In-depth baby product reviews led by a Pediatrician

Best Diaper Pail

The generously sized opening of the Creative Baby Tidy allows diapers ...
Credit: Abriah Wofford
By Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team
Friday May 7, 2021
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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 9 competitors for a final 2021 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.

Top 10 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Value Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $65 List
$67.95 at Amazon
$65 List
$49.99 at Amazon
$130 List
$99.99 at Amazon
$85 List
$72.20 at Amazon
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Best odor control, large capacity, self-sealing, durable, easy bag changeGreat odor control, easy to operate, uses regular trash bagsBeautiful, highly functional, great long-term investment, easy to cleanCompact, low-odor, steel bodyAffordable, simple to use, one-handed disposal
Cons Lavendar scent can be overwhelming, small opening, expensive, proprietary bagsSmall size, wipes may get stuckPricey, not good for disposable diapersLid doesn't always latch, small openingDoesn't reduce smells, plastic construction
Bottom Line Great odor control with a large capacity makes this pail a winnerGreat option to contain the stink and stay in your budget long termOne of our favorite cloth diaper options that is a great kitchen trash canThis tall and narrow pail is perfect for reducing smells in a small nurseryBasic pail with minimal stink containment, but a budget-friendly price
Rating Categories Munchkin Step Creative Baby Tidy simplehuman 38 Lite... Skip Hop Nursery Style Safety 1st Easy Saver
Odor Control (60%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
4.0
Ease Of Diaper Disposal (25%)
8.0
8.0
10.0
5.0
7.0
Ease Of Bag Change (15%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Specs Munchkin Step Creative Baby Tidy simplehuman 38 Lite... Skip Hop Nursery Style Safety 1st Easy Saver
Dimensions 12"W x 10"D x 27"H 11.5"W x 15"D x 16"H 15.8"W x 12.5"D x 25.7"H 8.5"W x 16"D x 28"H 14"W x 14"D x 19"H
Type of Refill Proprietary Liner Trash Bag Trash Bag Trash Bag Trash Bag
Refill Cost $8 $14 $14 $14 $14
Estimated Lifetime Cost of Refills $292 $53 $53 $53 $53
Estimated Total Cost of Ownership $357 $113 $153 $138 $73
One-Handed Operation Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Foot-Pedal Opener Yes No Yes No No
Material Plastic Plastic Stainless Steel Steel Plastic
Childproof Safety Lock No No No Yes No


Best Overall Diaper Pail


Munchkin Step


85
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Odor Control 9
  • Ease of Diaper Disposal 8
  • Ease of Bag Change 7
Bag Style: Proprietary Refill Liners & Bags | Pail Material: Plastic
Best odor control
Large capacity
Easy to use
Strong lavender scent
Proprietary system
Expensive

The Munchkin Step is a cleverly designed pail with features that limit escaping odors and reduce 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 you limit 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 the perfect choice for you.

Read Review: Munchkin Step

Best Bang for the Buck


Creative Baby Tidy


82
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Odor Control 8
  • Ease of Diaper Disposal 8
  • Ease of Bag Change 9
Bag Style: Any Trash Bag | Pail Material: Plastic
Good odor control
Uses regular trash bags
Easy to use and clean
Small Capacity
Less durable

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 just 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 as well.

Read Review: Creative Baby Tidy

Perfect Pail for Cloth Diapers


simplehuman 38 Liter Rectangular Step Can


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Odor Control 7
  • Ease of Diaper Disposal 10
  • Ease of Bag Change 9
Bag Style: Trash Bag or Cloth Liner | Pail Material: Brushed Stainless Steel
Durable
Large capacity
Silent lid
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. 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 will wash out in the washing machine 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, there is a significant upfront cost that 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. Overall, this can is ideal for cloth diapering parents who don't mind paying a higher price for impressive quality and long-term use.

Read review: simplehuman 38 Liter Rectangular Step Can

Best Pail for Small Spaces


Skip Hop Nursery Style


73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Odor Control 8
  • Ease of Diaper Disposal 5
  • Ease of Bag Change 8
Bag Style: Trash Bag | Pail Material: Steel
Fits in narrow spaces
Smell-free deposits
Accessory storage
Small opening
No foot pedal

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. There is a convenient bucket-style compartment on top of the pail that 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 through. This 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 a great option.

Read Review: Skip Hop Nursery Style

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
85
$65
Editors' Choice Award
Superior odor containment that is easy to use makes the continuing liner expense worthwhile
82
$65
Best Value Award
Top performing stink master that won't break the bank
81
$130
Top Pick Award
One of our favorite cloth diaper pails that can be used as a great kitchen trash can in the future
73
$85
Top Pick Award
Space-saving and compact, this steel diaper pail keeps odors down and will cost you less in the long run
55
$20
Basic pail with minimal stink containment, but a budget-friendly price
53
$34
Colorfully designed, these convenient bags have limited odor control and durability
52
$50
Poorly designed clamp makes this a no-go diaper pail
48
$45
Innovative design that doesn't contain odors or work all of the time
42
$19
Unique diaper pail system keeps things neat and tidy
35
$70
Steel body with interesting features but odor control is disappointing

Some of the top-ranked diaper pails in this roundup offer good odor...
Some of the top-ranked diaper pails in this roundup offer good odor control and ease of use.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

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 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. With a combination of 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, daily monitoring odor containment, we performed further in-lab testing for functionality, ease of use, extra features, and more.

The Skip Hop Nursery Style has an inner plastic ring that holds bags...

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.

Credit: Abriah Wofford

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 consider how easy it is to change a full bag and limit encounters with overwhelming odors.

Even though the Ubbi and the Dékor 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.

All three of these diaper pails have an easy to use foot pedal to...
All three of these diaper pails have an easy to use foot pedal to open the lid.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

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.


Value


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 purchase price of the product 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 it is more than just the face cost of the pail itself that you have to consider. 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 the course of 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 did a comparative analysis of 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 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 Total Cost of Ownership of any product we tested.

There is a big variety of size, shape and design when it comes to...
There is a big variety of size, shape and design when it comes to finding the diaper pail that will work best for your family.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Odor Control


Almost all of the pails tested did a relatively good job managing odors when 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. However, the contrast is much more apparent when you open and close the pails to put dirty diapers inside, a frequently occurring activity when you have a little one in diapers.

The Safety 1st Easy Saver has a wide opening and no stink-containing...
The Skip Hop Nursery Style has a button that opens a trap door for...

Despite various innovative designs implemented to minimize escaping odors, the 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 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 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 a gaping hole that allows aromas to waft out as long as it is open. 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.

You can rotate the lid of the Creative Baby Tidy easily with one hand.
You can rotate the lid of the Creative Baby Tidy easily with one hand.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

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 level of 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. In this scenario, we think the Diaper One-N-Done is a perfect accessory.

The lid compartment is large enough for one diaper at a time.
The lid compartment is large enough for one diaper at a time.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Ease of Disposal


When testing ease-of-disposal, we considered the simplicity with which you can dispose of a 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.


The hands-free options from Diaper Genie work reasonably well, even with a full bag. The Ubbi and Safety 1st Easy Saver have no odor-blocking mechanisms when open and they release all the odor with each dirty diaper drop. 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. 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 worked well until the bag got closer to full, and the hinges may 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 is easily flipped with one hand and has a weighted piston to help push any diapers through the opening.

As with several of the diaper pails, the Munchkin Step uses a...
As with several of the diaper pails, the Munchkin Step uses a proprietary system of bags.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Ease of Bag Change



Changing diaper pail bags is everyone's least favorite 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 want to consider how challenging it is to change a bag without making a mess or being punched by the fumes.


The Creative Baby Tidy has an inner ring that helps keep the bag in...
The convenient blade on the Munchkin Step makes it a breeze to cut...

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 while 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, however, 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 has liners that feed through a hole in the bottom of the bucket and pull through when you lift out the previous bag.

The Diaper One-N-Done uses proprietary refill liners, however, you...
The Safety 1st Easy Saver lid pops open for easy bag changes.

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 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 due to the lid design on both pails.

When removing a liner from the simplehuman can, put the lid in its...
When removing a liner from the simplehuman can, put the lid in its "hold open" position, lift the liner up about 1/5th of the way out and it will stand upright but elevated within the can for taking out dirty bag and replacing with a clean one.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Conclusion


Diaper disposal methods can be a passionate topic for many parents, and oftentimes you will find them 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. Poop is poop, and it smells like poop (surprise!). Knowing how much odor a pail can contain and avoiding extra odor build-up by remembering to change bags regularly can make a world of difference. 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 help determine how well each competitor squashes odors. We love products that put up a good fight against odor and are easy to use. If they work with a standard trash can liner, we consider that 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 accounts for each unique household situation.

Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team