11 Clever Ways to Fix a Stinky Garbage Can

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Having trouble with a stinky garbage can? Read on for fixes to deodorize trash bins in your home sweet, sweet-smelling home.

Even if you take the garbage out regularly, less-than-fragrant smells can escape and invade your house and garage. Prevent disagreeable odors from taking over with these clever tips and hacks to solve stinky garbage can problems for good.

Timely Take-Outs

Get in the habit of removing rotten rubbish as soon as it starts to smell bad, instead of waiting until the bin is full. The sooner you get rid of the offending stench, the better! Taking the extra step to wrap any wet waste in newspaper helps absorb mess-making moisture and prevent smells, too.

Keep Up with Cleanings

It may seem like a no-brainer, but regular thorough garbage pail cleanings are one of the best ways to eliminate odors.

Wipe off spills and sticky bits immediately, and do a quick once-over with a disinfecting spray or wipe every time you change the liner. Wash away any disgusting gunk at the bottom and on the lid weekly before it accumulates, using a long-handled scrub brush and warm, soapy water.

Baking Soda

DIY your way to a fresh-scented kitchen with tried-and-true baking soda. Take small-sized coffee filters and fill them with baking soda, then close with a rubber band and place at the bottoms of waste bins. The white powdery compound deodorizes, absorbing and neutralizes foul-smelling trash, and it’s biodegradable, too. Replace the little pouches monthly.

Charcoal Filter

Activated charcoal, a porous carbon treated with oxygen, is one of the best solutions for eliminating stringent stinks. Purchase store-bought charcoal-infused deodorizers that attach under the trash can lid or inside cabinets and pantry doors. They’re safe and effective at naturally absorbing and neutralizing food, pet, mildew and other smells.

Essential Oils

With a few household ingredients and essential oils, you can make an odor-eliminating spray at home. Just mix together one cup distilled water, 1/2 cup white vinegar, about two tablespoons rubbing alcohol and 10 drops each of lemongrass, lime and tea tree oils, plus five drops of fir oil. Mix and pour into a spray bottle. (This is just one recipe; you can create your own fragrance using your favorite oil scents.)

Another approach: Douse a cotton ball with essential oils and drop it at the bottom of a smelly pail.

Separate Compostables

Compost Caddy via amazon.com

Decomposing food scraps cause most smells that emanate from the trash bin. Though the biggest culprits are meat, fish and dirty diapers, plants and vegetable leftovers (eggshells, potato skins and banana peels) are also major offenders.

Combat the putridness by placing all your “organic” material in a separate, sealable compost caddy you can keep on the countertop or under the sink. Ideally, the contents’ next stop will be your garden, compost heap or biodegradable recycling bin. Keep the caddy out of direct sunlight because heat promotes decomposition and bacterial formation, fermenting the funkiness.

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Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets smell so nice it’s no surprise they can do wonders at masking odors inside the trash container. Tuck one or two sheets at the bottom to cancel out rancid smells and absorb goopy messes, too. A bonus: Dryer sheets are also great at deodorizing shoes.

Coffee Beans and Grounds

Love the aroma of freshly brewed coffee? A layer of coffee beans at the base of your trash can gives off that beloved sweet and nutty scent while absorbing smells. Another odor-busting use for coffee: Scatter your spent grounds (let them dry first) over your compostable waste until collection day rolls around. They also make a great indoor plant fertilizer and outdoor garden pest repellent.

Citrus Peels

Citrus zest is one of the best non-toxic and natural air fresheners there is. Not only does it mask odors, it also neutralizes them. Just slice off thin peels of lemon, lime or orange skin and put them on the floor of your cans. Toss any remaining rinds and insides down your garbage disposal to help clean off the grinder (and leave a fresh scent behind).

Cat Litter

Got a kitty? Borrow some of their cat litter to pour at the base of the trash can. It keeps humidity and odors at bay for up to a week or more. When it clumps, just toss it out and add more. It’s an inexpensive and easy way to fight the stink.

Deodorizing Bags

Using scented or deodorizing bags helps garbage cans smell fresh until you have a chance to chuck the contents. Choose garbage bags that resist tears, rips and punctures to reduce the chance of rips (and therefore smells).

Toni DeBella
Toni DeBella is a freelance travel, lifestyle and digital content writer based in a medieval hill town in central Italy. Her work has been featured in such publications as Fodor's, The Telegraph, Walks of Italy, Italy Magazine, Frommers.com, Touring Bird (via [email protected]) and more. Most recently she authored the 2020 edition of DK Eyewitness Sicily travel guide. When Toni is not roaming around Europe, you'll find her tending her alley-side container garden or honing her clay-court tennis game.