Dry Pailing Nappies (Complete guide to storing dirty nappies)

  • By: Gian
  • Date: June 12, 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

So you have decided to go down the cloth nappy route, brilliant! Trust us, you won’t regret that decision. But what’s this dry pailing thing you keep hearing about? I mean dry what now.. don’t worry we are hear to bust down the cloth nappy jargon (it really grates us too) and teach you everything you need to know about using real nappies.

What is dry pailing?

What is dry pailing?

Quite simply it just means storing your dirty nappies in a container without water, aka not soaking them.

A bucket or pail (an American term for bucket) usually lined with a mesh bag where you put the dirty nappies (once you have dealt with any solids down the toilet).

You simply store the nappies in the nappy bucket until you are ready to wash. Because there is no soaking in buckets of water, a dry pail is “dry.” The pail can be a nappy bucket, or in modern times a nappy wet bag.

What you need to dry pail cloth nappies in a bucket:

A pail/bucket –  You can use any type of container that you would like, from an old bucket to a large trashcan. Just make sure it has a lid! A lid is vital as it keeps odours in the bucket and if you have toddlers stops them from sticking their hands in dirty nappies!

Your bucket needs to be big enough to take about 2 days of soiled nappies. We really don’t recommend leaving your dirty nappies any longer than 2 days, it’s really not good for them.

A mesh bag –  You will want a mesh bag that can hold the dirty nappies inside the bucket. You don’t need a mesh bag but they are very handy for removing the nappies in one go to put in the washing machine. It means you don’t have to touch the dirty nappies… which trust us, is not a nice job!

A bucket deodorizer –  This is not necessary but it does help to eliminate odours. There are many different types of products available on the market today from carbon charcoal to discs especially made for nappy buckets. Some people just use a few drops of lavender oil or tea tree oil to help with any smells. Be careful though as some manufacturers warn against essential oils in your washing routine.

What you need to dry pail cloth nappies in a bucket:

If you decide to use a wet bag instead of a bucket you don’t need a mesh bag or a bucket deodoriser but you will need TWO wet bags (at least!). One for the wash and one for the dirty bags. If you only have one you lack somewhere to store the dirty nappies whilst you are waiting for the laundry to be washed and dried.

How to Dry Pail

Simply get rid of any solids from your dirty nappies, by flushing them down the toilet. You can use a nappy sprayer to sluice the solids off the nappy. Remember to hold onto the liner when spraying as they are not flushable.

At this stage, if you want, you can also sluice your nappies. It’s not necessary but some people swear by it. I just use a pre rinse cycle on the machine on wash day to do this.

Once the bag is full, or after two days, lift the mesh bag of dirty nappies into the machine as part of your normal wash cycle. You will then need to clean your bucket out with a cold rinse. The wet nappies will have left residue on the sides and the bottom.

If you are using a wet bag, the benefit is no bucket to clean, just unzip and throw the whole lot into the machine. I always give it a good shake to ensure that the nappies have a chance to work their way loose from the bag as I am throwing them in.

Wet pail just means to leave nappies soaking in water. Wet pailing has really gone out of fashion as modern cloth nappies have evolved and wet pailing is no longer a requirement.

How often should I do laundry?

How often should I do laundry?

Your washing machine is probably on all the time if you have young children, and your cloth nappies should be washed every 2-3 days. We really don’t recommend leaving nappies longer than this.

Of course, if you are using more nappies you will need to wash more often, especially if for example you have two in cloth or your child is sick etc.

Bucket vs Wetbag to Dry Pail?

Ah, one of the greatest nappies debates of all time, it’s up there with poppers vs velcro.

Right, I’m going to reveal my hand right at the beginning. After using buckets for several years I grew to loathe the job of cleaning the bucket every 2-3 days. It’s a miserable thankless task. When wet bags for dirty nappy storage was invented I couldn’t believe my luck, yes, please!

In my eyes, the benefits of using a wet bag far outweigh the one minor ‘con’. With a wet bag you have:

  • No bucket to wash out every 2-3 days
  • No bucket to wash out every 2-3 days
  • No bucket to wash out every 2-3 days
  • Much nicer to have pretty patterns in the house than ugly white plastic buckets
  • Much less storage space is required, you just need a door handle!
  • You can have several small ones so no running from one room to the next or all the way downstairs in the middle of the night with a dirty nappy.
  • Did I mention the pretty patterns?
  • Can be used as a swim bag or general wet bag once you are out of nappies.

Benefits of using a bucket for dirty nappy storage

  • You only need 1 whereas with nappy bags you do need two
  • Durable, they will last… yeah we all know how long plastic lasts!
  • You can get lockable lids, a good fitted lid is vital. Some people say a bucket of warning may be drowning hazard for very young children.

Does Soaking Nappies Keep Them Soft?

It has often been said that soaking nappies keeps them super soft. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim. Many mums swear by it and say that it does keep them soft but there are just as many who don’t do any pre-soaking at all and their nappies are still super soft. My mother fondly remembers her different buckets of soaking nappies for various stages of the nappy washing process.

Soaking nappies is meant to help with poo stains, but again this is only really relevant to natural or organic cotton items.

However, modern nappy fabrics have moved on a long way. Modern fabrics tend to stay soft and not really get hard, so this has become a mute point. Plus if you don’t have several buckets for various stages of the soaking process, you can often ‘soak’ a smell into a fabric. And, soaking will wreck PUL fabric which is commonplace in cloth nappies.

How to make nappies soft again?

If you are using organic natural fabric cloth nappies, you may find they become hard if you line dry them, especially if you are living in a hard water area.

To make cloth nappies soft again you can use two simple methods (either/or or do both!)

  • The ‘scrunch and rub’ method. Just scrunch up your nappies and rub the fabric against each other. You will find this gets the fibres nice and soft again.
  • The ‘tumble dryer’ method. If you have a tumble dryer you can pop them after they have dried for about 5-10 minutes and let the dryer to the scrunching and rubbing. This works just like it does with your towels and will fluff them all up again.

This article was written by: Gian MIller – Full-Time Writer, Baby Whisperer & Dad of 3.

Gian spends a lot of his time writing. A self-proclaimed baby whisperer, Gian has been through it all with his own children and is passionate about sharing his hard-won wisdom with other parents. When he’s not writing or changing diapers, you can find him playing the guitar or watching baseball (or preferably both at the same time).