When I realized cloth diapers were a budget must for my son, the biggest fear I had was storage. When I was growing up, the cloth diaper pail my mother used was an old green bucket with a lid, filled with stale water, a touch of bleach, and shunned to the back corner of my parents’ closet. This was a piece of my childhood I had no nostalgic yearning to relive.
Thankfully, just as cloth diapers have evolved, so have cloth diaper pails. The idea isn’t complicated: you need a container with lid (like a small garbage can) and a couple cloth diaper pail liners (plastic-lined cloth bags that fit on the inside, like a garbage bag would. Basically… you need a garbage can). Buying a fancy pail made just for cloth diapers isn’t necessary, because as long as you wash frequently, you won’t have smell issues (and no specially-made cloth diaper pail, no matter how fancy, will help you avoid the stink if you don’t).
Here’s a quick run-down of your storage options:
Wet Pail Method
Diaper pail is filled with water (and sometimes an additive like vinegar or bleach), and diapers are soaked until wash day.
Dry Pail Method
Diapers are placed into a dry diaper pail and stored until wash day.
Combination Pail Method
Diapers are rinsed of waste (filling them with water), then placed into a water-free diaper pail until wash day.
Now that you know your options, let me tell you which NOT to use: the wet pail system.
Not only do many cloth diaper manufacturers discourage the use of wet pails, they are heavy, messy, and begging to breed bacteria. Most importantly, they’re a drowning hazard, and almost impossible to use if you own a front-loader like me (trying to pour sewage water sideways into the drum does not end well).
That leaves the dry pail and the combination pail, which are essentially the same set-up. Each one is a lined container with a lid, but the way waste is removed from the diapers changes the definition. If you don’t rinse your diapers before storing, you have a dry pail. If you do, you have a combination pail.
Though on first glance a combination pail makes the most sense (rinse the waste out rather than let it sit around!), the dry pail method works wonderfully. We’ve used it for the past year with no hiccups, though we used flushable liners to catch poop before my kiddo was a toddler (and having bathroom breaks that didn’t glue itself to the diaper). It’s also a little more user-friendly than the combination pail.
For more information, check out forums on Baby and Bump or Baby Center, or around ask at a local cloth diaper store.