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Cloth Diaper Pail - Wet vs Dry

Cloth Diaper Pail

Cloth Diaper Pail - Wet vs Dry Cloth Diaper Pails

If you decide to cloth diaper you'll need a way to store wet and soiled cloth diapers until laundry day. You can use a wet pail, a dry pail, or a combination of both. Since starting our cloth diapering journey we've used all three systems and have researched the pros and cons of each. We hope our experience and research will help you determine which cloth diaper pail is best for your family.

Wet Cloth Diaper Pail

Cloth Diaper Pail - Wet

When we first started cloth diapering we exclusively used a wet cloth diaper pail, also known as "soaking the diapers". This method stores used cloth diapers in water until washing day. In addition to water, many parents use baking soda, white vinegar, essential oils, and other additives in their cloth diaper pail to reduce odor and staining. Never add bleach or laundry detergent to the soaking water because they are too harsh for your diapers, causing them to quickly break down.

Cloth Diaper Pail - Mini Shower Most parents reduce the amount of waste in the cloth diaper pail by shaking solids into a toilet, dunking and swishing diapers in a toilet, or rinsing diapers with a mini shower before putting them in the pail. In our house we just shake solid waste off our diapers and trust the washer to do its job removing the rest.

Advantages to using a wet cloth diaper pail are easier stain removal and less frequent laundering since the water in the pail acts as a presoak. Some parents also feel that there is less odor to a wet cloth diaper pail, but other parents disagree.
Disadvantages are the heaviness of the pail on wash day, possible odors from stagnant water, mess if the pail tips, and the potential drowning hazard for small children. If you choose the wet cloth diaper pail method be sure to keep it somewhere away from your little ones or choose a locking pail.

Cloth Diaper Pail - Soda To use the wet pail method:

  • Fill your pail half to three-quarters full with cold water
  • Add baking soda, vinegar, or essential oil if desired
  • Shake, dunk and swish, or use the mini shower as needed
  • Separate and unroll diapers before placing in the pail
  • On laundry day dump the entire pail, water and all, into the washer
  • Run a spin cycle to remove the excess water
  • Launder as usual

Combination Cloth Diaper Pail

Cloth Diaper Pail - Combination

Several years into our cloth diapering experience we decided to try a combination of wet pail and dry pail. There are two ways to do this, the one-pail method and the two-pail method.

We began with one cloth diaper pail, but since I'm not into dunking dirty diapers and we don't own a mini shower we quickly added a second pail.

For the one-pail combination method shake, dunk and swish, or rinse the diapers before placing them into a dry cloth diaper pail. The diapers will be soggy, with minimal water in the bottom of the pail. As with a wet cloth diaper pail, baking soda, essential oils, and other additives can be used to help control odors.

Advantages to using one combination cloth diaper pail are easier stain removal since the diapers remain very wet, and the drowning hazard has been eliminated because there is no standing water in the cloth diaper pail.

Disadvantages are a pail that is still fairly heavy, although not as heavy as a wet diaper pail, and the chance of the diapers mildewing if not washed frequently enough.

Cloth Diaper Pail - Vinegar To use one combination cloth diaper pail:

  • Shake, dunk and swish, or use the mini shower as needed
  • Separate and unroll diapers before placing in the pail
  • Add baking soda, vinegar, or essential oil if desired
  • On laundry day empty the pail into the washer
  • Run a spin cycle to remove the excess water
  • Launder as usual
The two-pail combination method uses a wet pail for soiled diapers and dry pail for wet diapers. To use this method, simply toss wet diapers into the dry cloth diaper pail, and shake, dunk and swish, or rinse soiled diapers before placing them into the wet pail. Again, you can use baking soda, vinegar, essential oils, or other additives to control odors.

Advantages are the same as both wet and dry cloth diaper pails plus lighter pails and more room to store used diapers - something that is especially helpful for families with more than one child in diapers.

Disadvantages are the same as wet and dry cloth diaper pails plus the added expense and room required by a second cloth diaper pail.

The two-pail system worked fairly for us well until we bought a front loading washing machine and couldn't figure out how to get the sopping wet diapers from the wet pail into the machine without touching them. At this point we switched to only using a dry cloth diaper pail.

Dry Cloth Diaper Pail

Cloth Diaper Pail - Dsy Since the front loading machine entered our house we have completely converted to a dry cloth diaper pail, and it's been so easy we wish we'd used it all along! This method stores used cloth diapers in a completely dry pail, with no rinsing or standing water, until wash day. Simply toss used diapers into the cloth diaper pail! Many parents, like us, shake cloth diapers over a toilet to remove any loose solids before putting them in the dry pail. As with the other methods, baking soda white vinegar, or essential oils can be used to help control odors. Baking soda can be sprinkled directly into the pail, but vinegar and essential oils should be sprinkled on a cloth wipe or fabric scrap to avoid damaging your diapers.

Advantages to the dry pail method are a lighter pail and safer storage around small children. Many parents also feel that there is less odor to a dry cloth diaper pail, but other parents disagree.
Disadvantages are a possibility of more stains if the diapers dry before being washed, and the need for a diaper pail liner or frequent cleaning of the cloth diaper pail.
Cloth Diaper Pail - Essential Oil To use a dry cloth diaper pail:
  • Line your pail with a washable liner or plan to clean it frequently
  • Sprinkle baking soda, or essential oil in the bottom of the pail if desired
  • Shake any solids off the diapers
  • Separate and unroll diapers before placing in the pail
  • On laundry day, empty the pail and toss the liner into the washer
  • Run a cold rinse
  • Launder as usual

"I use a 10 gal tub w/lid, but for the poo ones, my husband came up with an idea... we knock off the excess poop and then we take the diaper to the sink and use an old toothbrush and wash off the poo that's left with hot as you can take water and then wring the diaper out and throw it in the pail...we have no problems w/staining or smell either." Jackie A, Tulsa OK.

Which Cloth Diaper Pail to Choose?

Cloth Diaper Pail Liner

There are so many diaper pails on the market it's easy to become overwhelmed. Don't worry, you don't need any a fancy diaper pail - any large plastic container with a lid will work! Some parents use a five-gallon bucket, others use a medium-sized trash can. If you plan to use the dry method and don't have room for a cloth diaper pail, try a waterproof pail liner hung on a door knob.

No matter which cloth diaper pail you choose to store your cloth diapers until laundry day, please make sure that it is securely covered and inaccessible to curious children and pets.

More Cloth Diaper Pail Information

Browse the following articles for more information on choosing a cloth diaper pail method.


Happy Cloth Diapering!

Amy Sue

Amy S. Nogar - Owner Zany Zebra Designs, LLC
Cloth Diapering Expert and Advocate

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Cloth Diaper Pail - Wet vs Dry Cloth Diaper Pails

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Pail liner photo courtesy of Happy Tushies







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