What is a bedpan?

Bedpans are a vital piece of medical equipment for people dealing with mobility and incontinence issues, yet many people know very little about them.

What is a bedpan?

A bedpan is a specialized bowl used as a toilet by a person who is unable to use a traditional restroom.

Most standard bedpans looks like a toilet bowl and toilet seat combined into a single unit. It is designed to be placed underneath the user for urination and defecation.

The term is commonly spelled as bedpan (one word) but may also be spelled as bed pan.

Bedpans have been in use since the 1500’s and their design has remained relatively unchanged over the years. Early bedpans were usually made of pewter, brass, glass, or ceramic. The 20th century saw the emergence of bedpans made from more practical materials like steel and plastic.

Who needs a bedpan?

There are many reasons why a person might need a bedpan, but most stem from lack of mobility or incontinence. Common causes for this are surgery, medical conditions, old age, and obesity.

Bedpans may be used temporarily as a patient recovers from an illness or surgery, but many people with chronic conditions will need to use a bedpan as part of their everyday life.

What are bedpans made out of?

Bedpans are made from a variety of materials, but the most common are plastic and stainless steel. These materials are durable, sanitary, and relatively inexpensive.

While steel may be the strongest and longest lasting material, many patients find steel bedpans cold, hard, and generally uncomfortable.

Types of Bedpans 

Standard Bedpan


Standard bedpans are the most common type of bedpan. It has an oval shape similar to a regular toilet and is best suited for patients who have the ability to lift their hips up onto the pan with minimal assistance.

Fracture Bedpan


Fracture bedpans are tapered on one end to make it easier to slide under the patient. Fracture bedpans are typically smaller than a regular bedpan.

This style of bedpan is best for patients who have an injury that makes it difficult to lift their pelvic area.

Bariatric Bedpan


While this style of bedpan is largely the same as a standard bedpan, bariatric bedpans are specially designed to support the extra weight of obese patients.

This typically means they’re built using thick, heavy-duty plastic to support the patient’s weight. Some bariatric bedpans have a more contoured shape that makes them easier to use with larger patients.

Disposable Bedpans


As the name suggests, disposable bedpans are designed to be thrown away after a single use. They are available in standard and fracture styles.

They are typically made from a thick pulp material similar to what is used in egg cartons or fast food drink holders, although plastic disposable bedpans are available as well.

Disposable bedpans are ideal for situations where cleaning and sanitizing a standard bedpan is impractical, such as travel. The use of disposable bedpans also reduces the risk of infection and contamination.

Bedpan Accessories

While a bedpan is designed to be used “as-is” without any additional accessories, there are some items that can help increase patient comfort and reduce a caregiver’s workload.

Bedpan Liners


Bedpan liners are small plastic bags that fit on the outside of a bedpan. Many bedpan liners have an absorbent pad that soaks up liquid waste and makes disposal easier.

The use of a liner makes the bedpan cleanup and turnaround process quicker and easier for the patient and caregiver.



Even when a bedpan is used perfectly, there will be times when waste materials end up outside of the receptacle. For this reason, many caregivers use an underpad.

An underpad is a waterproof pad that goes under the patient and protects the bed from soiling and staining.

Underpads come in a variety of sizes and can be washable or disposable.

Where to Buy a Bedpan

Bedpans can be found at stores like Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, or Walmart, although selection may be limited.

Specialty medical supply website like Medline.com will have a larger selection of products, but for many folks it’s difficult to beat the convenience and selection available on Amazon.

How to Use a Bedpan

Bedpan usage will vary depending on a number of factors. The patient’s condition, fitness, and special needs will all come into play, as well as the abilities and resources available to the caregiver.

For more information on this topic, see our article on how to use a bedpan.

Bedpans Vs. Urinals



Many people think of a men’s restroom when they hear the word “urinal.” However, in the medical world, a urinal is a bottle designed to act as a small portable toilet.

Unlike a bedpan, urinals are only designed for liquid waste. One distinct advantage of a urinal is that they typically have a screw-on cap so that waste can be contained with spilling.

Urinals can be used by men or women, but the design is different for each gender. Some urinals have a “female adapter” that looks sort of like a contoured funnel, while other urinals are designed specifically for women.

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