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What's the best way to control odor from urinary incontinence?

23 answers | Last updated: Apr 07, 2015
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother suffers from urinary incontinence. She wears protection, but her house still smells. How can I get rid of the odor?


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Carol Jones is a family consultant for the Mountain Caregiver Resource Center in Siskiyou County, California.
92% helpful
Carol Jones answered...

Start by checking to make sure that her diapers or incontinence briefs fit her well and aren't leaking. Where does she put the used diapers or briefs after they're soiled? See also:
Difficult Conversations: How to Talk to Someone About Incontinence

See all 192 questions about Incontinence
If she hasn't yet bought one, you should recommend that she buy a special bin for soiled diapers, like the one you would use for a baby's diapers; this keeps odor from seeping out.

You should also check to see if your mother has had accidents. Vinegar and water with a little elbow grease can lift the smell out of upholstered furniture or bedding. Clean her carpets or get them professionally cleaned. Find out, too, if she's letting soiled laundry sit around. She should also use a covered clothes hamper.

If she's willing, your mother can take an oral supplement that reduces or eliminates odor by deodorizing urine. It's called chlorophyllin copper complex and it's probably available at your local health food store. But check first with your mother's doctor to find out if it's safe for her. Anyone taking blood thinners or antibiotics, or anyone with kidney failure, shouldn't take it.

More Answers
7% helpful
LaneR answered...

the odor problem is coming from my 90 year old incontinent, dad. It's impossible to keep him dry. He has alzheimers and has no control. A fresh pullup can get soiled within minutes. He is in a skilled nursing facility. He's still mobile with a walker. The administrator of the facility has told me about my father's odor. I reminded her "that smelly old man is my dad". Any solutions?????


54% helpful
ChristineVic answered...

My moms house also had an odor from disposing of soiled products in just any bag she found around the house, especially the ones you get from the grocery stores. I found a product called Heaven Scent Hygiene Bags and they are lightly scented blue bags that did the job for her. No more odors in her house! We found a store locally that carries the product but I originally ordered them online. Hope this helps.


50% helpful
LaneR answered...

Warning! the chlorophyllin copper complex nearly killed my 90 year old father. The adverse effect of chlorophyllin is severe diahrea. Within a week he was completely dehydrated and nearly unconscious. FYI, it did solve the odor problem but at what cost. The elderly are fraile and their systems are easily upset by medications. If you try the chlorophyllin be sure to monitor for the adverse effect.


55% helpful
moi answered...

Try dousing surfaces with sanitizer, such as Lysol. It really does work. NeutraAir is even better because the scent is not as astringent.


39% helpful
edrn answered...

Foul odor can also be a sign of a urinary tract infection. Older people that wear briefs are at a much greater risk for UTIs than younger ones because of incontinence, immobility, urinary retention and sometimes renal failure. Confusion, fever, lower abdominal pain and frequent and burning on urination can also be signs. A doctor can do a simple check of the urine to test for this. I work in an ER and this is a very common source of infection in elderly people. These are also the ones that have the really foul smelling urine, you can smell it from a mile away. It can't hurt to check


57% helpful
nanabsv2 answered...

My mom was just at the E.R. and I had them check for UTI because of the foul odor and sure enough she did have a UTI and will start meds tomorrow for it. Thank God.


71% helpful
samm916 answered...

My cousin with Alzhiemer's has become incontinent. I just discovered a wet bed, I'm using a spray of 1part white vinegar and 1part water. Blot the spot with paper towels then spray, wait two minutes, if odor is still there spray again. Place bowls of baking soda in the room to absorb odors. I also have a Diaper Champ diaper bucket I got off Craigslist in the bathroom to dispose of soiled "nappies". Diaper Champ uses ordinary kitchen trash bags and once the nappy is in there is no odor. I also do not use depends, they don't hold enough fluid and are more expensive because you have to change them more often. I use Molicare they have various sizes and even one for over night. You can find them here http://www.adultdiapers.org/moaddi.html. Price goes up at the end of December. I have used this company for years for various friends and relatives. You can call them if you have a problem with an order and they always help. The owner when I started was disabled and was trying to get us low cost supplies. Another supplier, has the pullups for about the same price, shipping included both places. http://www.cheapchux.com/momoforexuse.html Hope this helps.


67% helpful
Healthy661 answered...

It helps to use an incontinence product that has built-in odor control. My favorite product is the Prevail Adult Pull-up. I have been buying them at www.totalhomecaresupplies where I can get a big box sent with no charge for shipping. It looks like 17 other people wrote a review for Prevail Pull-Ups on this website and the average rating is 4.7 out of 5 stars, so this makes me feel great that I am not alone.

Hope this helps! Gina


13% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

My husband has recently had knee replacement surgery. He uses a urinal and empties it in the toilet. The bathroom now has that incontinence smell coming from the toilet and the sink. What should I do?


67% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

My father is incontinent completely and lives with me. He has very thin legs and even a small depends is not small enough for his legs. So he leaks all the time. I have his mattress well covered with a full GOOD mattress pad, then a fabric waterproof shower curtain over that. I have 4 of the washable smaller mattress pads, two on top of each other on each side of the bed. In between the top sheet and mattress I have another fabric shower curtain doubled in half and diaper pinned to the blanket above. This saves me 4-5 loads of laundry a day down to one or two. After I remove the soiled sheets, I empty his hamper and wipe it with bleach and then rinse. I have a diaper genie for the soiled depends which works well but still needs the odd wiping down with bleach, I spray it into the bag before I tie it off for the next fill up after emptying. In the bottom of the pail I have a plastic butter dish (and under the bed) with holes poked in the top a long with one of those glad car fresheners you hang. I change out the baking soda once a month. Seems like a lot of work but in the long run it saves a ton of cleaning and spraying and it WORKS. Good Luck!!


38% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

Urine smell is offensive and literally makes you avoid the area. Vinegar and baking soda home remedies get old pretty fast. I use OdorBully it makes all the waste especially urine disappear no odor no scents nothing and it cleans the commode and area around the catheter bag. Its very affordable like $12 for a gallon shipping was free I got it at odorbully.com


29% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

LaneR - so sorry to hear that that is so rude and unnecessary what they said about your dad. i am using some good products from brollysheets.co.uk such as the mattress protectors and the pads with wings, but also glad for the tip regarding odour.


50% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

Hi, I just ordered the odorbully and hope it helps. I take care of my elderly disable mother that is 78. She takes alot of medications and has a herniated bladder which makes her urinate without her even knowing it until it is too late. She uses adult undergarments for the incontinence but she frequently soils alot of bedding along with the pads I put on her bed to try and collect the wetness. I am daily washing her soiled clothes and bedding and try to use disenfectant in the wash to cut down on the odor. We even bought an expensive mattress cover that zips up that was supposed to be waterproof but it still ended up leaking and ruining the mattress. The odor is almost unbearable most of the time. I try to use sprays to cover up the odor in our home but sometimes that doesn't even work. Our mom just cries at times because she just gets so upset at how this has taken over her life. She won't go anywhere to stay with other family members out of fear that she will ruin their bedding. I can't seen to find a better mattress protector other than just the idea of wrapping it in several plastic sheets but the ones I had been using just don't stay on her mattress. We were able to get her qualified for medicaid to help with supplies and even have someone like granny nannies to come out but she doesn't even want that. She is on so much medications that she ends up staying up all night and sleeping during the day so if someone does come she doesn't hear the phone or knocking on the door. I have tried my best to get her to let them come out to help her even if it is just 2 or 3 days a week. They will help her shower, wash and help clean her room if needed but I am basically at my last straw about what to do to help her. Today while she was crying she said she guesses she should just go to a nursing home, but as long as I have breath in my body that won't happen. signed, helpless son


AnneyMac answered...

I monitor when my Mother drinks her tea or juice - and 2-3 hours I tell her to go to the toilet and have a pee -- it works out 90% so I have got the right idea but the timing is a bit out


50% helpful
Nurse13 answered...

Use the bathroom 30-1 hr after drinking, if on a diuretic then it's tough! Regular toileting is important. Then there are medication that can help with urge leakage. Caffeine also has a diuretic effect not good, and is dehydrating which can make the urine smell worse. Sometimes people think if I drink less then I won't have to go, which is not a good idea. This also makes the urine less dilute producing more odor and not healthy for this population. Then if they are on multiple medications, especially for the heart they might require fluid restriction. It's best to consult your Dr and he can refer you for further help.


50% helpful
Tabtasha answered...

For the woman who's husband had surgery...If you put a cheap denture tablet (the ones that fizz ) in the urinal after it is empty it will control the odor.


25% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

My mom is just beginning her Alzheimer's incontinence. For stained/urine-soiled mattresses, just dousing with regular Listerine neutralizes odor well. I would assume this would not work well on lighter-colored furniture upholstery, but it works like a charm for wet beds. NO ODOR.


An anonymous caregiver answered...

I take care of my 91 year old Mom, she has dementia,fell and fractured her hip a year and a half ago - the hip healed, but she won't use that leg so is in a wheelchair. She has incontinence, and after much trial and error, this is my regiment: I use Tena brand panties, reasonably priced and available at drugstores, some grocery stores and some walmarts, they are way better than Depends! For sleeping area I use a flannel backed rubber sheet made for bedwetting, they come in various sizes, I use a twin size to cover the whole mattress, then on top of that (on area where the butt would be) I put a smaller pad of same material (like 2'x2' or 3'x3'), and then cover that with a cotton quilted pad with waterproof backing (again 2'x2' or 3'x3'). Cover it all with whatever sheeting you would use, but this has stopped all leakages onto mattress. You can only clean a mattress or upholstery so many times and eventually it's just going to smell unless you keep the urine off, A lot of "waterproof" bedding items aren't 100% leakproof, so with this combination I rarely even have to launder the larger bottom rubber sheet, just the top layer and smaller pads. Has saved a lot of laundry and upholstery! (and time!) For laundering, I prewash in hot water with a little bleach and laundry detergent, then run through regular wash cycle with an extra rinse. No odor! For clothing, a little pine-sol added to regular detergent during prewash gets odor out, then launder on regular cycle to get pinesol smell out. Odor gone! This works for me, hope it helps someone else! :)


An anonymous caregiver answered...

I care for my mother inlaw at home who has dementia. I toilet her every 2 hours and use lestoil or vinegar for stinky smells, also make sure he's drinking enough . --Jenny


40% helpful
Marc F. answered...

Here's a few tricks I learned dealing with my dad who has overnight incontinence.

1) No drinking after 6 PM. Anything after 6 PM ends up in the bed in the morning.

2) Bring them to the washroom right before bedtime. Anything that ends up in the bowl is not in the bed in the morning.

3) Consult a doctor/urologist. Sereval pills can give you more control over incontinence. Incontinence has several causes and several medical solutions. Consult a doctor/urologist. Now.

4) Protect your mattress. Buy a vinyl matress protector from Wall-Mart. It's ten bucks. Buy the one that wraps completely around the mattress with a zipper. Buy 2 and put 2 on just to be safe.

5) Catheters. This is the part where your loved ones pees in a bag attached to their leg. Available for both night and day. For males, there are tube catheters and condom catheters. When the diapers don't work, this might save you. Probes also exist, those are only for people who are unable to pee physically.

6) if using diapers, the pull-ups work less well than the diapers with the straps on the side. Consider buying diapers + incontinence pads for extra proctection. Make sure you make holes in the pad so when its full it then leaks into the diaper and not into the bed. You can always put regular underwear after diapers to make things hold better. Speak to a nurse about your loved one to find out what sizes, brands, strategies are best. Nurses are the experts for diapers, not doctors. You have your loved one's privates, then you put on the incontinence pad, then the diapers after and lastly the underwear (in case that wasn't clear).

7) Smell. Don't cover it up get rid of it. Fast. First thing in the morning: Check sheets, wash sheets (buy a thin bed cover to avoid more than 1 load of laundry a day). Wash any washable bed pads in that same load. Throw away diaper in a sealed bag immediately. Make sure loved one is washed. Open the windows.

8) Check for government help in your area. This means services for your loved one. My dad has someone who comes and installs the diaper at night and washes the sheets in the morning every day. This cost me zero dollars. Yes, zero. The government pays. I live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Inform yourself, and get whatever information you get confirmed from more than one place. Assume the first person you speak to is wrong. They often are sadly. Double check. Yes, always.

9) Income tax deductions/insurance. Chances are if your loved one is peeing all over the over place, they are probably invalid, incapable of working, or whatever. There are a ton of benefits on income tax and also with insurance compagnies. Check your insurance plan carefully and income tax benefits. Double check the information. I claim diapers on insurance, income tax and social services in Canada. Yes, all 3.

10) If your matress/sofa is soiled and smells after several washes. Throw it out. Buy a new one and protect it.

11) Once again, nurses are the incontinence experts when it comes to diapers and whatnot, not doctors, not social workers. Nurses who do what you now have to do every day, they do it for a living.

12) Don't give up hope. You are not alone. Hope this helps.




An anonymous caregiver answered...

I take care of my 90 year old mother she has Alzheimers,Dementia. For the past 8 years she has been incontinence for last 4 years. I live in MA and got her on what is called MassHealth. They pay for ALL perscriptions that medicare does not cover. So all I have to do is have her physician write a prescription and they pay for 4 adult diapers a day 120 a month for a year. Also 3 Ensure drinks a day 90 a month. Then you need new prescription for next year I have been doing this for the last 3 years. As far as odor I use a good sealing diaper type hamper and put the used diaper in a plastic bag first and tie it then into hamper. I use water proof cover on bed under sheets and on top I use a throw Away cover that I change every morning wet or not I change it. I pay about $15.00 for 20 throw away covers. As far as changing her at night I used to wake her up and change her I found that it was upsetting her sleep to much. So now I put fresh diaper on and put a XL large over that one for bed time and that works out fine no leaks. I clean her in shower as soon as I wake her up. As far as UTI's I use a home test its 3 test strips for $10.00. At Walgreens I test her EVERY 10 days (3 times) a month. If test shows anything its right into the physician office.