The Best Diaper Pail Review
The Munchkin Step is a neat pail with features designed to limit escaping odors and to limit smells. The pail is a step-to-open design with only one hand required for diaper deposits. It comes with a baking soda insert lid for odor-fighting and a lavender-scented bag refill ring that stays sealed when you open the door to limit the blasts of stench that happen with each new deposit. If smell free isn't cool enough, Munchkin plants a tree with every new purchase. You'll be doing something good for the environment while you limit odors.
The twisting action that traps odors when you close the lid can fail as the pail gets full, and the plastic container can absorb odors. This container also requires proprietary bags, which means you'll be investing in this system for your diapering lifetime. These liners add to the already higher cost of the initial price. The lavender-scented bags and lid insert can be overwhelming to those with sensitive sniffers or allergies. Nevertheless, many parents appreciate the twist seal action and having the ability to remove only a portion of the bag when emptying the pail. If you want a triple threat against odors and don't mind investing additional money over time, then the Munchkin is the perfect choice for you.
Read Review: Munchkin Step
The Playtex Diaper Genie Expressions is functionally similar to the Diaper Genie Complete with a proprietary refill system and an odor trapping design. The main difference is the visual aesthetic and the fabric covers (sold separately) available in a variety of designs to dress the pail. This cover makes the ordinary diaper depot more nursery-friendly and arguably less of an eyesore. The Diaper Genie lineup always fares well in our tests for odor containment, and this option continues that legacy by offering nearly best-in-class odor containment, only bested in our lineup by the Munchkin.
This pail lacks a foot pedal making it a two-hand operation. While this isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, it is something to consider. You need to purchase the refill rings for the pail, which increases your lifetime investment over the competition that works with trash bags. However, we feel this is a no-brainer given the Genie bag's superior odor control. If you want an easy to use, stylish pail that traps odors, we think you'll love the Diaper Genie Expressions.
Read review: Playtex Diaper Genie Expressions
The Creative Baby Tidy is a plastic diaper pail that impresses with its ease of use and odor trapping abilities. The rotating lid design is easy to operate with one hand, and it has a piston that pushes the diaper through the slot without letting much air in or out. Thanks to this unique odor trapping design, we only got a slight puff when depositing diapers, and had no issues with lasting odor. We like that you can use regular kitchen trash bags, as this will save you money in the long run by skipping specially made liners. We also like that there is no added scent to this diaper pail, as we find that any attempt at masking the poop smell usually just makes it worse.
When it comes to changing the bag, the Tidy pail does not have the best system for containing the stink. The lid opens for easy access to the bag but also lets much of the smell escape before you can tie off the plastic. It has a smaller capacity than some of the other pails we tested, which makes bag changes less of a hassle, but you will have to swap them out more frequently. We did not have issues with durability, but some users complain that the construction of the plastic pail is flimsy and does not hold up well over time.
Read Review: Creative Baby Tidy
simplehuman 38 Liter Rectangular Step Can is a great large capacity solution for holding dirty cloth diapers until wash day. We recommend using a cloth diaper pail liner inside the simplehuman plastic bin for ease of maintenance. Options such as the Kanga Care Cloth Diaper Pail Liner and the Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner can go in the wash with the cloth diapers, so you'll want at least two liners in the rotation to prevent the frustration of dirty diaper with nowhere to go. Because it is essential to flush solids down the toilet before putting them in the soiled bin with cloth diapers, the liner shouldn't get too gross. Breastfed stools should rinse out easily in the washing machine, and don't stink like formula or solid-fed stools, so you don't necessarily need to rinse them. This trash can has a step pedal to open the lid, making it hands-free, and the lid design makes it hard to open by hand, which helps deter curious dogs and toddlers from investigating the contents. We also appreciate the silent lid for less disturbance of sleepy babies.
While we like that this pail can transition to an ordinary trash can, there is a significant upfront cost that makes it a less desirable choice for parents on a tight budget. It is by far the most expensive option in the review, but we think the quality and potential long-term use can justify the higher price for some families. While the can will last for years, there are reports of the plastic lid cracking over time, which makes them more expensive steel lid a better choice if your wallet allows. Overall, this can is an ideal choice for cloth diapering parents who don't mind paying a higher price for quality and long-term use.
Read review: simplehuman 38 Liter Rectangular Step Can
The Diaper One-N-Done is a unique diaper pail alternative that is an excellent way to save space and keep the stink out of your nursery. This system features a bucket receptacle with a liner that feeds through a hole in the bottom. The open (non-lidded) design means that you can dump diapers and wipes straight into the bucket hands-free without having to wrap them up or be careful to keep the poop off the pail. During diaper changes, this can help keep your hands free to focus on baby and reigning in any other potential messes. We think this option would be particularly helpful during a diaper blow out situation.
There are some downsides to such a unique system. The bucket is tiny, and because it does not have a lid, it cannot function as a true diaper pail. After being placed in the One-N-Done, each diaper must be tied up in the bag and taken to a separate bin, maybe in the garage or laundry room. However, if you do tie the bag each time, it dramatically reduces the strength of the odor that escapes from wherever you choose to dispose of your diapers. We think this system is ideal for those living in small spaces, or for those who would like an extra layer of odor control in their nursery.
Read Review: Diaper One-N-Done
Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag is a convenient and versatile bag that is one of our favorite options for cloth diapers. This bag has a handle for hanging, which saves floor space, making it a great option for travel. The exterior is 100% cotton and feels like a light canvas. The interior uses a "non-toxic water repellent" and is "a high-quality polyurethane laminate (PUL) inner that is anti-microbial and inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi." The interior lining of the bag does not contain any holes from sewing the seam shut, sealing the lining, and making it fully waterproof. These bags are machine washable and remain water-resistant for over 100 washes. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions for washing to get the most longevity from your bag.
While we love how lightweight and convenient it is, the cloth is going to degrade over time, especially with regular washing. The exterior and interior fabric are not connected, which has caused some issues. While it was not our experience, some users report that the upper seam near the zipper can separate and allow moisture to develop between the lining and fabric and the zipper occasionally breaks. Planet Wise offers a 100% 60-day warranty, so act fast if you receive a faulty bag or need a replacement for any reason. Also, while it does a decent job of containing odors, it doesn't trap or lock smells like the competition. Overall, if you want an alternative option designed specifically for cloth diapers, this is an excellent choice to consider seriously.
Read review: Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag
The Ubbi is the only non-plastic diaper pail in this roundup, which means it doesn't absorb or retain odors (woohoo!). The Ubbi comes in a variety of fun colors, and the diaper dumping hole is large enough for most sized diapers. This pail is designed with a rubber seal to contain odors when closed, and you can use any trash bag, making it convenient to keep bags on hand. The opening can lock closed, which prevents little ones from exploring the contents or adding toys to the mix, which happens more often than you'd expect (yikes!).
Unfortunately, this pail has a hard to use design, and the opening doesn't have any features for smell containment when you open it to make a new deposit, which results in a blast of odor every time you toss in a diaper. Despite the escaping odors, it is steel, and parents will appreciate the sturdy design, odor-resistant materials, and locking lid.
Read review: Ubbi Diaper Pail
Not Recommended: Flawed Clamp System
Playtex Diaper Genie Complete
The Diaper Genie Complete is the newest Diaper Genie and is similar to the Elite with a foot pedal. Our chief complaint is the new clamp system that retains a large load in its upper vestibule instead of depositing it into its main trash compartment. The result? Opening the lid to find the diaper hasn't fallen through, which requires a manual push to get it down by hand (so gross). We believe this is a big fail. It is larger than the Expressions and has a foot pedal for one-handed disposal, but that is where the perks end. The clamp system does an okay job of preventing odors from escaping when it works and its signature unscented proprietary liner with 7-layers contains smells well. However, as the pail ages, the plastic will retain odors, and you'll need to regularly pony up for the proprietary refills to use the signature Genie system, which means a higher longterm cost of ownership than some competitors. There are also multiple reports of the system breaking down. So, be prepared for a possible replacement expense. Overall, we think there are better Diaper Genies to consider and think parents should avoid the poorly designed clamp in favor of a better design.
Not Recommended: Outdated & Cumbersome
The Diaper Dekor Plus is a hands-free pail with a step open, locking lid that prevents toddler toys from being placed in amongst the dirty diapers. The interior has a trap door that should contain odors when you make a deposit, but it releases an eye-watering odor poof that isn't pleasant. While the door keeps the majority of the odor contained when closed, it isn't smell-free. Given its size, this pail is a clunky and cumbersome nursery addition. While the large capacity may be appealing, the horrible stench means you'll need to empty it more frequently (before it gets full) to control odors, thus negating the capacity benefit. Also, the brand-specific bags have an overpowering powdery fragrance that does not help create a smell-free environment, and they are challenging to install. The bags also increase your lifetime investment, and they are hard to find, so you'll likely need to order them and keep a few on hand to avoid running out. You can theoretically use the Dekor as a trash can after the diaper years, but the plastic interior will probably absorb too much poop smell to be a useful candidate. We believe the overall look of this pail is satisfactory. Still, despite being a color-coordinated pail with locking lid, we think there are nicer options that contain smells better, are easier to use, and have a lower initial price and lifetime investment.
Read review: Dekor Plus
Why You Should Trust Us
The diaper pail review is a labor of stinky love led by BabyGearLab founder, Dr. Spurrier. Dr. Juliet Spurrier is a board-certified pediatrician and mother of two whose quest for a smell-free diaper pail began over 11 years ago. After testing multiple pails in several reviews over the past seven years, she is the definitive expert on all things diaper pail and odor control. The team also includes Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz. Wendy is also a mother of two and had been researching and testing diaper pails since her first was born ten years ago and professionally with BabyGearLab since 2014.
We tested the majority of the pails side-by-side for odor containment and ease of use. With a combination of used baby diapers in some homes and bagged dog poop in others, we put the pails to the test with above and beyond poop fulfillment. After living with the used receptacles in our homes monitoring odor containment, we performed further in-lab testing for functionality, ease of use, extra features, and more.
Why Use a Specially Designed Diaper Pail?
Specialized gear for diaper disposal can provide significant odor containment advantages over your kitchen trashcan. These pails have the unique ability to seal in dirty diaper odors in a way that ordinary cans can't. However, a snug sealing lid isn't the only thing that matters when it comes to the stink. A thoughtfully designed pail also considers the process of depositing new diapers; what happens when the container opens and closes? The best options have mechanisms that reduce air exchange and minimize smells when you insert a dirty diaper. Our favorite products even take into account how easy it is to change a full bag and how to limit encounters with overwhelming odors.
Whether you're diapering your first baby or your fifth, dirty diapers are the one constant. If you choose to keep a diaper pail in your nursery, we believe odor containment is a crucial factor when considering your options. Because odor issues are a top concern, we put more weight on the bin's ability to control odors than any other factor. Even in tests for ease of changing the bag, differences in the overall smell is critical.
Keeping the smell of dirty diapers down to slight whiff versus an overpowering stench is much much easier if you employ the following tricks of the trade:
- Rinse poop off the diaper and into the toilet before tossing it. This dual-purpose act prevents adding bio-waste to the landfill and decreases odors all in one.
- Roll the diaper into a tight ball and attach the adhesive tabs to keep it rolled before depositing it in the pail.
- Change the bag every 2 to 3 days, even if it's not full.
- Wash the pail with warm soapy water regularly.
- If smells linger after a good washing, consider drying the pail in the sunlight for UV help in killing odor-causing bacteria.
Almost all of the pails tested did a relatively good job managing odors when closed. Each lid stays tightly sealed when closed by using either an inner bag seal or a limited opening feature. We only experienced minor differences in odor coming from closed pails that were not disturbed for hours, meaning the competition is pretty close when it comes to odor control of sealed containers. However, the differences are much more apparent when you open and close the pails to put dirty diapers inside, which is a frequently recurring activity when you have a little one in diapers.
Despite various innovative designs to minimize escaping odors when placing a diaper in the pail, the stink puff inevitably wafts out when the door opens. The level of stink that happens when making a fresh deposit is what we paid attention to more. We found that it varies from a mild poof to a nasty blast. While neither experience is pleasant, this is an expected byproduct of housing baby's waste in one receptacle for an extended period. The stink bomb cloud can linger for a significant period and become a nasal buzz kill on your newborn bliss, which is why this is where the competition gets heated. The pails with the least amount of escaping stink won our noses and minds because the options that don't contain the stench were so offensive we'd pay just about anything to avoid smelling them.
Several of the products offer an open/close system designed to limit the amount of odor that escapes. Diaper Genies twist the interior bag trapping odors, and they have a clamp to prevent a lot of stench from escaping. The Munchkin Step has a similar twisting bag. The Diaper Dekor has what the company calls a "Magik™ trap door" that auto-seals after you drop in the diaper. The Creative Baby Tidy has a rotating lid with a weighted piston that pushes the diaper and the smell into the pail. The Ubbi has an open hole that allows aromas to waft out as long as the door is open. However, Ubbi is the only non-plastic (powder-coated steel) option, which should prevent the absorption of excessive odor over time so that it may be a trade-off depending on your tolerance for smells and swiftness making deposits.
So what else can you do to combat those nasty diaper odors? We find the following tips helpful:
- Don't dispose of poopy diapers in the pail, but instead take them outside immediately or rinse the poop in the toilet first.
- Empty your container daily to avoid the odor that comes with a multi-day diaper build-up.
- At the end of each day, spray a disinfectant spray (store-bought or a homemade vinegar spray) into the pail.
- Baking soda is magical for odor control, as it is a natural deodorizer. It is helpful to sprinkle a bit (or place a whole box) at the bottom of the pail after each bag change.
- It can be helpful to combat the odor with more preferential smells. Dryer sheets or coffee grounds do a decent job of tackling the stink. Essential oils can also be beneficial. Adding 5-10 drops of eucalyptus, lavender, or melaleuca (tea tree) oil to a cotton ball and placing at the bottom of the pail can also provide some relief and are usually less offensive than scented bag liners.
- Finally, wash your pail out regularly with hot water and soap and let it dry in the sun. UV rays help destroy odor-causing bacteria.
Ease of Disposal
Ease of disposal encompasses the ease with which you can dispose of a diaper using a single hand. A few pails offer a foot pedal to open doors for disposal. While this may seem advantageous, they aren't always more straightforward than the products that are hand-operated from above. In the end, the differentiating factors are whether or not the smell that escapes with each new deposit and if the diaper gets ever gets hung up or needs assistance to make it through the opening.
The hands-free Diaper Genies work reasonably well even with a full bag. The Ubbi has no odor-blocking mechanism when open and so suffers from odor release with each dirty diaper drop. The sliding door requires downward pressure to open, and if you utilize the child lock, you could find the entire operation is more manageable with two hands. As is implied in the name, the Munchkin Step is a step to open, but the bag twists after dropping each diaper to trap odors as you go, but it can make it more challenging to squeeze a new diaper inside. The trap door on the Dekor worked well until the bag got closer to full, and it "relaxes" over time, which results in odor escaping with each new deposit and an interior door that doesn't close sufficiently. The Tommee Tippee Simplee Diaper Pail includes pushing a dirty diaper through a trap door under the first opening. That requires touching the inside of the bag, and if there is leakage from the last diaper, then you'll be feeling that too! Yuck! The simplehuman 38 Liter Rectangular Step Can has a simple foot pedal that opens the lid so you can quickly drop in your cloth diaper but offers no odor blockage whatsoever. The Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag utilizes a zipper to open and shut, but most can't manage this with one hand. The Creative Baby Tidy has a rotating lid that can is easily flipped with one hand and has a weighted piston to help push any diapers through the opening.
Ease of Bag Change
Changing diaper pail bags isn't fun. It is a job you need to do quickly before the noxious fumes make you vomit. Because you'll be doing this chore multiple times a week for a few years, you want to consider how challenging it is to change a bag without making a mess or being punched by the fumes.
Several pails, such as the Playtex Diaper Genie Expressions, the Munchkin Step, and the Tommee Tippee Simplee, have an integrated blade inside the can cut the bag when it is time for a change. This convenient design allows you to empty the pail without wasting bag space. However, not all systems are useful. The Simplee is more challenging than the competition as you must remove the lid and hold it while cutting the bag with one hand. The Step and Expressions keep the top open on a hinge while you feed the bag through the blade. With the proprietary system, all three are easy to prepare a new bag after removing the old one. All you do is pull the plastic liner out and tie a knot in the end. Now, you are ready to go! The Diaper One-N-Done has liners that feed through a hole in the bottom of the bucket and will pull through when you lift the previous bag.
The pails that use a regular trash bag, like the simplehuman 38 Liter Rectangular Step Can, the Creative Baby Tidy, and the Ubbi, translate into emptying dirty diapers like an ordinary trash can. When the pail becomes too stinky to manage, you'll need to replace the entire bag, whether it is full or not. Replacing the simplehuman bag, whether using a reusable fabric bag or plastic trash bag, is the easiest as it the same as changing out a trash bag and securing the edges. While the Creative Baby Tidy and the Ubbi aren't challenging, there are more steps as a result of the lid design on both pails.
Sadly, purchasing a pail is not the end of the investment story. How much additional cost you'll incur varies by product and how you use it. There are two primary varieties of diaper dumpsters: those that only work with proprietary bags (bags/liners designed explicitly for the pail) and those that work with regular trash bags. Sometimes, you may find a product that will work with both. Outside of the bag style, the remaining differences include whether or not they have an odor reduction feature or a deposit method that seals smells into the bag, so your senses aren't assaulted every time you stick a stink bomb inside. One thing to consider when weighing the options is the lifetime cost of pail ownership. Expenses such as repurchasing bags and odor-fighting features can add up, so it is more than just the face cost of the pail itself. You should consider which features are most important to you, giving particular thought to how often you plan to change the bag or where you intend to keep it.
We base our calculations on manufacturer claims and (more importantly) our personal experience of how many diapers fit in each bag or refill. We did a comparative cost analysis of the lifetime cost of owning each product based on the same number of diapers. The Munchkin Step is not only a top-performer but is relatively affordable, considering it uses special bags. Because it uses a proprietary system, the lifetime cost is slightly above $200. The Diaper Genies earned top marks in our tests for controlling odor, but they are the most expensive options to own over the diaper-wearing years. The average cost of ownership is somewhere over $300! However, because this pail controls odors better than most of the competition, it could make the cost of ownership worthwhile depending on your disposal goals. If ongoing cost is a concern and the idea of regularly purchasing specific bags has you cringing, you could consider the Ubbi. While not as good at odor containment, you can use the Ubbi with regular 13-gallon trash bags, which saves money with a lifetime cost closer to $122. If you don't want to invest cash beyond the container, the Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag is a possible option. The ability to wash the bag and avoid a disposal bag system could save you a couple of hundred dollars over your diapering years.
Parents are typically passionate about their diaper disposal method, shouting from soapboxes about why they love them or can't wait to toss them. The key to diaper pail nirvana is maintaining realistic expectations about how much odor a pail can contain, regularly changing bags to avoid odor build-up, and remembering that poop is poop, and it smells like poop (surprise!). Shockingly, collecting a passel of dirty diapers in a bin will turn small smells into intense odors! Our hands-on testing and research are the most comprehensive ever completed, and our test results can help you determine how well each competitor does its odor squashing job. The products we love fight odor better than the rest and are easy to use. If they work with a standard trash bag, then that is a bonus too. However, in the end, if achieving adequate odor protection meant using a proprietary bag, we didn't count it against the pail. If you are okay with a longterm diapering investment (with the repeated purchase of liners and odor eating accessories) and you are committed to fighting odor, then the pails with proprietary bags battle smell better than the competition and better than ordinary 13gal bags from your grocery store. If you care more about staying on a tight lifetime budget or you want the convenience of using bags you already have, then you might be just as happy with a more basic pail that works with any bag of the corresponding size.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team