Buying Guide for Diaper Pails
Why buy a diaper pail?
A diaper pail is essentially a specialty garbage can for dirty diapers. While this may not seem like a strict necessity when most people own standard garbage cans that appear to suit the task just fine, a diaper pail can be a wonderful boon to parents with a new baby at home. Diaper pails are designed to be maximally efficient at trapping odors and reducing the times you need to haul the smelly garbage out. This will prevent diaper odors from leaking, stinking up your home, or mingling with the other odors in the garbage can.
What should you consider when shopping for a diaper pail?
- Odor-Blocking: An essential consideration before buying a diaper pail is how well it will block the smell of the dirty diapers inside since that is its primary purpose. Steel diaper pails are a better choice than plastic ones in this regard. Steel is a much less porous material and thus contains bad smells better. It’s also more durable than plastic, so steel models are much less likely to wear down over time. Some models have built-in cartridges on the lids to absorb odors and give off much more pleasant scents. Others come with specialty bags that are scented, deodorizing, or have extra layers to help mask or block odors as well.
- Bags: All diaper pails require a bag to help with odor-blocking and keep the inside of it clean. The question is, does the diaper pail in question need specialty bags or not? Some brands are only compatible with diaper bags made by the same company or specifically for their particular model, which can get expensive. Some will work just fine with standard garbage bags. Others might work with any brand of diaper bag on the market but not regular garbage bags. Some diaper pails will come with several complimentary bag refills, but you will have to buy replacements eventually. Be sure to check a diaper pail’s listing and see which of these three options it falls under so that you know what to expect and which products to buy along with it.
- Design: If possible, you’ll want to buy a diaper pail with a foot pedal for a hands-free opening; you should always have one hand on your baby when changing their diaper and a hands-free model allows you to do so in safety. Other models have locking systems to keep older infants and toddlers out of dirty diapers. You’ll always want to consider the diaper pail’s size and diaper capacity, especially if you have a small home, to ensure it fits in the required space. Diaper pails are commonly white, but some models come in several different colors to match your purchase to the nursery’s color scheme and decor.
- Capacity: Most diaper pails can hold a fair amount of diapers before you need to replace them. But you’ll want to consider how frequently you want to change the diaper pail bag when shopping for one of these items. Even in the beginning with a newborn, your ideal pail will ensure that you’re only changing the bag once or twice a week.
How should you keep your diaper pail clean?
Yes, you should. Even fan favorites like the Ubbi diaper pail, which is fantastic at blocking odors from escaping, can be susceptible to absorbing those same odors. Periodically—usually after every bag change—you should spray your diaper pail with a vinegar and water mix to help neutralize any ammonia smells that might accumulate.
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Our Picks for the Best Diaper Pails
Playtex Diaper Genie Complete Pail
This is the perfect gifting solution for new and veteran parents.
Pros: Whether you’re buying a diaper pail for yourself or someone else, the Diaper Genie is a veteran solution that parents adore. This pick is a complete solution with not just the pail but refillable bags that are scented to help further control and minimize odors. And you’ll like that bags are antimicrobial to further control bacteria that fuel the stench. Plus, with an anti-rust construction and a capacity to hold up to 270 newborn diapers, you won’t have to empty the trash daily.
Cons: Instead of the bag filling up in a way that allows gravity to pull the diapers down into the pail, you may find you have to manually push the diapers down—virtually ruining the point of a no-touch system.
Bottom Line: The Playtex Diaper Genie is a go-to solution if you’re looking for an affordable and beloved diaper pail. But concerns around operation mean that this might not be the mess-free solution you think it is—especially when it’s a diaper blowout.
Skip Hop Diaper Pail with Dual Air-Lock
This tall, narrow, streamlined diaper pail is designed to save space.
Pros: If you live in a tighter apartment or condo or don’t otherwise have a lot of room, this diaper pail is designed for narrow spaces. This tall, narrow, streamlined model is purposefully designed to save space. The steel body and dual airlock system trap bad smells inside. To clean this diaper pail, all you have to do is give it a quick wipe down. The snap closure is simple, while the childproof lock prevents toddlers or pets from getting inside and messing with dirty diapers. The built-in storage compartment holds all your diaper-changing items so that they’re always right at hand.
Cons: Flimsy construction and diaper bags that weren’t up to the challenge of carrying a full load may be issues with this pick. If you like it, consider sourcing replacement bags elsewhere.
Bottom Line: Whether you have a dedicated nursery or have turned your living room or bedroom into a de facto space for your baby, this diaper pail takes up minimal space and doubles as storage. However, look for stronger bags elsewhere.
Dekor Classic Hands-Free Diaper Pail
This closed-cell, ABS plastic diaper pail with a foot pedal allows you to open and fill it hands-free.
Pros: With this diaper pail, you’ll never have to worry about getting caught with your hands full during the changing process. All you have to do is step on the foot pedal, drop the dirty diaper in the trash, and you’re done. You won’t have to bend, twist, or take your hand off your baby while changing them. The closed-cell ABS plastic is less porous than most plastics, resistant to scratches, and you don’t have to worry about rusting. The rubber seal along the rim helps keep smells inside, as does the spring-loaded trap door.
Cons: One common complaint is that the capacity isn’t as large as some of the other diaper pails. In particular, by the time you reach half-full with the bag, you will want to replace it. It may also be a pain to clean.
Bottom Line: Having all your necessities in one location by your changing table makes for a much more convenient experience when managing a highly unpleasant task. But a lowered capacity and a challenging cleaning process might be a hard sell for some.
Ubbi Steel Odor-Locking Diaper Pail
This is a steel diaper pail with serious closure to prevent odors from leaking out and plenty of colors to match your nursery.
Pros: If you’ve fallen down the Pinterest baby nursery inspo feed, you know that the Ubbi is a popular option for many parents. And that’s because it is effective at preventing diaper odors from escaping and comes in a wide range of colors so you can match it to your baby’s nursery color scheme. This pail can hold up to 13 gallons and features an easy-to-manage latch and lock. It can hold up to 55 diapers and is also made of steel with anti-rust protection.
Cons: Although it prevents odors from escaping, the container will absorb odors. So, you’ll want to spritz it with that vinegar and water mix between uses.
Bottom Line: Believe the hype; this is a good diaper pail that’s slim, fits in tight spaces, matches your nursery decor scheme, and will prevent odors from permeating your home. But, it will absorb odors, making for a very stinky experience when changing the liner bags or opening the latch.
Munchkin Toss Portable Disposable Diaper Pail
This diaper pail will make trips to grandma's house much easier.
Pros: Dealing with dirty diapers when you’re traveling can be unenjoyable. On the one hand, you don’t want to stink up someone else’s home—or your hotel room. But you don’t necessarily want to lug a traditional diaper pail with you on a flight or road trip. The Munchkin diaper pail features a collapsible design that makes bringing your essential baby gear much more manageable. It can accommodate up to 30 newborn diapers and features a resealable lid that traps odors.
Cons: In theory, a travel-friendly option is nice. But when you realize that these aren’t reusable but are single-use pails, you’ll realize that the expense can start to add up if you frequently travel with a baby in diapers.
Bottom Line: If you travel occasionally and still need a good way to contain the mess of poopy diapers, this disposable and collapsible solution from Munchkin is travel-friendly and easy to use. But if you’re considering this as a long-term alternative to traditional diaper pails, you’ll want to keep looking elsewhere.
Very few people genuinely enjoy changing diapers. But it has to be done. Take the stench out of diaper changes with a diaper pail that offers a solid capacity to minimize garbage disposal trips and effectively blocks stench, so your home doesn’t smell like a bathroom.