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I was naive about a lot of things when I was a new mom. I also assumed it trapped all odors inside.
Yes, I'm aware that it's a container filled with pee and poop. As in urine and feces. That sits for days. Sometimes baking, as if in an oven, during the summer months. But it didn't matter, the pail trapped in the stench. It said so on the box, right?
I was wrong. And made aware of this by my friend's 7 year-old son. "Ugh," he said as he walked in our house. "I forgot how it always smells like Archer's dirty butt in here."
Bam. From the mouth of babes comes truth. One I needed to know.
Diaper pails emit a wretched odor. The first few months it's present for just a brief moment, only when it's open. Soon, it starts to linger after it's shut. Like a heavy cloud of rot and misery that hangs at nose-height in your nursery. Finally, anywhere from 6-12 months later, there's no area that's safe. The aroma overtakes your home like the smoke from a raging wildfire. A poo wildfire.
I was at a loss. Of course I'd been cleaning it. Emptied it frequently. In fact, I didn’t even use it for a month in the summer to avoid the aforementioned poo bake in the July heat.
I decided to turn to my army of moms on Instagram for help. Here’s what they said:
- Clean it. Before you roll your eyes and say "duh," let me explain. Soap and water are lovely, but you need to get industrial. Baking soda and vinegar. Bleach. Alcohol. Lysol. Maybe even all of it. Be sure to do this outside or somewhere with good ventilation. Plastic pails can absorb or erode, so be sure to test a small area first.
- Essential oils. Peppermint oil was recommended multiple times. It’s pretty potent: try diluting it with water in a spray bottle. Use for cleaning and maintenance sprays.
- Double-bag it. In addition to lining your pail with a bag, buy dog poo bags. Wrap up your diaper in one and then place it in the lined pail.
- Air and sun. Many moms leave their pails outside at least one night a week. Some also let it sit in the sun to kill any bacteria.
- Dryer sheets. Drop in a scented dryer sheet, between the pail and liner. You can also add a second inside the bag. If you have those scented wash beads you can shake some in also.
- Relocate. When the smell gets too strong it may be time to move. The pail, not your entire home. We ended up taking ours out of the nursery and into our laundry room.
- Coffee. Another reason it's mom's best friend. The grounds can help absorb odor. Wrap some up in a filter – even used grounds will work – and drop into the bag.
- Cut down on poop. Try to avoid putting poop diapers in the pail. Either drop the dump in the toilet (if possible), or take the diaper to the outside garbage immediately.
- Keep the count low. The longer the diapers sit, the more they smell. Consider emptying the bag nightly or don’t let the count get much higher than 10.
- Deodorizer discs. Many pails are made to accommodate a disc with baking soda or other deodorizers. Use one. Even if yours doesn’t technically hold one you can drop it in the bottom.
- Spray. Each time you empty the pail spray the inside. Diluted alcohol or vinegar, Lysol. Take your pick. Keep a spray bottle near the pail – but out of reach for little ones – so you don’t forget.
- Buy a new one. When all else fails you may need to buy a new pail. Many moms pick up a fresh pail for each baby. It's frustrating, and not the most cost-efficient approach. But can you really put a price on keeping the smell of poo from invading your family dinners?
For more mom moments, follow me on Instagram at Witty Otter.
Images by Becky Vieira
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.