Baby Gear Health & Safety

Do You Need A Diaper Pail? Are They Worth It?

Babies and toddlers pee and poop a lot – in the first year you’ll probably need to change your newborn’s diaper up to 3,000 times!

Given babies often cry during diaper changes, which can make the whole experience more stressful, anything you can do to make your life just a little bit easier can be well worth it.

So a common question that new parents ask is do I need a diaper pail?

The short answer is they are not strictly necessary in the same way you need a car seat or stroller.

But there are some good reasons why you may consider using one, including better odor control and greater convenience.

What Is A Diaper Pail?

A diaper pail (or diaper genie) is essentially a trash can for used or dirty diapers.

They are designed to store dirty diapers and contain odors thanks to their twisting and locking mechanism, which helps prevent unpleasant smells from escaping.

When To Empty

Most parents empty their diaper pail when any of the following occurs:

  • The diaper pail is full: depending on your particular model this can be when it contains anything from 10 to 200+ diapers.
  • It begins to smell: diaper pails are very good at containing odors, but they are not 100% effective, so over time it will begin to smell and will need emptying.
  • When garbage day comes around

Do You Need One?

A diaper pail is not something you absolutely need, which means unlike a crib or high chair, the decision to use one will come down to personal preference.

They typically offer convenience, last a long time, and are effective at containing or reducing nasty odors.

However, for parents that have the ability to dispose of their baby’s diapers immediately, buying or using a diaper pail or diaper genie may not be worth it.

So let’s take a look at the pros, cons and alternatives to nappy bins (as they’re called in some countries) in more detail.

Related: Deciding What Baby Gear You Really Need – The Complete Guide

Pros Of Diaper Pails

Keep Odors Contained

Probably the most important benefit of a diaper pail for most parents is its ability to contain nasty odors better than a regular trash can.

This is for several reasons, including:

  • They are not used in between diaper changes, unlike a trash can which is used to dispose of all your other household trash.
  • They have a secure lid which shuts tightly.
  • Most have a swivel or turning function, which helps wrap the dirty diaper up and further prevent foul odors from escaping.

Fits Next To Changing Table

Diaper pails aren’t particularly large, which means you should be able to comfortably fit them next to or underneath your baby’s changing table.

More Hygienic

Although it’s gross, if you have a pet dog you may find they are, let’s say, attracted to the smell of a used diaper.

In addition, toddlers and young children who don’t know better and are naturally curious may open the trash cans in your house and stick their hands inside.

From this perspective a diaper pail or nappy bin is much more effective and hygienic, because with their secure locking mechanism neither pets nor young children can get into it.

Convenience / Ease of Disposal

Another key benefit is that you don’t need to throw the diaper in a trash can each time.

With a diaper pail you can change your baby’s diaper and then bend down and dispose of it, all while your baby lies on their changing pad.

This is clearly more convenient and quicker that having to tie the diaper in a disposable diaper bag and throw this into your kitchen trash can.

Large Capacity

Most pails can contain anywhere between 30 and 270+ diapers, depending on their size and design.

While you may not want to fill the it to the maximum each time, a lot of parents find it very convenient that this large capacity means they don’t have to empty it for several days if they don’t want to.

Last A Long Time

Most diaper pails cost between $30 to $100 or more depending on the brand, design and capacity.

This provides excellent value and a tiny cost per use when you consider you’ll be able to use it for several years, and it’s something you’ll use up to 10 times per day during the newborn phase.

Below: Dekor Classic Hands-Free Diaper Pail, $35 from Amazon

Cons Of Diaper Pails

Cost Of Refills

The purchase cost of a diaper pail is not particularly high given how much use you’ll get out of it (see above).

However, the cost of diaper refills can quickly add up.

On average you can expect to spend $5-$7 per month on refill bags.

So it’s important to consider this monthly cost when deciding if they are necessary or worth it for you.

Require Some Space

If space is limited in your baby’s room or nursery, then you may not be able to fit one in your child’s room.

This is particularly true for larger models, which can be a little bulky given their large capacity.

5 Viable Alternatives

If you’ve decided not to use a diaper pail, then you’re probably wondering what can you use instead.

Here are 5 good (not to mention cheap) alternatives.

Throw Into Outside Trash

If you have easy access to outside trash, then you may simply want to throw out poop diapers directly into the outside garbage.

This option may not work for everyone, but depending on where you live and your trash set-up, it could be an easy and effective alternative to using diaper pails and refill bags.

Disposable Diaper Bags

To help contain the smell, you could wrap you baby’s used diapers in a disposable diaper bag.

Although this option won’t seal the odor as well, it can be an effective solution if you can then place the bag in an outside trash can (see above).

Dog Poop Bags

Do you have a pet dog?

If so, you may be able to use dog poop bags to wrap your baby’s soiled diapers in before disposing them in your regular trash.

While poop bags tend not to be scented, one big advantage is they are a lot cheaper than diaper refill or disposable diaper bags, and they are something you’ll already have plenty of for your dog.

Grocery Bags

Are you wondering what to do with all those plastic bags you’ve stashed away in a cupboard in your house?

Plastic grocery or other shopping bags can be a good place wrap used diapers in, especially as they’re large enough to hold several diapers at a time.

Keep in mind however that much like poop bags, grocery bags are not scented, so they aren’t particularly effective in keeping odors contained.

Wet Bags

As many of us know, plastic bags are not the most environmentally friendly option.

So if you are concerned about the impact of using disposable bags you could instead opt for a wet bag.

You can use wet bags, which are waterproof and reusable, to hold used diapers until you are able to dispose of them in the trash.

The good thing about wet bags is they are easy to clean, since you can toss them in your regular laundry.

Is A Diaper Pail Worth It?

So in conclusion, are they worth it?

The answer comes down to your personal preference.

Some parents say diaper pails are an essential purchase, while others will tell you it’s an unnecessary expense.

If you have the space, value the convenience and don’t mind paying the monthly cost of refill bags, then you may find that diaper pails are well worth it, especially as they tend to be effective at containing odors.

However, if you have easy access to outside trash or are happy to use alternatives such as disposable diaper bags, then you may find you can happily live without using one.

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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