Way back in the day, the way my grandmother used to store dirty cloth diapers until wash day was by soaking them in a bucket of water with a bit of bleached added to it. Learning from her mother, my mom used this same wet pail method when she cloth diapered my oldest sister. She would soak her prefolds in the bleach water overnight, but made sure not to soak them too long, because the bleach “would eat them up.” And her prefolds weren’t the only thing she had to worry about…


Remember those little white leather baby shoes from way back in the day? The ones that all babies just had to have? Well, my sister had a pair of those shoes and somehow one of them ended up in the wet pail. By the time my mom found it the next day, the bleach water had eaten all the white paint off of it! 


baby shoes

When it came time to wash them, she had to haul this heavy bucket full of water and diapers to the laundry room and drain out the water. Quite honestly, it really sounded like a pain in the butt. Then she would have to be sure to rinse then very well, making sure to get all the bleach out so it wouldn’t irritate my sister’s skin.


Well as they usually do, times have changed. Nowadays, wet pails are no longer recommended. Some parents still choose this method, although most opt to use additives such as baking soda or vinegar as opposed to bleach.  But there are a few reasons why you may want to rethink using a wet pail:


Drowning Hazard

The number one, most important reason you want to avoid the wet pail method is because it is a potential drowning hazard. Babies and toddlers have big heads in proportion to their bodies making them top-heavy. Plus they are naturally curious, always testing their limits. It’s not something anyone wants to think about, but it is a very real danger and quite frankly isn’t worth the risk. 


Hard on Diapers

Even if you aren't adding bleach to your wet pail, modern cloth diapers aren’t made to withstand soaking over and over again, for long periods of time. Doing so can break down their materials, such as the elastics and the waterproof PUL layer. 

And what if you do soak with bleach? While some manufacturers say it's ok to use a little bleach on your diapers every once in a while, frequently soaking your diapers in a wet pail with bleach on your diapers is bad idea. Like my mama said, it can "eat your diapers up". Even using properly diluted bleach on a frequent basis can eat away the fibers leaving you with holes. If you soak you covers in it, it can damage the elastics and the part of the diaper that makes it waterproof.

wet pail

If you are having any issues with your diapers that require you to have to strip or you feel as though you need to use bleach often, contact the manufacturer. Most are very helpful and will work with you to help you through whatever problems you are having with your diapers. 

More Work Than What They're Worth

In addition to all of the diapers, you are also having to haul around a bucket of water... that makes for a pretty heavy pail. Plus you have a bucket of stagnant water with pee and poo. Sounds pretty gross. If you don't have a top loading washing machine, where do you dump the water? If you dump in the bathtub, then you would need to clean it afterward... If you have a front loading washing machine, you can't just dump it there... You shouldn't dump it outside... It's just really seems like more trouble than it's worth. 


An option that is safer for your baby and easier on your diapers (and your back!) would be a dry pail. Two common ways to store cloth diapers until wash day is in a kitchen sized trash can with a lid and waterproof pail liner, or a zippered wet bag. Click here for more information about storing soiled cloth diapers.


*Wondering about rinsing? Rinsing your cloth diapers is fine and recommended! Unless your baby is exclusively breastfed, you will need to get rid of solid stool before putting it in the wet pail. For more information of what on what to do with #2, check out this post from the TGN Blog: Poop Happens. You can also rinse and wring out your overnight diapers to help keep ammonia at bay. Remember, your diapers are already wet when you put them in the pail :)

How do you store your diapers until wash day?

Do you use the wet or dry pail method? 




Stephanie Beck is a busy mama of four. She enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family. Stephanie started her blog, Apron Strings Attached, because she wanted to share her experiences with raising kids, breastfeeding struggles and success, and cloth diapering. She now enjoys blogging about life in cloth diapers for TGN.