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 available diaper pails and created the Ubbi pail. Along with diapering products, Ubbi also sells toilet training, feeding, bath supplies and more.
The Ubbi is different than the competition with its powder coated stainless steel design. We love that it isn't plastic. We also like the durability of steel and that it could transition into a trash can when the diaper days are over. And 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 they don't manage odors as well as the biodegradable Ubbi bags. So it is a trade-off depending on what is most important to you. Kitchen bags provide cost savings while the Ubbi bags have the slim possibility of decomposing in the landfill before you die and better odor management but sport a higher price and potential tearing. We think most parents will change the bag every 2-3 days to keep smells down. Because of this, we believe the bags are unlikely to be full, so 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 Ubbi is available in several fun color options, so you can coordinate with a nursery theme. The design is slim, sleek and modern and doesn't take up a ton of real estate, making it a great option for those who want a pail that doesn't dominate a room
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 smell 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 is absorbing the odor, but it negates choosing steel for odor control.
Disposal of diapers is relatively straightforward, but it isn't the best. The first problem is opening the sliding door that requires a trick of pushing slightly down before sliding it back. The opening is small, so larger or full diapers are challenging to deposit. 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 or has a blowout.
Another potential problem with diaper deposits is that the childproof lock requires two hands, one to open and unlock the door, and another to push in the full diaper. While we like a childproof lock to avoid unsanctioned toy deposits by a curious toddler, it isn't sufficient because curious kids can open the pail body lid that 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. 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.
The upfront cost of the Ubbi is $80, and even when you use the Ubbi bags, it is still less investment over time than some of the competition with a lifetime estimate of $149. The overall cost is even less if you use kitchen bags coming in closer to $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.
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).
Disposable diaper users may find the Ubbi proprietary plastic bags a bit flimsy, and the inside lid can tear full bags during bag changes. Tearing can cause dirty diapers to fall on the floor.
The last problem with this pail is the rubber gasket that seals the lid falls out. This problem happens so frequently that Ubbi has a video on how to put it back in. 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.
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 steel pail 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:
This video explains how to put the rubber gasket back on if it falls off.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Lindsay Selig