The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Diaper Pail

The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Diaper Pail

You line your diaper pail, so there’s virtually no need to clean it, right?


Diaper pails tend to get pretty stinky, pretty quickly—even with a liner.

So, it’s essential that you clean and maintain it regularly.

The whole point of a pail is to take the stink away, right?

So, read on to learn how you can do that—whether you use disposables or reusables—each time you utilize the pail.

After all, you just don’t have the time to run every dirty diaper out to the trash!

Why So Stinky?

Oftentimes when I open my diaper pail, I cringe at the sour smells coming forth from it.

What’s making the can itself stink so badly?

One big, bad word—bacteria!

In a closed system, bacteria grows and thrives.

So, you don’t get a whiff of anything stinky until you open the lid.

It’s good for the rest of your house, but unfortunate for the user who is doing the discarding.

Also, mold can really muck things up in the pail. Wet diapers and the lack of airflow in the can will invite mold and other fungi to gather.

This also not just makes things dank and stinky, it could cause health problems to those in your home if the pail is left unattended to for a long period of time.

An abundance of mold can cause headaches respiratory problems, and even allergic reactions to those who are susceptible.

In addition to mold and bacteria, the solid waste itself is still probably hanging around.

Most moms don’t know that anything solid should be shook into the potty, and then the soiled diaper should be rinsed off before tightly rolling it into a ball and wrapped in a plastic bag before discarding it.

I certainly never knew there was a “preferred” way to pass off poop, but ever since I started using this method, I’ve noticed significantly less stinky situations in my diaper pail.

Yes, it takes a bit more time and effort—and to be honest, a toilet sprayer installed—but it’s been a diaper changing game changer for me.

What You Can Do About It…

Cleaning the Pail Weekly

I was surprised to read that most diaper pail companies suggest you thoroughly clean the pail every three months.

The first time I tried that, everyone in my house agreed I dropped the ball and let the cleaning time period go on for far too long.

How to Choose the Best Diaper Pail

The right diaper pail can help keep the stink out! Check out our guide to choosing the best one.

As a mom, you quickly learn to adapt and do things right the next time around.

So, I started cleaning my diaper pail weekly.

It didn’t take more than five minutes, and I just deemed it as a “chore” and worked it into rotation during my weekly cleaning sessions.

How to Clean Your Diaper Pail

To clean the pail, first remove everything from inside.

Then fill up a medium sized bucket with warm, soapy water.

Then, saturate a sponge and get busy! Scrub every nook and cranny, and even clean the outside.

Then, hose it down and let it air dry outside. In addition to it’s fast drying time, the sun's heat zaps any bacteria or left over residue hanging out on the pail.

The Baking Soda Trick

For more intense odors (and sometimes sneaky stains), I sprinkle a bit of baking soda into my soapy mixture.

Then, once it completely dries, I also add some baking soda to the bottom of the canister before topping it off with a fresh bag. This works wonders!

However, I know a few moms who prefer to sprinkle some tea trea oil (natural disinfector) to the bottom of the pail and inside the liner, or they swear by borax and vinegar mixed together to do the cleaning rather than soap.

I say pick your poison, because all methods are pretty easy to try and pretty darn effective.

Cloth Diaper Pail Cleaning

If you opt to use cloth diapers, you aren’t alone.

There are many mommas who prefer reusables because they are concerned with the environment and also what comes in contact with their baby’s gentlest parts.

So, in order to properly dispose of them until you’re ready to wash, there are a few helpful steps you need to take to ensure that your home isn’t taken over by odor.

The first thing you’ll need to do is repeat the same steps as you would if you were dealing with disposable diapers. All contents need to be rinsed, and shaken out in the toilet.

Then, be sure to place the soiled diaper in a pail that is filled with at least an inch of water in the bottom. This helps to not only treat the soiled part of the diaper, but soak up some of the smell.

When your diapers are ready to be transported to the wash, be sure to drain out your pail in the potty, flush, and start to treat the pail itself.

Because cloth diapers aren’t wrapped up and concealed in an airtight bag, it is essential that you clean out the canister daily.

Once your baby goes to bed for the night, it’s time for you to get to work on wash and also sanitizing the pail.

Simply apply the strategies learned above with cleaning a disposable diaper can and carefully dry out the inside with a paper towel or designated cloth to ensure mold does not develop.

Additional Tips

Here are a few additional tips when it comes to cleaning and caring for your diaper pail and personal health and safety:

  • Deodorizing Bars Are Nice. But they’re just temporary. They need to be replaced weekly in order to be highly effective and cutting down on that initial, yucky, whiff of air you get when you open the container. Consider making your own!
  • Essential Oils Help. Some essential oils can help mask smells and keep things fresh. Grapefruit, Tangerine, and other citrus oils are nice scents that are also safe to use around young children.
  • Utilize an Open Air System. Yes, really. This can be helpful if you religiously rinse out your diapers and wrap them up tightly in a securely sealed bag. Because air doesn’t get trapped into the pail, you’ll deal with far less bacteria, stench, and even mold! Just empty the container each night. If you don’t want to go truly “open” then consider drilling a few holes throughout your closed system can to get some ventilation going!
  • Try Scented Trash Bags. Most moms line their pails with trash bags. Some companies on the market make scented trash bags in just the right size to fit your pail. They help keep things smelling fresh in between your major cleans and reduces that in your face odor you experience when cracking open the can.
  • Designate a Sponge. If you are using a sponge for cleaning purposes, be sure to not get it mixed up with your other sponges or cloths. This bad boy should only be used on your diaper pail and should be tossed at the end of each month. You should also keep it inside an airtight bag so it is away from everything else in your cleaning closet.
  • Use Rubber Gloves. Don’t forget to wear rubber gloves when dealing with your diaper pail. It’s just an extra precaution to take because you will sometimes be unpleasantly surprised if your liner gets ripped and leaks. Yuck!
  • Have Multiple Diaper Pails. Yes, this may create some more work for you in the long run, but I’ve found that you deal with far less serious smells. Plus, it’s just nice to have a pail on every level of your home for convenience.
  • Use Doggie Doo-Doo Bags. Your local dollar stores probably carry doggie doo-doo bags. You can get a lot on a roll (and also multiple packs) for just a buck. These bags are ideal to keep next to your toilet and use to wrap up soiled (but rinsed) diapers. They are a lot easier to store and more cost effective than ziplock bags.
  • Invest in Disposable Gloves. This just makes things easier when you’re unloading contents into the toilet or using a hose to rinse stuff out!

Wrapping Up

Not sure about the last time you scrubbed and sanitized your diaper pail?

Then, it’s time to get to work.

Consider all the cleaning tips and tricks above to make sure your diaper pail is not just clean as a whistle, but your home is always fresh smelling and the air is safe and pleasant to breathe in!


Hi there, I'm Kate! I started Maternity Glow to be a place for new and expecting moms to come to for practical pregnancy advice, parenting tips, and baby care tricks.

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