Any new parent knows just how messy diapers can be. From the odor, to the space they take up, to the hygiene issue, there’s all sorts of things that make them more complicated to throw away than regular garbage. Given the amount of dirty diapers your child will generate in a day, it’s not the best idea to toss them all in the trash. Not only will they quickly fill up your bathroom bin, but there are also plenty of concerns about smell and sanitation.

Instead, consider springing for a separate diaper pail. Think about them like mini-garbage cans, only fortified and designed specifically for diaper disposal. These dedicated bins keep the smell at bay, allow you to safely dispose of a soiled diaper, accommodate more than 50 diapers at a time, and more. This guide will walk you through what to look for in a diaper pail and give you an overview of our top picks.

Our Top Picks: Summary

The Best Diaper Pails: Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail
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Ubbi Diaper Pail

Versatile, easy to keep clean, and contains odors.

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Why we Picked It

Ubbi’s Steel Diaper Pail scores high ratings in every area, from odor control to ease of use to capacity. Made out of steel and equipped with rubber seals around the rim, this pail performs double-duty to keep the smell in. The sliding lid, which minimizes air disruption, is another plus in this area. It’s also quite versatile: Although some diaper pails require specially branded bags for refills, Ubbi’s can be used with “any regular, tall kitchen bag or cloth liner.”

Other useful features: 17 colors/patterns to suit a variety of nursery designs, and  two child-proof mechanisms – a child-safety lock and a slow-close lid that prevents fingers from being trapped.

The Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail weighs 7 pounds, measures 22.5 inches (or around two feet) tall, and accommodates up to 55 newborn diapers or 20 large pull-up diapers.

Keep in Mind

Although the Ubbi is made out of steel, which tends to hold in diaper smells better than plastic, some reviewers found this pail didn’t eliminate enough odors.

In a Nutshell

  • Child-proof lock prevents babies from reaching inside
  • Rubber seals and steel keep things odor-free
  • Sliding lid keeps the air disturbance to a minimum
Best Budget: Playtex Diaper Genie Expressions
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Playtex Diaper Genie

Good odor control and one-handed operation at an affordable price.

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$61.78

Why we Picked It

Because they’re meant to last you for at least a couple of years, diaper pails can be quite an expensive one-time purchase. Still, if you look hard enough, there are plenty of solid diaper pails out there that can be found for half or even a quarter of the more expensive models’ price-tag. Playtex’s Diaper Genie Expressions pail is one of these. Despite its affordable price-range, it actually tackles common diaper pail issues as effectively as those three times its price.

To begin with, it has two mechanisms in place for odor control: a double-secure push-n-lock clamp beneath the lid, as well as a brand-specific bag with seven layers that protects against both smells and germs. Additionally, its push button lid means it’s designed for one-hand use.

Playtex’s Diaper Genie Expressions weighs less than 5 pounds, is about 22 inches tall, and accommodates up to 50 newborn diapers. It comes with one pack of bags, about 200 diapers’ worth.

Keep in Mind

You will need to purchase Diaper Genie bags, and some reviewers found the pail’s opening too small to accommodate their diapers.

In a Nutshell

  • Easily operated push-button lid for one-handed use
  • Works with Diaper Genie-branded seven-layer refills for sanitation and odor control
  • Odor lock system keeps smells from escaping
Best Odor Control: Munchkin Step Diaper Pail
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Munchkin Step Diaper Pail

A self-sealing bag system and lavender scent keep diaper odors at bay.

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$74.99

Why we Picked It

We picked Munchkin’s Step Diaper Pail because it tackled the issue of odor control most effectively. While most diaper pails have just one measure for keeping strong diaper smells at bay, Munchkin goes above and beyond: its self-sealing system tightly twists the bag shut when the lid is closed, while its lavender-scented baking soda cartridge adds another layer of freshness.

Aside from odor control, the Step Diaper Pail also performs highly in other areas, namely versatility, convenience, and safety. In addition to being self-locking, the refill system is compatible with both rings and snap, seal, and toss bags. As the name suggests, the pail also comes with a step that allows for one-handed use. Finally, it’s equipped with an out-of-reach button that child-proofs the whole thing.

Munchkin’s Step Diaper Pail weighs 12 pounds and stands 27.6 inches tall. The number of diapers it can accommodate depends on the size of the diapers and the type of bag you use, ranging anywhere from 30 to 272 newborn diapers.

Keep in Mind

The rotating self-sealing mechanism didn’t work for some reviewers, preventing lid closure and letting out odors.

In a Nutshell

  • Refill system compatible with rings and snap, seal, and toss bags
  • Self-sealing system and baking soda cartridge eliminate odor
  • Child-proof button lock prevents babies from reaching inside
Best Hands-Free: Dekor Plus Hands-Free Diaper Pail
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Dekor Plus Hands-Free

Complete hands-free operation and easy access door for bag removal.

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Why we Picked It

We picked the Dekor Plus Hands-Free Pail because it’s designed specifically to be as convenient as possible. While many so-called hands-free pails still require you to do some maneuvering in order to dispose of a diaper, Dekor’s model completely eliminates the need to bend over, twist any sort of mechanism, or squish in a dirty diaper. Instead, all you have to do is step on the lever and drop in the diaper.

This convenience-first design extends to other areas as well. The Diaper Pail is designed with a side-access door, which allows you to quickly take out the bag without having to remove the lid. Additionally, a child-safe cutter on the door lets you cleanly sever the bag. Finally, it tackles odor control with a spring-loaded trap door beneath the lid, a rubber seal, and walls made out of thick ABS plastic. It’s so effective at eliminating smells, in fact, that it can be used for pet waste, as well.

The Dekor Plus Hands-Free Diaper Pail weighs 7 pounds, stands at 22 inches tall, and can accommodate up to 60 newborn diapers. It can also be used with cloth diapers.

Keep in Mind

Some reviewers said the trap-door mechanism released odors whenever they dropped in a diaper.

In a Nutshell

  • Easy-access side-door allows for easy refills
  • Child-safe cutter allows for easy tying
  • Trap-door mechanism keeps in smells
Best for Cloth Diapers: Wegreeco Hanging Diaper Bag
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Wegreeco

Waterproof, convenient, and machine-washable.

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$23.99

Why we Picked It

Since cloth diapers are designed to be washed and reused, you can’t treat them the same way as you would disposable paper diapers. While some diaper pails can accommodate cloth diapers, the vast majority are used just for disposal. We picked the Wegreeco Cloth Diaper Pail Bag because it’s designed specifically for cloth diapers. Equipped with a handle that allows you to hang it in a variety of places, the Diaper Pail bag has two pockets, one for clean/dry diapers and one for wet/dirty ones. The wet pocket is lined with a polyurethane laminate waterproof fabric that prevents leaks and keeps in the smell.

Wegreeco’s Reusable Hanging Cloth Diaper Bag is approximately 16 inches wide by 27 inches tall and can accommodate 20-25 cloth diapers. It’s also machine-washable.

Keep in Mind

Some reviewers said their bags started to leak after continuous washings.

In a Nutshell

  • Waterproof TPU material with sealed-seam construction
  • Stores clean diapers at the same time
  • Machine-washable

How We Chose the Best Diaper Pails

Ease of Use

When it comes to diaper disposal, one of the biggest issues with using a regular trash-can is the unwieldiness. If you’re holding a dirty diaper, a press-top lid or a swing lid can waste you precious seconds. A good diaper pail should take care of this. This is why ease of use was one of our top priorities when narrowing down our search. To compile our list, we looked for features that would make it easy for you to quickly and painlessly get rid of a diaper: step-pedals for hands-free use, push-and-lock openings for one-handed use, and sliding lids.

Odor Control

If you’re a new parent, then you know exactly how strong the dirty diaper smell can be. This is why tossing them in the regular trash isn’t a sustainable idea, and why diaper pails without the right mechanisms in place can leave your baby’s room smelling like a dirty diaper. It’s also why we prioritized odor control when researching different models. On average, we found metal to be better than plastic at containing smell, but just a thicker material wasn’t enough. We also found rubber seals, automatic locks, scented cartridges, and self-sealing bag systems to most effectively eliminate any stink.

Easy to Empty and Clean

One dirty diaper is messy enough, let alone a bag of 50. The last thing you want is for the entire bag to rip, causing a major hygiene issue and requiring hours of clean-up. This is why we looked for diaper pails that would be easy to empty and clean. Useful features included detachable side-doors, quick disassembly, and easily removable bags, as well as smooth (rather than matte or textured) materials that could be easily sanitized. A major bonus was any sort of mechanism that would allow bags to be tied off quickly, eliminating any chance of accidental spillage.

Protection from Kids and Pets

If you have a new baby, you’re likely child-proofing your home anyway. This also applies to families with pets. Just like you wouldn’t want your kids or pets getting into the garbage, you also want to make sure the contents of the diaper pail are off-limits. In our search, we looked for built-in child-proof and/or pet-proof mechanisms. This included latches, automatic seals, and safety locks, which keep them out of the diapers. We also made sure to look at features that protect against injury, like slow-closing lids to avoid trapping fingers.

Capacity

One of the biggest perks of a diaper pail is that you’ll only have to toss out the bag one to two times a week. Assuming your baby will produce an average of 7 to 8 diapers per day, we looked for pails that can accommodate 50 to 60 newborn diapers, or 20 to 25 pull-up diapers. Generally speaking, this meant a pail between 1 to 2 feet tall, which is also a good size to keep it out of the way. That said, it’s possible to find diaper pails that accommodate more or less than this average.

Why Use a Diaper Pail?

If you have a baby, then you’re going to need to find somewhere to throw dirty diapers for at least a couple of years. While you can certainly use a regular trash can, this solution isn’t ideal. Diapers have such a strong smell that this odor will be present whenever you open the lid. Considering how many diapers you’ll be throwing out in a day, this smell will only get worse over time. Additionally, space will quickly run out, and having dirty diapers mixed in with the rest of the trash poses a major sanitation risk.

Diaper pails are designed to tackle all of these issues. First and foremost, they keep odors inside the container. From rubber seals to steel exteriors to multi-layered bags, diaper pails have a lot of built-in features to prevent any smells from leaking out. A lot of this is accomplished by locking lids, which are there in many pails to also keep things child-proof and prevent accidental spillage. Diaper pails are also designed primarily with regular and easy disposal in mind. This means features like pedals and push-and-lock mechanisms, which allow for one-handed or even hands-free use, as well as cartridges that allow for straightforward refills.

Finally, diaper pails are exactly the right size to accumulate a weeks’ worth of diapers. Many hold on average 50 to 60 diapers at a time, meaning you’ll only have to empty the pail once or twice a week. Despite this, they take up a lot less space than a regular trash-can. In fact, many diaper pails are less than 2 feet tall, which means they can be easily stashed in the corner of a nursery or bedroom.

What to Look For in a Diaper Pail

Ready to shop for your perfect diaper pail? Here’s what to look for as you consider each option.

Size

When shopping for a diaper pail, size is one of the most important details to keep in mind. You want one that can hold at least 50 to 60 diapers, enough that you will only have to empty it once or twice a week. But since it’s going to go in your nursery, you also don’t want something that will take up too much space. At the same time, something too small could be easily knocked over, which could make a huge mess if it doesn’t contain a strong locking mechanism. The typical diaper pail averages between 1 to 2 feet tall, which is a good rule of thumb for something sturdy that won’t pose an obstacle.

Design

Because you want your diaper pail to be easily accessible and within reach, it’s going to be “on display” no matter what. This means it might be a good idea to take into account the design and aesthetic, especially since you’ll be using it for at least the next couple of years. Many diaper pails come with simple looks in one or two colors, featuring sleek steel or rubber designs. Others come in a variety of trendy patterns, and some are even customizable with detachable sleeves and covers.

Bag Type

Diaper pail bags aren’t as interchangeable as regular trash bags. While regular trash cans can pretty much accommodate any type of bag, many diaper pails are only compatible with specific models, or even brands. Diaper pail-specific bags include those that are snap, seal, and toss, as well as those with built-in scented rings, which can be more expensive and burdensome to keep in stock. That said, there are also plenty of diaper pails out there which don’t require any specialty bags at all (like our top pick). But while this is convenient, regular plastic bags may be too thin and flimsy to accommodate the weight. When shopping for your diaper pail, make sure you keep in mind the type of bags that you’re willing to regularly refill.

Price

Since you’ll be using them for at least the next two to three years, diaper pails are definitely an investment. High-quality diaper pails don’t come cheap, and if you do have a budget, you may have to compromise on certain essentials like good odor-control and durability. That said, you won’t have to break the bank. Many pails do the job at under $30, and even the most expensive pail on our list is affordable when you consider how long you’ll be using it for.

Related Resources

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David Rubin