January 28, 2012

Cloth Diaper Care - Wet Pail, Dry Pail or both?

There are two ways to store your wet and dirty diaper laundry. You can use a wet pail or a dry pail. Ever wonder what they are and what the benefits are to using either? I’ve wondered the same thing so I decided to look into it.

The Wet Pail

The wet pail is a pail or bucket that contains water and if you so choose can also have things such as baking soda, white vinegar, or essential oils added to the water. The reason many do this is to help with the smell of the diapers. You should never put bleach or laundry detergent in your wet pail as it’ll ruin your diapers.

The purpose of the wet pail is to soak your diapers until washing day. The major benefit of using a wet pail is that it aids in stain removal. Think of it as the pre-wash or soak that you should do for your diapers on washing day. It also helps in less frequent washings since it’s soaking the diapers for you. The major disadvantage to using a wet pail is that it’s extremely heavy to carry when it’s time for laundry day. It also has the potential to smell bad, although many parents do disagree on the possibility of that claiming that dry
pails smell worse. There is also a potential drowning risk for small children if they get into the pail. If the pail tips…yikes! It’s like an overflowing toilet which isn’t the end of the world but is a pain in the patootie to clean up.

To be prepared and provide a safe environment for your kid(s), you should put your wet pail in a place that they do not have any access to. You can also purchase a pail with a lock on it. If you do decide to use a wet pail or you’re thinking of making the switch here’s how you’d use one: Fill the lined pail ¼ with water. If you want add a ¼ cup of one of the products described above to the water; you can also add all three or try

out different kind of combinations. You should replace the water in your pail daily if not every other day if you are not going to be washing your diapers every day to help with the stink issue (which I hope you don’t b/c that will add wear on your diapers and decrease their longevity). When washing day is here simply take the entire pail to your machine and dump it in.

The Dry Pail
As I’m sure you can guess the dry pail is the opposite of the wet pail. You’ll use a pail or you can use a cloth diaper safe diaper removal system like what you would use if you had disposable diapers. Use a reusable liner and that’s it. Obviously, you’ll shake or rinse the poo off with a diaper sprayer before you put it in the pail (you should do that with a wet pail too). To cut down on odor, like the wet pail, you can add essential oils and/or white vinegar to the dry pail. Do not place any essential oils or vinegar standing in the pail that’s not diluted. That might cause damage to your diapers. If you want to use either solution, simply put some on a cloth wipe and place it in the pail. You can also use baking soda by sprinkling it into your cloth diaper pail liner. This will not harm your diapers and does not need to be diluted.

The advantage of using a dry pail is that it’s significantly lighter and there is no life threatening risk for your kid(s). Some would say that it smells bad but again, like the wet pail, there are very different opinions on that. The major disadvantage of the dry pail is the possibility of frequent stains on your diapers. Unlike the wet pail you will have to add a pre-wash soak into your washing routine to help combat this issue.

The Combination
If you’re really ambitious, you can use a combination of the two systems by having a wet pail and a dry pail. You’ll simply use the wet pail for the dirty diapers (after rinsing the poop off) and the dry pail for wet diapers. You have the best of both worlds if you do this, however, you’ll need a rather large place for the pails as well as a lock for your wet pail. The wet pail is also lighter to transport if you do the combination since it’s only for dirty diapers.

Hopefully this look into wet pails and dry pails has cleared up any confusion you’ve had or any questions you had about why either pail would be used. Happy pailing to you whatever your choice is!

Elizabeth (aka Bert) Anderson married her college sweetheart in 2005, and started her journey into motherhood in 2008 with the birth of her son.  She started blogging in 2009 as a way to keep track of her thoughts on being a first time mom, especially her struggle with postpartum depression, and as a way of reaching out to other moms who are struggling with the same things.  This June, Bert had another first in her motherhood travels - a little girl!  Even though she's newly a mother of two, Bert maintains that no matter how many children you have you will always be a "first time mom" because there's a first time for everything!  Visit her blog, at FTM. Bert is a contributor for She Thinks Media.


I use a wet bag, but the diapers are dry in there. I've used a wet pail before and thought it stunk less, but it was way less appealing because of the weight of lugging it around, and I have a front loader so that wasn't fun to load.

That all said, I have a blog post where I'm asking other cloth diaperers to leave a comment describing their dream diaper, care to participate (you are the first I'm inviting)?

I use a FuzziBunz hanging pail and put teatree oil on the little tab sewn inside. It does a really good job keeping the smell at bay. Even my cat agrees--if the baby pee stink gets to her in the bedroom, she pees on a towel or in a laundry basket in the laundry room.

We used a dry pail for most of our diapering, but I found that when my son was getting his molars, we had to switch to a combination pail since we were rinsing our lots of acidic smelling urine out of the inserts. When we switched to a combination, we used our PUL pail liner in a can like you described, and then I made a medium size travel wetbag for the dry shells. I tried to keep my pocket diapers out of the wet pail because the acidity breaks down the elastic, reducing the lifespan of the diapers.

Okay.. why am I having such a hard time with this? I've read about a dozen sites abou diaper pails and am still slightly confused. I mean, I get it.. but I don't- haha.

Can you tell me if my ideal solution would work?

I'm thinking- I'm gonna go buy a pail, like a typical trash can and buy wither a nylon or PUL liner. When I have a wet diaper, I'll put it in it. When I have a poopy diaper, I'll rinse it out, wring it, and put it in the same one? Sometimes I've read combination pails are two actual separate pails, sometimes I've read them as an actual combination.

Anywho- is what I'm describing right and/or feasible? I'd really like not to lug around a wet pail, but I also want to somewhat pre-rinse a dirty diaper.. but I don't want 2 pails? help!