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How to Keep the Trash Can from Smelling

Trash cans smell – and there is no escaping this fact. We’ve all been unpleasantly surprised just how bad they can stink too, especially if we’ve failed to take the trash out for a couple of days, or give the trash can a good clean after Sunday’s leftovers have dripped all over it. 

The good news is that you don’t have to suffer the unpleasant odour. In fact, you can be greeted with something akin to a somewhat pleasant wiff when you next walk by your trash can. 

Here’s what you can do to keep your trash can from smelling:

Why Does My Trash Can Smell so Bad?

Food decomposition is the main cause of that unpleasant smell coming from your trash can. If you don’t take the trash out regularly or allow food scraps to accumulate at the bottom of the bin, it will properly start to stink. 

As soon as you discard a bit of food, it begins to decay. During this process, various chemicals and gases are released, and are the cause of the bad smell. The microorganisms that naturally infect a piece of discarded food will also start to reproduce at a rapid rate, as the moist, dark and warm environment of the trash can provides ideal conditions for their growth. As they multiply, the food starts to let off an even more pungent smell.  

How to Keep My Trash Can from Smelling?

In addition to regularly cleaning your trash can, you can also reach for one of these solutions to keep it odourless:

Use Good Quality Trash Bags

The use of trash bags is essential if you want to keep your trash can clean and smelling at all decent. They are practical, easy to source, and come in all shapes, sizes and colours, so there is literally no excuse for not using one. 

Your choice of trash bag can also help minimise the smell emanating from your trash can. Lower quality bags tend to be flimsy and thin, prone to tears and spillage. Good quality bags are reinforced with better quality materials, sturdier and provide better insulation, so nasty smells aren’t as likely to seep through. 

You should also look into quality eco-friendly trash bags, and do your little bit for the planet. They may be a bit more expensive, but the investment will be worth it, as you won’t need to scrub the bottom of the trash can as often. 

Add Baking Soda to the Trash Can 

Baking soda can be used for all kinds of things around the house. Not only is it a great stain remover, it also has the power to absorb and neutralise foul smells.

Baking soda is highly absorbent, so it will both eliminate smells, and absorb some of the moisture from your trash can. This will prevent those nasty microorganisms from reproducing at top speed, and further improve the state of your rubbish bin. 

All you need to do is fill a coffee filter or a cotton cloth with baking soda and secure it tightly with a rubber band. Then place it at the bottom of your trash can, and don’t forget to replace it every month. 

Add Cat Litter to the Trash Can 

Cat litter was designed to both absorb moisture and neutralise foul smells. After all, if it works for the cat, it will certainly work for the trash can.

You can even find scented cat litter, if you want to go the extra mile. If not, you can stick to the odour neutralising and fast acting kind. 

Just scatter the cat litter at the bottom of the bin, covering it completely. Replace it with a fresh batch every couple of days, or if you notice it has started to clump up.

Add Coffee Beans or Grounds to the Trash Can

If you are a coffee lover, you may find it hard to part with some of your beloved beans. Instead of using your favourite brand, just buy some cheap coffee beans or grounds, and use them as your odour neutraliser.

They will both absorb any smells that manage to seep through your trash bag, and release their own aroma, often overpowering any unpleasant smells. Unless they are particularly foul of course.

Your coffee should be scattered at the bottom of your bin in a thin layer. Once it gets damp, replace it with a new batch. Refrain from using ground coffee, as it will be more difficult to clean up. 

Don’t forget that you can also compost these spent coffee beans or grounds!

Add Charcoal to the Trash Can 

You can also use activated charcoal to get rid of any unpleasant smells coming from your trash can. Note that you shouldn’t use the kind of charcoal you also use to grill: activated charcoal has been treated differently, is more porous and much more absorbent. 

You can find it in the form of disks, filters and granules, which tend to do the best job, and should be your top choice. 

Place them in a muslin cloth, or use an old pair of nylon stockings for the purpose. Any kind of breathable material will work. You need to create a sachet that will contain the activated charcoal, and prevent it from spilling out. You can then just throw it into the bin, and replace it every two weeks or so. 

Ideally, replace the entire bag, and not just the charcoal filling.

How to Keep My Trash Can Clean?

Keeping your trash can clean is crucial for preventing it from smelling. No amount of odour neutraliser will help get rid of the stench emanating from a dirty bin.

Ideally, you want to clean your trash can once a week. Once a month, if you really want to stretch it, but not much longer than that. If you spill anything, clean it right away, to prevent the stain from sticking (and smelling). 

The best way to clean a trash can is to use warm water and a liquid dishwashing liquid, followed by a disinfectant. You can let it soak in the tub first, and then give it a good scrub. 

You can then give it a spray with rubbing alcohol or another disinfectant, to ensure all bacteria are killed. 

Wrapping It Up

If you take the time to clean your trash can regularly and throw a neutralising agent in it as well, you should be able to keep it from smelling. Regular upkeep is all that’s needed, so add trash can cleaning to your weekly chore list, and never wonder how it could possibly smell that bad again.


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