In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

Ubbi Diaper Pail Review

Unique body construction with interesting features but odor control is lacking
Ubbi
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Price:   $80 List | $80 at Amazon
Pros:  Stainless steel body, child lock, fun colors
Cons:  Poor odor containment, diaper disposal lets odors out
Manufacturer:   Ubbi
By Juliet Spurrier, MD & Lindsay Selig  ⋅  Aug 27, 2018
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The Skinny

The Ubbi diaper pail is a stylish pail with an eco-friendly powder-coated steel body with a rubber gasket to seal in odors. Unfortunately, odors escape when depositing the diaper due to a lack of a containment feature to trap odors 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 it failed to regularly contain odors and the child safety lock on the deposit door doesn't prevent a persistent tike from opening the main lid instead.


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.

Performance Comparison



The Ubbi bags are easy to insert whether you choose the Ubbi proprietary bag or ordinary kitchen bags  but overly full bags and tear during bag changes  something we experienced with the Ubbi bags more often than kitchen bags.
The Ubbi bags are easy to insert whether you choose the Ubbi proprietary bag or ordinary kitchen bags, but overly full bags and tear during bag changes, something we experienced with the Ubbi bags more often than kitchen bags.

Likes


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.

Ubbi bags will cost more over the lifetime of the pail than standard 13-gallon kitchen bags and we suspect that most landfills do not provide the right conditions for these "biodegradable" bags to degrade.
Ubbi bags will cost more over the lifetime of the pail than standard 13-gallon kitchen bags and we suspect that most landfills do not provide the right conditions for these "biodegradable" bags to degrade.

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 a stylish powder-coated steel pail that comes in a variety of colors and looks great with almost any decor.
The Ubbi is a stylish powder-coated steel pail that comes in a variety of colors and looks great with almost any decor.

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

Dislikes


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.

The Ubbi door is easy to open once you know that you have to push down slightly before sliding the door back  however  the smaller opening means larger diapers with more poop will be challenging to fit through the hole.
The Ubbi door is easy to open once you know that you have to push down slightly before sliding the door back, however, the smaller opening means larger diapers with more poop will be challenging to fit through the hole.

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 blow out.

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.

We believe Ubbi overstates their capacity that 58 Newborn Diapers will fit in a bag. We cut this capacity figure in half for our tests and lifetime estimated cost analysis. Reason? In the real world, we believe parents are unlikely to fill the Ubbi to the brim due to odor containment issues and bag changing difficulties.

This view shows the Ubbi Diaper Pail Liner and how the bag is inserted into the pail
This view shows the Ubbi Diaper Pail Liner and how the bag is inserted into the pail

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).

A Note for Disposable Diaper Use
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 rubber gasket in the Ubbi lid can become dislodged when you change the bag. while not a deal breaker  it is annoying and requires watching a video to learn the correct installation method.
The rubber gasket in the Ubbi lid can become dislodged when you change the bag. while not a deal breaker, it is annoying and requires watching a video to learn the correct installation method.

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.

Conclusion


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.

Manufacturer Video


For more information about how the Ubbi pail works:


This video explains how to put the rubber gasket back on if it falls off.


Accessories


Ubbi Plastic Bags are 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.


Juliet Spurrier, MD & Lindsay Selig