Cleaning the bedside commodes is hardly the most glamorous task a caregiver gets to do, but if the cleaning and the odor control is well done, it can keep life sweet for everyone, and lower the risk of the spread of infection from bacteria. I always emptied the commode bucket straight away after each time it was used – we now have it over the toilet – and cleaned the commode every day or so.
What is the best bedside commode cleaner ? To clean a bedside commode, you need a cleaner and a disinfectant, or one that does both. Lysol, Dettol, Pine-Sol, White Vinegar, OdoBan are all good for the job. You will also have to treat for odors and spillages, and depending on the surfaces you will need other products for that.
Contents Overview & Quicklinks
Disinfectants and cleaners for bedside commodes ?
There really is no one best cleaner, but there is a proper way to clean a commode.
If you read across any of the forums, you will see that the most popular cleaners for commodes and their buckets are –
- Lysol cleaner and disinfectant
- Pine-Sol cleaner and disinfectant
- White Vinegar cleans, disinfects and even kills some fungi
- Method toilet cleaner
Disposable bedside commode liners
One of the easiest ways of making the job of cleaning simpler, is using disposable liners for the commode bucket – they come with, or without, absorbent pads or powder. Be sure to check that you are getting one with pads if you don’t want to have to tip any liquids down the toilet before you throw the liner out in the trash.
You have brands like –
- Bearals – come with or without absorbent pads
- Better Moments – come without absorbent pads
- CareBag – come with absorbent pads
- Carex – come with absorbent powder
- Medline – come with absorbent pads
- Medustry – come with absorbent powder
- Reynard – come with absorbent pads
- Sani Bag – come with absorbent gelling agent
- Sani Care – come without absorbent pads
- TidyCare – come with or without absorbent pads
I bought CareBag liners for my mom’s commode, and they were very successful.
There is apparently quite an amount of difference between the brands – the leakage and odor control is better with some, and worse with others.
Do not ever try to flush these liners down the toilet, as they will block it.
How to use a disposable bedside commode liner ?
I want to point out that, just because you are using a disposable liner, this does not mean that the commode frame, the seat and the surrounding areas should not be cleaned on a regular basis.
Using the liners, though, does remove what is probably, to most people, the most objectionable part of the job.
Each liner has an absorbent pad which is placed in it, and it is there to absorb any liquid in a very short space of time, and also to absorb odors.
To use the liners –
- place the liner over the commode bucket and push the bottom down into the bucket
- put the absorbency pad into the bottom of the liner in the bucket
- after the liner has been used, remove it and pull the draw ties and make a knot
- if the liner has a sticky strip for sealing, roll it up until you can push down the sticky strip to seal it
- if the liner has no sticky strip across it, then tie a knot in the top of the liner
- place the bag in the outside trash straight away to get rid of any odors which could hang around
To use liners without any pad, gelling agent or powder –
- place the liner over the commode bucket and push it down inside
- after use, take the bucket and tip the liner contents into the toilet
- once the liner is empty, you can just give it a rinse
- throw the empty used liner out in the trash
The advantage of this method is that, if you can deal with tipping the contents into the toilet, you are not putting urine and feces into the trash destined for landfill, just the bag which is going to eventually decompose.
And of course, you don’t have to clean the commode bucket as it was covered by the liner.
You can just place another liner over the bucket and put it back in the commode.
Do-it-yourself bedside commode liners
As the cost of disposable liners can mount up pretty quickly, you will find quite a number of people on forums for caregivers, who make their own using a plastic bags and kitty litter.
I have to say, I have not tried this method myself, and I therefore have no experience of it.
The method suggested is –
- place a couple of plastic bags over the commode bucket
- put a scoop, or two, of kitty litter into the bottom of the bags in the bucket before it is used
- after it has been used another scoop, or two, of kitty litter on top
- when the liquids are absorbed, tie the bags
- straight away, dispose of it in the outside trash
The kitty litter should both absorb liquids and unpleasant smells.
From an environmental point of view, the clay or silica based kitty litters cause a lot of damage in their manufacture, and household plastic bags won’t break down easily.
Use a biodegradable kitty litter
If you decide to make your own disposable liners, it’s a good idea to use a biodegradable kitty litter, of which there are many types made from different kinds of natural products – grass, pine wood, cedar wood, corn fiber, recycled paper and grass seeds.
Examples of natural biodegradable kitty litters –
- Arm and Hammer Naturals Clumping Litter
- Exquisicat Naturals Pine Cat Litter
- Abound Natural Clumping Cat litter
- Exquisicat Naturals Paper Cat Litter
- Pioneer Pet SmartCat All Natural Cat Litter
- Okocat Natural Wood Clumping Cat Litter
- TidyCats Pure Nature Cat Litter
- Frisco All Natural Grass Clumping Cat Litter
Also be warned that if you use a clay based kitty litter they can be dusty, and this dust is not good for the health.
Use a Commode Liner without pad etc. instead of a plastic bag
You can buy disposable commode liners without the absorbent pads, powders or gelling agents, and use these instead of plastic bags.
An example of disposable commode liners without pads etc. –
- SaniCare Commode Liners – Universal Size – 150 Liners -$28.00
The liners are eventually biodegradable, and would be better for the environment with the kitty litter, than any old plastic bag.
Keeping it sweet ! Dealing with bedside commode odor control if you are not using liners
If you are using disposable liners, the bedside commode odors will not be as difficult to deal with, as if you are not.
If you are not using liners you will be transporting the bucket, with its contents, to the bathroom for disposal, and this will mean that several rooms and the spaces in between will be exposed to the smells.
So, to cut down on unpleasant odors it is a good idea to put 2 – 3 inches of water in the bucket, before your loved one uses it.
This will help to keep the feces covered, and to stop any odors from getting into the air.
But this is not all you can do to keep the odors to a minimum.
Products, such as Poo Pourri (also used in toilet bowls), can be spritzed into the water before it’s used, and they will form a layer on top of the water inhibiting the release of the odors even further. They are also scented to mask smells as well.
Other products which you can use to do the same job are –
- lavender essential oil
- peppermint essential oil
- even Listerine mouthwash
Other oils with a natural disinfecting quality – natural antibacterials – are oregano oil and melaleuca oil.
If you want to know more about this, you can check out my article “Do You Put Water In A Bedside Commode ?”.
Do not put bleach into the bucket water, before your loved one uses the commode !!!
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.
Secondly, if the bleach splashes up onto your loved one’s private parts as they are using the commode, it can cause skin irritations.
How to clean a bedside commode ?
Are you wearing the right gear as a caregiver ?
You want to be sure that you are always wearing gloves during cleaning, removing them once you have finished, and then thoroughly washing your hands with soap.
This is the best way to ensure that you don’t spread bacteria from urine and feces around the home.
One of the problems with dealing with commode cleaning is the smell when cleaning a used bucket, and so if you have a problem with this, I have collected together some of the solutions that our fellow caregivers have suggested on forums.
Many, many caregivers wear a mask – from simple dust masks to masks for use with solvents when painting.
Another trick is to do what some surgeons do, when they know that they will have a surgery which may be somewhat pungent – they rub an oil into their mask which helps to cover any other odors.
Some oils used on masks –
- oil of clove
- lavender oil
- peppermint oil
- vanilla essence
Other caregivers use a mustache of Vicks, Mentholatum, or horse liniment, some in combination with a mask.
Cleaning the commode bucket
You should be emptying and cleaning the commode bucket after every time it is used.
This is because the odors of feces and urine, as well as being unpleasant, shouldn’t be constantly breathed in.
And here comes by far the most important tip – do not rely on the bucket handle, as they do come off !
I learned the easy way, as it came off when my mom’s was empty, and whenever I emptied after that, I put one hand underneath and held the side of the bucket with the other, as I carried it to the toilet.
Tips for cleaning the commode bucket –
- first clean out the waste into the toilet – give it a soak if you need to
- rinse out the bucket
- use a cleaner to clean out any material
- clean with a disinfectant
- if you use a combination cleaner and disinfectant like Lysol or Odo-Ban that’s fine – some caregivers like to use enzymatic cleaners such as Anti Icky Poo or Nature’s Miracle – just wipe it off once to get rid of material and then wash it again
- if the bucket is absorbing odors and smells after cleaning, you may want to soak it in disinfectant, or bleach, for a number of hours – the problem is that plastics absorb odors
- get a backup bucket if you are soaking them for a few hours, so you have a clean one to go on the commode as you remove the used bucket
- if you can find an enamel or ceramic commode bucket, they will not absorb the odors like a plastic bucket does
Cleaning the bedside commode seat and frame
You clean first and then you disinfect –
- remove the armrests, the seat, the seat lid and the splash guard, and clean with a non-abrasive household cleaner and wipe them off afterwards
- following that, disinfect each piece
- be most thorough with 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 will be exposed to the most urine and feces, so make sure to disinfect them completely
- after rinse thoroughly and wipe them dry
- follow the same steps for the frame
- check that the plastic of the seat has no cracks
- put the frame parts back together and make sure that everything is fastened properly
The area around the commode
All the areas adjacent to the commode need to be wiped down, and disinfected as well, as the bacteria will get on there too – you can use Lysol, Pine-Sol, Dettol, OdoBan or white vinegar, as they are all disinfectants.
It’s a good idea on the floor to put down some kind of waterproof covering under the commode – mattress covers work very well for this.
If there is a spillage, you can just pull them up and put down a fresh one.
If you have any spillages on the floor, or a carpet, which you can’t get up, then you may want to try using OdoBan, or the enzymatic cleaner Anti Icky Poo, or an enzymatic cleaner for cats and dog’s urine and feces, such as Nature’s Miracle.
White Vinegar is also very good at removing stains and smells.
If this wasn’t enough information, I have an article, “The Best Way To Clean A Bedside Commode”, which may be of more help.
Getting rid of bedside commode odors in the room
One of the major problems with any sort of bedside commode in a room where a person sleeps is going to be the odors, and these are easily absorbed by all different materials around the room, and need to be removed.
To help control these smells, you can do all the following –
- bed covers and curtains will absorb odors, so they need regular washing to remove them – it can help to add white vinegar to the wash to remove the odors if they are still there afterwards
- spray your loved one’s mattress with Lysol OdoBan, or Dettol spray to remove odors, no wipe down afterwards is needed – just a note here that if you are spraying Lysol in a room, do remove people from the room for 45 minutes while the Lysol dissipates, as you are not meant to be breathing it in
- spray any curtains with Lysol, OdoBan, or Dettol to remove any odors – same rules for spraying as above
- use air purifying filters such as HEPA filters
- use an ionizer to purify the air – do not use when anyone is in the room
- open the windows as much as possible
Dispose of all cleaning products straight away
- don’t leave any wipes or toilet paper in bags, or in the trash in the room – get them into the trash outside immediately
- toilet paper can go down the toilet, and wipes into the trash outside
- any toweling etc. used for spillages or from cleaning the commode should be removed from the room immediately and put in the outside trash
- if there is a trash container in the room you need to keep that clear of all the products you are using for clean up, and keep sanitizing it
- you can always sprinkle a little baking soda in the bottom to absorb odors
- What protective gear are you using ?
- Cleaning products
- Frequency of cleaning ?
- Emptying the commode bucket ?
- Properly preparing the commode bucket
- Using multiple commode buckets
- Put in an extractor fan
- The area around the bedside commode
- Floor protection under the bedside commode
- Proper handling of trash from the commode and incontinence products
- Washable soft coverings and fabric
- Air filters
You can read the article here –
How to keep a bedside commode from tipping over ?
The best way to stop a bedside commode from tipping over is to make sure that your loved one knows how to sit down on it safely.
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, or to one of its two sides.
To have maximum stability when sitting down on the commode, it’s best to use a walker so that you don’t lose your balance backing up.
It will also help you stand as you reach back, one hand at a time, for the armrests on the commode, and you will also grab on to it when you stand back up from the commode.
Your loved one should learn to –
- back up to the bedside commode using the walker
- stop as they feel the frame touching against the back of their legs
- lower any clothing
- reach back and grab on to the armrests, one arm at a time
- sit down on the commode once they have the armrests in their grip
Your loved one should only be sitting down on the commode by themselves if they are able to do so without risking injury.
Remove any clutter from around the commode so that your loved one can’t trip on anything.
If you wish to find out more, I also have on this topic too, “How To Keep A Bedside Commode From Tipping Over ?”, and you can find out more about –
- transferring to a bedside commode using a walker
- properly positioning the commode
- the commode chair made to be used in a corner, so it can’t tip
- assisting someone with using a bedside commode
- and more
Setting up a bedside commode over a toilet
If your loved one is able to get to the toilet on their own, or if you have a bedside commode with wheels, the commode can be used over the toilet in the bathroom.
There is no clean up, and it reduces the risk of infections from commode bacteria in the bedroom.
To set up a bedside commode over a toilet –
- lift out the bucket from under the commode seat
- remove the back rest
- put the toilet lid, and seat, in their upright position
- adjust the commode legs so that the seat is above the height of the toilet bowl rim
- ensure the legs are all the same length
- check that your loved one’s feet are on the floor when they are seated on the commode
- place the commode over and above the toilet
- lift the seat and place the splash guard under it
- if your bedside commode has wheels, don’t forget to lock them
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.