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Looking for a diaper pail to keep the nursery from smelling like a barn? Us too! We researched and tested over 30 top pails and chose 11 competitors for a final roundup. A diaper pail can be a convenient day-to-day solution for short-term dirty diaper storage and keeping the smells at bay. Critical pail factors include odor containment and ease of use, so we used each pail to reveal all the smelly details. With differences in odor control, bag-changing challenges, and the continuing cost of ownership, each product has unique pros and cons. Our roundup is sure to include information that will help you make the right choice for yourself and your family.
Diapering your little one will take up much of your time and thoughts for the next two years. Take some time to invest in the best products to make life easier like the best diapers, diaper cream, and baby wipes to get you through. Don't forget the diaper bag for on-the-go diapering.
Editor's Note: This diaper pail review was updated on April 28, 2022, with a review to ensure we capture the top products available.
The Munchkin Step is a cleverly designed pail with features limiting escaping odors and reducing smells. It is a step-to-open design requiring only one hand 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 stink-free isn't cool enough, Munchkin plants a tree with every purchase. You'll be doing something good for the environment while limiting odors in your home.
The twisting action that traps air when you close the lid can fail as the pail fills up, and the plastic walls of the container can absorb odors over time. This container also requires proprietary bags, which means you'll be investing in this system for the entirety of your diapering years. These liners add to the already high initial cost. For those sensitive sniffers or people who are allergic to scented products, the lavender-scented bags and lid insert can be somewhat overwhelming. Nevertheless, many parents appreciate the twist seal action and being able to remove only a portion of the bag when emptying the pail. If you want a triple-packed punch against diaper odors and don't mind investing some additional money over time, then the Munchkin is perfect.
The Creative Baby Tidy is a plastic diaper pail that impresses us with 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 makes it worse. The lid on the Creative Baby is dishwasher safe, meaning you won't have to get hands-on if you have an accidental diaper leak.
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 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, making for a less hefty bag change, but you will have to swap them out more frequently. We did not have durability issues during our tests, but some users complain that the plastic pail construction is flimsy compared to steel pails and may not hold up.
Bag Style: Proprietary Refill Liners | Pail Material: Plastic
REASONS TO BUY
Good odor control
Small and easy to use
REASONS TO AVOID
Long term expense
No foot pedal
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 are available for purchase in various designs to dress the pail. This cover makes the ordinary diaper depot cuter and more nursery-friendly, arguably less of an eyesore. The Diaper Genie lineup always fares well in our tests for odor containment. This option continues that legacy by providing top-notch odor containment, only bested in our list 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 continuously 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. We think you'll love the Diaper Genie Expressions if you want an easy-to-use, stylish pail that traps odors.
Bag Style: Trash Bag or Cloth Liner | Pail Material: Brushed Stainless Steel
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Large upfront expense
Plastic lid can break
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. The liner shouldn't get too gross because it is essential to flush solids down the toilet before putting them in the soiled bin with cloth diapers. Breastfed stools will wash out in the washing machine with no problem, and they 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, a significant upfront cost makes it a less desirable choice for parents on a tight budget. It is one of the most expensive options we tested, 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, making a more expensive steel lid the better choice if your wallet allows it. Overall, this can is ideal for cloth diapering parents who don't mind paying a higher price for impressive quality and long-term use.
The Skip Hop Nursery Style is a steel diaper pail with a two-step deposit method that works well to keep smells on the inside. A convenient bucket-style compartment on top of the pail is just the right size to hold extra diapers, wipes, and diaper cream. The lid has a childproof lock that helps prevent unwanted toy deposits and prying fingers. The height of the pail accommodates a fair number of diapers, but the narrow footprint allows it to squeeze into small nooks in your nursery. We appreciate that it uses regular 13-gallon trash bags, saving you money and hassle in the future. We like that the body of the pail is made from steel, as it won't absorb odors over time as plastic does.
Technically, disposing of diapers in this pail should be a one-handed operation. However, we found that if the diaper is not heavy enough or not wrapped tightly, it won't push through the lower trap door. Occasionally you have to use one hand to press the button and the other to help the diaper go through. This process is our biggest gripe with a diaper pail that we otherwise love. If you are looking for a compact and multifunctional way to dispose of diapers, then the Skip Hop Nursery Style is great.
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 has researched and tested diaper pails since her first was born more than ten years ago and professionally with BabyGearLab since 2014.
We tested the pails in this review for odor containment and ease of use. Using used baby diapers in some homes and bagged dog poop in others, we put the pails to the test, pushing the limits of poop fulfillment. After using the receptacles in our homes, and daily monitoring odor containment, we performed further in-lab testing for functionality, ease of use, extra features, and more.
Analysis and Test Results
Whether you're on 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 crucial to prevent it from smelling like a barn. 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, the difference in overall smell is critical.
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 regarding 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 consider how easy it is to change a full bag and limit encounters with overwhelming odors.
Even though the Ubbi Diaper Pail and the Dekor Plus claim that they will work for cloth diapers, we don't think these are functional options for cloth diapering due to the ammonia build-up from the lack of air. We prefer diaper duty systems designed specifically for cloth diapers.
Keeping the Stink Down
Keeping the smell of dirty diapers down to a slight whiff versus an overpowering stench is much more attainable 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 frequently, 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.
Normally we compare the price of a product versus its overall performance scores to assess which product offers the most bang for your buck. But, with diaper pails, the product's purchase price may not tell you the full story. Those pails that require proprietary refill bags can add a substantial expense over the expected lifetime use of the diaper pail, even though those kinds of pails did, in general, offer much better smell containment than those using regular kitchen garbage bags.
There are two primary varieties of pails: those that only work with proprietary liners (bags designed explicitly for the pail) and those that work with standard kitchen trash bags. Some products will accept both. Besides bag style, other factors include whether or not they have an odor reduction accessory that may need to be repurchased occasionally. When weighing the lifetime cost of pail ownership, expenses such as repurchasing bags and odor-fighting features can add up, so you have to consider more than just the face cost of the pail itself. You should look at which features are most important to you, giving particular thought to how frequently you can change the bag or where you intend to keep the pail.
Estimated Lifetime Cost
To help you evaluate the overall cost of ownership we calculate the cost of the original pail purchase, and add in the cost of refill bags we estimate you will use over your baby's diapering years. We base our estimated total cost of ownership calculations on looking at manufacturer claims and then making adjustments in some cases based on our personal testing experience of how many diapers fit in each bag or refill. We compared the lifetime cost of owning each product using the same number of diapers as a base.
The Munchkin Step offered the best odor control in our testing, but that performance comes at the highest estimated lifetime cost. We estimated the Total Cost of Ownership for the Munchkin to be $357. The Playtex Diaper Genie Expressions is the lower-cost system that uses proprietary liners, at $260 over the lifetime of the product.
The best value from our perspective is the Creative Tidy, which costs about the same as the Munchkin Step initially, but the cost of the refills is so much less than the Lifetime cost is quite affordable. We estimated the Total Cost of Onwership for the Creative Tidy to be just $113, less than 1/3rd the cost we estimated for the Munchkin. When you also consider that the Tidy had nearly as good odor control as the Munchkin — much better than most competitors — the Tidy is the logical choice for the value-oriented shopper who is still looking for excellent performance.
If you don't want to invest cash beyond the container or prefer to avoid single-use plastic, the Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag is a compelling 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. It delivered our lowest estimate of the Total Cost of Ownership of any product we tested.
Almost all of the pails tested did a relatively good job managing odors if they remained closed. Each lid stays tightly sealed, utilizing either an inner bag seal or a limited opening feature. The differences in odor coming from closed pails that were not disturbed for hours were negligible in our experience. The more significant contrast shows when you open and close the pails to put dirty diapers inside, a frequently occurring activity when you have a little one in diapers.
Despite various innovative designs implemented to minimize escaping odors, it is impossible to completely insulate the smell, and a stink puff inevitably wafts out when the lid opens. The level of stink that happens when making a fresh deposit is what makes the difference. We found that it varies from a mild poof to a nasty blast. While neither experience is pleasant, this is an expected result of storing your baby's waste in one receptacle for an extended period. The stink bomb cloud can linger and become a nasal buzz kill on your newborn bliss. The competition gets heated when you begin to compare. The pails with the lowest level of escaping stink were the Munchkin Step, the Creative Baby Tidy, and the Skip Hop Nursery Style. The Creative Baby Tidy has a rotating lid that we love with a weighted piston that pushes the diaper and the smell into the pail. These pails won our noses over in the end, and 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 odor that escapes. Diaper Genies twist the top of the bag to trap odors, and they have a clamp to prevent a lot of stench from escaping. The Munchkin Step has a similar twisting mechanism for the bag. The Diaper One-N-Done earned a 1 for odor control, the lowest score in this metric because it does not have a lid. The Ubbi and Safety 1st Easy Saver have no odor-blocking mechanisms when open, and they release all the odor with each drop, and so earned low scores in this metric. However, Ubbi is the only non-plastic option. The powder-coated steel construction 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 in making deposits.
Given that all poop products smell to some extent, we suggest storing your diaper pail somewhere other than your nursery. No matter which pail you purchase, there will be some smell. Limiting this smell to a bathroom or well-ventilated area is best. Baby and baby's nose will thank you.
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; opt to 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 a natural deodorizer and is magical for diaper pail odor control. 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 it at the bottom of the pail can also provide relief and are usually less offensive than scented bag liners.
Finally, wash your pail out regularly with hot water and soap and set it in the sun to dry. UV rays help destroy odor-causing bacteria.
Your satisfaction with your pail will be much higher if you understand its limitations and have realistic performance expectations. If your goal is absolutely no odor, you're better off taking each dirty diaper to an outside garbage can. We think the Diaper One-N-Done is a perfect accessory in this scenario.
Ease of Disposal
When testing ease-of-disposal, we considered the simplicity of throwing away a dirty diaper using a single hand. A few pails feature a foot pedal to open a top lid. While this may seem advantageous, they aren't always more straightforward than the hand-operated products from above. Our favorite pails had closure styles that allowed the least amount of smell to escape with each new deposit and never allowed the diaper to get hung up on its way through the opening. Thanks to its open-top design, the Diaper One-N-Done earned a 10 in this metric.
With a score of 2 out of 10, the Playtex Diaper Genie Complete is the worst performing product in this metric due to its flawed clamp system that only works part of the time. The sliding door on the Ubbi requires downward pressure to open, and if you utilize the child lock, you may find the entire operation requires two hands, something that you don't always have when there's an infant around. As is implied in the name, the Munchkin Step has a step that opens the lid, but the bag twists after dropping each diaper to trap odors as you go. Sometimes this system can make it more challenging to squeeze a new diaper inside, especially when the pail is almost full. The trap door on the Dekor works well until the bag gets closer to full. Many users report that the hinges relax over time, which results in odor escaping with each new deposit and an interior door that doesn't close completely. Some pails need a helping hand to push a dirty diaper through a trap door, which may result in your hand coming into contact with the inside of the bag. If there is leakage from the last diaper, 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 mechanism. The Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag utilizes a zipper to open and shut, but most can't manage it without using both hands. The Creative Baby Tidy has a rotating lid that can be 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 is a heavily dreaded chore. It is a job you need to do quickly before the noxious fumes make you vomit. However, you'll likely be doing this chore multiple times a week for a few years, and you realize the importance of considering the ease with which you can change a bag without making a mess or being punched by the fumes. The top-performing product in this metric is the Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag, with a score of 10. Because it is reusable, you don't have to change the bag at all. Just dump the diapers and throw the bag in the washing machine.
Several pails, such as the Munchkin Step, have an integrated blade to cut the bag when it is time for a change. This convenient design allows you to empty the pail as frequently as needed while still being efficient with your bag space. We like that the Step has hinges that keep the top open while you feed the bag through the blade. Not all systems are as useful, but we find that most pails with proprietary liners have a relatively easy bag change. Simply pull the plastic out and tie a knot in the end. The Diaper One-N-Done comes with proprietary liners that feed through a hole in the bottom of the bucket and pull through when you lift out the previous bag. This system has less flexibility in bag usage, but it is still fairly simple.
Pails that use a regular trash bag, like the simplehuman 38 Liter Rectangular Step Can, the Creative Baby Tidy, and the Ubbi, are emptied in the same manner as 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 is the same as changing out a trash bag and securing the edges. The Ubbi has a lid design with multiple layers to hold the bag in place. While we would not consider it challenging, there are more steps due to this specific system, and it earned a 3 for ease of bag change as a result.
Diaper disposal methods can be a passionate topic for many parents, and you may find them shouting from soapboxes about why they love them, but most can't wait to toss them. The key to finding diaper pail nirvana is maintaining realistic expectations. Poop is poop, and it smells like poop (surprise!). Having realistic expectations for how much odor a pail can contain and avoiding extra build-up by remembering to change bags regularly can make a world of difference. Our hands-on testing and research methods are the most comprehensive ever completed, and our test results help determine how well each competitor squashes odors. We love products that put up a good fight and are easy to use. If they work with a standard trash can liner, we consider an additional bonus. However, if achieving adequate odor protection meant using a proprietary bag, we didn't count it against the pail. Your personal preferences and budget goals come into play when choosing the correct pail, and we included options to account for each unique household situation.
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Honest, objective reviews. Led by a Pediatrician.
BabyGearLab was founded by a Pediatrician Mom with a mission to provide a reliable, independent, source of information to new parents. Our experts have tested thousands of baby and kids products to share key performance, health, and safety findings. We spend tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats to inform our ratings. And, we combine our review work with gobs of expert parenting advice. To assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing by people who care.