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DIY Cloth Diaper Pail

Updated on February 25, 2015

When we made the decision to start cloth diapering, we found out that in addition to the cost of all of those diapers (totalling $340) we would need to have a diaper pail and wet bags to make laundering and diapering out and about easy and odour free.

So I decided to create my own diaper pail. Why? I’m cheap and paying $69 for something I could create myself for less than $20 seemed silly. Plus most of the components I can repurpose in the future.

For a DIY diaper pail to work though, it had to have a few necessary functions:

1) a washable, removable liner
2) odour blocking
3) easy to open (while holding a poopy diaper)

so I set out looking at available diaper pails and came up with a list of a few cheap products at Wal-mart that would fulfill everything on our list and start off our cloth diapering journey.

Materials (linked to similar products):

- Step Can
- activated carbon
- pantyhose (I bought knee highs)
- PUL (waterproof fabric) or Wet Bag


1. Double up the pantyhose then fill with 1/2 cup of activated carbon. Tie off the top end.

2. Measure inner dimensions of step can and create open ended wet bag (with elastic around top hem). Instructions here. Alternatively you could use a ready-made wet bag that is an appropriate size.

3. Place DIY carbon filter in bottom of inner can then line with wet bag, pulling elasticized edge over top.

4. Your diaper pail is ready to use!

My favourite thing about this diaper pail is that it has a foot lever to open the top, so I don’t have to try to open any clasps or lift off a lid while holding a diaper and keeping a squirmy baby on her change pad. The bin is not airtight so that there isn’t any risk of mildew forming and I was worried this would mean that odours would still escape but we have been using the original filter I made in October and still have no odours in her room.

- Another possibility for a liner bag is a mesh laundry bag, which can then be tossed directly into the wash. If using this method, find a way to attach carbon filter to inside the top lid of step can.
- Activated carbon is used as a filter in aquariums, but it has all of the same properties as charcoal.
- To wash: remove wet bag from bin and push diapers out into washer while turning wet bag inside out (meaning no touching dirty diapers!)

For washing diapers, we use soapnuts. They are low sudsing and can be used in high efficiency washers, but contain no chemicals so they will not irritate sensitive baby skin. They work by releasing naturally occurring saponin when the shells are softened by hot water. For diapers (washed in hot water following a cold pre-rinse) we use 4-5 soapnuts in a muslin bag and for cold water washes (Emily’s clothing) I made a liquid detergent by boiling 6 cups of water with 12 soapnuts until reduced to 4 cups. At $47.25 including shipping for a 1kg bag, it works out to around $.12-.15 per load!


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      Angela 3 years ago

      This is wonderful! Can you tell me how often you would change the nylon/carbon filter?

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      armywifejen 3 years ago

      Anna, I used two stick on wall hooks facing opposing ways to hang a nylon filled with activated carbon. Great deodorizer!

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      Jenn 4 years ago

      Great idea for the home made filter, I'm going to try it! We use soap nuts for our cloth diapers too, and love them :)

      Thanks for the tip!

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      Anna 4 years ago

      I noticed in the pic of your diaper pail, there is a hook of some kind in the lid...what do you use it for?