Do you want a diaper pail that keeps smells contained? We do too! We researched over 15 top pails and tested 10 competitors for a final roundup of 8 options. A diaper pail can be a convenient day-to-day solution for temporary dirty diaper storage and keeping the smells at bay. Critical pail factors include odor containment and ease of use, so we test the pails to discover all the sordid smelly details. With differences in odor control, bag changing challenges, and the continuing cost of ownership, each product has pros and cons. Our roundup is sure to include the right choice for you and your family.
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, parents like the twist seal action and 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 Tommee Tippee Simplee prides itself on being small and fitting almost anywhere. With a capacity of 18 newborn diapers, this could be a good choice for apartments or parents looking to hide the pail under a cabinet or in a closet. The Simplee comes with a lid in your choice of 3 colors, and it has a proprietary bag with a multi-layer system designed to control odors. With the lowest price in the review, it's an excellent choice for the budget-minded family or those in a smaller space.
While it may work for newborns, it doesn't hold very many diapers, and as baby grows, so will their diapers in size and number, so the number of diapers it holds will decrease as your infant gets older. We believe this size limitation makes it less appealing if you don't want to change the bag daily. Although it was not our experience, some users note that the lid is challenging to open. You need to push the diaper past the smart seal lid to avoid lid problems, which may not always be pleasant if you have a goopy diaper. Also, the blade inside the top is not the most user-friendly; it isn't very sharp, and you need to remove the lid to access it. However, if you need a space-saving pail and don't mind daily bag changes for odor control, then the Tommee Tippee is a suitable choice for small situations.
Read review: Tommee Tippee Simplee
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. Liners like 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 dirty 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 certain 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
Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag is a convenient and versatile bag that is our Top Pick 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 and 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 stink 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 pails in our homes monitoring odor containment, we performed further in-lab testing for functionality, ease of use, 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 should seal in dirty diaper odors in a way that ordinary cans can't. However, tightly sealing the lid isn't the whole equation. A good pail also considers what happens when the container opens and closes with each new deposit. The best options have mechanisms to minimize smells that escape when you insert a dirty diaper. Also, the best receptacles include designs that make it easy to change a full bag without encountering overwhelming odors.
How We Evaluated
Diapers stink and finding a way to dispose of them while keeping odor at bay is crucial to a pleasant smelling nursery. We spent over 100 hours researching and testing a variety of diaper pails to determine which options work the best. The ease of use, day-to-day smell, and bag changing methods all play a role in determining pail rank.
Whether you're diapering your first baby or your fifth, you'll need to dispose of dirty diapers. We believe odor containment is a top priority in picking a potential pail. 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 key.
We found that all of the pails did a relatively good job managing odors when closed. Each pail stays fairly 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 closed pails. However, the differences between the competition are more obvious when the pails open and close to put dirty diapers inside, an activity you will frequently be doing.
Despite various innovative designs to minimize escaping odors when placing a diaper in the pail, the stink puff naturally wafts out when the door opens. The level of stink that happens when making a fresh deposit varies from a mild poof to a nasty blast and 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 Ubbi has an open hole that allows smells 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 diaper build-up and associated odor.
- 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 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.
Diaper Pail Buying Advice
Choosing a diaper pail might feel mundane or boring compared to the other things you'll need for your baby. However, given how often you'll use it and the impact on the smell of your nursery and house, it won't be long before you realize it is one of the more important gear decisions.
Types of Diaper Pails
Diaper dumpsters come in two basic varieties, those that only work with proprietary bags (bags/liners specifically designed for the pail) and those that work with regular trash bags (a few 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. Some things to consider are the lifetime cost of pail ownership (purchasing bags and odor-fighting features) and which features are most important to you, given how often you change the bag or where you plan to keep it.
The following includes what we feel are the critical features and functionality to consider when choosing a diaper pail:
- Odor Control — How well does the pail contain odors? This smell containment includes a closed pail and when making a new dirty deposit.
- Ease of Diaper Disposal — How challenging is it to deposit a dirty diaper into the container? Is it possible to execute with a single hand while holding a baby?
- Ease of Bag Change — How straightforward is changing a full bag of dirty diapers, and does the process create a vomit-inducing stench, or potentially result in a spilled bag?
- Total Cost of Ownership — What is the estimated lifetime cost of owning and using the pail over the expected life of the product, including replacement bag refills or odor features like scent pucks? Products with proprietary bags typically have a higher investment over time, though the advanced odor protection included with some pails may justify this added expense.
We attempt to address these concerns to determine which contenders are the best pails you can buy. We place the highest importance on odor control and containment because we that is the essential goal of a diaper pail, and the main reason most parents purchase one other than the convenience of throwing diapers away in-house.
Keeping the smell of dirty diapers down to slight stench verses a powerful tsunami is easier if you employ the following tricks of the trade:
- Rinse poop off and into the toilet before tossing it. This act prevents adding bio-waste to the landfill and decreases odors.
- 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, whether it needs it or not.
- Wash the pail with warm soapy water regularly. Dry pail.
- If smells linger, open drying in the sunlight for UV help killing the odor-causing bacteria.
Ease of Disposal
Ease of disposal encompasses how easy it is to dispose of a diaper using one hand. A few pails offer a foot pedal to open doors for disposal, and while these are nice, they aren't always more straightforward than the products that are hand-operated. In the end, the important differences are the smell that escapes with each new deposit and whether or not the diaper gets hung up or needs assistance to get the job done.
The hands-free Diaper Genies work reasonably well even with a full bag. The Ubbi suffers from the odor release with each dirty diaper drop, and the sliding door requires downward pressure to open the door; if you utilize the child lock, you could find the entire operation is more manageable with two hands. The Munchkin Step is a step to open, but the bag twists after each diaper to trap odors as you go, but it can make it harder to get 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 sufficiently close. The Tommee Tippee Simplee Diaper Pail includes pushing a dirty diaper through a trap door under the main door. That requires touching the inside of the bag, and if there is leakage from the last diaper, then you'll be touching that too! Yuck! The simplehuman 38 Liter Rectangular Step Can has a simple foot pedal that opens the lid so you can easily drop in your cloth diaper. The Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag utilizes a zipper to open and shut, but most can't manage this with one hand.
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 to 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 bag. All you do is pull the plastic liner out and tie a knot on the end. Now, you are ready to go!
The pails that use a regular trash bag, like the simplehuman 38 Liter Rectangular Step Can 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 Ubbi isn't challenging, there are more steps as a result of the lid design.
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. 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 special 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 money 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 big 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 bags 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