Do You Need a Diaper Pail? Top Diaper Pail Alternatives

This post may contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read the full disclosure here.

do you need a diaper pail?

Wondering if you need a diaper pail? Then you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn why we ditched our diaper pail and what we do instead.

Changing a baby’s diaper is simultaneously the simplest parenting act, and surprisingly complicated. There are so many options for diaper changing gear that deciding between diaper pails can feel like an earth-shattering – or at least nose-shattering – decision.

But do you actually need a diaper pail?

No, you don’t need a diaper pail to successfully diaper your baby. Skipping a diaper pail is a great way to save space or cash.

When we were expecting, a diaper pail was high on my partner’s priority list. Containing the smell of baby poop was a major concern. We started out using a pail but gave it away after a few months, because honestly it was just gross.

Opening and shoving your hand into a bag full of days-old dirty diapers got old quick. When our diaper pail broke, we decided to forgo getting a replacement and have successfully living without one for almost three years.

From these years of experience diapering our babies without a diaper pail, I’ve mastered easy alternatives to diaper pails. Below I share ideas to help you simplify your life by skipping a diaper pail and opting for a simple alternative instead.

Of course, everyone’s situation is different and you may love having a diaper pail. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of diaper pails to help you decide. And if you decide a diaper pail isn’t necessary, you’ll find some easy diaper pail alternatives to save you money and space.

What is a Diaper Pail?

Before diving in, let’s cover some basics about diaper pails. A diaper pail is used for trapping in dirty diaper smells that allow you to throw a soiled diaper away without making your whole house smell. Essentially, diaper pails are fancy trash cans for dirty diapers with an added mechanism to lock in smells.

How do diaper pails work? Diaper pails use different mechanisms like twisting the top of the bag to trap in odors. When you open the lid, the bag untwists so you can deposit the diaper. As the lid closes, the bag is twisted sealed again.

However, how effective diaper pails actually are at locking in smells is debated. No matter how good the diaper pail is, inevitably you’ll be hit with a wave of smells anytime you open the pail to put in a diaper.

That said, how necessary a diaper pail is will vary by individual preference. If you like your diaper pail, it is a baby item that you’ll use from the day your baby comes home from the hospital until they potty train.

Do You Need a Diaper Pail?

No, you don’t need a diaper pail. Whether you use a diaper pail or an alternative method to dispose of stinky diapers is truly a matter of personal preference. There are a number of alternative options, like individually bagging diapers, that easily substitute for a traditional diaper pail.

Here are pros and cons of diaper pails:

Many contain smells fairly well (though not perfectly)They’re gross
You can keep dirty diapers in a separate part of your houseSmell will escape every time you open it
You don’t have to throw out diapers individuallyYou may have to shove a dirty diaper into a bag full of old, dirty diapers
Can be used with cloth diapersSome require special bags, which are pricy
Added cost
They take up space

My bias is probably showing with the above pros and cons list. I found our diaper pail to be super gross.

Even though it trapped in smells really well, you still have to open it to deposit a new diaper. As soon as you do, you get hit in the face with putridness. Not to mention having to push your hand – already holding a baby poop diaper – through the small pail opening and into a bag of old diapers.

Related Post: Do You Need a Crib?

Finally, if you remember nothing else from this article, I hope you remember this: you definitely do not need a diaper pail for pee-only diapers. You can throw them in your regular trash and they won’t smell, assuming you take out your trash at least weekly. We didn’t know this in the beginning and we could have saved ourself a lot of hassle.

Alternatives to Diaper Pails

A key to being able to skip a diaper pail is finding an alternative system for disposing of poop diapers. Below you’ll find four alternatives to buying a diaper pail. These work as alternatives to diaper genies, ubbis, and all other types of diaper pails.

1. Throw Diapers Directly into Outside Trash

Depending on your set up, the simplest alternative to a diaper pail is to throw poop diapers directly into your outside trash. This works well if your baby poops infrequently, and you live somewhere that is easy to access your outside trash.

Disposing of diapers directly into an outdoor trash can is the easiest alternative to diaper pails on this list since it does not require extra steps like bagging diapers individually or cleaning out a bucket. This is a great option if your outdoor trash can is conveniently located.

If you decide to throw diapers directly in your outdoor trash can, you’ll want to make sure your trash has a decent lid to avoid smells and pests getting into your trash.

2. Individually Bag Dirty Diapers

Of the alternative to diaper pails on this list, individually bagging diapers is the method I personally use most often. We live somewhere with rats and with a trash system that won’t take loose trash so putting them directly outside wasn’t an option for us.

Instead, we bag poop diapers in small plastic bags like you would dog poop.

We wrap each diaper up in a bag and throw it in our regular trash inside. Some people use diaper baggies or dog poop bags for this, but I’ve found we end up with enough random plastic bags (even when I try to avoid them!) that we don’t need to buy bags.

Related Post: Do You Need a Changing Table?

I was worried about the plastic waste of this system so I weighed our diaper pail bag vs. smaller plastic bags. The amount of plastic was pretty similar, and you may even use less plastic with bagging individually if you fit more than one dirty diaper in a bag.

I’ll simply twist the bag around the diaper, then turn it inside out and twist again to trap smells until I need to add another diaper to the bag. In a grocery bag, I can fit 2-3 diapers easily.

3. Use a Wet Bag

If you are concerned about the plastic wasted by individually bagging, consider opting for wet bags instead. Wet bags are reusable, waterproof bags that can hold diapers until you can dispose of them. To wash, simply throw them in your laundry.

wet bag
One of our many wet bags

Wet bags are incredibly handy for any new parent (they’re on my list of budget baby gifts that are actually useful). I highly recommend having at least one to keep in your diaper bag for blow outs, used bottles, etc.

To use wet bags in lieu of a diaper pail, simply zip up dirty diapers and then empty the wet bag when you go to take out your trash. You’ll throw the wet bag in the wash after so you’ll want at least two bags to rotate.

Wet bags are not as smell proof as a diaper pail so this strategy works best for people who take out their trash at least every other day.

I love my wet bags for holding my dirty cloth diapers. I also have smaller sized ones that I keep in our diaper bags for dirty or wet clothes. They are great to take along to the pool or beach too. I have two big ones and a handful of small ones so I can rotate them while washing.

Note: I briefly had a Skiphop wet bag but would not recommend them. They are more waterproof than some other wet bags but they were thick and plastic-y, making them harder to wash and dry.

4. Consider a Regular Trash Can or Bucket with Lid

Some people swear by using a simple stainless steel trash can or even a regular bucket with a lid for their diapers.

This would work best for people who already have these items on hand to try out. A stainless steel trash can be repurposed once you finish diapering your baby, unlike a diaper pail. A bucket would be an easy and basic option, but plastic is more porous and may hold smells.

If you are looking to repurpose an old household item for holding diapers, an old paint can is a great diaper pail alternative. Metal paint cans have a lid, are made of steel and are designed not to corrode.

Best Diaper Pail

If you read all those alternatives and still think you’d prefer a diaper pail, you may be wondering which diaper pail is the best.

If you do want a diaper pail, I really recommend not settling for any old pail or diaper genie. This is one baby item where details do make a big difference on function, and keeping smells at bay.

First and foremost, pick a diaper pail that doesn’t require special bags. Special bags will be a recurring cost until you potty train. Our first diaper pail was a Munchkin brand with proprietary bags that were way too expensive and it was definitely a mistake.

I actually got a new diaper pail to use only with cloth diapers (and yes, it is still gross). I opted for an Ubbi diaper pail because it could use any bag, is made of non-porous stainless steel, and is simple and durable.

The Ubbi is honestly the only diaper pail I feel comfortable recommending. It traps in the smell of foul, old cloth diapers extremely well. My Ubbi was recently put over our heat vent by mistake and I had no idea that our dirty diapers were hot and marinating all night until I opened the pail – it was very impressive.

It is also easy to clean and looks sleek for a diaper pail. It does have a little bit of a lingering smell in the pail between uses but I imagine you could address that with baking soda or a deep clean. I got mine secondhand and it still seems new, so it is durable.

ubbi diaper pail in grey
Our Ubbi diaper pail used for cloth diapers

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you dispose of diapers without a diaper pail?

There are a number of ways to dispose of diapers without a diaper pail that still controls smelliness. First, pee diapers don’t smell so those can go directly in the trash.

For soiled diapers, our preferred method of disposal is individually bagging the diapers before putting them in the trash. We use all the random bags we acquire from from groceries etc.

Additionally, you can trash diapers directly in your outdoor trash, use a wet bag until you can take them out to the trash, or use a bucket with a lid instead of a diaper pail.

How many diaper pails do I need?

Zero. You don’t have to have a diaper pail. If you do decide you want a diaper pail, you’ll want at least one. For multistory or big houses, you may opt to get additional diaper pails.

However, if you have multiple diaper pails, it will take longer to fill up the bag. The longer the bag of dirty diapers sits in the pail, the smellier and grosser it will get. Having just one diaper pail means you’re likely to change the diaper pail bag more frequently.

Do I need a Diaper Genie?

No, you do not need a Diaper Genie. Diaper Genie is a specific, well-known brand of diaper pails. Like other diaper pails, a Diaper Genie is not necessary. Instead, you can use diaper genie alternatives like individually bagging soiled diapers or using a bucket with a lid.

What are some diaper pail alternatives for small spaces?

If you live in a small space, you may want to skip diaper pails to save space in your home. Diaper pail alternatives for small spaces include: throwing diapers out in the outdoor trash, bagging diapers and putting them in your home trash can, or using wet bags until you take your regular trash out.

We have lived in small spaces with our babies for years and found individually bagging soiled diapers to be our favorite diaper pail alternative for small spaces.

Do diaper pails really work?

Your mileage may vary on whether diaper pails really work. We have used two different types of diaper pails (Ubbi and Munchkin brand) and both held smells well while they were closed. However, no diaper pail can keep in smells when you open it to deposit a diaper. You will get hit with a wave of gross smells any time you open any diaper pail.

Do you need a diaper pail for cloth diapers?

You do not need a diaper pail for cloth diapers. In fact, some in the cloth diaper community (such as on reddit’s clothdiaps forum) recommend keeping your diapers in a container that allows air flow. This allows the diapers to dry and decreases ammonia build up.

What are some cloth diaper pail alternatives?

If you use cloth diapers, there are a number of diaper pail alternatives you can try. I personally have kept my cloth diapers in a wet bag until washing. I have also put dirty diapers directly into my washing machine with the door open.

Other cloth diaper pail alternatives include: a bucket with lid, an open plastic laundry basket that allows them to air (this is recommended in the cloth diaper community but I personally found it smelly), or rinsing them thoroughly after use.

Conclusion: Are Diaper Pails Worth It?

Whether a diaper pail is worth it will depend on your personal preference. Diaper pails that are well-built and use regular trash bags should last through multiple babies. However, diaper pails add extra steps to disposing diapers and increase the ick-factor with their bags of old diapers.

Diaper pails that require proprietary bags are definitely not worth the extra expense. Years of special bags will quickly add up in price.

For me personally, the scale for diaper pail or trash definitely tips towards using an alternative that lets you throw the diapers directly in your regular trash.

Overall, there are easy and free alternatives to using a diaper pail that make diaper pails not necessary for your baby.

I hope this article helped you answer the question “do I need a diaper pail?” for your individual circumstances. Want to learn what other baby gear you don’t need? Check out our take on:

And if you want to read more about diapers, find out whether disposable or cloth diapers are actually cheaper or read some of our diaper reviews and comparisons.

About the Author

Elizabeth Jon is a Ph.D. researcher whose work focuses on pregnancy and education. At Shoestring Baby, she uses her skills to research baby name trends, in-depth baby gear reviews & money savings ideas for parents.

Similar Posts