Diaper Pail Vs Trash Can – Saving Money Possible?

trash can vs diaper pale

A lot of thought and planning goes into preparing for your baby’s arrival. Part of the planning revolves around everything you’ll need to make the changing process much easier. One topic you’ll probably need to decide on is the diaper pail vs trash can debate. Which option is better?

When you’re choosing between a diaper pail and a trash can for your baby’s dirty diapers, it’s important to remember that diaper pails are specifically designed to seal in odors. This means you can put quite a lot of diapers into the pail before needing to empty it. Regular trash cans don’t seal in odors. 

Key differences between a diaper pail vs trash can

Most parents prefer the convenience of a diaper pail while others opt for cheaper, regular trash cans. Before deciding on if you need a diaper pail or a trash can, it’s important to consider the key differences between the two options.


In general, regular trash cans are considerably cheaper than diaper pails. Some diaper pails require special diaper bags or liners that could also be quite costly. When choosing a diaper pail, remember to check how compatible the pail is with normal trash bags. Using a pail that’s compatible with regular trash bags allows you to minimize costs

Ease of use

Aside from the odor absorption factor, many parents prefer diaper pails for their ease of use. Many diaper pails can be opened using a foot pedal. These hands-free options make it easy to drop the diaper into the bin while your hands are busy tending to the baby. 

Foot pedals also allow you to deal with the diaper without having to touch the diaper pail. You wouldn’t want to transfer any bacteria from the pail onto your little one! If you prefer the regular trash can option, you can look for one that has a foot pedal. 

Effectiveness of absorbing odor

When you think of your baby’s nursery, you don’t want to associate it with stinky diapers and awful smells. The most prominent difference between diaper pails and regular trash cans is their ability to seal in odors. 

Diaper pails are designed with specialized rubber seals that prevent odor from escaping from the pail. Alternatively, some pails have separate chambers where the dirty diaper is sealed off by the bag, keeping the odor in the pail. Many pails also feature carbon or charcoal filters that neutralize odor. 

While many diaper pail brands can use regular trash bags, it’s important to note that the specialized bags made by the manufacturer are often scented to minimize odor. There are however filter bags or DIY scent options that you can add to regular bags to lessen the stinky smell.

Available Space

While not all homes have the luxury of large, roomy nurseries, many parents need a smaller and narrower bin option. A few popular diaper pail brands feature narrower designs to make it easier to fit in small spaces, or even under changing tables. There are narrow trash can options but they might not be able to hold as many diapers as a standard diaper pail. 

How a diaper pail works

Diaper pails might look like narrower versions of regular trash cans but they’re actually quite different. The most significant difference is the odor-control technology that makes it easier to store many dirty diapers at once without an overwhelming stench in the nursery. 

The quick closing lid and tight seals prevent odor from escaping the pail. What’s more, some models have a foot pedal that allows you to open the pail so you don’t have to touch it with your hands. Some diaper pails will feature an odor control filter. Diaper pails also come with safety features to prevent children from opening it. 

Odor-controlling diaper pails can store more diapers compared to a regular trash can. They only need to be emptied once a week making it more convenient for busy parents. 


There are several benefits to using diaper pails that make them worth the expense for many parents. 


When you’re dealing with a baby the more hands-free options around the better! Having a hands-free diaper pail makes disposing of diapers so much easier. You simply open the pail with the foot pedal and drop the diaper into the pail without ever using your hands that are more than likely busy with the baby. 

Having a pail with a foot pedal also keeps you from having to touch the pail lid to open. Doing this prevents germs and bacteria from ending up on your hands and eventually on the baby! 

Space-saving design

As I’ve said before, not all nurseries are big and spacious. And since diapers aren’t very big, it makes sense to have narrow-designed pails. Slimmer pails are also easier to store under changing tables or in the corner of a nursery. Having a slimmer pail also prevents a parent from accidentally tripping over a bulkier bin option. 

Safety features

Another popular reason for opting for diaper pails is the safety features that some models boast. One of these is childproof lids. If you have toddlers in the house, you’ll appreciate a child-proof lid on your diaper pail. The last thing you’d want is a toddler scratching around in a pail full of dirty, germy diapers! 

Odor control

The most popular reason for opting for a diaper pail is to control the odor caused by a bunch of dirty diapers piled up in a container. Special rubbers and seals form part of the designs that are used to keep odors from escaping. With odor control, the pail doesn’t have to be cleaned as often as a regular trash can would have to be. 


With so many positives, it might be hard to believe there are negatives about diaper pails, but there are a few to consider. 

Narrow openings

Slimmer pail designs obviously mean narrower openings. Some models are the size of a scrunched-up diaper. Sometimes you’re dealing with a really messy diaper and you might not want to scrunch it up as that will cause a leaking mess everywhere! It would be easier to just take it off and drop it into the pail. 

Complex set-up & operation

Some diaper pail models can be difficult to set up. This is particularly the case with brands that require specialized bags. Some diaper pails have different compartments and bags need to be worked into the twist & seal mechanism. 

What are some of the top diaper pails?

There are many popular brands to consider when you’re opting for a diaper pail. Some of the favorites among new or repeat parents are listed below. 

I’ve written a few interesting articles about different diaper pail brands, comparing Munchkin to the Diaper Genie or differences between an Ubbi diaper and Diaper Genie.

These will make a good read if you’re comparing brands.

How a trash can work for holding smelly diapers

If you’ve decided to opt for a regular trash can, there are some ways to ensure the diaper odor doesn’t become overwhelming. Some easy tips to consider include the following:

  • Baking soda: After every cleaning session, sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the trash can. You can sprinkle the baking soda at the bottom of the bag as well. 
  • Scrub with vinegar: Using a regular trash can means you’ll have to clean your bin more often to prevent odor build-up. An effective way to do this is with vinegar and baking soda mixture.
  • Lavender essential oil scented spray: Make a mixture of lavender essential oil with vodka or water and spray it in the bin. (Vodka has strong antibacterial properties)

For a few more tips on keeping your diaper pail or trash can odor-free, read my article about some diaper pail smell hacks.

I’ve included a short clip that shows you how to keep your pail or trash can clean and fresh with a baking soda mixture! 

How a trash can works for holding diapers

Many parents prefer regular trash cans because they’re cheaper, simpler and versatile. They also don’t require specialized bags which can be costly. While some regular trash cans have foot pedals, it’s easy to open and drop diapers in. 


There are a few benefits to opting for a regular trash can in your nursery. Read on to see what they are. 


The most common reason to rather opt for ordinary trash cans is the general cost of diaper pails. Regular household trash cans are inexpensive and can pretty much use any type of bag, including grocery bags. Trash cans have foot-pedals and lids that make them seem like cheaper replicas of pails

Get Rid of Diapers More Often

While some parents prefer diaper pails that can hold a lot of diapers, other parents are uncomfortable with so much waste piling up in the nursery. The bacteria and germ build-up can be disconcerting. With a regular trash can that holds fewer diapers and doesn’t seal in the odor, it forces parents to empty it often. 

Simple to Use

Some diaper pails for all their good benefits often require a lot of maintenance. Some have complex mechanisms, filter changing, and special bags. Regular trash cans on the other hand, literally only require occasional washing and changing of bags. 


As with any other product you opt to use for your baby, there are some disadvantages to consider. 

Very little odor control

Many parents choose diaper pails for the sole reason of odor control. Regular trash cans aren’t designed with the same odor-control technology and can easily start stinking very quickly. There aren’t any special rubbers of seal & twist features to isolate the diapers. This results in odors escaping quite quickly. 

No special features

Regular trash cans don’t have any of the special features you might commonly find in many diaper pail models. One of the popular features you don’t find on regular trash cans is a child-proof lock or lid. Some diaper pails, such as the diaper genie have lids that lock, making it easy to keep smaller children from opening them. 

Aside from trash cans, there are a few other diaper pail alternatives to consider. Read up on them before making your final decision! 

Can you use a diaper pail also as a trash can?

One of the questions I’ve heard parents ask is, “If I buy a diaper pail, what will I do with it afterward?” The good news is, you can use a regular trash can as a diaper pail AND you can use a diaper pail as a trash can once your baby is out of diapers.

If you feel like spending the money for a pail might be excessive for short-term use, consider an option that can easily be used as a trash can afterward. Here you’ll want an option that can use regular trash bags to avoid having to buy specialized bags for years! 

Since diaper pails are specially designed for odor control, they’re ideal for kitchens or even in your toddler’s room. A narrow design will ensure you can squeeze it in any space you’ll need an odor-controlling bin!

Can you use regular trash bags for a diaper pail?

This depends on the type of diaper pail you’ve opted for! It’s a good idea to give this option some thought before you settle on a specific brand. Bear in mind that regular trash bags are generally cheaper and more readily available. Some diaper pails can even take grocery bags! 

For more information on the different bag options for diaper pails, (Ubbi in particular), you might want to read about some of the best bags for an Ubbi Diaper Pail. 

Verdict on why to choose a diaper pail vs a trash can

While it’s true that you might not always change your baby in the same place, it’s a good idea to have a diaper pail in the main changing area. If you’re planning to have more children, the diaper pail won’t seem like an unnecessary cost. However, you can easily opt for a diaper pail brand that you can use as a bin in the kitchen or children’s room after the diaper days. After a few days of changing diapers, you’ll be happy you opted for an odor-controlling diaper pail! 

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