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When I was asked to road-test diaper pails for this Babble’s Best post, I was a little skeptical. I have a 13-month-old and have never used a diaper pail in my life — honestly, I thought they weren’t particularly necessary, but was hoping to be proven wrong over the course of my testing.
Over the past four weeks I have tested out every diaper pail system under the sun … or so it seems. My house has had diaper pails lining the walls in every room to see if it could stand up to the stinky test of containing terrible solid-food-eating baby odors with minimal fuss or effort. If it’s not easy, then I’m not into it. All of these pails were tested for at least two weeks, and while two weeks is a little long to go before emptying a diaper pail (even the most odor-controlling), I wanted to make sure to put these pails through the ringer to be able to share the best reviews possible. Since we use disposable diapers, I commissioned a friend whose toddler wears cloth diapers to test out the cloth diapering options so I could share a truly comprehensive list.
I am happy to say that at the end of my journey, I have been pleasantly surprised by the usefulness of diaper pails and found one that made the cut for our family, along with a bunch of others that are definitely useful in their own right. Read on to see my reviews for best all-around, on a budget, and more:
1. Best All Around — Diaper Dekor Plus Diaper Disposal System
I cannot say how much I love this diaper pail. It was my personal favorite of the bunch, but also the most versatile.
While the Diaper Dekor Plus does come with refillable bags, you could always opt out and use regular kitchen bags. It will also work well when lined with a wet bag for cloth diapers (like my favorite, by Planet Wise) which makes it a great diaper pail if you’re not quite sure if you’ll be going with cloth or disposable just yet.
This pail had a great-looking, clean and simple design and was super easy to use. The height was just right and the foot pedal was really convenient. Once the lid is open, there is a rubber-sealed trap door that you just drop the diaper into — totally hands free. It also has a lock option if you find it necessary to keep out your little ones. The rubber seal trapped odors really well — not quite as well as the Arm & Hammer pail, but it was definitely a close second in the odor-control category.
Also, if white isn’t your color, this pail now comes in a variety of colors to coordinate with your nursery: bonus!
2. Best Odor Control for Disposables — Munchkin Arm and Hammer Diaper Pail
Munchkin’s Arm & Hammer diaper pail is legit. Even my naysayer husband was impressed with the technology and thought that went into this pail.
I didn’t take out my stinky diaper garbage for two weeks and couldn’t smell a whiff thanks to all the odor control bells and whistles that this pail has in place. This pail will be a little pricier in the long run, due to the pail specific bags it requires, but if you’re looking for a diaper pail that is truly odor-proof this one is the winner. Each time the lid of this pail is opened, its self-sealing bags twist closed tightly and the vented baking-soda dispenser releases a bit of baking soda that helps absorb odors. When the bag is full, the plastic ring at the top of the bag snaps shut, making even the walk out to your garbage can completely stench-free — a definite win in my book.
3. Most Attractive Diaper Pail — Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail
This is definitely a good-looking diaper pail. It’s made of powder-coated steel that looks a lot nicer than a plastic pail and doesn’t absorb odors, like plastic would. This pail comes in a ton of colors (customizable decals, too, if you’re into that sort of thing). I also liked the size of it, and the fact that it can be used with basic kitchen garbage bags — I’m not really into buying extra supplies.
While I liked the look of this pail, there were a couple of minor downsides. While the powder-coated steel and sliding door did a good job at masking odors when the can was closed, once it was open you would be hit with a blast of diaper stink — but, to be fair, I did use this one for close to two weeks during testing and it definitely stayed fresh for at least a week. The diaper opening is fairly small though, so despite the smell, it didn’t linger in the bathroom, because not much escaped. The small opening was my one other complaint though — it made using it for other garbage a little more difficult.
Overall though, I think this is a really great pail for those looking for an attractive, non-plastic diaper pail option.
4. Best on a Budget — Safety 1st Simple Step Diaper Pail
If you’re looking for a simple, straightforward, low-cost diaper pail option, this pail is for you. It costs less than $20 and doesn’t require specialized diaper pail bags, so you’ll save plenty of money in the long run.
It has a foot pedal to make opening simple, as well as a lock to keep mischievous little ones out. This pail wasn’t completely smell-proof, but I easily went four days before taking the trash out — the closing lid with the deodorizer in it is definitely better at containing smells than your kitchen garbage can. As a bonus, you can also use this for non-diaper garbage. This would be perfect to have as a back-up option in another room of your house or at a grandparent’s house where the diaper load won’t be quite as full. Overall, it’s a good option for the price.
5. Best for Multiple Cloth Diaper Users — White Busch Systems Odorless Cloth Diaper Pail
This cloth diaper-specific pail would be ideal for a household with more than one kid in diapers (i.e. twins, an older sibling, etc.). The size was a bit large if you only have one child and you wash your cloth diapers frequently, but for two or more (or someone who has a large supply of cloth diapers) it would be perfect. The Planet Wise wet bag fit perfectly in this pail and the carbon filter seemed to work great at blocking the diaper smell from escaping the bin. I will say that opening and closing the clamps on this pail was a little inconvenient and the lid was a bit heavy — a hands free option would be nice — but it was definitely secure and maybe better at containing smells this way.
Despite the fact that this pail is cloth diaper-specific, it could definitely be used with a regular kitchen bag as well if you wanted a large pail for disposables, though I’m not sure about smell containment since it wasn’t tested with disposables. I also think this pail would be perfect for storage down the road — I would totally use it in my garage to store sporting equipment and the like.
6. Best for Part-Time Cloth Users — Bambino Mio Nappy Bucket and Lid
This diaper pail is perfect for part-time cloth diapering, because it’s just big enough to hold a couple days’ worth of cloth diapers (about as long as most cloth diaper users go in between washings), but small and easy to tote to your washing machine without fuss or mess, thanks to the handle. In order to further minimize mess when transferring your cloth diapers from pail to washing machine, you can use the Bambino Mio laundry bags that are just the right size to fit inside the small bucket and then toss it right into the wash. The one downfall is that you have to lock and unlock it each time you use it, but it wasn’t a big enough deal to dissuade me from using it.
7. Best Pail Liner for Cloth Diapers — Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner
This liner worked great and is easily thrown into the washer right along with your cloth diapers. It didn’t leak and is a generous size that would fit with a variety of pails (we tried it with the Busch Systems pail and the Diaper Dekor pail). I also loved that it came in multiple colors and patterns — I thought the grey was perfect for hiding stains that might not always come out. The design is also PVC-free like Planet Wise’s wet/dry bags and made in the U.S., which is a nice bonus.
8. Best Cloth Wet/Dry Bag — Planet Wise Wet/Dry Diaper Bag
Unlike those who use disposable diapers, cloth diaper users don’t have the option of simply throwing away a soiled diaper when they’re on the go, which is why a wet/dry bag is essential for storing soiled cloth diapers while you’re out and about. The Planet Wise wet/dry bags are the best and come in a variety of colors and prints, as well as various sizes (small, medium or large), to fit your individual diapering needs. The bags are PVC-free and machine washable — and the waterproof inside lining is completely effective at trapping odors and leaks. The bags have an outer zipper (dry) pocket that can be used to store unused diapers, even when the wet part of the bag is in use — sans leaks!
Planet Wise also has a hanging wet/dry bag option that fits easily on the inside of a closet door, and made a great option for keeping diaper storage out of sight — perfect for those with limited space. Once again, the zipper really locked up any smells. This bag would also be great down the road for use when storing swimsuits during future swimming lessons, or soiled underwear during the potty-training stage.
9. Best for Germs — Playtex Diaper Genie Elite Diaper Disposal Pail
I was the most intrigued to try the Diaper Genie, because before this it was the only diaper pail I could’ve even named. It was supposed to be the holy grail of diaper pails, but I wondered how it would measure up. Verdict: If you are a true hater of germs, you will be all over this diaper disposable system.
The Diaper Genie Elite has built-in antimicrobial protection against odor-causing bacteria and the refill bags have five layers to block germs. The diapers automatically get sucked down into the bag without having to push them down yourself, and the foot pedal means you won’t have to touch the pail at all — keeping your hands completely clean. Germaphobes rejoice!
I thought that the odor control was “just OK” due to the fact that the diapers sometimes didn’t get sucked down all the way and the lid never fully closed, allowing smells to escape (although it’s possible that the lid issue could’ve been a defect with my particular pail). I also wasn’t super into the idea of having to buy the refills and found them a little bit difficult to use. Altogether, the Diaper Genie Elite is definitely a good option if germ avoidance is your top priority.
10. Best for High-Tech Parents — The First Years Clean Air Diaper Disposal System
If you like to get high-tech with your baby gear, then this is probably the pail for you. While this one skips the specialty bags (basic kitchen garbage bags can be used), don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a simpleton. The air-filtration system on this thing is pretty fancy pants.
You’ll need D batteries to help power the fan in the filtration system, and while it did do a pretty good job of containing diaper smells, I didn’t really like the fact that I would have to purchase extra batteries in the future — like I don’t already have enough battery-operated items in my house already? This diaper pail was also quite heavy and made a loud “pop” sound when the lid shut. I’m only changing diapers while my little one is awake these days for the most part, but it would definitely be startling in the middle of the night. Overall this pail has a cool concept though and if you’re into technology, you’ll probably appreciate this particular diaper disposal system.