Diaper Pails Versus Hanging Wet Bags- Dirty Cloth Diaper Storage Debate

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So you have decided to use cloth diapers.  Awesome!  Now you are wondering what you do with the dirty diapers?  Disposable diapers go in a diaper pail or trash can.  Where can you put your dirty diapers until wash day where they won’t stink up the joint?

Diaper pails or hanging wet bags for cloth diapers?

Most families choose between 2 options: A traditional Diaper Pail or a Hanging Wet Bag.  In either case, you will need a PUL (waterproof material, same used for most cloth diaper covers and shells) lined bag of some sort to either put in your pail, or to hang in the nursery to place your dirty diapers in.  There are certainly other options, and I will list those at the end as well.  Full disclosure: some of the links provided are affiliate links.

Diaper Pail:

If you have ever walked inside of a Target and shopped for baby stuff you have seen the aisle of large boxes containing a variety of different diaper pails.  The most famous being the “Diaper Genie.”  Unfortunately, most pails designed for disposable diapers are simply not cut out for cloth diapers.  Pails that have turning lids like the Diaper Genie don’t have room enough in their openings for many cloth diapers to fit through.  Other brands, like the Diaper Dekor (which I use) can be modified to accommodate cloth diapers and an elastic edged reusable pail liner.

Diaper Dekor Plus Diaper Disposal System

There are also cloth diaper pails which have locking lids.  I have not personally used one since I prefer the convenience of a step can.  Some of these pails use mesh bags to hold the dirty diapers.  The good news is that the mesh allows the diapers to breathe which can prevent odors.  The bad news is that the wet and soiled diapers could get the pail itself dirty.  You would have to wash the pail more often than if using a PUL pail liner.  Locking lids are great for curious little ones.  Since most people do not keep wet pails (pails with water and bleach to soak diapers between washes) at least there isn’t a worry about drowning.

Bambino Mio Dirty Nappy Cloth Diaper Bucket & Lid

A third pail option isn’t technically a pail at all.  Plastic or Metal step lid trash cans can work as a pail also.  You will just want to check the sizing and make sure a pail liner will work.  Many of these trash cans are too big or too small.  I found a hard time locating one to fit a pail liner when I shopped for one, so I bought my Dekor.

Umbra 12-Gallon Trash Can

With a pail you have the option of using an elastic edged pail liner, which functions like a trash bag, but that you wash over and over with your dirty diapers.  Many major brands make their own version.  Wahmies has a popular model which also has an elastic loop that you can use to hang it from a door knob if you choose.

Wahmies Diaper Pail Liner

I can’t forget those who want form with their function!  The Ubbi pail is a steel diaper pail that combines good looks with a smart design.  It works with disposables and cloth and you can purchase their reusable pail liner separately.  While it comes with a hefty price tag, it will last many years through many children and can then be resold or passed on to a friend or family member.   Steel, unlike plastic, won’t absorb odors over time.


Ubbi Diaper Pail

Wet Bags:

Hanging Wet Bags come in a large variety of options.  There are long skinny bags, short wide bags, zippering bags, drawstring bags, colorful print bags, plain solid colored bags, and so on.  These bags also come in a variety of sizes.

The best hanging wet bag is going to have an unsnappable handle.  These can be looped around anything sturdy enough and closed.  If you have bars on your changing table this is a good place to put one, other than a door knob.  Or, you can opt for a bag made to go on a door knob like the Knickernappies.

Knickernappies Doorknob Diaper Pail

For a less-mess approach when it comes time to dump the dirties into your washer try the GroVia Perfect Pail.  It has a handy bottom zipper that makes wash day a breeze.  Inserting diapers is easy too- a slit is at the top so there are no zippers to fuss with when you have a potentially explosive and drippy device in hand!  The Perfect Pail comes in a small color selection but makes up for that in functionality.



GroVia Perfect Pail

Another cool option out there is the wet/dry bag.  This bag has a front pocket that can be used for clean diapers, and the main pocket is lined with PUL for dirty diapers.  I usually recommend this bag for daycare families.  They can send the bag with clean diapers and have it returned with dirty ones, all in one shot.

Planet Wise Wet/Dry Diaper Bag

You don’t HAVE to put a wet bag in your nursery.  There is the option to hang a wet bag in your bathroom.  Since you will at some point likely be spraying down dirty diapers, this is a convenient place to put them, especially if your bathroom is far away from the baby’s room.  Some people also hang them in their laundry area.

If you are in the market for a MASSIVE bag because you either have more than one child, like to go a while before doing laundry, or will be going on a long trip, then you need the Bummis Fabulous Wet Bag.  I use this one every time I go on vacation!  It can be hung on a door knob or used as a pail liner.  It can hold enough diapers for 4-5 days worth of dirties.

Bummis Fabulous Wet Bag (Large)

(All of the wet bags I mentioned can also be purchased at my affiliate, Kelly’s Closet, if you would like to support my blog!)

Diaper Pails:


Can contain Odors

Some are lockable

Those with step lids are hands free and easy to use.


Take up more space

Might be hard to find one that works with a pail liner

If they don’t lock, toddlers can explore them and add/subtract items

Eyesores in the nursery

Hanging Wet Bags:


Take up less space

Can be placed on door knobs, changing table, etc.


Choice of cute patterns

Choice of various sizes to suit your needs


Zippering/ Unzippering can be a pain

Drawstring bags might not close all the way

Might not be as smell proof as a pail

Other Options:

There are also other options for storing dirty diapers.  Many of them cost little to no money.


Some families wash so often that they go ahead and throw the dirty diaper directly in the washer.  Once they have a load they start it up.  There is no middle man and no cost to this method.  If you have basement laundry then this is probably not a great option, unless you are trying to tone your legs!


You could also put the diapers in a hamper, which will more than likely be stored in your laundry room.  The obvious issue here is getting the hamper dirty.  You may or may not care.

Utility Sink:

Same concept as the washer.  You can use a utility sink to rinse off diapers and leave them there until wash day.

Plastic Bags:

Not the ideal option, however those grocery bags many people use as trash can liners can also be used as travel wet bags in a pinch.

Pail with no liner:

Some bucket type pails can be used with no pail liner.  You will likely end up washing the pail often, or ignoring the mess the diapers are leaving.  This method requires you to take the pail with you to the washer and dump your diapers in.

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Kim Rosas began Dirty Diaper Laundry in 2009 out of a desire to help more parents understand modern cloth diapers. She lives in Florida with her husband of 5 years and her two boys. Even though none of her boys wear diapers anymore she is still just as committed to promoting them. In her spare time Kim enjoys video editing, photography, and coffee.
  • Leigh

    We just had to replace our diaper pail (moving damage) and found that the largest FIBBE bin at Ikea is prefect. Easy to lift the lid, fits the Wammies liner perfectly and holds a full load of diapers.

  • Nicole

    We’ve explored various methods. The pail was retired due to smell and our baby getting into it. We tried a large hanging bag but that started to stink up the place after a day so the way we went about it is to buy a bunch of smaller wet bags and take them to the basement as soon as they are full.

  • Samantha

    We use a 5 gallon bucket with lid that we keep beside the toilet in the bathroom. When it is wash day we just dump the soiled diapers into the washing machine and put hot water and vinegar in the pail which disinfects it and gets rid of the smell without chemicals. The best part is I don’t have to get my hands dirty as I fill it in the tub then dump it into the toilet, and no chemicals going into the sewer system.
    Two in one, diaper and bathroom cleaning day.

  • emily

    I bought 2 blueberry wet bags at my local diaper store. These fit *perfectly* into the Simple Human slim plastic step can which holds 40L. I like it b/c it is a step can, as you say, makes life so much easier. Additionally, it has a lock at the top, as we anticipate having a very curious little boy. Lastly, it fits the blueberry bags so well. This was the first option I tried and I’m certainly glad I got so lucky with how well it works!

  • Carolena

    We started out with a 5 gallon bucket and lined it with a waterproof pillow protector I had for my homebirth, but the lid was so stiff, we never closed it, so it didn’t really help with the smell. Then the pillow protector ripped. So we found these huge (can hold more than the 5 gallon bucket did) zip-lock bags at a shipping store, 3 for 5 bucks, and they have worked super well, keep the smell and wet in, and are super cheap.

  • http://daytontime.blogspot.com Pamela

    i have been using a zippered wet bag from day one because there is no way i am scrubbing anything i don’t have to scrub. and i am very happy… both with the cloth and the not scrubbing.

  • http://bestclothdiapers.info Irene

    Thanks for a very informative comparison between diaper pails and wet bags. Personally, I prefer the diaper pail although we don’t keep one in the nursery room, but in the adjacent bathroom. It’s non-messy, keeps the smell and easy to open (like a trash-lid). I only use zippered wet bags when we’re out travelling.

  • Penny

    It may seem like alot of trouble at first but we throw our dirty diapers right into the empty washer and when wash time comes they are already in there. I tend to wash everyday or every other day though. Just my personal preference. :)

  • Denise

    I have the Wild Cheeks wet/dry tote bag for daycare. This works great because it has a tote strap, door knob strap, big enough for 4-5 diapers and a detachable PUL pouch for the diaper cream (so it does not get lost in the dry bag). http://www.wildcheeks.com

  • Hsl_worldwide

    What liner do you use for the dekor diaper pail. We have the same pail for our disposables but are switching to cloth now and are having a hard time finding the large liner with elastic that you mentioned here. Thanks!

    • mamamar

      They make their own liners. Come in a pack of two. I got mine at Target.

  • http://twitter.com/akbrink2 Ashley Brinkmeier

    My mom still had the diaper pail she used when she cloth diapered my siblings and myself. That’s what I’m using without a liner. I really like it because it holds the perfect amount of diapers. Once it’s full I know I need to do a load. Currently I keep the lid off (DS can’t get to it), but it is able to lock the lid into place which worked well when DS was able to get to it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ivana.mendez.169 Ivana Mendez

    I bought one of those mesh laundry bags from the dollar tree, It is a bit big, so I have to reach far down to get the diapers at the bottom, but it is hanging right next to my washer off of a metal rack in my laundry room. No smell from it, and it is completely open. Then again, I am using flour sack towels as flats so they are great about not holding smell as it is. I do hate going down there EVERY diaper change, so I am looking for a closeable smaller wetbag to hang nearby in the livingroom so I don’t have to do so much stair walking.

  • nayadams

    I use a kanga care wet bag for my dekor liner:)

  • Tressie

    Thanks for posting this. Good description of pros and cons.

  • Amanda Neubert

    I use a regular trash can with a lid that swings around, and I made a couplecloth liners (not PUL) with elastic around the top. When it’s laundry day, I carry the trash can (just like you carry a laundry basket) to the wash, dump the diapers in, and then take the cloth pail liner and throw it in with them. I have instructions on my (very bad) blog with some pictures here: http://allablessingindisguise.blogspot.com/2014/02/diy-wet-bag-pail-liner.html