Do You Really Need a Diaper Pail?

Dad dealing with a smelly diaper.

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Designed to lock in odors, diaper pails provide a convenient, albeit temporary, home for your little one’s messy nappies—allowing you to dump and go without having to put up with that household eau de diaper. However, is a pricy, purpose-made diaper pail really worth the cost? Do you really need one for your nursery? To find out, we put one of the most popular models to the test.

The Diaper Genie

Much like a regular trash can, the Diaper Genie filters dirty diapers into a plastic sleeve, keeping the unit clean and dry and allowing you to easily empty the pail. The key difference between a Diaper Genie and your run-of-the-mill kitchen can is a clever little mechanism that ensures that the main storage compartment remains closed at all times, even when the lid is open.

When you push the foot pedal to open the pail, this clam-like contraption pinches the bag closed, trapping odors inside—it also does a pretty good job of keeping curious kiddos out of the trash. Simply toss your latest baby bomb into the top of the compartment and walk away. Once the foot pedal is released, the lid closes and the trap opens, allowing the waste to drop through into the storage compartment.

Sounds great, right? But does it work?

When used properly, the Diaper Genie actually does a pretty decent job of concealing the odor. The slim design and tight-fitting plastic film reduce the amount of air in the unit, making it more difficult for odors to travel. What’s more, unlike a regular trash can, which releases a toxic cloud of stink every time you open it, the Diaper Genie’s two-compartment design ensures that stored waste is never again exposed to the open air—a small fact that can make a big difference given the number of times you’ll crack that thing open during the day.

Still, when it comes to battling diaper stink, every pail has its limits. Frequent emptying is key. Remember, the unit is intended to buy you a little time between trips to the curb, not rein in nuclear fallout. Empty often, and you should be pretty pleased with the Genie’s performance.

The Drawbacks

Despite the Diaper Genie’s effectiveness, there are plenty of good reasons to give it a pass. For one, the unit requires frequent refills, which can be costly when compared to regular trash bags. Furthermore, the Diaper Genie is anything but environmentally-friendly (perhaps not a concern when you are already wrapping yet another layer of plastic over those immortal Pampers before they hit the dump); however, even the pail itself is destined for the junkyard. While the Diaper Genie’s mess-free design and antimicrobial coating help keep the unit fairly sanitary, 24-hour diaper duty takes its toll. Eventually, the inner plastic shell begins to absorb the odor, leaving faint but lingering evidence of a life spent in the poo business—not a great selling point.

The Verdict

Obviously, no one really needs a diaper pail, but a diaper disposal system can certainly come in handy—especially if there’s a flight of stairs between your nursery and the closest outdoor trashcan! We found the Diaper Genie is both convenient and effective, but if convenience isn’t your main priority, then there’s no real reason to shell out $30 to $40 on a fancy new trashcan. Simply wrap your baby’s diapers in a plastic bag, toss it in with the regular trash, and take that nightly walk to the curb.