip backwards.

If you place it in a corner, it won’t be able to tip backwards, and also it will not be able to tip to one of its two sides.

To have the most control when sitting down on the commode, it’s best for your loved one to use a walker, so that they don’t lose their balance as they go back.

It will also give them stability as they reach back, one hand at a time, for the armrests on the commode, and when they will grab a hold of it when they stand up.


You should teach your loved one to –


  • back up to the commode slowly using the walker
  • stop when they feel the commode against the back of their legs
  • to lower any clothing
  • reach back for the armrests one arm at a time
  • to sit back once they have the two armrests in their grip


Try to have the seat as high as possible, so that your loved one doesn’t have to bend great a distance from standing to sitting.

If your loved one is unable to sit on the commode on their own without risking injury to themselves, they will need assistance.

Get rid of any clutter around the commode so that there is no chance of tripping on hazards.

The stability of a commode, and learning how to transfer is important, and if you feel you do need to know more, you can read my article “How To Keep A Bedside Commode From Tipping ?”.

Tips for bedside commode maintenance


Don’t forget when you are cleaning the commode to check that everything is secure and working properly.


You should check –


  • for any rusting joints on the fame – if it is steel
  • make sure that there are no cracks developing in all the plastic parts of the commode
  • to see that the ferrules – the rubber tips – on the legs of the commode aren’t splitting
  • that all the spring-loaded metal buttons are securely engaged and sticking out properly – that way they can’t move and cause the leg to change height
  • once you have cleaned all the different parts, make sure they are properly fixed together again


For more information on using bedside commodes, you may like 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.

Gareth Williams

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