The Ubbi diaper pail is stylish pail with an eco-friendly steel body that is powder-coated and contains rubber gaskets to help seal in odors. Unfortunately, odors escape from the body when inserting the diaper due to a lack of a containment feature when the deposit door is open, which is a huge downfall in our opinion. Overall, we didn't like this pail as much as we hoped. Given the novel materials and lack of excessive plastic, we had high hopes, but unfortunately, it failed to contain odors, and the child safety lock on the deposit door won't prevent a persistent tike from opening the main lid instead.
Ubbi Diaper Pail Review
Pros: Stainless steel body, child lock, fun colors
Cons: Poor odor containment, diaper disposal lets odors out
Our Analysis and Test Results
Ubbi, part of a larger Pearhead Inc., was born in 2011 by Tom Sakaguchi and Ken Berlin. After Tom became a first-time father, he was less than thrilled with the option of diaper pails available and created the Ubbi diaper pail. Along with diapering products, Ubbi also sells toilet training, feeding, bath supplies and more.
The Ubbi is an eco-friendly choice using steel instead of plastic but did not contain odors as well as the competition.
The Ubbi is different than any of the other pails with its powder coated stainless steel design. We appreciate a few things about this. First, we love that it isn't plastic. As a society surrounded by plastic, it could be your only choice if you are trying to avoid plastic in your house. We also like the durability of the steel design and that it could transition into a child's trash can (after a good cleaning of course!), as it will last for years. And finally, a big selling point, stainless steel does not absorb odors the way plastic does. This characteristic means better odor control with the lid closed. In our sniff tests, we experienced minimal scent from the closed Ubbi.
This pail works with kitchen garbage bags, which keeps costs down, but doesn't manage odors as well as the biodegradable Ubbi bags. So it is a trade-off in what is most important to you. Kitchen bags provide cost savings and a durable bag that doesn't tear. Ubbi bags have the slim possibility of decomposing in the landfill before you die of natural causes at 90 and better odor management with a higher price and potential tearing. Honestly, we aren't sure which is better. We think most parents will want to change the bag every 2-3 days maximum to keep smells down. Because of this, we believe the bags are unlikely to be full, and over the lifetime you'll use more bags than the competition, which could negate any savings or the amount of plastic added to the landfill biodegradable or not.
The upfront cost of the Ubbi is $80, and even when you use the Ubbi bags, it is still less investment over time than most of the competition with a lifetime estimate of $149. The overall cost is even less if you use kitchen bags and comes in closer $133. However, given that we believe the Ubbi exaggerates the capacity claim, we estimate a real lifetime cost closer to $218 using the Ubbi bags because you can't fill them as full as ordinary kitchen bags for fear of tearing the material. Using kitchen bags makes this unit one of the cheapest.
The Ubbi is available in several attractive and fun color options. With the multiple colors, you can coordinate with a nursery theme instead of having the typical white pail. The design is slim, sleek and modern. It does not take up a ton of real estate, making it a great options for those who want a pail that isn't an eyesore.
While the steel vessel does a good job containing odors with the lid shut, opening it to deposit a diaper completely changes the story. Because the mechanism for diaper disposal is an open door, a strong and continuous poop smell will escape as long as the door is open. This results in parents speed loading to decrease the amount of stink that hits the nostrils, which in our experience led to "spillage" of diapers onto the pail itself (eww). We also experienced a build-up of odors in the can itself that we couldn't get rid of even with a thorough cleaning and airing. We aren't sure what component is absorbing the odor, but it negates using steel for better odor control. You always can rinse poop in the toilet (frankly, you should anyway) before disposing to help keep odor from becoming overwhelming.
Disposal of diapers is relatively straightforward, but it isn't the best. The first problem is the sliding door. Opening the door is easy once you know the trick of pushing slightly down before sliding it back, but the opening is small, so larger or more full diapers are a struggle to squeeze through. As little ones get bigger and eat more solid foods, their diapers will also get bigger and smell worse. This increase will make deposits more challenging. While this is difficult with disposable diapers, it becomes downright impossible with cloth diapers thanks to their considerable bulk (though Ubbi claims compatibility with cloth diapers). If you use disposable diapers, then you may not notice this small door problem until your baby starts using size three diapers and has a blow out after eating solid foods.
Another potential problem with diaper deposits is using the childproof lock requires two hands, one to open and unlock the door, and another to push the full diaper in. While we like a childproof lock to avoid unsanctioned toy deposits by a curious toddler (a fun past time with the Baby Trend Diaper Champ Deluxe ) it isn't sufficient because curious kids can open the pail lid which doesn't have a lock.
We have some issues with the Ubbi concerning bags and bag changes. We feel Ubbi's marketing oversteps reality in several areas including what we call "greenwashing." This greenwashing pertains to their biodegradable bag (something unlikely to happen in a standard landfill situation), and their bag capacity claims, which we think are high and unrealistic given the amount of odor we experienced and difficulty removing a full bag without tearing the plastic. We believe parents will need to change bags frequently to limit odor build up, and therefore, even if parents could get the amount claimed into the can, we doubt they'd want to.
If odors don't change parents feelings on Ubbi bags, the experience of replacing a full bag most likely will. In our tests, we had difficulty getting an entire bag of diapers out without tearing the bag on the "teeth/tabs" located on the lid and spilling poopy diapers everywhere (a more significant problem with the Ubbi biodegradable bag than the kitchen bags, another reason to not buy Ubbi bags).
The last problem with this pail is the rubber gasket that seals the lid to the body falls out. Apparently, this happens so frequently Ubbi has a video on how to put it back in (see video below). While this may not be a deal breaker since it is fixable, we think for $80 the pail should be more bombproof than falling apart with each bag change.
Disposable diaper users who use the Ubbi with their proprietary plastic bags may find them a bit flimsy, and the inside lid can tear robustly filled bags during bag changes. Tearing can cause dirty diapers to fall on the floor. Frequently changing bags can help you avoid this messy mishap!
The Ubbi steel design provides a sturdy, long lasting pail that contains odors well when not in use. If you change the bags frequently and rinse poop in the toilet before making deposits, it will help alleviate that nasty poof that escapes when you open the sliding door. While this doesn't put it on par with pails that have features designed for odor containment, it does make it tolerable and could be workable for parents trying to avoid plastic. This sleek steel can is nicely priced and has a lower overall lifetime cost than some of the competition and using kitchen trash bags will make it convenient and easy to keep bags on hand. If these considerations work for your family, then this can could be the ticket for you.
For more information about how the Ubbi pail works, you can view the video provided below:
This video explains how to put the rubber gasket back on if it falls off.
Ubbi makes refill bags listed as biodegradable. Given that most landfills will not provide the right circumstances for biodegradation to occur (exposure to light and oxygen), we urge you not to choose bags based on this claim. Purchasing the Ubbi Plastic Bags will also increase the lifetime cost of the pail and will result in using more bags over time, as the Ubbi bags tend to break during bag changes.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Lindsay Selig