When it comes to our kitchen, the scents we want lingering are those coming from fresh baked cookies or a rosemary-crusted roast chicken. So it’s aways a downer when, thanks to an overflowing kitchen trash can, the smells are more like rotting banana peel or moldy leftovers — or worse old fish! So you move the bag to the outside trash or place it in your garage — but the smell seems to hang around your garbage can.
Luckily, this gross nuisance doesn’t have to be a problem. Cleaning pros offer up easy ways to get rid of trash can smell and help keep the odors at bay before they even become bothersome.
Why your trash can smells even when you replace the bag
“Kitchen trash can odors linger due to the decomposition of organic waste like food scraps, which release unpleasant gases,” shares Christopher Gallard, owner of PR Cleaners in Canada. “Bacteria and other microorganisms involved in the decomposition process contribute significantly to the odor. Also, if residues from this waste are left to accumulate in the trash can over time, they will continue to produce and trap these odorous gases, hence making the smell persist.”
In other words, both the gases produced by your trash that cling to the can and those little bits of food waste that cling to the can are combining to create that ongoing bad smell.
Using baking soda to get rid of lingering trash can smell
Have you ever stuck a box of baking soda in the back of your fridge to absorb food odors? Well, it’s just as helpful when it comes to your smelly trash. “What I do is sprinkle baking soda at the bottom of the trash can and directly onto the trash to help neutralize the smell,” shares Paulo Filho, owner of Celestial Cleaning Service. You should only need a couple tablespoons or so for both options, depending on the size of your receptacle.
This tip works fine for plastic cans, but don’t try it in a metal trash can without adding some sort of barrier between the baking soda and the can, like a coffee filter or a dryer sheet. Otherwise, the metal in your can that’s in contact with the baking soda may turn brown from a corrosive oxidation process. And that’s a case of the cure being worse than the disease!
What to do to completely remove the smell from your trash can
When baking soda isn’t doing the trick to get rid of smells, it could be that some of the odorous gasses have penetrated the surface of your can. “If the odor persists, you can use white vinegar, another powerful odor neutralizer,” recommends Gallard. The vinegar can penetrate parts of the can the baking soda missed. “Wipe down the insides of your trash can with undiluted vinegar, then rinse.”
If you notice mold has started growing, you’ll need to get out the big guns and wipe it down with a 50/50 mixture of bleach and warm water. This will break down the mold that can make odors even worse.
The best way to keep trash can smell from coming back
After you’ve wiped down and rinsed the can, add in this must-try secret before replacing the bag or liner. “Place some whole coffee beans at the bottom of the trash can and let it sit there as it absorbs the smells,” suggests Filho. So easy — and no risk of corroding the can!
If you want to replace the odor with something that smells more pleasant, consider lemon rinds. “Lemon has a strong, fresh smell that can overpower many bad odors,” says Gallard. “After using a lemon, just throw the rinds into the trash can to add a fresh scent.”