9 Easy Ways to Eliminate Trash Can Odors

Kathryn Pomroy
Written by Kathryn Pomroy
Updated August 31, 2021
A woman cooking having garbage cans next to her
Anchiy/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

If you've taken out the garbage, but the stink stays behind, put these nine tips and tricks to use

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Nobody likes a smelly trash can. But it’s bound to happen when scraps from last night’s dinner pile up. Still, you want your home to smell nice for you and your family—and when the neighbors unexpectedly come by for a visit. Luckily, getting rid of trash can odor is really easy. Take a look at these nine ways to ditch the stink.

9 Tips for Getting Rid of Trash Can Odor

Your home is your haven, so it’s only natural you want it to smell nice. Learn how to keep trash can smells at bay with a few easy tips and tricks.

1. Scrub the Can

Sometimes, the easiest way to get rid of odors is simply washing with soap and water. If you haven’t washed your trash can in a while, try mixing 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, one-fourth cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid. 

Or you might also try just plain water and vinegar, which seems to work well for not-so-stinky odors.

2. Sprinkle Baking Soda

Very few household cleaning products work as well to block odors as baking soda. You can open and place the container in the back of the fridge or under the kitchen sink to eliminate odors. It’s inexpensive, and you can sprinkle it in the bottom of a plastic trash can before replacing the bag, too. 

Warning: Baking soda may pockmark metal garbage cans, so sprinkle a bit in a coffee filter secured with a twist tie and place it in the bottom of your can to absorb odors fast.

3. Make Your Own Tabs

If you’re looking for a DIY way to de-stink your garbage can, try making your own deodorizing tabs. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of baking soda

  • 1/2 cup of distilled water

  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

  • 12 or so drops of lemon and lavender essential oils

  • Mixing bowl

  • Ice cube tray

  • Mixing spoon or spatula

Directions

  • Mix baking soda, vanilla extract, distilled water, and the essential oils into a bowl until there are no lumps.

  • When the mixture thickens, pour it into your ice tray and let it dry for two days on your kitchen counter.

  • Once the tabs are dry, pop them out of the mold and store them in an airtight container.

Put one tab at the bottom of your trash can or trash bag. If it still stinks? Add another tab. Replace the tabs whenever smells return.

4. Try Dryer Sheets

To freshen up your trash can, you can use the same dryer sheets that make your clothes smell fresh and clean. Simply place one or two into your garbage can or under a new bag. Change out the dryer sheets once a week to keep nasty odors from returning.

5. Add a Splash of Vanilla

A woman throwing food scraps in trash can
Mayur Kakade/Moment via Getty Images

Most everyone loves vanilla extract, typically used to sweeten frosting or scones. Put that bottle of vanilla to work by splashing a couple of drops on a few cotton balls and placing them in the bottom of your smelly trash can instead.

Leave them overnight with the lid closed before replacing your bag and wake up to the sweet scent of vanilla. This works just as well with almond extract.

6. Activate the Charcoal

Charcoal isn’t just for grilling anymore. Now it can also be used to snuff out bad scents in your trash can. It must be activated charcoal to work well, but grilling activated charcoal can remove all kinds of unpleasant smells, like tobacco, pet smells, burnt food, and garbage. 

Activated charcoal comes in small bags, at about $17 for a 6-pack. Just place them anywhere odors exist.

7. Set Out Bowls of Vinegar or Coffee

Vinegar can neutralize bad smells emanating from your trash can. So can coffee. Just place saucers around the house and leave them out overnight. In the morning, pick up the bowls and empty them into your garbage disposal to freshen up any leftover smells from last night’s dinner. 

Just be careful where you place the bowls as coffee and vinegar may be harmful to pets if ingested.

8. Peel an Orange

A woman throwing stuff in a trash can
Strauss/Curtis/The Image Bank via Getty Images

Orange peels can freshen up a foul-smelling trash can. After your morning fix of vitamin C, just place the peels in a coffee filter, tighten with a twist tie, and place in the bottom of a clean trash can or under a new bag. 

The sweet scent won’t last long, but as a quick fix when friends show up unexpectedly, orange peels are a sweet treat.

9. Try Kitty Litter

Did you know that kitty litter can also absorb the unpleasant odors of garbage left in your trash can? All you do is sprinkle a few tablespoons of litter into the bottom of your can and toss it out the next time you take out the trash. We’re pretty sure the cat won’t even notice you borrowed a little bit.

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