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The Best Diaper Pail

After eight hours of research, considering 15 pails, and testing nine finalists over several weeks as three families logged nearly 250 diaper changes among them, we found that the Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail offers the best balance between odor control and ease of use.

The Ubbi stands apart with a straightforward, effective, less complicated design that’s easier to load and empty than its competitors. Unlike most other pails, the Ubbi can use regular trash bags—not proprietary refills—an advantage that simplifies everything, from changing the bags to buying replacements and also costs you literally hundreds of dollars less over a few years of ownership. Its powder-coated steel shell is tougher than other pails’ plastic bodies, and it was one of the few we found that also works well for cloth diapers. Its small footprint fills efficiently, and it’s easier to tell when the Ubbi is full than it is with others we tried. Stink suppression is the main reason people buy a diaper pail, but we found those smell-containing features make lots of pails less convenient to use—that’s a main reason we thought the Ubbi’s many advantages made up for it not being the best all-around odor controller.

If you’re willing to pay more over the life of your pail and put up with a few annoying quirks, the Munchkin Step offers the maximum odor control of any model we tested. Most pails we considered were effective at containing smells between deposits, but no other pail was as good as the Munchkin Step at controlling smells while the pail was in use. This pail fights odor with scented accessories that may bother some people, and it also isolates smells with a physical barrier that requires you to force dirty diapers through a restricted opening—which can be gross. It’s also bulkier (yet fits less) than the Ubbi. Plus, because of its proprietary refills, its long-term costs were the highest among our finalists.

The Baby Trend Diaper Champ Deluxe works much like our top pick, and is even better at controlling stink when in use. But it’s less efficient than the Ubbi in its use of space, and it’s hard to tell when the pail is full, leading diapers to get stuck in the opening. Though it’s one of the least expensive pails to own overall—like our top pick Ubbi, it uses cost-saving regular trash bags—it’s made of plastic that feels cheaper, flimsier, less durable, and (we think) less attractive than the steel of our top pick.

Table of contents

Who should get this

By the time your bundle of joy is three years old, you will have tossed out about 5,000 dirty diapers—and putting them in the right pail will make that chore stink a lot less. Many people are content to use a regular trash can or plastic grocery bags for soiled diapers and to collect and dispose of them frequently, even daily. But given the amount of diapers you’ll actually go through—expect at least eight a day in the first several months alone—having a dedicated diaper pail by the changing table will control odor better, and limit the chore of transferring used diapers to a trash pickup area (or, for cloth, the laundry) to just once or twice a week.

Why you should trust us

In addition to changing and disposing of thousands of diapers for my own child (who was about 18 months old at the time of publication), I canvassed friends, solicited insight from a local parents’ listserv, and surveyed a dozen parents about their diaper pail use. I examined the specs of all the bestselling pails on Amazon, BuyBuy Baby, Babies“R”Us, Target, and Walmart and read through more than a thousand user reviews. I consulted other diaper pail guides and roundups, including those on BabyGearLab, The NightLight, Lucie’s List, Babylist, and BabyCenter.

Most helpfully, I interviewed design engineer Vincent Valderrama, who worked on the development of Playtex Diaper Genie pails from 2006 to 2014. He described his team’s approach to developing the pail, including what issues they addressed and how they prioritized them, how they used special materials and mechanisms to minimize odors, and how they focused on making pails that were easy to use.

How we picked

Nine different diaper pails in an assortment of sizes and colors.

Small but mighty: We tested nine popular diaper pails and found that bigger is usually not better.

Just about everyone we spoke to and every publication we read agreed on the criteria that make a good diaper pail:

  • Minimize the smell of dirty diapers. Valderrama told us that his team’s primary objective was designing a pail that would control odors when in use, when the liner is being changed, and most of all, when just sitting in the room—often the nursery.
  • Be simple to empty and reload. Setup should be minimal or at least straightforward, and emptying the pail and inserting a new liner or refill should be intuitive. In designing a pail, Valderrama said, “Our task was to make it as easy as possible and to try not to rely on a lot of communication. We had instructions, but we were careful to make [them] minimal.”
  • Allow easy diaper disposal. A caregiver will often be holding or steadying a baby while using the pail; opening the pail and depositing diapers into it should be easy to do one-handed while doing so. Ideally, a pail won’t require you to apply pressure to a soiled diaper by pushing the diaper against a physical barrier or through a restricted opening.
  • Be reasonably priced. In evaluating cost, we calculated the lifetime expense of using the pail, which is heavily influenced by the price of refill bags. Pails that don’t require proprietary refills are less expensive to use (and also more convenient—if you run out, it’s easier to find regular trash bags). We also wanted a reliable one-time investment, meaning a model you could put on a baby registry and regularly use for at least three years.
  • Be sized for efficiency. A pail should need to be emptied at most twice a week, based on capacity. We expected the pails we tested to hold at least 20 size-4 (or about 45 newborn-size) diapers. At the same time, the pail should have a compact footprint.
  • Be somewhat attractive. Because diaper pails are usually placed in a prominent location, often in a nursery, aesthetics are important. We also looked for evidence that candidates’ materials and designs could endure years of use without looking worn out.

We conducted six hours of online research, identifying the most popular models on the market, which gave us an initial list of 15 diaper pails. We then looked at previously published guides and roundups as well as product reviews on retailers’ sites to winnow the list, eliminating pails that reviewers complained were too small or were ineffective at containing the smell of dirty diapers. Though some pails we considered could be used effectively with cloth diapers, that was not a requirement; our priority was finding pails meant for disposable diapers. After narrowing the field from an opening survey of about 15 pails, we ended up with nine contenders.

Diaper pails generally deal with the smell issue in several ways. All the pails have some kind of physical barrier—at the minimum, a close-fitting lid. The more elaborate designs have an antechamber where you place the diaper, and then some mechanism dumps the diaper in the pail when you close the lid, exposing the contents as little as possible. As Valderrama explained to me, some pails also block odor using the bag itself: At Playtex, the company used a barrier-film technology with multiple layers of differing composition, which offers additional physical barriers to odor, moisture, and oxygen. Some pails try to freshen the air within using a carbon filter or a scented baking soda puck. We were willing to give any of these designs a chance.

Some pails try to freshen the air within using a carbon filter or a scented baking soda puck.

We compared the costs of owning each of the pails we tested, assuming one child whose diapers would primarily be changed at home. We figured the child would be in diapers from birth to age 3, and used conservative estimates of diaper and bag consumption over that period. Your mileage may vary depending on how often you empty your pail, what kind of childcare arrangements you have, and, of course, how much output your child produces. Some of the diaper pail companies offer estimates of bag costs over time and also bag capacity, though we found the latter to be on the optimistic side. BabyGearLab also performed its own calculations, and its findings were in line with ours.

Cost of pail ownership over three yearsUbbi SteelMunchkin StepBaby Trend DiaperChamp DeluxeDiaper GenieComplete00.511.522.53$0$50$100$150$200$250$300Time in years
PailUbbi SteelMunchkin StepBaby Trend Diaper Champ DeluxeDiaper Genie Complete

Though our top-pick pail has a higher initial cost than other popular models, it is much less expensive in the long run than pails like the Munchkin Step or Diaper Genie Complete, which require dedicated refills. Using the most economical options available on Amazon and assuming the pails are emptied twice per week when completely full, we estimated the cost of each load to be 14¢ per use for our regular trash bag pick, 66¢ for Munchkin’s bags, and 87¢ for the Diaper Genie refill (where each refill contains about 6 loads).

How we tested

A baby sitting in front of an assortment of eight different diaper pails.

Our tester with eight pails we tried: Safety 1st Easy Saver, Baby Trend Diaper Champ Deluxe, Diaper Dékor Plus, Munchkin Step Pail, Munchkin Pail, Ubbi Steel Pail, Diaper Genie Complete, Diaper Genie Essentials.

We first set up whichever models required assembly, noting how easy or difficult it was and any problems we encountered. We then put the mechanical parts through their paces, opening and shutting the lids (manually or using the button or foot pedal, depending on the model) and other doors, if they had them, 200 times.

Diaper pails that passed this stage were then put through a test run at home to see how they held up to everyday use. We made sure to dispose of, ahem, fully loaded diapers from a 16-month-old without attempting to fold them up tightly first (to simulate how a not particularly fastidious caregiver might use a pail), changing out the liner when full or after four days (about 20 size-4 diapers) and inserting a refill for those pails that took proprietary bags. For pails that take regular tall kitchen trash bags, we used The Sweethome’s pick for best kitchen trash bag, the Glad Tall Kitchen Drawstring Bag.

Finally, we took the three pails that performed best at home and asked two other families to try them out for a week as well. The family with a 1-year-old tested one pail, and another with a newborn and 3-year-old tested two pails.

To determine how well these pails minimized the smell of dirty diapers, we decided that during our home trials any amount of smell that was discernible while the pail was in use or the liner was being changed was worth noting and that any amount of odor detectable when the pail was just sitting in the room was grounds for dismissal.

Our pick

A blue and white Ubbi steel diaper pail sitting in the middle of a room.

The simple, easy-to-use Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail effectively contains stinky-diaper smells with a combination of factors that make it the most generally satisfying pail we found. It takes regular trash bags, making it one of the most cost-effective and convenient models available. It’s compact and unobtrusive, yet can hold up to a week’s worth of diapers and can be filled more efficiently than almost all the other pails we considered. Its sleek, attractive metal construction is notably better in quality than most plastic pails, and it comes in more colors and patterns than any other pail we found. And unlike most diaper pails, it works well for cloth-diaper users.

Emptying the pail is as easy as emptying a trash can—there’s no bag-cutting, no extra knot-tying.

Using regular trash bags gives the Ubbi several advantages, starting with setup. Line it with a bag, like any garbage can, and it’s ready to use—other pails require you to insert, unfurl, and tie off a fussy refill liner. The Ubbi bag needs to go through the ring and under the front tab, but we think this is intuitive enough to figure out without instructions—not the case with more-complicated competitor’s pails. Regular bags also mean emptying the pail is as easy as emptying a trash can—there’s no bag-cutting, no extra knot-tying, and no stooping down to the floor.

A gif showing a person easily depositing a dirty diaper in a blue Ubbi diaper pail using only one hand.

Slide and drop: The Ubbi is easy to operate one-handed and doesn’t require squishing a loaded diaper through a constricted opening.

Another advantage of taking regular trash bags is cost-effectiveness and convenience. You might spend $45 over three years on Glad trash bags (our trash bag pick), but buying proprietary pail refills costs anywhere from $160 to nearly $300 in the same amount of time. So even though the Ubbi costs more than most pails upfront, it’s a better long-term value. Cost aside, the refills aren’t as widely available as trash bags—a problem if you run out. (If you simply insist on adding cost and complexity to your life, Ubbi does offer dedicated plastic liners made with 20 percent recycled materials.)

The last major advantage of the Ubbi’s trash bag setup is that it’s one of the only diaper pails designed to work with cloth diapers as well as disposables. The Ubbi’s opening can hold the type of waterproof liner (also known as a wet bag) that most cloth diaperers use to collect soiled laundry. Pails that use proprietary inserts can’t do this. Ubbi also makes its own cloth-diaper insert bag expressly for this purpose.

The Ubbi’s metal body and lid, rubber seals, and sliding hatch door do a good job of keeping in odors, especially when the pail is sitting in the room. Some smell does escape when you put diapers in and when you empty the pail, but that was true of nearly all of the pails we considered.

Filling the Ubbi is easier than some competitors. The Ubbi’s hatch for diaper disposal slides across the top of the pail, allowing the pail to be placed right up against the wall until it has to be emptied (many others are hinged so the lid needs space to flip up). The big white knob that opens the hatch is easy to operate one-handed; you can slide it with the back of your hand or wrist even with the soiled diaper in hand. That oversized knob is also “easy to find at 4 a.m.,” noted one of our testers, which is not the case with other pails that have inset pedals or handles that might be challenging to find in the dark. And unlike any of the other pails we tested, the Ubbi has an optional, easy-to-use childproof lock, an unusual feature that may be appreciated by those with curious or poop-obsessed toddlers.

A person pulling the bag out of a steel Ubbi diaper pail.

Bargain bags: Choosing a diaper pail that takes regular kitchen trash bags will likely save you $150 or more over the life of the pail.

The pail has a narrow profile, so it tucks away neatly and doesn’t draw attention to itself, unlike taller or wider models. Ironically, you can actually get more diapers into the Ubbi than into other pails of comparable size. The Ubbi makes it simple to reach into the pail and move the diapers aside with your hand (or with the diaper you’re holding)—other models’ smell-isolating mechanisms have physical barriers that make that difficult. The Ubbi’s body is slimmer than a regular trash bag, so you can pack every inch of the pail full of diapers (some models waste space by using liners that are considerably narrower than the pails themselves). You can see and feel inside the Ubbi when you throw a diaper in, making it easier to tell when it’s full than with other pails, which often visually block off the loading area as part of the design for odor control.

You can actually get more diapers into the Ubbi than into other pails of comparable size.

If you opt to use a diaper pail, you’ll likely have it around for at least three years, possibly much longer if you have more than one child. The well-constructed Ubbi is built to last, with fewer seams and weak points than many of the other models we looked at. It’s made almost entirely of powder-coated steel, which tends to be more durable and long-lasting than the plastics used in most models. It also feels nice to use: The parts fit together well, the lid closes snugly, and the hatch slides neatly, quietly, and satisfyingly into place. The pail comes in 13 solid colors and 5 patterns, the widest range of options of any pail sold.

The NightLight also chose the Ubbi as its diaper pail pick, citing its cost-effectiveness, ease of use, and ability to take regular trash bags. It’s also among the top picks on Lucie’s List and Babylist, which both praise the Ubbi’s good looks and effective odor control. Valderrama commented that he was impressed with the Ubbi’s aesthetic: “It was the first pail that came out where I felt, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty pail.’ [It’s as] if Simplehuman made a diaper pail.”

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Our pick does not entirely eliminate odors from diaper changing; it will smell sometimes when you open the pail to throw away a diaper and when you empty the pail. And there will be times, depending largely on your kid’s output, when opening it will release a truly unholy stench. But this is true of all the pails we tested except for the Munchkin Step, our pick for people who care about stink-blocking beyond all other qualities.

The Ubbi also has some minor design issues worth noting. It lacks a foot pedal, but the knob it has instead allows for easy, one-handed use, so it’s not much of a problem. Only three of the nine we tested had a foot pedal, and in spite of its absence, we still think the Ubbi is the easiest to load.

When the Ubbi is stuffed to maximum capacity, pulling out the liner can require a lot of force. Use strong trash bags—or else don’t wait too long to empty the pail.

Sturdy as the pail is, it isn’t impervious to abuse; the steel can get dinged or dented if struck hard enough (it’s possible to fix some dents by pushing them back out, some Amazon reviewers have noted). Amazon reviewers have also complained of the rubber gasket that lines the edge of the lid falling out and wearing out over time, of bolts that rust when the pail is washed, and of an interior rim that catches and tears liners. A company representative told us that in 2013 Ubbi began producing improved pails to address these issues.

Last, the Ubbi is more expensive up front than most diaper pails. But as noted above, this is offset by the fact that it uses regular trash bags, and the lifetime cost of using this pail is among the lowest of all the pails we considered.

Also great

A white Munchkin Step diaper pail sitting in the middle of a room.

The Munchkin Step uses expensive specialized bags and requires that you force dirty diapers through a tight slot with your hand, but the Munchkin is better at controlling odors than our top pick and every other pail we tested. 1

Part of the reason the Munchkin Step is so effective at odor control is the plastic teeth that cover the opening almost entirely. Shutting the lid—which you have to do manually, a small but irritating flaw—twists the teeth to close the bag, ensuring that smells stay inside. However, to get that dirty diaper into the pail, you have to push it through with your hand, and if you’ve ever had to deal with an overloaded, messy diaper, you know that forcing that package through a too-small opening could be disastrous. If you’re not scrupulous about wrapping up diapers tightly and neatly before you throw them out, this is probably not the pail for you (one of our testers felt the push-through requirement was a dealbreaker for this very reason).

A person refilling the bags in a Munchkin Step diaper pail with lavender-scented Arm & Hammer refills.

An overpriced bouquet: The Munchkin Step’s refills smell like lavender and are more than five times as expensive as regular garbage bags.

The Munchkin Step further battles odor by masking stink with scented bags and a baking soda puck. These are effective but some testers found the “fake lavender” smell of both off-putting. Munchkin does make unscented ring refills, but they don’t mask the odor of dirty diapers as well. Unfortunately, the Munchkin pail accepts only its own brand of refills (though Munchkin bag refills do work in Diaper Genie pails).

An open Munchkin Step diaper pail with a lavender-scented puck visible under the lid.

A lavender-scented puck contributes to the Munchkin Step’s superior odor blocking.

Those proprietary refills are expensive enough to make the Munchkin Step among the costliest pails to own long term, even though the pail itself usually retails for slightly less than our pick, the Ubbi. There are three kinds of bags: The unscented Nursery Fresh and the lavender-scented Arm & Hammer options are both ring refills that need to be cut and tied when the pail is emptied. The scented Snap, Seal & Toss bags are like trash bags but with a special plastic ring at the opening to keep the bag in place in the pail, which is intended to make it easy to close the bag. The last is the most economical, but dozens of Amazon reviewers complain about them ripping and being less effective at odor control than the ring refills. Based on our calculations, three years’ worth of Munchkin’s Snap, Seal & Toss bags will cost more than $200; the equivalent in Munchkin ring refills will run closer to $300 (we figure generic trash bags for the Ubbi will add up to about $45 over the same period).

Unfortunately, the Munchkin pail accepts only its own brand of refills.

Increased costs aside, the proprietary refills mean the Munchkin loses out on many of the other advantages the Ubbi has. If you use cloth diapers, you can’t load the Munchkin with a lined bag to collect them for the laundry. You’ll be unable to use the product if you unexpectedly run out of refills. Changing the bags is not as simple as taking out the trash (as is the case with Ubbi)—on the Munchkin, you have to cut the tube-like sleeve, tie it off, and generally waste a foot or so of plastic sheeting in the process. If you use the Snap, Seal & Toss bags, you end up wasting even more plastic, because the Munchkin Step allows you to fill the bag only two-thirds of the way before it needs to be emptied.

A gif of a person depositing a dirty diaper in a Munchkin Step diaper pail.

The Munchkin Step protects you from stink, as long as your diaper contents don’t ooze out on the way in.

Unlike the Ubbi, the Munchkin Step has a foot pedal that’s used to open the pail. The Munchkin Step is also one of the biggest pails that we tested, though its capacity is no greater than other pails’. It’s 27 inches tall (our top pick is 23 inches, including the knob). The Munchkin’s foot pedal accounts for much of its extra height. Taller people may like this added height—combined with the foot pedal, it means less bending over. However, note that though the foot pedal offers hands-free convenience, opening and closing the pail can be noisy. The Munchkin is about 12 inches in diameter—the Ubbi is 10¾ inches wide and 15 inches deep—and needs to be placed away from the wall to accommodate the hinged lid. Its size makes it appear more prominent in a room than other models, and, one of our testers noted, its high-gloss finish also draws attention to itself. Like the Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail, it comes out of the box ready to use.

The Munchkin Step was a finalist for BabyCenter’s 2017 Moms’ Picks. Lucie’s List named the Munchkin Step one of its top picks as well, pointing out that “it does require a bit of diaper-squishing, but not nearly as much as the Diaper Genie,” and that, “If odor control is a top priority and you don’t mind buying special bags, this is your go-to.” We agree.

Budget pick

A white and gray Baby Trend diaper pail sitting in the middle of a room.

The Baby Trend Diaper Champ Deluxe is similar in design and function to our top pick, and it actually blocks smells better. It takes regular trash bags, and at about $35 for the pail itself, is one of the least expensive models you’ll find. But the low price is appropriate, as this pail is smaller, less convenient, flimsier, and generally cheaper overall than our pick.

As with our top pick, there’s little to set up; you just insert a regular trash bag—or Baby Trend’s refills, but we recommend our trash bag pick because it’s stronger—through the ring under the lid and secure the top of the bag under the ring, inside the pail. To dispose of a dirty diaper, you throw it in the cup at the opening and use the handle to rotate the cup so it dumps the diaper into the pail. You empty the pail just as you would a trash can.

A gif of a person depositing a dirty diaper in a Diaper Champ Deluxe using the pail's cup mechanism.

Big gulp: The Diaper Champ Deluxe’s supersized cup limits exposure to the inside of the pail while avoiding any smushing through a narrow opening.

That rotating cup at the opening of the pail is the physical barrier that keeps odors in when the pail is in use (though it doesn’t do anything about the smell of emptying the pail). It’s very effective, as long as you keep it rotated face up when not in use. That keeps it ready to receive the next befouled diaper, allows you to use the pail with one hand, and also means you won’t trap all the stink from inside the pail in a face-down cup and release it into your face.

As with all diaper pail odor-control solutions, this cup barrier has its downsides. Because of the cup, the lid takes up about a third of the height of the pail, and none of that space is usable for holding diapers. The Diaper Champ Deluxe was full after five days of changing size-4 diapers; the Ubbi’s capacity was close to a full week. The large, hinged lid also means it’s necessary to pull the pail away from the wall to empty the pail. You can’t see past the cup to assess how full the pail is either, so you’ll either need to open up the lid periodically to check or take note when diapers start getting caught in the cup when you rotate. It’s best to try to avoid the latter scenario, though, because often those diapers, even if wrapped neatly, get pulled open in the process. (The Ubbi does not share these flaws.)

The Diaper Champ Deluxe was full after five days of changing size-4 diapers; the Ubbi’s capacity was close to a full week.

The Diaper Champ Deluxe also has a tendency to tip forward when you pull on the handle (even if you hold the pail down at the bottom with the foot divot as intended). It comes in very few color options and has a fairly industrial aesthetic. As one might expect from the difference in price and materials, it feels cheaper and more flimsy than the Ubbi.

Our budget pick is well-liked by Lucie’s List, which notes that diapers don’t need to be squished when thrown away, and BabyGearLab, which named it best value of the pails it tested.

What about the Diaper Genie?

The Playtex Diaper Genie, trademarked in the US in 1992, was one of the first products dedicated to making diaper disposal more convenient and less smelly. It’s the market giant and has become synonymous with “diaper pail.” There are many satisfied users of the recently discontinued Diaper Genie II Elite, including Wirecutter staffers, one of our testing families, and the folks at BabyGearLab (they put it in second place after the less expensive Diaper Genie Essentials). The Elite was a truly hands-free pail; stepping on the foot pedal flipped open the lid and the clamp doors so you could drop in the diaper. According to online reviews, it released some smells when the lid was opened and when the bag was changed, but was effective at containing odors when sitting in the room. We could understand, then, why Amazon reviewers looking to replace a worn-out Elite pail were disappointed to find out that it was discontinued, especially because we found that the current Diaper Genie lineup does not improve on it. (We did not test the Elite, just the three Diaper Genie models currently available: Complete, Essentials, and Expressions.)

The design of the most popular model, the Playtex Diaper Genie Complete, addresses the issue of smell when the lid is open. It also offers hands-free disposal: The foot pedal opens up an antechamber at the top that receives the dirty diaper and then releases it when the lid is closed, so that the inside of the pail is never exposed. However, though we found that this was effective at trapping odors in the pail during our several days of testing, there are scores of complaints from Amazon reviewers that the pail did not perform well in this respect.

The Diaper Genie Complete is also far less efficient to use than the Ubbi (our pick). The antechamber design dumps diapers in a vertical tower, which fills the pail quickly and inefficiently. We got only 15 size-4 diapers in before needing to empty it; in comparison, our picks all held at least 20 to 30 size-4 diapers. Also inefficient: This model (like all Diaper Genie pails) uses proprietary refills. This means that despite a relatively low price tag, the Complete is among the most expensive models to own long term, with a three-year cost that far surpasses the Ubbi and is up there with the Munchkin Step (our “Also great” pick for maximum odor control).

The Complete required the most setup of all the pails we considered, with three pieces that needed to be assembled. Despite a lengthy instruction booklet, we had enough trouble with assembly to call a customer service agent (who was quite helpful). Even once we figured it out, though, we were troubled by how poorly all the plastic parts fit together, and dozens of Amazon reviewers complained about the cheap feel of the product and its tendency to come apart. Some reviewers also said that the pail topples over easily (the Diaper Genie Complete has an average of 3.3 stars out of five across 913 reviews on Amazon; the Ubbi has an average of 4.2 stars across 1,576 reviews). It does have a fan or two: BabyCenter named the Diaper Genie Complete the winner of its 2017 Moms’ Picks.

Dozens of Amazon reviewers complained about the cheap feel of the product and its tendency to come apart.

We were also disappointed with the quality of Diaper Genie’s least expensive and most basic model, the Playtex Diaper Genie Essentials. Right out of the box it felt cheap and flimsy. There’s no foot pedal, and to put a diaper in it, you have to push against the clamp at the opening (BabyGearLab’s video shows the clamp at around 0:32). (Playtex calls it a “clamp”; it’s the trapdoor thing that’s just inside the lid opening.) If you’re trying to operate this one-handed, that means squishing the diaper against the clamp. The springs attached to the clamp didn’t want to stay in their tracks, and the action was grinding and unpleasant. Even more problematic: The clamp required so much force to open that messy diapers would be a total disaster. Despite this, BabyGearLab named the Essentials its top pick.

The Diaper Genie Expressions costs about the same as the Complete but is more similar to the Essentials in function and features (no foot pedal, no carbon filter holder). It’s unique in that you can wrap it in a printed fabric sleeve (sold separately) to better match the nursery. We found the Expressions’s clamp’s action to be smooth; however, it partly obstructs an already narrow opening, and combined with the force necessary to push the clamp open, this pail is also a nonstarter if you have a particularly disgusting diaper.

A gif of a person demonstrating the force necessary to push the Diaper Genie Expressions clamp open.

The rest of the competition

In our tests, the Diaper Dékor Plus was as effective as our top pick Ubbi in keeping in smells while sitting in the room, but dozens of Amazon reviewers complain that this pail stinks up its surroundings. It’s ready to use right out of the box, but does require proprietary refills, which bring the cost of owning this pail over three years to more than $200. The manufacturer claims that diapers can be dropped through the trapdoor, but we found that in reality they needed to be pushed or thrown through, which is a problem if you have a truly foul diaper. It’s a little rickety overall, with a front hatch that doesn’t always shut properly, and an upper lid that can get misaligned with the lower bucket. There is a knob to lock the diaper-loading hatch, which is about as secure at the Ubbi’s.

Though the Munchkin Pail shares many smell-control features with our “Also great” pick, the Munchkin Step, it lacks a foot pedal, which makes throwing away diapers with one hand difficult. The lid also closes loudly, and does not stay open when pushed up if not pushed beyond a certain angle. In addition, it shares many of the Munchkin Step’s flaws, such as the restricted opening, which requires you to force the diaper through the ring of plastic teeth. As with the Step, some testers did not like the lavender-scented puck and bags.

The Safety 1st Easy Saver was among the most inexpensive options we considered. We liked its simple design—basically a compact garbage can with a tight-fitting lid and a smaller opening with a push-button flip-top lid. But it was the least effective at controlling odors when just sitting in the room and also when open for disposal and changing out the liner.

Care, use, and maintenance

A gif of a person demonstrating the proper way to roll and close a full diaper.

To be a poop pro, master the art of tightly rolling a full diaper and then using the sticky tabs to keep it closed.

To get the best mileage out of your diaper pail, get in the habit of wrapping soiled diapers into neat, tight bundles. It’ll help contain the smell even further, reduce your risk of exposure to loose contents, and efficiently pack the bag inside the pail. If it’s convenient, you might even consider flushing any solid waste before disposing of your diapers, which will keep odors down and allow you to wait longer before emptying your pail (some parents do this to reinforce from an early age that poop belongs in a toilet).

If your diaper pail does a good job of trapping odors, the inside is bound to start smelling eventually. Airing out the pail, preferably overnight, should help.

If your pail walls get soiled in any way, it’s best to tackle the problem immediately, for obvious reasons. Ubbi recommends cleaning its steel cans with a dry cloth when necessary, and, if using a wet cloth, making sure to allow the pail to dry completely before using it again. The company advises against using abrasive liquid cleaners and spray bleach or detergent, as it might get under the screws and corrode the metal. Munchkin and Baby Trend both recommend cleaning their plastic pails with warm water and soap. Munchkin also suggests using a solution of vinegar, baking soda, and lemon.

(Photos by Michael Hession.)


1. A more basic model, the Munchkin Pail, is equivalent to the Munchkin Step on smell control. For more info on it, see The rest of the competition.
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  1. Vincent Valderrama, senior designer at Smart Design, phone interview, May 4, 2017
  2. The Best Diaper Pail Review, BabyGearLab, May 11, 2015
  3. The Best Diaper Pail, The NightLight
  4. Diaper pails, Lucie's List, January 2017
  5. Best Diaper Pails of 2017, BabyList, January 1, 2017