Cloth Diaper Pail or a Wet Bag for Storing Cloth Diapers?

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After deciding to start cloth diapering and selecting the cloth diapers you will use for your child, it’s time to look for a couple of accessories that will make your cloth diapering experience easier and cleaner.

One of these will definitely be a pail liner or a wet bag to store dirty cloth diapers.

This post will explain how to store dirty cloth diapers until wash day and how to choose the right accessory to store dirty diapers in (hint: you don’t have to choose just one).

What Is a Pail Liner/Wet Bag?

A cloth diaper pail liner (affiliate link to Amazon) is a large bag, usually made of Polyurethane Laminate (PUL), placed inside a diaper pail or any other large enough container you wish to use. You can also use it without a diaper pail and other containers. PUL is a synthetic water-resistant material that is breathable.

A pail liner inside a plastic wicker basket. It is full of dirty diapers.

Pail liners generally come with a drawstring on top to help fit it nicely around the pail and close it when transferring it from one place to another. A large pail liner can usually fit about 2 or 3 days worth of dirty cloth diapers (about 24 diapers, this depends on the cloth diaper type).

A wet bag generally comes in more sizes than a pail liner, but they are made of the same breathable water-resistant material – PUL. Wet bags are equipped with a zipper and can usually be hung from a door knob or something similar.

It’s also possible to have your wet bag made of wool. If you’re interested in this amazing fiber, I described it more thoroughly in this post.

Smaller wet bags (affiliate link to Amazon) can generally contain about 4-6 dirty cloth diapers. Large ones (affiliate link to Amazon) can fit about 2 or 3 days worth of dirty cloth diapers (about 24 diapers, depending on the cloth diaper type). There are some other middle sizes available as well.

A large hanging wet bag hung from a COLD radiator.

It is important to remember that while PUL is water-resistant, it is not waterproof. This means it can only contain a certain amount of water before soaking through, so ensure you’re not storing dripping wet diapers.

Pro tip: That is especially important when you want to add manually rinsed cloth diapers into the pail liner/wet bag, especially when rinsing fitted diapers that are on the thicker side. You have to squeeze the water out as much as you can before storing them; otherwise, the PUL probably won’t stand it unless it is some heavy-duty pail liner/wet bag.

If you’re noticing leaks with your wet bags, check out this post to learn what to do about it.

You can always resort to your washing machine to squeeze water out by choosing a short rinse program on your washing machine for your nighttime fitted diaper if you’re using this cloth diaper type at night.

Why Do You Need a Pail Liner or a Wet Bag?

After you remove the dirty diapers from your child, you need to store them somewhere until it is time to wash the cloth diaper load.

You can do so in a diaper pail (with or without the pail liner), a regular trash can (with or without the pail liner), a wicker basket, a hanging large wet bag, or various smaller wet bags.

As mentioned, you can store dirty diapers without the pail liner, but you’re risking the pail or any other container getting dirty, and you may have to wash it each time after you empty it.

To answer the question about why you need a pail liner or a wet bag, you need either of those to help keep the diaper pail or any other container you’re using clean while also making sure the diapers are breathing.

If you’re purchasing a diaper pail, don’t miss this complete guide to choosing the perfect diaper pail for your needs.

How Many Pail Liners or Wet Bags Do You Need?

As a general rule, you will need two large diaper pail liners, two large wet bags, or one of each. Additionally, I recommend you own 1-5 smaller wet bags, depending on your lifestyle.

You need two large pail liners/wet bags because when one is being washed and dried, you will need the other to collect dirty diapers for the next wash.

Alternatively, you can use about 3-4 smaller wet bags instead of one large one if you know you won’t need them in the next couple of days.

Smaller wet bags containing 4-6 cloth diapers are also convenient, and I recommend you get at least one.

They are great for stroller rides, shorter car trips, doctor’s appointments, daycare, keeping spare clothes in them, one-day trips, etc.

For outings and doctor’s appointments, I especially like wet bags with a double zipper (affiliate link to Amazon), where I put clean diapers and/or clothes in one compartment and dirty ones in another. That way, you only need one wet bag, where everything you need is within reach.

We took a small wet bag with a double zipper on a walk to a nearby hill.

If your child uses cloth diapers in daycare, small wet bags are perfect for a daycare’s day’s worth of dirty diapers. I usually bring 3 or 4 clean diapers in it in the morning and get it back with soiled diapers in the afternoon when I pick up my child.

I recommend 3 or 4 small wet bags for this if you’re washing cloth diapers every 2-3 days. I prefer to use single-zipper wet bags for daycare, so the caregivers at daycare don’t get confused with different compartments.

The Pros and Cons of Cloth Diaper Pail Liners

Now that I’ve covered the general information about storing cloth diapers let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of cloth diaper pail liners.

can be nicely fitted to the diaper pail due to a drawstringyou need the right diaper pail size to combine with the pail liner
allows the air to circulate around dirty cloth diapers, especially if used without a lidit can attract your child and/or pets to explore dirty diapers
can easily store three days’ worth of dirty diaperscan take up more space because of the diaper pail
can also be hung if the drawstring is strong enoughit can turn from inside out to the other side during the washing cycle
they are generally designed for wet diapers, but if you’re manually rinsing them, excess water needs to be squeezed out as much as possible
the drawstring doesn’t always close all the way
The pros and cons of cloth diaper pail liners.

The Pros and Cons of Wet Bags

Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of wet bags.

take up less space if hangedmight smell more due to being zipped down all the time
many different sizesusually can’t contain as many dirty diapers as a pail liner
some have a double zipper to store clean and dirty diapers without touching in one small wet bagsometimes the zipper is too short on large hanging wet bags to empty dirty diapers into the washing machine effortlessly
small sizes are great for outings and appointmentsthey are generally designed for wet diapers, but if you’re manually rinsing them, excess water needs to be squeezed out as much as possible
needs to be unzipped and zipped at every diaper change
usually doesn’t fit nicely into a diaper pail if you don’t want to hang it
The pros and cons of wet bags.

Which Option for Storing Dirty Cloth Diapers to Choose?

If you’ve checked the above tables about the pros and cons of pail liners and wet bags and still don’t know which to choose, I can help you with some recommendations.

If you live in a house with a dedicated laundry room, you probably have the space for a diaper pail, so you will be okay with either choice.

If you’re on a budget, a hanging wet bag might be more for you because it doesn’t require a diaper pail. Of course, you can always use whatever container you already have at home and you think will be a good size for storing cloth diapers.

A small-sized flat will likely benefit more from a hanging wet bag as well because the diaper pail won’t take up any precious space.

If you live in a hot and humid climate, you’ll probably be best off choosing a diaper pail without a lid to ensure the air can circulate freely. Believe it or not, it will smell less by keeping the lid off.

If you’re worried about any unwanted smells from cloth diapers, check out this post, where we explore the potential smells in more depth.

Another vital factor to consider is your children and/or pets. If they are of the curious kind, it will probably be a safer choice to use a hanging wet bag somewhere out of reach for young children and pets.

Now that we’ve covered these scenarios, let me tell you what I use for storing dirty diapers while living in a small flat with a one- and a three-year-old.

I own one diaper pail liner and one large hanging wet bag but to be fair, they usually always end up being placed on the floor. So far, I haven’t had any issues with children exploring too much.

I did notice that it works better in the summer to place the pail liner into an actual wicking basket I have at home so the air circulates more freely around the diapers.

I also own about 4 or 5 small wet bags, which work great for daycare. I usually keep one in the stroller as well, so we have one or two diaper changes covered if we decide to head to a park after I pick up my children.

Tips for Cloth Pail Liner/Wet Bag Care

Tip 1: After emptying the pail liner or the wet bag into the washing machine, turn it inside out and wash it with cloth diapers. This way, the side that is actually dirty gets cleaned in the washing machine.

It happened to me a couple of times that my pail liner turned itself from the inside out to the other side during the wash cycle, so I wasn’t sure that the inside of the pail liner was adequately cleaned. Sometimes some inserts would remain inside the liners, which is even more of a big deal than a dirty pail liner, whose function is to store dirty cloth diapers anyway.

I solved this by pushing all the dirty diapers out of the pail liner into the washing machine while turning it inside out. Then I pulled the drawstring very strongly as if I wanted to close it all the way. Finally, I secure it with the plastic thing that keeps the drawstring in place. This works well, at least for my large Grovia pail liner (affiliate link to Amazon).

Tip 2: Don’t expose PUL to direct sunshine for too long. Sun can damage the material, causing the PUL to delaminate. Since PUL doesn’t need long to dry, you can also hang it inside or make sure it’s hung in the shadow.

Tip 3: Don’t expose PUL to a direct heat source, such as a radiator, because it will damage it and perhaps even cause a hole. This will make PUL lose its function of resisting water.


When I first became a mom, it shocked me how much more waste we produced by adding a tiny little member to our family. Since then, it's become very important to me to be more sustainable as a family. I'm excited to share with you what I'm learning along the way!

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