7 Smart Ways to Deodorize Your Stinky Kitchen Trash Can, According to Janitors

published Jan 16, 2022
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Someone pulling out full trash bag.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Greasy food scraps. Soiled paper towels. Chicken bones. What do these things all have in common? They all end up in your kitchen trash can … and they can all do their part to stink up the place. Sure, you could make it a habit to take the garbage outside right away — but that’s not always in the cards. (Maybe you want to fill up a bag before you toss it? Maybe it’s safer in your kitchen than outside where there are bears?) You don’t have to live with that less-than-appealing odor! There are a few clever (and easy) remedies to nip garbage smells in the bud.

Because janitors know a thing or two about cleaning, we asked these experts for their very best hacks to deal with trash odor. Here’s what they had to say. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Sprinkle in some baking soda.

Have you ever put a box of baking soda in your fridge to neutralize odors? According to a cleaning expert who trains janitors, you can apply the same inexpensive tactic to your trash bin. Of course, you can add a few sprinkles to the trash bag itself — but it works even better if you put it in the actual bin. 

“If the trash can is consistently giving off a bad smell, rubbing baking soda mixed with a little water or vinegar and applying it to the bottom of the garbage bin should pull the stench out,” says Tim Conn, president and co-founder of the commercial cleaning franchise Image One USA. “After wiping the inside of the bin, it shouldn’t be an issue anymore.”

Credit: Catherine Meschia

2. Spray the bin with a disinfectant.

If your trash bin is harboring awful smells that won’t go away with baking soda, then it may be time to pull out a stronger method, such as Lysol All in One Disinfectant Spray. Adnan Uzicanin, a janitorial expert from Buildingstars, uses sprays to help deal with odors in garbage bins. “I use a high-quality cleaning chemical for the trash receptacle. I spray and wipe it down really well before putting in the new bag,” he says. 

3. Use a scented trash bag.

After you disinfect the germs lingering in your trash bin, make a habit of wiping down the trash can on a regular basis — and be choosy about the type of bag you use. “Wiping down trash cans daily makes a huge difference.” says Alen Jujic, a janitorial expert at Buildingstars. “I like using scented trash liners for problem areas.” Allyson Arrington, another janitorial expert from Buildingstars, agrees. She also double lines cans as extra protection against spills. (You can just throw out the inside bag and use the second one as a backup, should anything leak.)

4. Try a smaller garbage can.

Ryan Toffey, a janitorial expert at Advantage Maintenance Inc, recommends using a smaller garbage can and bag, so that you’re forced to take the trash out more often. “This is to avoid food and other garbage from sitting and spoiling in your trash,” he says. Whenever you remove the trash bag, Toffey suggests inspecting the bin and cleaning leaks straightaway with soap and water. Of course, if bears or other animals are a concern where you live, you might want to get a special lock for your bins.

5. Keep your trash away from heat.

Another brilliant tip from Arrington: If your trash can consistently smells, make sure it’s not next to a heat source like a vent or radiator, which will only exacerbate the stench. If you can’t control where your trash can is, then Arrington suggests adding a plug-in air freshener nearby.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

6. Add lemon rinds to the bottom of your bin.

Hold on to the rinds the next time you use lemons in a recipe. Andrea Mingo, another janitorial expert from Buildingstars, says she uses baking soda in her trash bins — but she also adds lemon peels to absorb and cover up the garbage smell. Just remove all of the fruity flesh, and you can add the peels to the bottom of the bag or to the trash bin itself. 

7. Change the type of trash can you use.

Jimmy Cash, a school janitor, suggests leaving a Tide Pod or a small air freshener under the bag to keep the bin smelling nice. If the odor persists, change the type of trash bin you use — plastic trash barrels tend to absorb bad smells, so try changing to a less porous trash can, like a metal option.

What are the strategies you use to deal with a smelly kitchen garbage? Tell us in the comments below.