How To Clean Trash Cans

Knowing how to clean trash cans properly, and doing it as part of your cleaning routine, will go a long way toward eliminating household odors and fruit flies.

How To Clean Trash Cans

Few things are nastier than walking into a home that reeks of garbage unless it’s having to swat away flies that hatched on that filth.

So, it’s important to make trash can cleaning part of your routine. This is a task that should be done weekly for kitchen and bathroom trash cans and monthly for bedroom bins. (Unless you eat often in your bedroom, in which case you want to make it a weekly thing, too.)

Equipment Needed

  • Rubber Gloves
  • Scrub brush
  • Cleaning rags
  • Hot water
  • White vinegar
  • Dish soap


1. Put on the gloves: Garbage cans are full of nasty and sometimes dangerous bacteria. Don’t risk getting sepsis or another serious infection — wear the gloves!

2. Work outside: Some people wash trash cans in the sink or bathtub but then you’ve got to clean and sanitize them thoroughly when you’re done. Work outside if you can to save yourself an extra step. If you must work indoors the sink is a better option than the tub since it’s easier to clean when you’re done.

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 then pour in 2 cups white vinegar and 1 tablespoon of dish soap. Using the long-handled brush again, swirl the vinegar solution around the interior of the can, wetting down every surface. Allow this to sit 20-30 minutes for disinfection.

6. Dump it out in the gutter or down the drain. Do NOT dump it on your plants or lawn–the vinegar will kill them.

7. Rinse and sun-dry the empty garbage can to help kill remaining germs and bacteria.


Remember, plastic trash cans are porous and will hold on to germs and odors more than metal cans. 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.

Keep your trash cans odor-free between cleanings by lining them. In the kitchen, use the thickest garbage bags you can afford. Plastic grocery bags make inexpensive liners in the bathroom and bedroom where you don’t usually need to worry about leaks.