Last Updated: Jun 6, 2023 @ 11:26 am.

What's the best diaper pail? It's a stinky job, but somebody has to figure out which diaper pail works the best (and stinks the least). It might as well be us! We've been rating and researching baby gear like diaper pails since 1994. Yes, that long! Here are our current best bets.

FYI: We are Baby Bargains, the #1 online resource for honest baby gear reviews. To keep things independent, we don't take money or freebies from brands we review! Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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Best Hands-Free Diaper Pail

Tops in our stink test
Step on the foot pedal and never see that stinky diaper again—we liked this pail's overall design and ease of use. Caveat: requires plastic refill packs . . . which can get pricey.

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Best Hands Free Diaper Pail: Dekor Classic Hands Free Diaper Pail

How to find the best diaper pail for your nursery? First, realize there are two schools of thought when it comes to diaper pails.

The first school: pails that use special, deodorized-plastic refills to wrap diapers. The advantage: they do better at controlling stink. The downside: you have to buy those expensive refill cartridges, which can run hundreds of dollars over time.

The second school: use a regular pail (plastic or steel) with a regular kitchen trash bag. Then frequently empty the pail to keep the stink down. The advantage: much less expensive overall. The downside: frequently emptying a pail is a pain point, especially if your outside trash can isn’t conveniently located nearby.

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question—either school can work, depending on whether your baby is breastfed (less stinky diapers) or eating solid food.

If you prefer a diaper pail with refills, we’d suggest a model that is hands-free. Yes, believe it or not, there are some diaper pails that force you to push a dirty diaper down into the pail. Or require two hands to operate. This is sub-optimal.

For the best hands-free diaper pail, we’d recommend the Dekor Classic Hands Free Diaper Pail. We’ve recommended this pail in several editions of our book and the reader feedback has been very positive—we think it does the best job at keeping the stink down.

Here’s more:

What We Liked

• Easy to use thanks to foot pedal.

• Unlike other diaper pails that have proprietary refills, the Diaper Dekor doesn’t individually wrap each diaper. This means you will use less refills than other competing pails, based on our testing.

• Affordable (at least to start). This pail costs 50% less than those fancy steel models.

• Three sizes for different uses: the Mini (holds 25 diapers), the Classic (40 newborn diapers) and the Plus (60 newborn diapers). This article links to the Classic, FYI. Why three sizes? Well, you could use the larger one for a room that is farther from the trash, requiring less emptying. Smaller sizes might be better for grandma’s house or other occasional diaper change areas.

• Biodegradable refills also available for those looking for a more sustainable solution. 

What Needs Work

• Not completely hands free. When you hit the foot petal, you must turn a knob on the top to unlock the hatch. This is a safety feature . . . but somewhat defeats the hands-free claim.

• Be careful which size refills you buy: the Classic size won’t fit in a Plus can and so on.

• Less plastic used. This pail does not wrap each diaper in plastic, like some other pails (we are looking at you, Diaper Genie). That means the refill packs will last longer (less plastic is used overall).

• Regular refills work better at holding back the stink than the biodegradable versions, based on our reader feedback. Since odor control is the main reason you buy this type of diaper pail, we recommend sticking with the regular refills.

• Expensive—when you factor in the cost of refill plastic packs. If you’d prefer a less expensive solution, we’d suggest a diaper pail that uses regular kitchen trash bags . . . like the one we’ll discuss next.

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Best Budget-Friendly Pail

Not fancy but gets job done
Unlike other dinky diaper pails, this model has much more capacity (which means less emptying). And it uses regular trash bags, saving you on refills. Caveat: plastic tends to absorb odors over time.

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Best Budget-Friendly Diaper Pail: Safety 1st Easy Saver Diaper Pail

Let’s get real: for breastfed babies, you can often get away with a simple plastic trash can and regular trash bags for quite a while (at least until baby starts solid foods . . . then all bets are off). Of course, it would also be nice to have your outside trash handy as well. 

For the best budget-friendly diaper pail, we’d recommend the simple Safety 1st Easy Saver Diaper Pail. Nothing fancy, but gets the job done. Here’s more:

What We Liked

 Easy to use.

• Large capacity.

• No special plastic refills needed. Uses regular kitchen trash bags.

• Affordable.

• Deodorizer disk included.

• Works well for breastfed babies.

What Needs Work

• Deodorizer disk doesn’t really knock down the stink. You’ll still have to regularly empty this pail, unfortunately. And when baby starts solid foods, this pail will only work for those with a high tolerance for stench.

• Not hands free.

• Odor stays in plastic. Of course, this is a problem with all plastic diaper pails. No matter how well you clean it, odors are absorbed by the plastic . . . and come back to haunt. A better solution is to go with a metal (steel) diaper pail, as the metal doesn’t absorb odors. If you’d prefer to go that route, check out the next pick.

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Best Steel Diaper Pail

No expensive refills
We loved the look and function of this steel pail, with its sliding hatch. Easy to use . . . and steel doesn't absorb odors like plastic pails do. Caveat: doesn't control stink when solid foods start.

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Best Steel Diaper Pail: Ubbi Steel Odor Locking Diaper Pail

A steel diaper pail is a good compromise between those diaper pails that use expensive plastic refills and simpler plastic pails that tend to absorb odors. Steel is easier to keep from stinking (although you still have to clean it and empty frequently).

For the best steel diaper pail, the winner hands down is Ubbi—this brand make the best steel pail, in our opinion. And that’s based on testing a dozen or so steel pails over years, as well as extensive feedback from our parent readers.

Of course, there are pros and cons to any steel diaper pail. Here are some things to consider:

What We Liked

• Uses regular trash can bag = no expensive refills.

• Sliding lid does pretty good job of containing the smell.

• Steel doesn’t absorb odors like plastic.

• Pricey to start, but less expensive over the long haul. Yes, a steel pail costs more than a plastic one . . . but it is more durable, lasting for more than one child.

• Doesn’t look ugly. This sleek steel pail comes in a large variety of colors to match just about any decor.

• Includes cleaning brush.

What Needs Work

• Open the hatch and watch out! The wave of stink will be pretty tremendous. This pail works best if you can frequently empty it, taking out the diapers before the stink bomb builds.

• Doesn’t have a foot pedal, so you have to use two hands to open the pail. That’s a pain if you have a baby in your arms.

• The lid sometimes sticks.

• Can rust if you don’t dry it after washing.

• Once baby starts solid foods, this pail may become less effective. It’s just a fact of life: more solid foods = more stink. If your baby is at that point and the regular trash bags aren’t cutting it, you may want to consider a less stinky and more tried and true diaper pail . . . like the next recommendations.

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Best Tried & True Diaper Pail

Excellent at stink control
It's been around since forever . . . and this pail has earned its place in the baby gear hall of fame. Easy to use, the Diaper Genie contains the stink. Caveat: expensive refills.

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Best Tried & True Diaper Pail: Playtex Diaper Genie Complete

Launched in 1990, the Diaper Genie was the first diaper pail with its own cartridges of plastic wrap to contain baby’s diapers. This helped contain the stink. Before the Diaper Genie, in the Dark Ages, parents just put dirty diapers in a trash can . . . and ran that outside to the garage frequently.

The secret sauce for the Diaper Genie is the innovative proprietary plastic liner cartridge. Once you insert the cartridge and tie off the end, all you have to do is insert the diaper in the top, twist and close the lid. Twisting seals off the dirty diaper and the odor.

When the pail gets full, you use a special included cutter, clip the plastic and tie off the end. Then you take your chain of dirty diapers off to the garbage (looks like a change of sausages).

Bottom line: Diaper Genie works well at trapping odors and transformed the diaper pail market, spawning a raft of competitors. (Baby bottle maker Playtex acquired the Diaper Genie in 1999).

In the not too distant past, the Diaper Genie got a major redesign.  And this new version has its fans and detractors. The big change: the Genie now sports a foot pedal. And it’s smaller than past versions. That means it needs to be emptied more frequently.

That is both a plus and minus—a plus since fewer diapers = less stink, a minus since you have empty it more frequently! That isn’t fun if you outdoor trash is a long way from the nursery.

Here’s what we liked and didn’t like about the Diaper Genie:

What We Liked

• Better at controlling stink than steel or plastic pails that use regular trash bags. We still think the Decor Classic (reviewed at the start of this article) is the champ when it comes to controlling odor, but the Diaper Genie is a close second. And when you compare it to pails like the Safety 1st, well there is no comparison. When baby starts solid food, you’ll want a solution like this.

• Tried and true brand. The Diaper Genie hasn’t sold millions of diaper pails by accident—this brand has a good track record for overall quality and ease of use.

• Tall can = less leaning over. The redesigned Genie sits higher off the floor, requiring less stooping to put a diaper in.

• Foot pedal. The original version did not have a foot pedal; you had to lean over and open the lid. Now it’s a bit easier when you have your hands full.

• Carbon filter for extra odor protection.

What Needs Work

• Refills get expensive. And yes, that is the biggest drawback for the Genie. You’ll be spending hundreds of dollars on those refill canisters.

• Long term durability could be better. Although we didn’t have any issues in our tests, some of our readers have complain that the plastic components (like the trap door to remove diapers) break after time.

• Doesn’t hold as many diapers as other cans. That means you have to empty it every two to three days.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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