How do I Choose the Best Trash can?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Choosing the best trash can usually means choosing more than one. Most people have an outdoor can for throwing out trash as it collects in the house, and may have several indoor cans for keeping things neat inside. Usually these cans are not similar, except they may be composed of the same materials, and some people who have certain garbage services have their outdoor cans provided for them by the garbage service. Those who live in certain communities like condos or apartment communities may never need an outdoor can if they share dumpsters with others instead.


There are lots of ways to think about the best trash can for inside use. Obviously, the can should be pretty good at resisting odor, or easy to clean so that it doesn’t become smelly quickly. Using plastic trash bags can also help cut down on odor accumulation. Some plastic cans have germ resistant or odor resistant features. These will be lacking in cans made of natural woven material.

A raccoon on the edge of a trash can.
A raccoon on the edge of a trash can.

Size is important too, and here, it’s valuable to take into account daily trash needs and available space. Bathroom trash may only require a small can, perhaps a foot to two feet (.31-.61 m) high. When these are minimally wide, they can usually fit next to a toilet or any available space in even a tiny bathroom. Kitchen trash, conversely, may require a larger can, more than a couple of feet high, unless people want to take the garbage out several times a day.

One of the things to look at is type of lids on a trash can. Some cans have lids that close over the trash, and will open if the lid is pushed down. Another alternative is a foot-opening lid, and these may be useful in both kitchens and bathrooms because it’s not necessary to touch the lid to get things into the can. A third alternative is the lidless trash can, which is unattractive but very convenient.

For both indoor and outdoor trash, it may be necessary to have a couple of cans, or even three, especially for kitchen trash. Those adamant about recycling may want a can devoted to recyclable items, one for items that cannot be recycled and a third for compostable items like vegetable or fruit peelings. Sometimes people design new cabinetry with the three-can system in mind so that each can will have its own place in a cabinet. Similarly, if items can be separated outside for disposal, people may need two or more cans for this purpose.

Choosing an outdoor trash can may take some or no thought. As mentioned, some are provided by trash collecting services. When people must furnish their own collection devices, they should think about durability, stability, and sturdy lids that prevent tampering (especially from animals). Durable cans are often made of either metal or plastic, and they should not be easy to knock over. They’ll also get plenty of abuse each time they’re picked up by trash collectors or collecting machines, so they should be stable.

Unlidded cans are not a good idea for outdoors since they may attract animals and pests, and they will likely be knocked over. For cans with detachable lids, it’s a good idea to have some way of locking the lid closed so animals like deft raccoons can't open them. Size remains a valuable consideration. Determine how much garbage gets thrown out in a week, and always consider getting a can larger than is needed instead of getting one smaller.

Hardware, home improvement stores and many big box stores sell a variety of trash can types for those looking for some style and substance. Shopping these stores can find most people just what they want, and most trash cans are relatively inexpensive. This is especially true of those designed for inside use, as these can frequently be less than $10 US Dollars (USD).

Unlidded cans are not a good idea for outdoors since they may attract animals.
Unlidded cans are not a good idea for outdoors since they may attract animals.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


My trash and my neighbors trash is collected once a week by the garbage collection company. In the apartment where I lived previously we had a community dumpster in the complex and the trash was collected several times a week. This was more convenient.

At my current home, I am responsible for getting the garbage to the curb every morning on collection day. I can accumulate a lot of garbage in a week's time. I dump all the trash into my outside can and take that to the curb for collection.

For me, one of the most important aspects of my outdoor trash can is the wheels. As I said, I can make a lot of trash in a week. The wheels make getting the can to the curb much easier, and the trash can is large enough that I have to make only one trip.


@Animandel - I agree that trash can odors in the kitchen can be a problem, and I have one of the plastic odor resistant trash cans. This trash can does not totally eliminate heavy odors, but when you use a scented trash can liner with these types of trash cans it cuts back on the odors considerably.

You can also try adding dryer sheets or baking soda to the trash bag to help cut the obnoxious smells.


Sometimes our kitchen trash can smells after some of the leftovers from dinner have been deposited there and left for a couple days. I replaced our old trash can, which didn't have a lid, with one with a lid. This was a good solution up to a certain point.

The odor is not noticeable as long as the lid is on and securely closed, but when someone opens it to put in more trash the odor escapes into the kitchen. I haven't tried one of the odor resistant cans like I read about in this article, but I think that type of trash can is a great idea, especially if it works.

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