Do I Need to Clean My Trash Can?

If your trash can smells, you might have to do more than take out the garbage. Here's how to get it clean again.

Published Mar. 3, 2023.

Have you ever walked into your kitchen and BAM! you’re hit with an unsavory stench wafting from your trash can

It might be obvious that you need to take out your trash. But sometimes, even after you empty the garbage and line your bin with a new bag, the smell seems to linger and never disappear.

That’s a sure sign that your kitchen trash can needs a deep cleaning and sanitizing. 

The good news is that cleaning out your trash can is simple, and there are a few ways to keep odors from coming back.

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What’s the Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting?

They may sound similar, but there is a difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting

Cleaning is a general term that entails removing impurities or dirt from surfaces—such as using a wet paper towel to wipe off stuck-on vegetable matter or crusty yogurt splatters. Sanitizing further reduces microorganisms from surfaces with soap and water or another solution. Disinfecting involves using a strong chemical solution (such as bleach) to kill any remaining microorganisms.


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How to Thoroughly Clean Your Trash Can

You’ll need to clean, sanitize, and disinfect your trash can to get it sparkling clean. You should do this every month, or more often if you notice things starting to get a little smelly.

  1. First, clean your trash can by taking it outside and spraying the inside with a vinegar solution (one part distilled white vinegar and four parts water). 
  2. Let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe away any stuck-on material with a paper towel or a rag.
  3. Next, sanitize your trash can with water and dish soap (we also like the convenient and effective Dawn Powerwash).
  4. Let it sit for a few minutes, then pour out the soapy water and dry the can with a paper towel or rag.
  5. Finally, disinfect your trash can using a disinfectant spray or bleach solution in a spray bottle (four teaspoons of bleach per quart of room temperature water). Let it dry completely or wipe it away according to the instructions. Leave the spray or solution on the can for at least one minute before wiping it away.
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How to Keep Your Trash Can from Smelling

Keeping your trash can clean will prevent it from smelling, but sometimes we don’t have time for deep cleanings. Here are a couple of tricks to keep garbage odors in check.

  1. Temporarily add a tied-up cheesecloth filled with lemon rinds to the bottom of your can. Remove it within a couple of days to prevent fruit flies. 
  2. Add a tied-up cheesecloth filled with charcoal briquettes to the bottom of your can. This trick not only works with trash cans but also with keeping refrigerator smells at bay.

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