Thankfully, until your newborn pooper starts eating solid foods (typically around 4-6 months age), the stink-factor remains relatively mild (whew). But, a new dawn arrives when your little one starts eating solids, then suddenly what was a mild smell issue at the diaper changing table becomes a full-on stink-a-torium smell factory.
This is where a specially designed diaper disposal pail comes into play. If you aren't committed to taking each individual diaper to an outside garbage, then you really should invest in a dedicated pail to do the job of stink containment.
How Many Diapers Will My Baby Use in the First Year?
In the first year, your baby is going to go through 2,500 to 3,000 diapers, which will rise to a total of nearly 5,000 - 6,000 diapers over four years (depending on potty training). That's a mind-bogglingly large fact. The question of "where to put this dirty diaper" takes on a lot more meaning when you consider how many dirty diapers you're going to be dealing with.
Some parents simply carry poopy diapers to the trash can outside, one dirty diaper at a time. Those thousands of trips, often with baby in one hand and dirty diaper in the other, are a lot less convenient than putting them in a diaper pail, even if it is an effective odor containment solution. A diaper pail can save you all those trips by giving you a place to store dirty diaper near your changing station. You might be wondering, "why not use a regular trash can?" The answer is that you can use a regular trash pail to dispose diapers, with only mild odor issues, until your baby starts eating solid foods. However, once baby starts eating solids the stink from dirty diapers becomes a major issue that will need an alternative solution.
Because of the sheer volume of diapers you will be using, and thus adding to the landfill, you might be curious about biodegradable diapers and bags, or even cloth alternatives. We highly encourage you to review our articles about cloth diapering and Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable to get a better idea of the environmental impact disposable diapers have, and how easy cloth diapers have become in recent years to use. You might be surprised at how simple cloth diapering can be by reading Cloth Diapering Laundry Basics & Helpful Hints, and how you can avoiding adding mountains of non-biodegradable diapers and bio-hazardous human waste to our already overloaded landfills.
Biodegradable diapers are another story and one we think you should review carefully. Even if a diaper is truly biodegradable under the best of circumstances, it is unlikely that it will degrade in a traditional landfill with little access to the water and air required for degradation to occur. Given the FTC's recent determination that gDiapers brand disposable diapers can no longer claim biodegradability, it would seem that even they agree that once placed in a traditional landfill disposable diapers are unlikely to degrade for hundreds of years. Thus making this claim of being green or biodegradable a non-issue when determining what kind of diaper is best for the environment.
No matter what your final decision, you will need a pail to put the offensive packages in once baby produces them. If you go with disposables, even for a portion of the time, you will need to choose a great pail for disposable diapers.
Why Use a Specially Designed Diaper Pail?
A specially designed pail for diapers is going to offer significant odor containment advantages over a normal kitchen trash container. A product specifically made for diaper containment is designed to tightly seal in the odors created by baby in a way that normal kitchen trash cans cannot. However, simply sealing the pail tight isn't enough. Just as important is what happens when you open and close the pail to make a new deposit. The best products provide a specially designed mechanism for inserting a dirty diaper in the pail that minimizes the amount of stinky smell that escapes with each use. In addition, the best pails have a design that makes it easy to change a full bag without releasing excessive odors.
We think the most important factors to consider when buying a diaper pail are the following:
- Odor Control — how well does the pail contain the odor of stinky diapers? This includes while it is sitting there doing nothing and when a "fresh" diaper is added to the bag.
- Total Cost of Ownership — what is the estimated total cost of owning and using the pail, including replacement diaper bag refills, over the estimated life of the product?
- Ease of Diaper Disposal — how easy is it to dispose of a dirty diaper with one hand, with baby in the other?
- Ease of Bag Change — how easy is it to change a full bag of dirty diapers, and does the process create nasty vomit inducing odors?
In our tests and ratings, we attempted to address each of these four factors, provide weighted metrics for each compared to the competition, and to create an overall score and ranking to determine the very best pails on the market. We placed the highest weight in our overall score on Odor Control (60% of total score) because we consider that to be the essential purpose of a diaper pail and the main reason parents decide to purchase one.
Rinse poop off of the diaper into the toilet before placing in pail. This prevents adding bio-waste to the landfill and decreases overall smell. Roll diaper up tightly into a ball and attach adhesive tabs before putting it into pail. Change bag at least every 2 to 3 days to keep smells at bay. Wash pail with warm soapy cloth regularly. Dry pail. If smells persist, try drying open in the sunlight for UV assistance.
Challenges in Evaluating Diaper Pails
As a general rule, it is very hard for a new parent to fairly evaluate competing diaper disposal pails by visiting stores and carefully researching user-reviews. While in some categories you can touch and feel the products yourself in a retail environment, and get a real feeling for quality and differentiation, that doesn't work well with this kind of product. Pail performance really comes down to how it performs with real stinky diapers. You can't get that information in a retail store, and very few user reviews shed light on how competing products compare side-by-side. In addition, even if users make comments about odor, some are not realistic, relatable, or compare products side-by-side. Our tests were designed to fairly compare each product under normal use and under extreme circumstances, to give parents a complete picture on how well each product works and how it measures up to the competition. In the end, we discovered that when you put poop in a can it smells like poop in a can, however, how bad the smell does vary from product to product and some are refreshingly, virtually smell free.
As you can read in our How We Test section, we attempted to create a series of controlled tests that would allow us to rate each product versus the competition on the key metrics. It was literally a nasty testing process, but one we hope you'll appreciate and find informative.
Choosing the Right Pail
Choosing the right pail for you can be easily simplified by remembering a few key decision making points. Try not to get caught up in what a pail looks like or how well it might fit in with your nursery décor. At the end of the day you won't remember how pretty your diaper disposal is, but you will remember if your nursery smells like an open sewage plant.
Diaper Genie Essentials with a 9 out of 10 for this metric. This pail managed to be relatively odor free when sitting with poop inside, and its clamping mechanism works best at reducing odor transfer when placing a diaper inside. This helped to prevent the dreaded poof of foul air that much of the competition experienced when adding a new diaper. The Ubbi earned the lowest score in this metric with a 4, in part due to its diaper delivery system which entails an open diaper door that has no mechanism for limiting the amount of smells that can escape as you put the new diaper in the pail.
Ease of Disposal
Diaper Genie Elite had the high score in this metric with an easy to use foot pedal and almost hands free operation with a score of 8 out of 10. The Diaper Dekor Plus Kolor wasn't bad either, but its trap door did tend to get hung up on diapers inside as the bag got full. Our Best Value winner, the Diaper Champ Deluxe earned a 6 in this metric with an easy to rotate handle that works well as long as the bag inside isn't at capacity. The Arm and Hammer Munchkin earned the lowest score for disposal with a 3, and a lid that got hard to close as the interior bag twists with each new diaper.