Diaper pails

Diaper Pail Buying Guide

Consumer Reports no longer updates this product category and maintains it for archival purposes only. 


Getting Started

Babies are delightful; dealing with their diapers—not so much. But since diapers must be changed many times a day, the right diaper pail can make the job less irksome and keep odors contained.

The type of diaper pail you choose may depend on whether you're using cloth diapers or disposable ones, although some pails can be used for both. Most parents who use cloth diapers often choose a "dry" system, usually a lined plastic pail where they keep soiled but rinsed diapers until laundry time. But some prefer a "wet" system, using a pail to soak diapers in water, baking soda, and white vinegar before they're laundered. You can use any sturdy diaper pail with a lid that locks for this use.

Some pails for disposable diapers are used with regular plastic garbage bags, like the kind you'd use for kitchen trash, while others require special plastic liners with other devices like air filters that are meant to minimize unpleasant odors. Dry systems for cloth diapers usually have a waterproof or water-resistant liner, often made of coated nylon. It can be put in the wash along with the diapers when they're laundered.

It's a good idea to sprinkle baking soda at the bottom of pails for cloth diapers to absorb odors, or use a deodorizer that fastens under the lid. Even with special liners or odor-reducing features, be sure to dispose of cloth diaper waste before you put it in the pail. It's also a good idea to dump the waste from disposable diapers to minimize unpleasant smells.

Think about how large a pail you want. A larger one will cut down on how often you have to empty it, but the odor might prompt you to empty the pail before it's full anyway. A taller pail requires less bending and might spare your back.

You'll also want to be sure that any model you select has a secure, childproof lid, in part because plastic liners are a suffocation risk to small children. The water in a soaking pail poses a drowning hazard as well. A curious child who climbs into a diaper pail might not be able to get out.



There are pails for cloth diapers and ones for disposable diapers, so start by deciding which type of diaper you'll use.

Pails for Cloth or Disposable Diapers
Some pails, like the Safety 1st Simple Step, which is less than $20, can be used for either cloth or disposable diapers. These pails use plastic garbage bags or propriety plastic bags as liners. That's handy for disposables—you just toss the sealed bag into the trash. But if you use them for cloth diapers you'll need to empty the diapers into the washer and then dispose of the soiled bag. (Pails for cloth diapers come with cloth bags you can toss directly in the wash with the diapers.)

Pails for Cloth Diapers
You'll want to select a substantial plastic pail with a secure lid that locks. The Bambino Mio Nappy Bucket, about $30, is used a laundry bag, sold separately, that fits onto hooks in the pail and can be put into a washing machine with the dirty diapers.

We don't know of any pails currently sold for use as a "wet" system. If you want to soak diapers, you can use any pail designed for cloth diapers as long as it has strong handles to make it easier to transport to your washing machine and a secure lock to prevent your child from getting into it.

Laundry Bag for Cloth
Another option for cloth diapers is to skip the pail and use a diaper laundry bag like the FuzziBunz Hanging Diaper Pail, around $19. You fill the bag from the top, unzip the bottom to release dirty diapers directly into a washing machine, and wash the diapers and bag together. For traveling, consider the Planet Wise Wet/Dry bag, about $21, which has a compartment for clean diapers and another for used diapers.

Pails for Disposable Diapers
These are usually simple, easy-to-operate models, some of which can use regular trash bags, such as the First Years Clean Air Odor-Free Diaper Disposal system, about $43. Some allow you to open and close the pail with one hand—a benefit when you're keeping the other hand on your baby, as you should always do when he's on a changing table. Some, like Diaper Genie II from Playtex, about $25, are hands-free designs—you step on a pedal to open the lid and deposit a soiled diaper. There are also motion-sensor models, which require batteries to operate; you wave your hand over the pail to open it.

Some models require you to purchase specific liners. The Munchkin Arm & Hammer diaper pail, for example (shown, about $28), has a self-sealing system that automatically sprinkles baking soda on dirty diapers, a feature intended to minimize odors. You need to buy specific refills for the pail, at about $6 for 10, considerably more than you would pay for 10 standard garbage bags.



This is one of those nursery items you'll be using throughout the day—and night—so you'll want to find something that makes life easier. Here are some features to consider.

Bags or Liners
Some models require brand-specific plastic liners, which will add to the expense of diapering your child. A benefit of the special liners is that they might have odor-fighting properties to reduce unpleasant smells in the diaper pail. Others use standard plastic or garbage bags, which will be less expensive but probably won't diminish the distinctive aroma of your diaper pail. Pails intended for use with cloth diapers often come with cloth bags you can throw into a washer with the diapers.

Some manufacturers claim that their pails can hold 25, 30, even 50 diapers. Our testing has found that the actual number is often lower, so be prepared to empty the pail more frequently. As your baby gets bigger the diapers will, too, reducing your pail's capacity.

Child-Resistant Lid
Plastic liners in diaper pails pose a suffocation hazard to young children. So do wet pails that contain water and solution, as children can drown in less than an inch of water. It's critical that the diaper pail lid have a locking button or other mechanism that's childproof. Step-pedal openers also make it difficult for a child to get into a diaper pail.

If you decide to soak your cloth diapers in a "wet" system, you'll want a diaper pail that won't be cumbersome to carry. Look for one that has comfortable handles. If you're very tall, you might not want to use a diaper pail that requires you to bend a great deal.

Ease of Use
Consider how easy the liner system is to use several times a day. Those with foot-operated pedals, like the Diaper Dekor, about $30, might make it easier to dispose of a dirty diaper while keeping a hand on or holding your baby, as opposed to pails that require you to open the top or pull up a handle. At least one model, the Baby Trend Diaper Champ, about $32, features a handle that you flip like a bank's night-deposit box to dispose of a diaper. Some diaper pails, like the Diaper Dekor and Diaper Genie, have a built-in device that separates bags for removal, a feature you might appreciate after changing a particularly stinky diaper.

Odor Containment
Some diaper pails have air filter or special liners to reduce unpleasant smells. The Diaper Genie, for example, has what it calls an antimicrobial protection system to reduce odors.



Diaper pails can range in price from less than $20 to $50 and up. Brands of diaper pails, in alphabetical order, include:

Baby Trend
This 22-year-old company is the inventor and exclusive manufacturer for several juvenile products, such as the Snap N Go, which converts a child's infant car seat into a lightweight stroller, and the Sit N Stand stroller, an easy and affordable way to have a young infant and older toddler travel in the same stroller. Its Diaper Champ was the first diaper pail that did not require expensive refills. Available wherever juvenile products are sold and online.

Bambino Mio
Distributed in the U.S. by Regal Lager in Georgia, this British company offers a complete diaper system suitable for babies from newborn to potty training. Its nappy bucket is square in shape to fit snuggly against the washing machine. Available at Baby "R" Us and online sources.

Diaper Dekor
Distributed in the U.S. by Regal Lager in Georgia, Dékor is a diaper disposal system with a continuous liner. It is a hands free step and drop system. It has an extended use, beyond diapers, as it converts to a trash can after diapers.

Fuzzi Bunz
Founded in 1999 by Tereson Dupuy, a Louisiana mother of three, the company uses soft fleece in its diapers to ensure dryness. The company also offers a no-fuss cloth diaper disposal system that hangs on a hook or doorknob.

Founded in 1991 on the premise that it could anticipate and serve parents' needs by developing uncomplicated baby products. Munchkin has teamed with Arm & Hammer for its odor-busting diaper pails. Available at CVS, Kmart, Target, and online.

Planet Wise
This privately owned family corporation was founded by Nicki Maynard (who was later joined by her husband, Jesse). The company claims that to reduce impact on the environment, all its products have been thoroughly researched and are all PVC-free and lead-free. All the products are reusable and have been designed to replace disposable items to reduce waste that ends up in landfills. Available through the company's website.

Celebrating 75 years in 2011, Playtex is a manufacturer and distributor of diverse consumer and personal products, including baby products such as bottles, pacifiers, meal-time products, and the Diaper Genie. Available wherever juvenile products and diapers are sold.

Safety 1st
A division of Dorel Juvenile Products, Safety 1st entered the juvenile market in 1984 with its now classic and internationally recognized "Baby on Board" sign. Its product line includes travel gear, bassinets, play yards, swings, and home-safety and child-care products. Available everywhere juvenile products are sold, and online.

The First Years
A division of RC2, a designer, producer, and marketer of toys, collectibles, and infant and toddler products. The First Years offers products for every stage of a child's development, including feeding, playing, traveling, sleeping, health, and safety. Available wherever juvenile products are sold and online.