Dirty Cloth Diaper Storage: How to Keep Your Home Odor-Free

  • By: Ashley
  • Time to read: 9 min.

If you’re like most parents, you’re probably using cloth diapers to save money and help the environment. But what do you do with all of those dirty diapers?

If you’re not careful, your home can start to smell like a diaper genie! In this guide, we will discuss how to store your dirty cloth diapers so that they don’t stink up your home.

One of the most frequent questions we’re asked by mums who are interested in cloth diapering is where do I store them until they’re going to be washed? And then how do you travel with cloth diapers (a travel wet bag!). So let’s dive right into this.

Where Do You Store Soiled Cloth Diapers?

With disposable diapers, dirty diaper storage is easy, you just shove them in the garbage bag when you’ve finished changing diapers.

But with cloth diapers, the first thing you need to do is find a place to store your dirty diapers. This can be a diaper pail, a wet bag, or even a garbage can with a lid.

Just make sure that the container you choose has good ventilation so that the diapers can air out.

How Often to Wash Diapers

Once you have your dirty storage container, you’ll need to decide how often you want to wash your diapers. Some parents wash their diapers every day, while others wait a few days in between washes.

Whenever you decide to wash, you’ll need to make sure that you shake the solids out of the diapers before storing them. This will help prevent the buildup of bacteria.

You will need someone to store your clean diapers, we’ve covered clean diaper storage here.

Diaper Pails or Wet Bags?

Fortunately, there are now various options available for storing soiled cloth diapers, with a wide range of diaper bags, diaper pails and diaper wet bags readily available.

The choice is entirely yours. Both have their pros and cons, I must admit I fall into the hanging wet bags tribe as it is just so easy to put it on a door knob, then come laundry day through the whole lot into the washing machine. It keeps the mess contained and keeps the diapers until wash safe and away from prying hands.

Cloth Diaper Pails

Traditionally, diaper pails have been the ‘must have’ for dirty cloth diaper storage. However, the old-fashioned image of a pail filled with solution and dirty diapers propped up in a corner is no longer applicable.

Cloth diaper pails are effectively just pails with fitted lids to store dirty cloth diapers, either dry or wet. Some of the fitted lids will have odor disks in, and this allows for good air flow.

Diaper Pail Pros & Cons

Wet Pailing

If you opt for wet pailing (read our guide to dry pailing vs wet pailing here), pros include the fact that stains on the diapers won’t set and you won’t need to prewash them.

However, by storing wet, the removal of the lid can lead to pungent smells in the whole room and even the house and you’ll also need to pour the dirty water down the sink, which may not appeal to you.

There’s also the threat of the pail being knocked over, or a small child opening it and it could even be a drowning hazard if its a wet pail.

On the positive side, however, the fact that the pail smells, means that the urine in the diapers has been drawn out and so they’ll be a little cleaner when going into the machine. 

If you do decide to go for the wet option – and are only washing every other day – then you’ll have to change the water at night time to prevent the smell from becoming too strong. It’s a bit of a faff to remove all the wet things and then empty water and redo.

Dry Pailing

Alternatively, you may decide to go for the dry pailing option. Dry pailing is particularly popular with parents, who aren’t washing diapers daily – or even every other day! 

Dry pailing simply means that you store the diapers in the pail – but don’t fill it with water or any other agents. Perhaps rather surprisingly, you’ll hardly notice the smell coming from the diaper pail with dry pailing – probably because there’s no dirty water stagnating in it!

With dry pailing, you’ll have to rinse the dirty diapers prior to putting them into the pail, as this will stop the stains from setting. 

Dry pailing is also very popular with parents from a logistical perspective, since a pail that is full of dry-pailed diapers can be easily tipped into the washing machine – particularly if it’s a front loader. 

Also, unlike wet pailing, you’ll not have to incur the cost of sanitising agents!

Modern cloth diapers don’t need to be left soaking and in fact with pocket diapers or AIO’s soaking them may lead to PUL issues. Wet storage used to be required when you had old fashioned terry diapers which needed to be soaked to be kept soft, but thankfully modern fabrics just don’t need to be soaked any more so the days of wet pails may be numbered!

Diaper Pail Liners

Regardless of whether you decide to go for the wet or dry pailing option, you’ll need to invest in a couple of diaper pail liners.

These are fast becoming ‘must haves’ when using pails, mainly because they allow you to lift all of the dirty diapers out of the basket without touching them, and, once you’ve put the diapers into the washing machine, you can simply pop the mesh liner in with them!

A pail liner can be anything from pul bags or mesh bags and they basically mean you don’t need to be touching dirty diapers when putting them into the washing machine, a big bonus if you are cloth diapering!

Diaper Hanging Wet Bags

These are essentially extra-large wet bags. If you don’t want to have a diaper pail sitting in your home – wet or dry – you can always opt for a diaper wet bag (also sometimes called a diaper wetbag).

These are simply waterproof bags that you can pop your dirty diapers into – similar to dry pailing.

The wet bags come in a variety of sizes and are suitable for a range of quantities – from a small version for holding your washable wipes, to the largest size a hanging wet bag, which can hold up to 30-odd diapers! 

Wet bags are particularly popular with parents, who may be a little short on space at home – mainly because they can be hung up on the back of a door on door knobs – which obviously keeps them out of the reach of little, inquisitive hands!

Wet bags are also very popular thanks to their versatility. Whether you’re looking for a storage bag at home, want to pop one into your changing bag for when you’re out and about, or want to leave one with your child’s nursery or childminder, there’s bound to be a bag that will suit your needs!

One of the main benefits of a hanging diaper pail over a traditional diaper pail is space! You can just hang the large wet bag on the back of a door or even the changing table, rather than taking up extra space like a laundry basket in the laundry room. They take up much less floor space.

How Do You Keep Dirty Cloth Diapers From Smelling?

Disposable diapers kept in your garbage will smell after a few days due to the human waste which is left to sit on them. Your trash bag full of disposable diapers will smell, even if you wrap them in plastic bags. If you have more than one child, this can be a nightmare.

However, if you are storing dirty diapers in a diaper bag before you do it’s recommended to give them a swish with a diaper sprayer.

This removes any of the baby poo so when it comes to wash day, there is a lot less odor to deal with. The poop is dealt with by your septic system, just as it should be!

If you have an exclusively breastfed child, the poop might be super watery, don’t worry its water-soluble and the diaper sprayer will get the worst of it into the toilet.

You can also put some essential pols for odor control in your diaper pail. Some diapers have special odor disks to deal with this, but honestly a few drops of your favorite oil into the

How Long Can Cloth Diapers Sit Before Washing?

Really soiled diapers should not be left in a pail liner or hanging wet bags for more than three days. After this, both smells and stains will set in.

The longer you leave a dirty diaper the worse both the smell and stains will be, especially if they are poopy breast milk diapers.

Diaper Sprayer

A diaper spray is ideal to clean any solid waste from the wet diapers. It can be plumbed into your toilet and is actually a fantastic tool when it comes to dealing with dirty diapers. Just sluice through your soiled diapers then flush your toilet.

Interestingly diaper sprayers and not legal in the UK due to some plumbing regulations, so they are really only used in US.

Sanitising Agents

Many people think that it’s necessary to sterilise reusable or cloth diapers in a sanitising agent, but it’s really not! In fact, the Real diaper Association recommends that it’s not necessary at all if you wash your diapers at 60°.

When it comes to sanitising agents, stay well away from bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, bleach and harsh stain removers as these aren’t necessary.

Sanitising powders are now also available, although some diaper companies have recently suggested that they may cause ‘balding’ on diapers.

So what would we suggest using? Well, if you are thinking essential oils, tea tree oil is great thanks to its antibacterial properties, but it may be too strong for some babies and could cause a rash, so it might be a better idea to go for something gentler, such as lavender.

Also, remember that wraps shouldn’t be sanitised! That’s because the sanitising agent may have an adverse effect on the waterproof layer. If you are wet pailing, simply remove the wrap before you put the diaper into the pail, and rinse it as soon as you can to avoid staining. Then, simply place it to one side until you’re putting on a wash!

The Bottom Line on Storing Soiled Diapers

Soiled diapers should not be left in a pail liner or hanging wet bags for more than three days. After this, both smells and stains will set in. The longer you leave a dirty diaper the worse both the smell and stains will be, especially if they are poopy breast milk diapers.

If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your dirty diapers from smelling, we recommend using a diaper sprayer. This will remove any of the baby poo so when it comes to wash day, there is a lot less odor to deal with.

Whether you choose hanging wet bags or a diaper pail, make sure to empty it out frequently to keep smells at bay. You can also use essential oils to help with odor control. Just a few drops in your diaper pail will do the trick!

If you are travelling or for out and about invest ina few travel wet bags. These are perfect for storing any soiled diapers until you can get home to wash them. You can use a wet bag for just about anything else when you’re on the go too, like holding extra clothes or even snacks!

So there you have it, everything you need to know about storing soiled cloth diapers. Just remember, the key is to empty your diaper pail frequently and to use a diaper sprayer for any solid waste. And if you’re using essential oils, a few drops will go a long way!

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