How To Clean a Kitchen Trash Can

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Catherine Meschia)

Cleaning the kitchen trash can is a household to-do that’s easily overlooked, but things get gross in there fast. Even I was surprised how many cracker bits and unknown liquids had made their way past the inner liner of our trash can (toddlers, anyone?). A lingering smell is an obvious sign that it’s time to clean the trash can, so grab your gloves and get to work!

A few easy steps are all that’s required for a clean, fresh-smelling can.

For deep-clean lovers (guilty) and over-achievers, it is an oddly satisfying thing to know that something meant to be dirty can actually be clean. After you’ve followed these steps and given your trash can a thorough cleaning, maintain your hard work by wiping down the inside and outside of the can with a disinfectant spray each time you empty the trash can. Beware: If you don’t live alone, this request could invite an eye roll from your roommate or spouse.

Now, let’s get to cleaning!

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Don your rubber gloves: Cleaning the trash can can be a nasty business, so pull on some rubber gloves! (Image credit: Catherine Meschia)

How To Clean the Kitchen Trash Can

What You Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • A hose (if you have outdoor space) or a bathtub
  • A clean toilet brush or other long-handled, nylon bristle scrub brush
  • A disinfectant spray of your choice
  • Paper towels or old towel


  1. Don your rubber gloves: Cleaning the trash can can be a nasty business, so pull on some rubber gloves!
  2. Empty trash can and remove any lingering food particles: After you’ve emptied your trash can, remove any large pieces of food or particles you see in the bottom of the can. Your goal here is just to get rid of any major gunk you can see outright.
  3. Wash out the can: If you have access to a hose, take your trash can outside and hose it down. If you don’t have outdoor space, you can also do this in your bathtub. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  4. Spray the can with a disinfectant: Using a disinfectant cleaner of your choice, liberally spray down the inside and outside of the trash can. Don’t forget the top and bottom of the can.
  5. Scrub the can: Take a clean toilet brush or other long-handled nylon bristle brush and scrub the can thoroughly. After scrubbing, let the cleaner sit for 5 minutes.
  6. Rinse and dry: Rinse the can thoroughly with your hose or in the bathtub. Dry with a towel, or let air dry in the sun.