Household Tips

How to Keep Trash Cans Smelling Fresh

Have you ever gone away for a few days in the summer and returned home only to be wacked in the face by the distinct odour of old, disgusting garbage? Sure, your first thought is: “WHO didn’t take out the garbage before we left?” And though you likely already know the answer to that question, it doesn’t matter now. All that matters is getting the offending bag out of the house and into the outdoor garbage receptacle.

How to Keep Trash Cans Smelling Fresh - See why it's important to pay attention to the smell and easy ways to get your garbage smelling 10x better!

Keeping your trash cans smelling, if not sweet, at least not offensive, is important for a couple of reasons:

  • Overly offensive odours will attract bugs and vermin. This is true for indoor AND outdoor cans!
  • Overly offensive odours are just plain gross.
  • Warmer weather = smellier garbage, particularly in the food scraps and recyclables, so staying on top of the garbage is even more important as the temperatures go up.

Start with clean cans

Take your empty trash cans outside, somewhere that can get wet, put them on their sides, squirt in some soap and use your hose on the strongest setting to blast the residues that cause a lot of odours OUT! Then scrub the particularly stinky ones with water and baking soda and again, rinse it all out.

It may be necessary to repeat these steps a couple of times on a particularly old can, but it’s worth it. If you can, leave them open and outside in the sunshine for some extra antimicrobial power from the sun’s rays.

If you have some really tough old smells, which are caused by bacteria, you may need to break out the bleach. Remember, fumes from bleach are toxic, so do this in a ventilated area and dilute it with water (¼ cup of bleach to 7.5 litres of warm water). It will still do its job without as many fumes.

It’s a good idea to rinse out the cans every so many trash days, to ensure that you don’t build up a lot of germs and odours that are that much harder to rid of later.

Absorb odours… naturally

Baking soda is great for cleaning the cans and also acts as a fabulous deodorizer. Just sprinkle about a cup worth in the bottom of your garbage can, before you add a bag (if you use them), as well as right into the bag, each time you change it. That will go a long way to absorb any food odours that seep down towards the bottom. A few drops of essential oil will improve the overall odour spectacularly, as well as offering antibacterial and cleaning properties!

Another great option is cat litter! Not only does it keep kitty’s box smelling not too foul, but you can also put some at the base of your cans for a similar odour absorbing effect! It has the additional advantage that it will absorb liquids, so if your trash bag breaks open or has a leak, you’re still covered.

Dryer sheets make good odour absorbers too; even used ones! Just line the bottom of your cans with a few before adding your bag. Another option? Dry coffee grounds! Toss them into your outdoor cans to deodorize them naturally! If you don’t want them loose in your can, find a pair of panty hose that have seen better days and you’ve got an instant coffee grounds holder that you can toss in to the can!

If you do use trash bags, use a good quality brand to avoid leaks. Not only for preventing leaks in your can but leaks on the way to the outdoor receptacles that you then have to mop up!

An ounce of prevention

The less garbage you produce, the less you need to worry about foul odours, particularly with food waste. If you can, compost some of your food waste. Also, anything that you are throwing out that contains moisture should be really properly drained first, to avoid accumulating more odour causing bacteria than necessary. For example, that soup that you made that tasted like… well, there isn’t even a flavour in nature to describe it? Just pour it down the toilet or sink (if it’s not lumpy), rather than putting it in the trash! Rinse out cans and other containers before recycling them too!

Another great option is to use a smaller can for food waste that is changed more often and is easily washed out in the sink. Make sure it has a lid! In fact, for indoors, smaller cans just make sense. Yes, you have to empty them more frequently but you really minimize the odour collections that way, so it’s worth it.

Better to miss your kid’s school concert than miss trash day!

Okay, maybe not, but if you’re like me and prone to forgetting which day the garbage trucks are coming by, put in your scheduler, with an alarm! Some areas pick up very early in the morning so if you’re not a morning person (again, me!) set that alarm extra early!

Bet you never thought there was so much to know about keeping your trash can odours at bay! Garbage smells are some of the worst, so make sure you stay on top of them to save your nose and keep your home smelling springtime fresh.

You might also like how to use essential oils to clean your home, spring cleaning your kitchen checklist and how to freshen your home naturally.

Stacie Vaughan

Stacie is the mom of two girls and lives in Ontario, Canada. She enjoys cooking/baking, photography, reading, DIY and is fueled by lots of coffee!

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