Do I Need a Diaper Pail or Genie? ULTIMATE Guide

baby in blue button lying in bed

When you’re listing all your baby requirements you might be wondering, if diaper pails or genies are necessary items to have. When you have an infant, you have tons of things to do, and anything that can make your life easier might become more than just a nice-to-have accessory. I’ll cover all aspects of this topic, including alternatives to diaper pails and their refills. I’m also going to share some tried and tested hacks for dealing with smelly pails!

Here’s the short answer to whether you really need a diaper pail

No, a diaper pail isn’t an extreme necessity when it comes to changing your baby. However, they can make your life easier by giving storage space for dirty diapers, thereby reducing odor. They can be a long-lasting investment, even with a nice design in the rooms where you can place them.

Pros and cons of diaper pails

Diaper Genie Bags Refills 270 Count (Pack of 3) with Max Odor Lock | Holds Up to 810 Newborn Diapers


  • Large capacity
  • Looks neater in the nursery
  • Controls odors
  • Makes disposing of a dirty diaper easy
  • Can be used later for storing regular trash


  • Sometimes the bags have to be pushed down manually
  • Diaper pail refills could be somewhat costly
  • Depending on the brand, pail could be noisy when opening/closing

Do I need a diaper pail for cloth diapers?

The short answer is NO. While there are many different types of diaper pail options on the market, there isn’t a pail specifically designed for cloth diapers. Diaper pails are particularly designed to seal diapers in bags which are then disposed of later. Cloth diapers lying in a pail will be a breeding ground for bacteria and mold growth, which is unhealthy! 

How do diaper pails work (incl. Genie model)?

If you’re not too familiar with how diaper pails work, here’s how the most popular type works, which is the Diaper Genie. This is also indicative of how other modern diaper pails and how they work.

These are the elements of how they work:

  • Trash can: A simple trash can, lined with grocery bags can be used as a diaper pail. The problem with this is the smell won’t be sealed in and you might need to change it more often than you would a pail to prevent odor release. 
  • Diaper pails: Diaper pails seal better. Some models are foot-operated. This allows you to open the pail with your foot and simply drop the dirty diaper in. When the lid shuts, the lid seals tighter than a regular trash can. 
  • Genie models: When you open the lid of a Genie, simply insert the dirty diaper into the mouth of the container. Replace the lid and twist a full three rotations and the diaper is sealed in an individual bag, minimizing odor release. 

Diaper pail or genie vs trash can

When you’re considering the different options available, you might be wondering what’s the difference between a diaper pail (e.g. genie) or a trash can

A diaper pail is usually better than a regular trash can because it’s better to control odors. Diaper Genie on the other hand works by sealing each diaper individually in a scented film. This protects against germs and odors. For maximum odor protection, a Genie is the best option. 

Where should I put a diaper pail?

The best place is next to the changing table or the nursery door. This makes it easy to dispose of the diaper on your way out of the nursery. 

How long do diaper pails last? Do they expire?

Diaper pails don’t expire. As long as they are cleaned regularly to eliminate bacteria, there’s no reason to replace your pail. You simply keep replacing the bags. 

How many diaper pails do I need?

On average, one diaper pail is enough. If you have multiple babies being changed in different rooms, it might be necessary to have one per room.

What are diaper pail refills? 

Since a diaper pail is essentially a garbage can designed with the specific purpose of storing dirty diapers, e.g. from Hello Bello, Honest, or Pampers brands, the refills are the bags that go inside the pails. When it’s time to empty the pail, simply remove the bag and throw it away. 

There are different types of refills – some brands like the Genie have bags with multiple layers. 

Diaper Genie Bags Refills 270 Count (Pack of 3) with Max Odor Lock | Holds Up to 810 Newborn Diapers

How many diaper pail refills are needed?

You’ll have to continuously change the bags in your pail. Some pails can hold as many as 270 diapers. One diaper pail in the nursery is sufficient.

Are diaper pails universal?

Yes. All Genie diaper pails can use the same refills. Genie refills are compatible with Munchkin models as well. 

Alternatives to the diaper pail

If the cost of diaper pails and their refills concerns you, there are a few thrifty diaper pail alternatives to consider. 

  • Disposable diaper bags: One of the most popular alternatives is disposable diaper bags. These bags provide a sanitary way to dispose of diapers. They’re useful when you’re traveling and in the nursery as well. 
  • Regular household/grocery plastic bags: If you have a drawer or cupboard full of grocery bags, they can easily be used to toss used diapers in. Simply tie them up and throw the bag in the garbage. 
  • Wet bags: Waterproof bags such as the ones used to carry wet gym clothes or swimsuits are also a great alternative to diaper pails.
  • Dog poop pick-up bags: These bags are designed to pick up poop so they make a great alternative for putting your disposable diapers in! 
  • Ubbi diaper pail: this is a great pail that stands out with its steel construction which means it will smell less in the long run. Here’s how Diaper Genie compares to Ubbi, a separate article I wrote on it.

How do I keep my diaper pail from smelling? Smell hacks

One of the concerns parents have with diaper pails is the smell. A few simple household hacks can help you deal with the odor. Here are a few tips on how to prevent your pail from smelling. For a more complete guide check out my 9 diaper pail smell hacks.

Diaper pail deodorizers

Diaper pail deodorizers come in a variety of shapes and their contents absorb and neutralize odors in the pail. These little sachet bags or disks contain odor-neutralizing ingredients such as carbon, lavender and citrus.

Carbon filler

Carbon fillers can be placed in the trash can or into the home air purifier. Since carbon fillers are porous, they easily absorb the sharp smells from urine and poop. Carbon traps and locks the odors and is one of the most effective ways to neutralize those horrid poopy smells.

Diaper Genie Carbon Filter (4-Pack) | Diaper Pail Odor Eliminator & Deodorizer | Compatible with the Diaper Genie Complete and Expressions Pail

Household baking soda

You might already be using baking soda around your home to clean grease, stains and even your kitchen sink. Did you know baking soda is an effective odor-neutralizer as well? Simply sprinkle some baking soda in the trash can or pail. Place some underneath as well as inside the bag before you toss in the first diaper. 

White vinegar

Believe it or not, vinegar is an effective odor-neutralizer. It’s as simple as mixing some white vinegar with water and using a spray bottle and spraying it into a garbage can or diaper pail after it’s emptied. Aside from neutralizing odors, vinegar is a natural disinfectant as well.

To see just how to use these hacks to get your diaper pail smelling fresh again, watch this short clip! 

How to find the best diaper pail

If diaper pail alternatives are not an option you’d like to consider, there are some very effective diaper pails to consider. When it comes to choosing the right pail, there are a few factors to consider:

Liner type

Pail liners are essentially waterproof bags that hold dirty diapers. You should consider the type of liners your pail will need and how cost-effective they’ll be. 

Seal type

Diaper pails have different seal types to regular trash cans. The seal type on a diaper pail will keep odors inside the pail. A strong seal type is essential. 

Loading it with diapers and removing them

Consider how many diapers your pail can hold before it needs emptying. Ideally, you want a pail that makes your job easier. You also need to consider how the bags should be removed. Some pail bags are simply taken out and models like the Diaper Genie individually seal each diaper. 

Size, shape

When it comes to size and shape, consider where you’re going to put the pail and the overall space in your nursery. Take measurements to ensure the pail fits in the designated space without being in the way. 

Most popular (and best odor-minimizing) diaper pail – Diaper Genie

Diaper Genie Complete Diaper Pail (White) with Antimicrobial Odor Control | Includes 1 Diaper Trash Can, 1 Refill Bags, 1 Carbon Filter, Packaging may vary

One of the most popular and best odor-reducing diaper pails is the Diaper Genie. Not only does this nifty model control odors, but it also makes the diaper disposing process much more hygienic. Rated by parents as the number one way of dealing with dirty, smelling diapers, the Diaper Genie is ideal for new parents!

To know just how the Genie differs from other pails, consider the following points. 

Differentiating features

The Diaper Genie boasts a Double Air-Tite Clamp that allows each bag to be individually sealed after the diaper is tossed in. This individually sealing process provides an additional layer of odor protection. 


  • Holds up to 270 diapers
  • Easy to replace refill bags
  • Built-in odor control


  • Refill bags can be costly
  • Seal might not work every time


How should I clean a diaper pail?

Cleaning your diaper pail is essential to keeping bacteria and smells at bay. Follow these simple steps to give your diaper pail a thorough cleaning:

  • Sprinkle a mixture of baking soda and soap on the inside of your diaper pail or genie to neutralize bad odors. 
  • Let the pail sit with the baking soda and soap mixture for about 10 minutes to penetrate.
  • Use an old, clean sponge or rag to scrub the inside and outside of the pail.
  • Rinse the inside and outside of your diaper pail.
  • If possible, allow it to dry in the sun for a couple of hours. UV rays are an effective bacterial killer. 

Wrap up

Investing in a diaper pail is an effective way to deal with dirty diapers in the nursery. It’s easier to have a designated place to toss the diaper during changing, especially when you have a fussing little one in your arms. 

With the wide variety of pails on the market, it’s easy to find the best one suited to your needs. With the alternatives for diaper pail refills, you don’t have to stress over the cost that goes along with the refills! Take the stress out of changing times, and invest in a quality diaper pail!

Last update on 2024-06-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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