How To Clean Your Trash Can–And How Often You Should Be Cleaning It

Follow these simple steps for cleaning your trash can to eliminate pesky odors.

Stainless Steel Trash Can

Getty Images

It may be difficult enough just to get the trash out in time for weekly pickup most days, but your actual bins need cleaning, too—and not just the ones designed for outdoor use. Every type of trash receptacle could use some routine maintenance, from the large bin in the kitchen to the tiny wastebasket in your “cloffice".” The good news is, you likely have everything you need to properly clean your trash cans on hand to get them looking and smelling fresh in minutes.

How Often To Clean a Trash Can

Your trash can cleaning schedule may depend on the number of people (and pets!) in your household, if you have babies or small children, how often you and your cohabitants cook, where a trash can is located in the home, and if your household makes recycling or composting a priority. A good rule of thumb is to clean your trash can monthly, according to Merry Maids, but you may need to do this more often if your trashcan is starting to smell or is showing stains. These are telltale signs that there’s a buildup of bacteria, germs, and other unwanted substances in or on your trashcan that can end up spreading to other members of your family while creating an odor that can spread throughout the house along the way. This is an especially important task if you’re preparing to host friends for a cocktail party or family for a holiday weekend. 

Stainless steel trash cans may require a bit more maintenance, more from an aesthetic perspective. The outside of these types of receptacles need a bit of buffing with a dry microfiber towel to rid of fingerprints, smudges, and stains.

What You'll Need

  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Dish soap
  • Microfiber towels
  • Baking soda
  • Scrub brush

How To Clean a Trash Can 

Step 1: Remove Trash and Debris

When it's time to clean your trash can, start by removing the bag and all other debris from the can. Grove Collaborative recommends starting with wipes to eliminate any lingering gunk. Becca Crandall and Bentley Rosser of Beck Cleaning and Organization recommend wiping down the inside and outside of your trash cans with disinfectant wipes to remove any remaining food particles.

Step 2: Wash and Rinse

Crandall and Rosser suggest that washing your trash can with a solution of dish soap and water will suffice to get your trash can looking and smelling clean. Simply use a microfiber cloth to wash the trash can with the mixture and rinse.

Step 3: Scrub Pesky Stains

After washing with the dish soap solution and rinsing, Grove Collaborative recommends using a scrub brush to ensure a deep clean. The brand suggests using a paste made from equal parts water and baking soda for extra-pesky stains. 

Step 4: Dry Thouroughly

It’s important to make sure your trash can has been thoroughly dried before placing a new garbage bag inside, as damp areas can lead to a buildup of mold and mildew, creating more stains and smells. If it’s a sunny day, you can rinse off trash cans with a hose and let them air-dry outdoors. Otherwise, you can manually dry trash cans with clean microfiber towels before using them again.

How To Keep Your Trash Can from Smelling

There are plenty of ways to extend the life of your trash can and prevent constant cleanups, even if you have a house full of babies, pets, or passionate home cooks. Merry Maids advises finding alternative methods of disposing of liquids or runny foods, such as pouring expired milk down the garbage disposal before tossing the container or wrapping up a gallon of ice cream in a disposable grocery bag before placing it in your trash can.

It’s also important to purchase the right size of bin liners and bags for each trash can to avoid food particles falling to the bottom or used tissues getting stuck to the sides of your bin. Additionally, you’ll want to avoid overstuffing garbage bags and instead opt to carry them out to the curb or bulk bin before you’re tempted to start packing trash down to the bottom.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles