Are Diaper Pails Worth It or Necessary? (With 2020 Buyer’s Guide)


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Frugal parents are always questioning what they need to buy for their baby and may wonder if diaper pails are worth it or necessary for the cost. Since many people are fairly divided when it comes to diaper pails I thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look and see if it is worth a buy.

A diaper pail is not a necessity to care for your baby but many parents say that they are worth the investment. A high-quality diaper pail will be convenient, functional, long-lasting, reduce diaper odor, and even double as a regular trash after the baby is potty trained. While regular trash cans can be used in place of a diaper pail, they will not do as good of a job with odor control.

When my first child was born, I admit that a diaper pail did not make it on the registry, much less the nursery. I learned quickly and spent the day after he was born doing research and had one in his room by the end of the week. Keep reading to find out if you need a diaper pail, and which one is right for you.

Are diaper pails necessary?

When you find out you’re going to have a new baby – especially a first child – one of the most enjoyable projects over the next several months is getting the nursery ready. Maybe you daydream of a Pinterest-ready color scheme, or you even already have the perfect theme in mind. Either way, when you start building your registry and shopping list, you have a solid idea of where to start, but chances are that a diaper pail is not one of the pieces you have imagined in your little baby’s perfect new home. 

While diaper pails are not as necessary for your baby’s well-being as, say, a diaper or food, they may very well be necessary for your well-being.

For his first year, your baby is likely to go through anywhere between six and twelve diapers per day. Even if you are taking the trash out regularly, both the pile and the stench can add up fast. A diaper pail can help save your nose, and, once the little one gets older and more inquisitive, maybe a small piece of your sanity when it helps keep dirty diapers from being strewn across the room.

How many diaper pails do I need?

For most people, one diaper pail is sufficient.

Obviously, if you have multiple children who are being changed in multiple rooms, you will probably want to invest in one per room because no parent has time to run between rooms just to throw away a dirty diaper. 

Where to keep the diaper pail

If possible, the best place to keep your diaper pail is right next to the changing table.

Since you never want to leave your baby on the changing table unattended, the diaper pail should be as accessible as possible without requiring you to step away. If next to the changing table is not a good option for you, a nearby bathroom or the laundry room are good choices, especially if you have chosen to cloth diaper.

Basically, keep your diaper pail in the place that works best for you without risking the safety of your child, and keep an open mind because that place may not be where you expect.

Diaper pail vs trash can

Of course, you might be thinking that you can simply get by with a regular trash can, and you would be right. However, there are several points that make diaper pails a better choice in most cases.

Diaper pails will offer a tight seal that will contain more odors than a regular trash can. Extra features such as odor-resistant materials, one-hand use, and specialty bags can all make diaper pails more convenient than trash cans.

So, what sorts of features and qualities are we looking for in a diaper pail? Let’s check out the buyer’s guide!

Your diaper pail buyer’s guide

With all the diaper pails available, you may be at a loss for which one is right for your nursery. Although some are more attractive than others, diaper pails are not inherently cute or exciting. Instead of focusing on aesthetics, consider all the features, and find the one that is most functional for your lifestyle and needs. 

What we look at when choosing the best diaper pail

If you are buying a diaper pail for the first time, here are the important parts to look at to make the best decision. All diaper pails will have slightly different features and functions and you will likely find that you like some better than others. For instance, some might prefer the convenience of ready-to-use liners and inserts while others might prefer to save money by using regular trash bags in the pail.

To get the best value for yourself, check these out:

Type of liner

Many diaper pail brands have proprietary plastic liners that are designed to integrate seamlessly into the pail, while others just use regular trash bags. Still others might have special liners, but you can make it work with a trash bag if you are willing to do a little bit of extra work.

When figuring the cost of your diaper pail, you should also consider the cost of replacement liners. You might also want to consider checking to see if you can purchase a reusable liner, especially if you are using cloth diapers as they are typically made of the same material and washed in the same way.

Type of seal

The seal on your diaper pail is incredibly important as it is what keeps the smell of dirty diapers inside the pail. Depending on the diaper pail you choose, your seal may be as simple as the lid closing over the receptacle portion of the pail, to a flap that automatically closes after the diaper is dropped in, to the relative complexity of a mechanism that twists the bag closed when the lid is down.

How do you put the diapers in

While you may select a diaper pail with a removable lid, you are more likely to find yourself choosing between a top that can lift up (either manually or with a hands-free pedal) for you to drop the diaper in, or you may find yourself needing to push or squeeze the diaper into the pail either for the sake of compression or as a function of the odor seal.

How do you take the diapers out

Since you will be emptying your diaper pail out two to three times a week, you will want to make sure that you are comfortable with the way the diapers are stored in the pail and the process for removing the old diapers and replacing the liner.

Many diaper pails allow you to open either the front or side and remove the old diapers by separating the full portion of the liner (usually with a built-in cutter) and tying off the remaining end to create a new liner bag. However, some diaper pails may require you to lift the entire liner bag up and out of the primary opening; in that case, you will want to be extra careful not to overfill the pail.

Size, shape, and other features

It is important to keep in mind the size and shape of the space available for the diaper pail as both footprint and height can vary significantly between brands. If you are particularly worried about the odor, you may also want to consider a diaper pail that includes either an additional deodorizing element (a carbon filter, or scented liners, for example). There are also a couple of diaper pail options that emphasize their place as a decorative element in your baby’s nursery.

Best affordable diaper pail – Safety First Easy Saver Diaper Pail

If you are looking for a solid upgrade from a basic trash can, but do not want to spend upwards of fifty or sixty dollars on a diaper pail, the Safety First Easy Saver Diaper Pail might be the option for you. As far as diaper pails go, this one is cheap.

Features: It includes a top button that lifts the lid to reveal the diaper insert opening. When the lid is down, a refillable deodorizer plugs the opening, helping to neutralize the diaper smell. The pail itself is a solid size and claims to hold up 50 smaller size diapers. 

Potential Drawbacks: Many users have reported that the deodorizer is not very effective. You could probably insert your own deodorizer with a little work.

Best odor control diaper pail – Dekor Classic Hands-Free Diaper Pail

The Dekor Classic Hands-Free Diaper Pail is a standout option for odor control because of its two-part sealing system. Plus it’s got a pedal for hands-free opening. While it’s a bit more expensive than the affordable option we just mentioned, it’s also definitely on the low-price side since it is made of plastic. Dekor also shows that the ABS plastic they use for their diaper pails absorbs less odors than polypropylene and is easier to clean than metal.

Features: This diaper pail has a pedal that lifts the lid to reveal a hatch. Once you push the soiled diaper through the door, it springs back and seals the unpleasant odors in. Once your child gets a little older and inquisitive, this feature can also be a big help in keeping little hands out. While it is optimized for use with a liner roll and includes a small cutter on the inside of the can, you can also use trash bags if you do not have any liners handy. 

Potential Drawbacks: The Classic size only holds about 45 newborn size diapers, which is slightly smaller than the 50 diapers many standard diaper pails hold.

Best diaper pail for cloth diapers – Dekor Plus Hands-Free Diaper Pail

While many cloth diaper pails resemble small industrial trash cans, the Dekor Plus incorporates all the odor control of the Dekor Classic in a larger size that can either hold a LOT of disposable diapers or gives more room for those of you using cloth diapers.

Features: This diaper pail is the larger version of the Dekor Classic and includes the same pedal, lid, and hatch as the smaller option. Dekor claims it holds up to 60 small disposable diapers. In my experience, it holds two to three days worth of the bulkier cloth diapers, which is perfect because that is exactly how often most parents wash them.

You can also buy Dekor Cloth Diaper Liners that can be washed along with the diapers instead of using the plastic liners – even better, they come in a pack of two so you have one to use and one to wash. Even if you don’t get a diaper pail, these are pretty useful to have around!

Potential Drawbacks: Because you need to push the used diaper through the hatch, the flap can become soiled if you aren’t careful and needs to be wiped down occasionally. The cloth diapers also get very compressed as the bag fills up and may need to be manually separated in order for them to move freely in the washing machine.

Best diaper pail with regular trash bags – Creative Baby Tidy Diaper Pail

While many diaper pails can be made to work with regular trash bags, the Creative Baby Tidy Diaper Pail is designed to work with most standard kitchen bags. This means you never need to worry about buying or running out of liners. It’s also pretty cheap and small enough to fit into the dishwasher to clean!

Features: The flip-top lid allows single-hand use, and, unlike most other options, this pail is dishwasher safe so very easy to clean if it becomes soiled. 

Potential Drawbacks: Some customers have noted that the flip-top lid does not always swing back into place automatically. For its footprint, it sits very low to the ground at less than a foot tall, so you will most likely have to bend over to use it, which can be difficult if you are trying to hold a small child. 

Best small diaper pail – Dekor Mini Hands-Free Diaper Pail

If it seems like I’m pushing the Dekor Hands-Free Diaper Pail line, it’s only because it’s such a functional design that comes in a variety of sizes to meet varying needs. You might even wonder why I’m recommending this one under the small category when I just talked about one that fits in the dishwasher! The difference is that if you are looking for a smaller pail, the Dekor Mini has the same great qualities that make the Classic a recommended option, just at a smaller scale.

Features: This diaper pail is the smaller version of the Dekor Classic and includes the same pedal, lid, and hatch as the larger options, only claiming to hold 25 newborn-size diapers. 

Potential Drawbacks: If you plan on having this pail as a backup to the Classic pail, you will need to purchase separate liners for each as they are different sizes. Additionally, because of its small size, the interior hatch is smaller and can make it difficult to push through large diapers.

Best diaper pail with a foot pedal – Munchkin Step Diaper Pail

The Munchkin Step Diaper Pail has an innovative twist – literally – that keeps the smell of dirty diapers in and takes the extra step of including an Arm & Hammer baking soda insert to help neutralize any remaining odor. While we are getting into pricier diaper pail territory, this one is larger and packs in a few more features than the others.

Features: When the step is depressed and the lid opens, the diaper bag is accessible, but it twists closed and seals the odor in when the lid is closed. If you do not like the standard continuous liner refills, Munchkin also offers the Snap, Seal, and Toss option that allows you to use and dispose of the liners one bag at a time. As an added bonus, for each pail purchased, Munchkin will plant a tree to help offset gas emissions. 

Potential Drawbacks: Because of the twisting mechanism, the diaper opening is smaller than typical and can be difficult to use with large diapers. You cannot use regular trash bags if you run out of liners.

Best hanging diaper pail –  Grovia Perfect Diaper Pail

If you use cloth diapers, you are probably already familiar with Grovia, but even if you do not use their diapers, you may want to consider the brand’s hanging diaper pail.  

Features: This bag can be hung from a coat hanger for maximum portability. Dirty diapers are inserted through a self-closing opening at the top of the bag. When it is time to wash the diapers, the bottom unzips for the easiest emptying possible. The bag itself is large enough to hold up to three days worth of dirty diapers and can be washed alongside them when the time comes.

Potential Drawbacks: Some customers have reported that the bottom zipper is prone to breakage after regular use. If this is your only diaper pail, you will need to purchase two so that you have one available at all times.

Best metal diaper pail – Ubbi Steel Odor-Locking Diaper Pail

The Ubbi Steel Odor-Locking Diaper Pail is a very attractive, odor-locking, and practical option if you are willing to spend a little more money on your diaper pail.

Features: Steel is not as susceptible to absorbing odors as plastic, which is what most diaper pails are made of. The sliding diaper opening has double seals to keep the smells inside the pail when it is closed. Although brand-specific bags are available, the pail is designed to work well with most trash bags. If you are looking for something other than the standard white or gray pails, this pail also comes in a wide variety of vibrant colors and designs.

Potential Drawbacks: This diaper pail is definitely on the pricier side. The sliding seal at the top is not as convenient as a hands-free opening option, especially if you have your hands full with a small baby. Despite claims that it does not absorb smells, many users have reported that it does start to smell after a couple of years of constant use.

Best diaper pail for multiples – Playtex Diaper Genie Expressions Customizable Diaper Pail

The original Playtex Diaper Genie is probably the most well-known name in diaper pails and claims to be the #1 selling diaper pail overall. If you need extra room and you’re looking for some design options, you want to check out the Expressions line.

Features: The Diaper Genie Expressions pail holds up to 50 diapers. While it is shorter than the more well-known Diaper Genie Complete, its circumference allows it to hold more than a third more diapers. You can also purchase decorative exteriors and coordinate the diaper pail to your nursery colors.

Potential Drawbacks: It does not work with standard trash bags, so you need to make sure you always have the proprietary liners on hand.

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Josh

I'm the dad in charge of Natural Baby life. With 10 years of parenting experience across three children, I am constantly learning how to raise children more naturally. I'm passionate about doing whatever it takes to raise a happy and healthy baby! Find out more about me here.

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