Your nose will thank you.

By Katie Holdefehr
May 03, 2021
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Many of us (maybe all of us?) procrastinate on giving our kitchen garbage can a thorough cleaning, but once it starts to smell even after you've just emptied it, you know it's time to face this household task. Here's how to clean a garbage can to eliminate those unpleasant odors, plus a few tricks that can keep the can smelling fresh for longer. By absorbing leaks and lining the bottom of the can with odor-blocking items you probably already have around the house, you can prevent a smelly garbage can in the first place.

What You'll Need:

  • Multi-surface cleaning spray
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Nylon bristle brush
  • Disinfecting spray
  • Newspaper or paper shopping bag
  • Baking soda

How to Clean a Kitchen Garbage Can

  1. Clean the outside of the garbage can: Using multi-surface cleaning spray and a cleaning cloth, wipe down the surface to remove dust and grime.
  2. To clean greasy or sticky residue on the can, apply a drop of grease-cutting dish soap onto a damp cloth and work it into the spots. 
  3. If you have any really stuck-on gunk, combine water and baking soda to form a thick paste, then use it to scrub the area. This mixture is mildly abrasive, but it won't scratch a stainless steel garbage can. Wipe down the surface with a clean, damp cloth. 
  4. Clean the inside of the garbage can: Wearing gloves, remove any food bits or scraps that may be left at the bottom.
  5. Spritz the inside of the can with a multi-purpose cleaning spray, making sure to get the bottom of the lid as well. Scrub with a nylon bristle brush, then wipe clean with a paper towel or a cleaning cloth. 
  6. To disinfect, spray the inside and the lid of the can with disinfecting spray, then let it sit for the recommended amount of time.
  7. Rinse the can outside using a garden hose. If you don't have a garden hose, you can also use the pull-out sprayer on your kitchen faucet or rinse it in the shower. Then let the garbage can air-dry outside in the sun, or wipe it down with an old towel.
  8. Prevent a smelly garbage can: Line the bottom of the can with a piece of newspaper or a paper shopping bag, which will absorb any leaks that may happen. Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda on top to stop odors.