To Wet or Dry Pail It…That Is The Question

October 18, 2008

Washing Cloth Diapers

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I have always used a dry pail.  Even written about how I would never use a wet pail.  Until now.

The stinkiness just got to be too much.  My husband and oldest daughter complained incessantly about the smell of Paisley’s diapers.  Haley (my oldest) was always calling for me to change Paisley’s “stinky pee” when in fact the diaper was dry!

So one day as I was in the yard giving my dry pail a bath it dawned on me that perhaps I could give the wet pail a chance.  I have read that adding Bac-out was the best additive to a wet pail but all I had in the house was Oxyclean (and a knock-off at that).

Things seemed to be going well until I realized a week later that the diapers had MAJOR build-up and the stink was always there…albeit a different stink than before.  So after 6 (!!!) rinse/wash combos I either gave up or the bubbles were gone, not quite sure.

After that the diapers smelled wonderful and they weren’t leaking anymore- leaking is often a result of build-up.  But, I was left wondering which pail I should go with again.  I resorted back to the dry pail until I was able to get some Bac-Out.  Today I am at day 1 of using a wet pail with Bac-out.  I am praying this solution works flawlessly.

For those who are like myself and get quesy at the thought of a cess-pool wet pail, let me tell you what I do.  First, I began thoroughly cleaning poopy diapers in the toilet.  I’m a wimp so I bought the Clorox non-latex disposable gloves (don’t worry I wash them after every use and store them so I don’t actually toss the gloves in the trash ;) ).  This allows me the ability to remove all debris and then toss the diaper and wipes in the pail.

Second, when it comes time to put them in the washer I just dump the whole thing in.  But don’t do what my husband did lol.  Make sure the handles (our pail has handles) are out of the way or else the diapers will get hung up and you’ll actually have to touch them.

I am still in the early learning phase of this new venture but I am optimistic.  I have certainly learned to never say never!

Please share your wet pail routines and I will keep you updated on our progress.


About Autumn Beck

Autumn is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, friend and most important a follower of Christ. She began cloth diapering in 2005 and has experienced many joys and trials throughout the years. You can read more from Autumn over at

View all posts by Autumn Beck

25 Responses to “To Wet or Dry Pail It…That Is The Question”

  1. Kate @ Says:

    Are you still using the wet pail method? I am having stink problems with our Bumgenius Elemental AIOs and I’m thinking about trying out the wet pail to see if it helps. So far the blue Dawn method has not worked and I’m not sure what else I can try since the manufacturer says not to use Vinegar or boiling. They also say no wet pail, however, I’m assuming that it for drowning risk and liability reasons.


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      what detergent are you using? bg does recommend bleach…you could give it a try.


    • Deanna Says:

      I say start a wet pail revolution! I use this method on Grovia AIO newborns for 6 months. My daughter was a preemie so the AIO have lasted longer. I use Tiny Bubbles to wash so I simply use I tsp in a gallon bucket for soaking. I wash every other day. No build up, no stink, no excess wear. I think all this hog wash about dry pails is silly. Dried urine plus dried poop = dried in stink! I do not over complicate the wash routine. One Kind of soap 1 tsp plus one day of soak = one load of clean dipes! Good for you if you join the dry pail revolt!


  2. Jackie V Says:

    Would you recommend using a wet pail with borax? My grandmother said that’s how she washed her cloth diapers back in the day, but I didn’t know if that would be safe for the newer types like AIO’s. Right now I use a dry pail with nothing in it, and every time I do laundry the ammonia smell almost knocks me out when I lift the lid! So, just wondering if you think this would help, and not mess up my dipes? Thanks!


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      I’m not as familiar with borax as I should be! I know moms use wet pails in many different ways: RLR, baking soda, Rockin’ Green, Clean B, or nothing but water. If I were going to use a wet pail I would have a diaper sprayer. The thought of fecal matter floating makes me nauseous.


  3. Jackie L Says:

    I use a wet pail, but I don’t take the diapers out of the wet pail one by one to throw them in the washer. I just dump the whole pail in the washer (carefully!) and put it on spin cycle to drain the water. It seems a lot easier…BUT you do have to lift the pail. I use three small buckets rather than a large pail and wash my prefolds every 3-4 days.


  4. Denise Says:

    I also use a Wahmies pail liner in my dry pail…they have a little tab of cloth inside where you can drop a few drops of tee tree oil which really helps with odors. Thw Wahmies liners are great too since you don’t have to touch the dirty diapers when putting them in the wash.


  5. Anna Waterson Says:

    Naver say is always worth to try something that we haven’t tried before. As it appeared in your situation – it might bring a big difference!


  6. Kathleen Says:

    I am having super stink problems, especially with our nighttime diapers. They smell clean out of the dryer, but as soon as they are peed in they smell horrible (and not like ammonia). I have a front loader that is new and the problem has gotten much worse since I started using it. I think I will try a wet-pail with bac-out in it and see if that helps.


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Kathleen, definitely sounds like your diapers have some build-up in them. Give the wet pail a try. Have you tried doing a pre-wash with Bac-out?


  7. Omeria's Mom Says:

    If your diapers are unbarable.. I would ask “what diapers are you using?” AIOs are crazy at holding everything in… they are supper thick and need to be washed several time or at least with a pre-wash. Make sure you put the poo in the toilet as soon as you can! I do it at every change as long as there is a bathroom close. A pre-wash with Dawn dish detergent is a quick n cheap sold water pre-wash that will strip diapers before a nice hot long cycle with your normal detergent. I use prefolds, they just don’t stink. They are supper cost effective, easy to wash/dry. I alternate my Prorap covers at everychange to give them a chance to air dry before using again!


  8. Omeria's Mom Says:

    If your diapers are unbarable.. I would ask “what diapers are you using?” AIOs are crazy at holding everything in… they are supper thick and need to be washed several time or at least with a pre-wash. Make sure you put the poo in the toilet as soon as you can! I do it at every change as long as there is a bathroom close. A pre-wash with Dawn dish detergent is a quick n cheap sold water pre-wash that will strip diapers before a nice hot long cycle with your normal detergent. I use prefolds, they just don’t stink. They are supper cost effective, easy to wash/dry. I alternate my Prorap covers at everychange to give them a chance to air dry before using again!


  9. Chaingo Says:

    I used to use vinegar when I washed the diapers. However, I’ve started using baking soda. With vinegar occasionally my son would smell like a pickle. With the baking soda the diapers no longer smell, and it doesn’t take much baking soda to do the job.


  10. mrs spock Says:

    We use a dry pail with a Wahmies pail liner. I turn the bag inside out as I’m dumping it in the washer, so I don’t touch a yucky diaper. We spray out a dirty diaper right away with the BG sprayer connected to the toilet. My husband bought tow small garbage cans from target, cut holes in the bottom of one, and put it in the toilet, so we can hang them there to dry. We then use the 2nd pail to hold the sprayed out diapers. I’ve never had an issue with post-washing stinky diapers. We always use a hot wash cycle with a presoak containing vinegar, and vinegar in the rinse cycle.


  11. Autumn Beck Says:

    Here is some info I’ve posted in the past about Bac-Out.

    Things are going really well so far with the wet pail!


  12. Jenn Ruse Says:

    I, too, am a big fan of the dry pail (actually hanging wetbag) but have a lot of stink problems. I was reading on diaperswappers the other day and thought about trying the wetpail method; however, I can’t handle the “ick factor” (surprising, since I can handle almost anything). So, I kept using the dry pail method, but started doing an overnight soak in the washing machine. I did Oxyclean the first several times, but it didn’t make much difference with the stink. I don’t have any bac-out, so that’s not an option right now, either. I’ve tried the BG spray, but don’t notice much difference with that. Last night I put about 1 cup of baking soda in, so I’ll see how that does. I CAN tell you that with the overnight soak, basically making my washing machine a wet pail, the diapers have been coming out cleaner w/less staining. I have always had a lot of trouble w/stink and buildup, so I’m also using Calgon water softener in the wash cycle and that has helped some, too.
    Can’t wait to hear how this works for everyone else! :)


  13. Crys Says:

    I’m still a little new to cloth diapering, but have encountered the stinky, all ready washed diapers already. So, this is what we do now… At night I run a cold rinse cycle with baking soda. I leave the lid up on my machine so the water stays in and the diapers soak all night. The next morning I let the water run out then wash the diapers. I put white vinegar in a downy ball during the wash and us All free and clear. Now we have smell free diapers.


  14. Kaui Says:

    This is so funny because I recently got overwhelmed and fed up with my daughter’s stinky diapers too. So I went to the nearest store in my town that sells cloth diapers and what a breath of fresh air! The owner of the store uses cloth diapers herself so she was very schooled in all the questions I asked her. She told me that she rinsed ALL of her girls’ diapers as soon as she changed them, including the ones that just had pee in them. Then, the night before she was going to wash her diapers she soaked them in cold water so that they could sit overnight with a drop of dawn. The next day she’d wash the diapers twice and that’s it! I have since adopted these techniques and am in shock at how quickly the stink went away and as an added bonus the diapers absorb so much more! What a relief!


  15. Erika Cripe Says:

    what exactly is Bac-out and where do you get it? I’m using a dry pail but my baby is only 2 1/2 months. So far, we do not have problems but I think we will as she gets older


  16. Danielle Says:

    I am new to cloth diapering, but have always used the wet pail. It does not stink and I do not find it gross either. I have a sprayer hooked up to my toilet plumbing. I do not need gloves I simply spray the diapers off into the toilet while holding one edge, Then use a small “travel bucket” which I bring out to the laundry room. I keep a large bucket in the industrial sink with cold water and vinegar. I soak the diapers there. When it comes time for wash, my sink is side by side my washer so I pull each diaper out off the water with the tip of my two fingers and straight into the wash. I then dump the bucket down the sink and start again. I never thought I would even consider cloth diapering, but I’m glad I did. It’s easy, cheap and earth friendly! I also learned not to use soap in my wet pail, when my son got a rash and I had to strip my diapers about 6 cycles because of all the soap they had in them, and they smelt bad even after washing.


  17. Dada Says:

    Thanks Autumn,

    Just this morning, a related question was what I asked my husband after he finished changing our little James: “did you close the diaper tight before putting it in the (dry) pail, because it stinks?” I’ve try those disks to put into the pail but nothing helped and since we started with the solids, it’s just a constant issue of bad smell (James is 8 1/2 months).
    By the way, we are use now disposables for that he goes to Daycare and they don’t accept cloths. So any tips to reduce that smell would be more than welcomed.

    Thanks, Dada


  18. Rachel Says:

    Instead of doing a wet pail I just do a pre soak with bac-out. If I fill the washer with cold water and bac-out, soak the diapers for an hour or so, then do hot wash/cold rinse/cold rinse I don’t have anymore stinkies.

    I also have to wash every other day no matter what. Doing a smaller load also helps.


  19. Heidi Says:

    The stink of my diapers has gotten totally out of control too. It hasn’t just been in the pail. I pull them out of the washer and they still stink.

    I was given a Laundry Pure (made by Ecoquest Intl) so I no longer have to use laundry deterget. It uses silver ion technology and has worked well for everything but removing the stink from my diaps. I know it isn’t detergent build up because there’s nothing to build up anymore.
    I’d seen a special spray made for BumGenius to help fight odors. I got it in the mail yesterday just before I stuck my diapers in the wash.

    Ideally you would spray your diapers before you stick them in the pail, but I did it right before they went in the wash. I could tell a difference before I even closed the door. Normally the smell is so overwhelming I have to leave the room a few times. Since I was spraying it took even longer, but I managed to stay in the room the entire time. When I took the diapers out of the wash I was amazed! They have no smell at all. They smell of NOTHING…detergent, pee, nothing. I even used it on my plain old cotten prefolds and all my covers. It worked like a charm!

    I tested it overnight by leaving both son’s diapers out after being sprayed. Normally the stench would be too much to bare, but now you’d never know 2 diapers had been laying on the counter all night.

    Like I said, its made for BG, but says it can be used on much more. For $8.50 (includes shipping) it was worth every penny. I bought it here:

    Sorry I rambled, but I hope all that info helps give a good idea of how the product works!


  20. Michelle Says:

    Well, I won’t say never but… well, I just don’t see the advantage of a wet pail yet. Maisie’s dipes aren’t too stinky… ask me again in a few months!


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