How To Clean Trash Cans

How to clean trash cans from HousewifeHowTos.comChances are, you don’t think about your trash cans unless they’re overflowing, or they begin to stink up your home. Nagging your husband or kids more often, or emptying them yourself, will take care of the first problem. A good monthly cleaning will take care of the second. Here’s how to clean trash cans naturally.

You will need
•Rubber gloves
•Long-handled scrub brush
•Cleaning rags or paper towels
•Bucket of hot water
•White vinegar

  1. Put on the gloves: Garbage cans are full of nasty and sometimes dangerous bacteria. The bleach isn’t great for your skin, either. Wear the gloves!
  2. Work outside: Some people recommend washing trash cans in the bathtub, but then you’ve got to clean and sanitize it thoroughly when you’re done. Working outside, if you can, saves time and ensures you won’t be wallowing in that filth later.
  3. Empty the can and remove as much gunk as possible using the rags or paper towels.
  4. Hose it out to remove the first layer of grime. Then, using the long-handled brush (or a toilet brush used specifically for cleaning garbage cans), scrub the bottom and sides. Rinse and repeat until you’ve removed the food stains and spills.
  5. Add hot water to the bottom of the can, and pour in 2 cups white vinegar. Using the long-handled brush again, swirl the vinegar solution around the interior of the can, wetting down every surface. Allow to sit 20-30 minutes for disinfection.
  6. Dump it out, but not on your lawn or plants since vinegar will kill them. (It makes an excellent weed killer, by the way.) Since we’re working with an all-natural substance, it’s perfectly okay to dump it in the gutter.
  7. Rinse and dry, ideally in the sunlight, which will also help kill any remaining germs or bacteria.

Remember, plastic trash cans are porous and will hold on to germs, as well as odors, more than metal cans. Regardless of what yours is made from, it needs cleaning at least once a month. Adding a layer of used newspapers and a sprinkling of baking soda will help control spills and odors between cleanings, and will make it far easier to remove messes in the future.

Equipment I Use To Do This:


  1. Allie from Albany says

    If you let your plastic containers dry in the sun, do it on a temperate day. I did it when it was 88 degrees farenheit outside, and the sun warped the plastic. Now when I open the can, the lid flies off and it never did before. We’ll have to buy a new can. %$#@&^%!!

    • Katie B. says

      Oh no! I wouldn’t think 88 would be enough to warp a can, but I’m glad you took the time to let me know that happened. (Incidentally, I did our cans last week when it was 94 and didn’t have any problems. Did you leave yours sitting on hot cement or in front of a car or glass door? Either would magnify heat.)

  2. Ariel says

    Getting the mechanics of a Simple Human trash can wet breaks it, so only wash the liner this way. Learned the hard way, but they sent me a new part for free

    • Katie Berry says

      I’m sorry yours broke. I’ve never heard of a trash can that can’t be washed! Hopefully your family is neater than mine; our can gets splatters everywhere. Ugh.

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