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Weekend Project: Clean and Deodorize Your Trash Cans

woman emptying trashcans to prepare them for cleaning
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Even lined with a trash bag (all the time), your trash can will still eventually smell a bit off. Whether you’re banishing the ghost of takeout meals past or freshening up your bathroom trash can, we’re here to help.

It doesn’t take long to give your garbage cans, throughout the house, a good cleaning and deodorizing. You might not want to think about what’s in the bottom recesses of your bathroom trash, but it’s definitely time to kill those germs and make your home smell better.

Pull Out the Trash Bags

Before you start cleaning the trash cans in your house, you’ll need to empty them. Pull out all of the trash bags and take them to your outdoor bin (unless you’re cleaning that one, too).

Remove Debris from the Bottom of the Bins

Whether someone tossed something in while you were changing out a full bag or the corner of the bag fell and some trash made it to the bottom of the bin, you’ll want to clean out the bottom.

You can take your bin outside and dump it out (if you’re afraid to reach in there), or you can reach in and pull stuff out. Even if you pull out some bulkier trash, dumping the bin outdoors will help you get out small bits of debris that might be loose. Not all of it will come loose, though.

Spray Them with Water

Another reason to take all of your trash cans outside for this job is that it makes spraying them out easier. Using a garden hose, spray out the inside of your cans and leave them to sit for a few minutes, so the water can loosen any stuck-on gunk. You can do this in the bathtub, too, but you might end up with gross garbage stuff in your drain.

Garden hoses, with the right nozzle attachment, are often more powerful than the water coming from the spout in the bath, so you’ll get more of a power-wash this way. You can also use a pressure washer—just be careful!

If you have an especially nasty trash can, fill it up with water, enough that the gross parts are left soaking. Add in some white vinegar, and let it sit for a few minutes before you do the next step.

Scrub Them

Rinsing out your trash cans alone might not be enough if you haven’t cleaned them in a while. Monthly cleaning, if you toss a lot of stuff out and have the time, can be useful (but isn’t always necessary). A good scrubbing whenever the bottom of your trash cans look gross will work perfectly.

Use a kitchen scrub brush, which will be gentle enough not to scratch up your trash can. (We recommend you have a brush set aside for use on garbage cans that you aren’t using for dishes.)

Deodorize Them

That white vinegar you added in the washing step will do more than help get sticky, stuck-on gunk out of your trash can; vinegar also deodorizes and disinfects. If you didn’t use vinegar while cleaning, mix equal amounts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray down the insides of your trash cans.

Baking soda is another great option for deodorizing your trash cans. This white powder absorbs odors, keeping trash cans smelling better. Sprinkle some in your dry trash can or at the bottom of each trash bag you put in (if you don’t want it sitting in the bottom of the can).

Let Them Dry

You can wipe out your clean trash cans or let them air dry. Make sure they’re completely dry before you put bags and trash in there! Leaving dampness behind could add to future stinky odors.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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