Using a Nappy Bucket

31 CommentsSaturday, 18 July 2015

As with everything else to do with real nappies, there are no rules on what sort of nappy bucket to use, or how to use it. Essentially, however, a nappy bucket is simply a bucket with a fitted lid.  We sell a range of nappy buckets on our site that have been tried and tested over the years.  Our most popular has a tight fitting lid but not clips, however if you'd prefer a clipped bucket to secure against unwanted exploration we also sell these. If you have two children in nappies at the same time you will benefit from our larger nappy bucket.

If you do not have much space at home, you can use a large waterproof nappy bag in which to dry pail your nappies - this can simply be stored in the laundry basket or hung off a hook on the back of a door. Just don’t forget to wash the nappies!

Whatever method you use, before putting dirty nappies in the bucket/bag, rinse off any poo which has escaped the liner. Fresh poo is a lot less offensive to deal with than stale poo! If you can’t be bothered to rinse through before putting your nappies into the bucket, I suggest you do a prewash as well.



By keeping your nappies wet, stains do not set and so no prewashes are needed.


Many nappy manufactures actively discourage soaking now and is you soak using any sodium bicarb, vinegar, bleach or harsh stain removers your warranty will become invalid. With soaking it smells when you take the lid off, however, this is a good thing. What is happening is the liquid is drawing out the wee from the nappies, which means they are that bit cleaner when they go into the washing machine. On the other hand, the dirty water will need to be tipped down the loo or emptied into the sink or bath- whatever suits your plumbing arrangements.  You might not consider the sink/bath very hygienic if you also use the sink for cooking or personal washing purposes.

The other disadvantage is the risk of the bucket being tipped over or - conceivably - a child sticking their head into it when full. You can avoid this by placing the bucket out of reach. The best position is inside the bath, where it is not a big problem if it does get tipped over. And a child who is old enough to climb into the bath is a child who is old enough not to stick their head in a nappy bucket! It does make sense to teach children from a very young age not to play with the nappy bucket. It is also important to remember never to soak your wraps as this will cause them to lose their waterproofing so you will need to keep soiled wraps somewhere else prior to washing them.

If you decide to wash alternate days rather than every day, change the water in the nappy bucket on the night in between. This prevents it from smelling too strongly.

Nappisan is not necessary, and is damaging to the fabric of a number of modern shaped nappies, as is Bicarbonate of Soda, vinegar, bleach and harsh stain removers. You should never use any of these products to soak your nappies as they are highly likely to reduce their lifespan ,will certainly damage your waterproof wraps over time and will invalidate your product warranty. If these powders are used any product warranty will be invalid, The Nappy Lady strongly recommends you DO NOT use them.

Wraps should not be soaked or need sanitising agents,  as the sanitising agent may affect any waterproofing layer. Rinse them clean as soon as you can, if necessary, to avoid staining and then keep them to one side ready for washing. You will have more problems with cover pants staining if you use pad folded rather than pinned or shaped nappies.

To make the nappy bucket smell nicer, add a couple of drops of lavender or tea tree oil to the top of the lid.

Dry Pail


Your nappies will not smell so strongly when you come to empty the bucket, and there is no need to tip away dirty water into a sink or bath. This also makes it easy to transfer the nappies into a front loading washing machine without the risk of drips.  As mentioned previously, dry pailing is excellent where space is limited, because you can use a waterproof nappy bag rather than a bucket. Another advantage is that you can keep soiled wraps in the bucket with your nappies until you are ready to wash them.


Because the nappies have not been stored in liquid, they will dry to some extent, and any poo stains will set quite easily. This means that you should wash at 60 degrees, and a prewash of some sort at least occasionally is recommended. I often find that nappies which have been dry pailed for longer than two days may still smell not quite clean after washing at 60 if no prewash is used. Obviously, there is an environmental cost to regular prewashes (and washes take about a zillion years longer!), so if dry pailing you might prefer to wash at 60 every alternate day at most, and to do a prewash say once a fortnight.

In warm weather in particular, you will find that there is a bit of a “hamster smell” to the nappy bucket if dry pailing - you can mask this effectively by running half an inch of water in the sink to which a couple of drops of lavender oil have been added, then soaking a folded muslin into this mixture. Wring the muslin out loosely and then leave it over the top of your nappies in the bucket - as you add additional nappies, place them underneath this cover. You’ll have the nicest smelling nappy bucket in the area!

Alison Anderson
Sunday, 25 September 2016  |  22:14

Hi, why do you suggest we don't use Ecover?

Thursday, 29 September 2016  |  12:44

Over the years we have found many people have come to us with help with nappy rash and have been using Ecover. Once they stop using Ecover the rash goes away. We think that the Ecover is leaving a residue that builds up over time and reacts with the skin. It is fine for clothes but for the nappy that gets wet is does lead to a reaction. A number of manufacturers have also requested no Ecover as they have found the elastic to degrade when it's used.

Sian Crichton
Friday, 27 January 2017  |  10:53

Is it ok to use a liquid non bio rather than powder?

Monday, 6 March 2017  |  11:51

No the recommendation is to use non bio powder rather than liquid as powder washes out better.

Helen Michael
Monday, 17 July 2017  |  21:32

Dear Wendy,
Could you- or perhaps another user tell me what methods people use to rinse the nappies after use, eg to get the poo off..
I like the idea of rinsing them into the toilet (with dispoable liner), but our toilet is too far away from the shower to use that.. I can't quite stomach rinsing into the bath or sink.. what other ways have people tried?
Thank you!!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017  |  12:12

Hi Helen,

I've never rinsed off in a sink or used a shower head. I normally just sluice in the toilet by placing the nappy in the clean toilet and flushing. You could also try filling an old washing up liquid bottle with water and using that as a squirter bottle.

Saturday, 29 July 2017  |  20:43

You suggest you have to tip dirty nappy bucket water down the sink or bath which isn't very hygienic, but surely you can just tip it down the loo? Or am i missing something? I have just got a hamper of onelife nappies and wrAps, liners, oil etc (£30 bargain for the lot) and think it would be better to wet pail rather than dry as my fella only gets through about five a day and one eco disposable at night (not quite ready to try cloth at night, give me a week of practice!), but i am worried about wrecking the nappies. I can't see why wet pailing would to be honest. Also, the hamper came with something called oneline pure some kind of nappy sanitiser, i suppose i should just ditch that? Sorry, this turned into something or a personal email plea for help! Thanks in advance!

Saturday, 7 April 2018  |  11:52

You can tip it down the toilet but often it's easier not to spill if use a sink or bath. Obviously you'd need to clean bath/sink. Soaking is NOT recommended anymore as it can damage the elastics and some fabrics. Your nappies Onelife has elastic in them so we wouldn't recommend you do this.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018  |  20:50

Hi Wendy,

Can i just check that if you choose to soak, you advise to soak in water with a few drops of lavender or tea tree oil?

Many thanks

Saturday, 7 April 2018  |  21:14

that's it perfect if you really want to soak. Soaking is really only for flat nappies such as terry squares. Nappies with elastics, waterproof layer etc shouldn't be soaked.

Kate Lewis
Sunday, 30 September 2018  |  0:02

I am using Littles and Bloomz birth to potty nappies. Does the outer part of this count as a wrap, which shouldn’t be soaked? In which case, what do you recommend for storing this part, as poop often gets onto the inside lining of the nappy?

Fiona Trewby
Monday, 5 November 2018  |  7:37

I have a hybrid system (my 5month old still has very liquid poos). I rinse the nappies to scrub most of the poo off; and have recently started to rinse the wet ones too. Then add them to a dry pail. This has helped to minimise the smell and means using less detergent too. We also have reusable wash cloths and that's what we do with them too. I was adding the wraps to the bucket, but will start keeping them out after reading this blog. Luckily my changing table fits next to the sink in the bathroom, which helps with this system!

Rachel Baillie
Monday, 26 November 2018  |  10:43

Hi, I use a nappy bucket but find that the smell still escapes into the room so my babies bedroom smells. Any suggestions?

Thursday, 23 May 2019  |  18:26

Check your washing routine as a non thorough routine can cause this.

Annabel Nicholls
Tuesday, 15 January 2019  |  11:46

Is it best to use a sealed bucket for dry pailing, or an open laundry-basket style bin?

Wednesday, 29 May 2019  |  20:37

Either is fine but the open bucket has a bigger chance of flies, especially in the summer
Wednesday, 20 February 2019  |  13:28

Silly question- but do you put nappies in with other washing or do a separate wash?

Sunday, 7 July 2019  |  9:33

Either is fine. as long as everything is washed following our washing guide

Wednesday, 6 March 2019  |  20:02

Do you pull the drawstring on the laundry bags or do you keep them open?

Sunday, 7 July 2019  |  10:16

Open so the nappies can fall out. It's only for transferring them.

Anna Haynes
Saturday, 8 June 2019  |  14:14

I won't be able to wash my nappies over the weekend and my only storage option is the waterproof bags. How long will they be ok for in there? They are starting to smell.

Monday, 8 July 2019  |  20:48

I would try to not leave them for more than 3 days

Thursday, 7 January 2021  |  18:09

Hi we will use a waterproof nappy bag. My friend said hers has started to have an ammonia smell? Is there something to stop this from happening? Essential oils?

Sunday, 10 January 2021  |  8:42

Bags need to be washed every time you wash the nappies. If you start getting a strong ammonia smell then it's likely that there is an issue in your washing routine.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021  |  18:15

I’m about to start with littles and blooms cloth nappies. Can I soak the insert in Milton and then wash them on a regular cycle. I wouldn’t soak the outter (wrap) just the insert. I also plan to use disposable liners to catch most of the poop.
Do I need to buy washing powder, can’t I use my usual gel?

Monday, 8 February 2021  |  7:19

We do not recommend the use of any harsh product like Milton at all as it is unnecessary and can damage the fabric. Gel tablets often cause leaks, smells and rashes so we do recommend powder detergent.

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