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Some parents insist they get by just fine without a diaper pail. They simply toss soiled diapers in a regular trash can and empty it frequently to keep odors at bay. It's a tactic that may work fine while babies are small, but diapers become increasingly stinky as babies begin eating a wider variety of foods. Add to that the inconvenience of constantly taking out a smelly trash bag with a baby or toddler to chase, and a diaper pail becomes a pretty appealing product.

So what is the difference between diaper pails and regular trash cans? Unlike many trash cans, diaper pails are designed with an odor-control system in mind, whether that's a more heavy-duty seal, special scented liners or cartridges of baking soda. Diaper pails are also designed to be easy for parents to use, freeing one or both hands to tend to your child. Some diaper pails also have childproof lids and doors, which can prove essential once your tiny baby becomes a curious toddler.

Diaper pails fall into two general categories: those that require special liners or bags and those that can use standard trash bags. Special liners usually help guard against unsavory smells, but they boost the cost of owning a diaper pail over time. Pails that don't require special liners are sometimes more expensive upfront, but cheaper in the long run. Expect to spend $15 to $20 for a very simple diaper pail and $80 and up for a stainless-steel bin. The most popular diaper pails cost $30 to $40.

Most diaper pails that use special liners are aimed at parents who use disposable diapers. While a few pails aimed at cloth diapers have popped up on the market, they are little more than simple bins with locking lids. Any diaper pail that allows standard trash bags is generally cloth-friendly -- parents can simply use a waterproof liner in place of the trash bag. Other parents may opt to store soiled cloth diapers in a "wet bag," a bag made of a waterproof fabric such as polyurethane laminate. Some wet bags are large enough to take the place of traditional pails or become pail liners themselves. Wet bags can be tossed in the washer with the soiled diapers.

ConsumerSearch has analyzed more than a dozen expert reviews and hundreds of owner reviews to evaluate diaper pails' ease of use, cost of ownership, odor control and other lifestyle factors. The result is our picks for the best diaper pails on the market.

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