How to Dispose of Diapers The Right Way (& What To Avoid)

It’s inevitable. Babies pee and poop A LOT. Sometimes, it feels as though half of your day consists of changing dirty diapers and the other half is spent feeding. It’s a vicious cycle, and we understand your pain.

Most parents don’t think twice about throwing those dirty diapers in the trash. However, just as with everything else involved with parenting, there are right and wrong ways of doing things.

So, it should come as no surprise, (well, maybe) that there are do’s and don’ts of pitching diapers. Who knew?!

There are varying approaches on how to take care of discarding disposable diapers and cloth diapers that are both environmentally safe and not insulting to the nostrils.

It’s a topic that most parents are in the dark about – but fear not! We’re here to enlighten you so the next time you toss that diaper, you’ll know exactly what you need to do.

How Do I Get Rid Of Disposable Diapers?

1) Dump & Rinse

Say what?! It’s safe to bet that many of us have been doing this all wrong. There are actually instructions listed on the diaper box which state that we should be doing this step. This consists of first dumping the poo in the potty, and rinsing the soiled diaper afterward.

2) Wrap It

Basically, you want to wrap the soiled diaper into itself to form a ball and use the sticky tabs to secure the bundle.

3) Seal It

You’ll want to toss the diaper into a sealed container of some sort. At this point, most opt for a diaper pail.

If you use a diaper pail, you’ll want to sanitize occasionally with an all-purpose cleaner to minimize odors.

You could also purchase airtight bags, but this option can get expensive. More resourceful parents have used other methods. We’ll cover more on this later.

4) Wash Hands

Of course, anytime you handle toxic materials, you’ll want to wash your hands.

What If I’m On The Go?

There will be times when you don’t have the luxury of the diaper pail.

Perhaps you’re flying to a relative’s house and your child decides to pee/poop on the plane. (Despite your best efforts to coax them to go 20 minutes before that in the airport bathroom).

Or, it happens when you’re taking that family road trip.

Don’t let panic strike you if you smell something awry. Nature calls whenever and wherever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared.

Ways To Handle Soiled Diapers While Out And About

Ziploc bag

Some parents have a container of baggies in each car.

If you have an infant, you can get away with using the quart sized ones. However, as your child gets older, and the diaper size gets bigger, you’ll want to purchase the gallon sized bags.

Just toss the dirty diaper into the bag and seal it up. Dispose of the bag when you reach your destination. Just don’t forget to take it out of the car!

Grocery Bag

Most people have these stored up somewhere in the house.

This is a less expensive option than the first. Check out this video on how to double wrap a diaper using a bag.

Essentially, you twist the bag, wrap it over itself and tie the handles together. This creates an extra barrier to block the smell.

Doggie Bag

Most hiking trails and neighborhoods have posts with bags available to deal with dog doody.

There are also several brands, such as Munchkin Arm & Hammer, that are glorified doggie bags.

You can clip this handy dispenser to your stroller, purse, beach tote, or diaper bag and take care of messy situations on the fly. Bags vary in scent, and refill bags are relatively cheap.

Airsick Bag

If you’re traveling on a plane, you’ll want to be mindful of disposing of a diaper in such a confined, shared space.

Be sure to toss the diaper in the airsick bag and seal it up. These are provided for each passenger, so if your travel buddy is not queasy, you can have more than one available to you.

Flight regulations dictate that a flight attendant cannot handle your diaper during food service, so be aware of this.

You may need to dispose of the diaper yourself in the plane’s bathroom receptacle.

What Happens If I Don’t Properly Dispose Of A Diaper?

Environmental Harm

Dealing with feces can pose a health hazard, so you should dump the excrement in the toilet before just tossing away a dirty diaper.

Soiled diapers should not be thrown away in the kitchen trash, as this can seep into the ground and pollute our drinking water.

Likewise, some landfills are not equipped to deal with massive amounts of diapers and if not sealed properly, the excrement can compromise our groundwater.

You can place a diaper pail on each level of your house to reduce the likelihood of tossing diapers in any ordinary trash can.

One source lists some shocking truths about the effects of disposable diapers on our environment and our little ones.

It cites that “approximately, 90-95% of American babies use 27.4 billion plastic diapers every year. This generates 7.6 billion pounds of garbage a year.”

It goes on to state that disposable diapers represent 30% of non-biodegradable waste. Diapers can take hundreds, even thousands, of years to break down.

In an article written by American Disposal Services, it reminds us that diapers are not recyclable!

However, compostable diapers are available for single use and these are recyclable. They’re also on the pricey side, so be warned.

Harmful To People

Neglect of the proper removal steps can also place sanitation workers’ health at risk.

There are hundreds of viruses that can survive outside of the body for long periods of time which include E.coli, polio, hepatitis, salmonella, and others. That’s a whole lot of nasty!

A baby’s skin is very sensitive. Their outer layer of skin is likely to absorb chemicals used in diapers and baby wipes.

There are several toxins found in diapers such as dioxin, toluene (central nervous system depressant), phthalates, and SPA (sodium polyacrylate) which was banned from use in tampons years ago.

How Do I Properly Dispose Of Dirty Cloth Diapers?

Perhaps you’re one of those parents who has decided to “go green” and employ cloth diapers instead. Kudos to you for your choice, and for putting up with the extra work that is associated with such a decision!

There are many resources to help you out in ensuring that you’re doing everything correctly when dealing with these dirty diaper situations.

BabyGearLab suggests several helpful tips for dealing with the world of cloth diapers.

1) Dump & Rinse

This step may look familiar to you. However, there is extra precaution needed with this one vs. dealing with a disposable diaper. You’ll need to dump any waste from the diaper and rinse off the residue.

ADDITIONAL TIPS: 

You can invest in a diaper sprayer which can be installed in the toilet. Some wonder if they need to go one step further and actually soak the diaper. The answer is no. Modern cloth diapers don’t need to be soaked, as this could cause some serious stench while sitting in the pail.

You can also use flushable or reusable diaper liners. These can make life so much easier!

Be sure that whatever flushable brand you use is compatible with your septic system.

Reusable liners are a bit thicker and may be great when you need to use diaper cream with zinc.

These creams should generally be avoided because they are hard to remove from cloth diapers. If you don’t use a liner and need to use this type of cream, Dawn dish soap (the blue liquid) is great at removing diaper cream from cloth diapers!

2) Place In Pail

Place the rinsed diaper in a dry diaper pail or wet bag for upcoming laundry day. When using an enclosed dry pail, you may want to keep the lid propped open or open the bag zipper to allow air circulation and to minimize ammonia build-up.

3) Laundry Time

It is recommended that you wash cloth diapers, separately, every two days.

This prevents them from building up bacteria that can cause odor, diaper rash, or breakdown of diaper material.

Realdiapers.org suggests rinsing again after laundry has been completed to make sure there is no detergent lingering on the diapers.

Here’s an interesting fact: If your baby is exclusively breastfed, you can skip the rinse step, because breastmilk stool easily disintegrates in the pre-wash cycle!

What Do I Do With Cloth Diapers When I’m Out And About?

Bring The Correct Amount of Diapers With You

This obviously will depend on how long you’ll be out and how old your child is.

If you plan on being out for more than three hours, it’s a good idea to bring at least four diapers. You can get away with bringing one or two diapers if you’re making a short trip of an hour or so.

Pack The Items You Need Before Venturing Out

Wet Bag

You should have at least two small wet bags in a rotation. One bag can be readily available in your diaper bag in case the other is in need of washing.

It’s highly recommended that you invest in a wet bag that’s waterproof with heat or tape sealed seams.

Wipes

Most parents concede to using disposable wipes that you’d use with regular, throw-away diapers.

However, if you’re a die-hard “green” person, then you should bring cloth wipes that are compatible with your cloth diapers. These wipes can be stored dry or wet.

Consider using an old wipes container and leaving it in your car filled with wipes.

Diaper Liners

Disposable diaper liners are great for on the go since you most likely won’t be able to rinse the waste out of the diaper.

Bringing these will help you skip that step and will be less of a mess to clean up.

Ways To Handle Dirty Cloth Diapers On The Go

1) If the diaper is wet, place it in the wet bag. If the diaper is soiled, then you’ll need to toss the liner out (if you used one). If not, simply throw the diaper in the wet bag and deal with it when you get home.

2) Use disposable wipes or cloth wipes to clean the area. Some swear by using an ointment spray (try Baby’s Bottom Diaper Ointment Spray) for travel situations. If using a cloth wipe, simply toss the wipe in the wet bag with the soiled diaper.

3) Leave the wet bag in the car. If this isn’t an option, the bags are small enough that you can throw them in your diaper bag.

4) When you get home, do laundry immediately or rinse the soiled diapers before putting them in the diaper pail to be washed later.

Plan Ahead If You’re Vacationing For An Extended Period Of Time

It’s important to consider whether your accommodations are going to have a washer and dryer. If not, be sure to bring an ample amount of diapers and the above-mentioned supplies.

It’s worth looking into purchasing a bag that is both wet/dry. You can separate the dirty clothes into one pocket and throw the dirty diapers in the main pocket.

Sometimes, it’s worth using disposable diapers for the length of your stay. They take up less space for travel purposes and you won’t have to worry about laundering them.

How Do I Get Rid Of Cloth Diapers That I No Longer Need?

Eventually, cloth diapers will wear out and you’ll want to dispose of them. Perhaps your little one has graduated to potty training and it’s time to ditch the diapers.

There are several things you can do at this point. As you’ll be seeing in the following sections, cloth diapers are gifts that keep on giving!

Donate Or Pass To A Friend

Some of you may be thinking, “Gross!” However, if you use hand-me-down clothes, they were probably pooped or peed on prior to your use. No big deal. Throw them in the wash as you would do with anything else. Good as new!

There are sites such as DiaperSwappers.com in which you can give your cloth diapers away, trade, or sell them for profit.

Cloth for Everybum is a site that accepts charitable diaper donations. Sites like these tend to accept diapers in any state since they have the capability to repair/restore them.

There are also auction sites where you can sell used diapers and accessories. Be aware that sites like eBay no longer let you sell used diapers online.

Find Alternative Uses

  • Use them as a swim diaper.
  • Use them as a backup. If you made the switch from cloth to disposable, you can use waterproof diaper covers to provide extra coverage for disposable diaper blowouts.
  • Re-use them as cloth wipes. Cut them up and use the liners as a green alternative to toilet paper.
  • Turn them into burp rags. We know babies love to spit up!
  • Transform them into dust rags/Swiffer mop bottoms.

Wrapping It Up

There are advantages and disadvantages to using disposable and cloth diapers.

If you’re a proponent of disposable diapers because you enjoy the ease and convenience, then you probably weren’t even aware that there was a proper process to follow when disposing of them – and an improper process to avoid.

After all, you buy them to avoid the hassle! However, properly adhering to the guidelines can help preserve our planet and the sanctity of baby’s nursery. The last thing anyone wants is the smell of dirty doo- doo wafting through the air.

The good news is, modern advances have made aspects of diapering a breeze whether you use disposable or cloth. Next time nature calls, deal with diaper disposal the correct way!

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