Management of kitchen waste is a daily chore. To make it easier on yourself, equip your kitchen with the best trash can. Whether you’ve just moved in or are looking to replace an existing bin that no longer gets the job done, continue reading for tips on navigating the options and our own top picks.
To help you evaluate the numerous options available on the market, we tested some of the most popular kitchen trash can options available. After we thoroughly tested each pick, the Rubbermaid Classic stood out as the best overall. Another favorite in testing was the motion sensor trash can from Ninestars, thanks to its wide mouth and handsome appearance. Here are our top picks for kitchen trash cans, according to our testing.
- BEST OVERALL: Rubbermaid Classic 13 Gallon Step On Trash Can
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Umbra Venti Swing-Top 16.5-Gallon Kitchen Trash Large
- UPGRADE PICK: simplehuman 45 Liter Rectangular Hands-Free Trash Can
- BEST TOUCHLESS: Ninestars DZT-80-35 Automatic Touchless Sensor Can
- BEST FOR RECYCLING: simplehuman 46 Liter / 12.2 Gallon Rectangular Dual
- BEST FOR SMALL SPACES: iTouchless 13 Gallon Automatic Trash Can with Filter
- BEST ODOR-FIGHTING: Glad Stainless Steel Step Can with Odor Protection
- BEST HIDDEN: simplehuman 30 Liter Under Counter Pull-Out Trash Can
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Kitchen Trash Can
Your kitchen layout, the number of users, and pets can influence a trash can design’s effectiveness. From considering size and shape to material and mounting options, the decision needs to include how, where, and who will use the trash can most.
Size and Shape
Optimal size for your kitchen trash can depends on household size; whether you compost, compact, or otherwise get rid of some kitchen waste; and space available. Kitchen trash cans typically range from 12 to 16 gallons for households with multiple users, though some are as small as 7 gallons.
- 7-10 gallons: If you live alone and generate relatively little trash, consider a smaller unit in this capacity range.
- 13 gallons: These trash cans are the most common size. They tend to be large enough to accommodate such large items as gallon-size milk containers but not so large that they hog floor space.
- 14-16 gallons: This size range is ideal for households with four people or more
Many kitchen trash cans also come in rectangular, oval, or circular designs to fit better into your kitchen space and for your personal preference. Rectangular cans are considered one of the best options throughout a home for under a counter or in a corner.
Freestanding vs. Mounted
If the kitchen doesn’t have a built-in trash can drawer, freestanding and mounted options are what’s left. Freestanding models are large, with greater capacities, and they can be moved around the kitchen as needed. They also offer a wider variety of design options, including shape, manual or electric lid, and lid designs. However, they can also get knocked over. Homes with pets or children might find trash spilled across the floor if the can sits in a busy area.
Mounted kitchen trash cans offer the benefit of staying in place. Some mount to the kitchen wall, where you can deposit food scraps while cooking. Others mount under the cabinet or sink, staying accessible but out of sight. These small trash bins are less noticeable, though they don’t come in the same design variety as freestanding models. They also might not have the capacity a large family requires.
Kitchen trash cans are typically made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a heavy-duty plastic, or of other various metals.
- Plastic: Plastic is an inexpensive option for a kitchen trash bin. Plastic trash cans are flexible and wash easily. If someone happens to bump or drop the garbage can, a plastic bin is less likely to dent or scratch. They’re also lightweight, making them easier to empty. Unfortunately, they’re not the most visually appealing.
- Stainless steel: Stainless steel blends in with kitchen appliances. It’s also durable and resists rust. On the downside, stainless steel can get dented or scratched and can show fingerprints and spills more readily than plastic. These models can be heavy, too. However, many have a removable inner can made of plastic that’s lighter and easier to empty.
- Aluminum: Aluminum has many of the same properties as stainless steel. It’s durable, rust resistant, and matches stainless steel appliances. Aluminum is lighter weight than stainless steel but still strong enough to resist scratches and dents.
A lid holds trash bags in place, keeps smells at bay, and deters curious pets. Some models feature domed lids with a swinging door attached by hinges. Users simply push the door to deposit trash. There’s no need to remove the lid unless you’re tossing in a large item that won’t fit through the opening.
Still other models feature a touch-free lid opened either by stepping on a pedal at the base of the can or by activating a sensor that responds to hand motion.
Additional features can make the trash can easier and more convenient to use. Some of the most common include:
- Motion sensor lid: Battery power keeps these lids opening and closing with the wave of a hand. They’re a hands-free option that lets users dump trash even if their hands are full. However, the sensors or battery can wear out fairly quickly. And if the opening mechanism breaks, it usually means it’s time for a new trash can.
- Trash bag holder: Trash bag holders are usually on the back side of a large kitchen trash can. Some manufacturers sell trash bags in packages that fit inside the trash bag holder, but most of the time, several bags can fit in the holder even if they’re not made or sold by the manufacturer.
- Foot pedal: Foot pedals offer hands-free opening of the trash can lid without the need for batteries.
Our Top Picks
Our list includes trash cans from top brands like simplehuman and Rubbermaid that were tested thoroughly in our tester’s own kitchen. Beyond trusted brands, the trash cans on this list have the durability, size, and extra features that make them practical and easy to use.
The Rubbermaid Classic 13 Gallon Step On Trash Can skips bells and whistles in favor of durability and performance. It’s made of plastic with a stainless steel pedal, both of which have the durability to take heavy daily use. The pedal’s extra width and depth add strength and better distribute foot pressure to resist damage. An extra-wide rim adds strength to this second weak point.
During testing, we found that it pays to keep a slow, steady pressure on the pedal; a quick step makes the lid fly up and perhaps come loose from the pegged moorings that hold it in place.
This model features a liner-lock retainer band to lock the trash bag in place, preventing slippage. The band lifts out of the trash can to make it easier to remove bags and keeps the trash bag fully hidden from the outside. At 13 gallons, this model is large enough for families but won’t eat up too much floor space.
- Capacity: 13 gallon
- Material: Plastic and stainless steel
- Lid control: Foot pedal
- Interlock retainer band securely holds bags
- Sturdy stainless steel foot pedal withstands heavy use
- Lid opens and closes quietly
- Garbage bag is hidden from the outside
Designed for use indoors, outdoors, or in a commercial setting, this all-purpose swing-top trash can from Umbra features a clean, sleek design. Durable polypropylene is easy to clean and ensures years of use. The thick neck ring holds the trash bag securely while hiding it, keeping the sleek look but not sacrificing the solid hold necessary when the bag gets full.
Our testing found that the top swings very easily, yet the pegs hold it firmly, avoiding the mess that can result from a top that fails right as the trash drops in.
Though this is a 16.5-gallon can, we found it works just fine with both 20-gallon and 30-gallon trash bags, providing more flexibility for those times when a little extra capacity is welcome. This is a much taller trash can than most, at 35 inches high. But we discovered the shape and weight distribution of the trash can makes it tough to knock it over, so this is an ideal option for busy kitchens.
- Capacity: 16.5 gallons
- Material: Stainless steel
- Lid control: Swing
- Easy-swing top
- Durable ring holds the bag tightly
- Can handle 20-gallon or 30-gallon bags
- Must touch the trash can to open it
For sleek design and hands-free operation, look no further. Boasting a shallow profile that tucks unobtrusively against the wall, the 45-liter rectangular hands-free step can from simplehuman has an exterior surface that’s easy to wipe clean, as well as a convenient step pedal designed to endure repeated use.
The can includes a strong and wide steel pedal for hands-free use. We noted that the pedal can be tough to operate, especially for children or those with mobility issues. This upgrade pick features a trash bag storage compartment on the back of the can that made for easy access when it was time to empty. Technology built into the lid slows its opening and closing, so we enjoyed quiet operation during our tests.
This simplehuman trash can comes in five finishes, including a brushed stainless steel that resists fingerprints. However, this trash receptacle can dent quite easily, so choose placement carefully to avoid bumps during day-to-day use.
- Capacity: 11.9 gallons
- Materials: Stainless steel
- Lid control: Foot pedal
- Durable, solid materials and construction
- Slow-closing lid operates quietly with no slam
- Trash bag holder compartment for replacement bags
- Rim holds bags in place
- Non-simplehuman bags don’t fit as well
- Sometimes dents easily
A kitchen is able to operate smoothly and cleanly with a touchless trash can like this 21-gallon pick from Ninestars. The top of the can has a wide opening that we noted can easily accommodate a large pizza box or a milk jug or two without the need for awkward maneuvering.
A quick-open motion sensor cues the lid to quietly pop at the mere wave of a hand. The lid function is fast and complete and holds open for about 5 seconds; simply wave a hand again to keep it open for longer. It also has an open-close button to hold the lid open for longer periods. The trash can runs on batteries; we found that while alkalines work just fine, rechargeables do not.
The attractive stainless steel surface resists fingerprints, and the can’s nonskid base kept it from shifting during testing. A removable ring liner holds trash bags securely in place while also concealing the top of the bag for a clean look.
- Capacity: 21 gallon
- Materials: Stainless steel
- Lid control: Motion sensor
- Infrared sensor touchless control and on-off button
- Ring liner hides trash bags
- Large capacity holds enough for big families
- Quiet operation
- Sensor easily gets confused, but push button opens lid
This dual trash can by simplehuman includes a large bin for recycling and a smaller bin for trash (or switch it up and use the larger one for trash instead). The sturdy step, engineered to last for more than 150,000 steps, opened the top with ease in our testing. The lid can also lock open to save time and pedal wear when doing meal prep or cleaning out the fridge.
If things get messy, it’s easy to pull out both bins for cleaning the trash can and the bins separately. We noticed that for such a functional trash can, it is surprisingly light and easy to move to wherever it’s needed most. The nonskid base helped ensure the can stayed right where we placed it in testing.
This trash can uses proprietary simplehuman liners; specifically, the approximately 8-gallon “H” liners and the 5-gallon “V” liners, for a total of about 12.2 gallons. The larger side is designed for recycling. That makes the 5-gallon trash capacity the smallest of those we tested, which is ideal for smaller kitchens but a nonstarter for large families.
- Capacity: 8 gallons for recycling, 5 gallons for trash
- Material: Stainless steel
- Lid control: Step
- Trash and recycling in one convenient place
- Lid easily stays open when needed
- Both bins are removable
- Small trash capacity at 5 gallons
- Uses proprietary bags
This 13-gallon-capacity trash can from iTouchless is made of stainless steel. With sleek and slim lines, this rectangular can fits easily into corners and tighter spaces, for an easier blend of small kitchen design and function. The motion-sensing lid opened at the wave of a hand and stayed open for several seconds during testing, which gave plenty of time to drop in the trash. The odor-absorbing filter helps neutralize odors but doesn’t impart an artificial fragrance, so the overriding scent is simply that of a clean kitchen.
This trash can requires four D-size batteries; our testing found that it performs well with both alkaline and rechargeable batteries. The trash can also runs on an AC charger, which must be purchased separately. The lid locks down easily with a small tab at the front of the trash can; however, it can also be opened easily by an enterprising child. It’s also a bit top-heavy, which might be a problem if it’s empty, so pay close attention to kids around this trash can.
- Capacity: 13 gallons
- Material: Stainless steel
- Lid control: Motion sensor
- No hesitancy in the motion-sensing technology
- Uses alkaline batteries, rechargeables, or AC adapter
- Fits easily into smaller kitchens
- Can be top-heavy
- The lid lock can be opened easily
The power of Clorox Bleach comes into play with this Glad stainless steel step trash can; the antimicrobial protection of the PVC lid helps battle odor-causing bacteria. The 20-gallon capacity is great for large families and busy households, and the hidden compartment in the back that holds extra bags does its part in keeping the trash can quite convenient.
Our testing found that the sturdy step brings the lid up with ease but without slamming against the wall, and the close is whisper quiet. The bag ring is designed to hold the bag tightly in the can without slipping down; however, the bag ring feels a bit flimsy, and we found it could be tough to wrestle the bag into place. The design of the trash can makes it almost impossible to knock over, so it’s a safe bet around children and rambunctious pets.
- Capacity: 20 gallons
- Material: Stainless steel, PVC lid
- Lid control: Step
- Antimicrobial protection fights odors
- Convenient bag holder at the back
- Easy step technology
- Fingerprint smudges are common
- Bag ring can be flimsy
The 8-gallon undercounter trash can from simplehuman comes already assembled on commercial-grade ball-bearing tracks for an easy, seamless glide out of the space. The all-steel frame installs under the cabinet with simple tools and is ready to use immediately. We found that the balance of the unit is good with little help. Still, the installation was not tough.
The bin uses proprietary “K” liners, which fit perfectly; on the other hand, it makes it tough to find less expensive, generic liners that will work with this particular model.
The pullout trash can features a quite sturdy chrome handle for easy access. The entire unit felt solid in testing, and the sturdy frame speaks to many future years of constant use. We recommend that you carefully measure the space for the trash can, and keep in mind any obstructions, such as water lines, that might block the installation.
- Capacity: 8 gallons
- Material: Plastic with steel frame
- Lid control: None
- Sturdy unit
- Easy installation
- Smooth-glide track
- Small capacity
- Heavy unit can be tough to get into place
The trash can we chose as our best overall pick after testing is the classic 13-gallon can from Rubbermaid, which suits the need for a durable, good-capacity trash can at an affordable price. The slim automatic trash can from iTouchless was impressive for small spaces, and the dual recycling/trash bin from simplehuman adds eco-friendly convenience.
How We Chose the Best Kitchen Trash Cans
Each of the trash cans in this guide underwent hands-on testing in real-world situations. We took the trash cans into our kitchens and used them for a variety of tasks and thus were able to note the “little things” that make a trash can great—or not. We tested them according to a clear rubric and guidelines that looked at the function, durability, space, and other points that matter when choosing a trash can for your kitchen.
Kitchen trash cans aren’t something you think about until they’re overflowing or breaking. If you’re not sure where to start your search, we’ve got answers to common questions.
Q. How big should a kitchen trash can be?
Trash can size depends on the size of the kitchen, the size of your family, and where the trash can will be used. Most single or two-person homes can get by with a 10-gallon trash can or smaller. Undercabinet models can run as small as holding only 2 or 3 gallons. The average trash can typically has a 13-gallon capacity, which is enough for a family of four to six. Larger families, busy kitchens, or small businesses might want to go higher capacity with a 20- to 23-gallon model.
Q. Where does the trash can go in the kitchen?
Trash cans can go anywhere you want them to. Under the sink, in the pantry, in the utility room, or next to the island are common places based on different kitchen layouts. Ideally, the trash can is somewhere that’s easily accessible but out of the way or hidden from general foot traffic.
Q. How do you keep a kitchen trash can from sliding on the floor?
Look for a trash can with rubber grips, feet, or other stabilizing mechanisms on the bottom. These mechanisms help hold the can in place while in use.
Q. How do you hide trash cans in the kitchen?
Using an undercabinet model is the most popular way to hide the trash can. However, these are fairly limited in size. Built-in trash can drawers hide the trash can in the cabinetry, helping it blend into the rest of the cabinets.
Q. What do you clean a kitchen trash can with?
Kitchen trash cans can begin to look and smell foul. The choice of cleaning material or method for cleaning a trash can depends on the materials. Plastic models and liners clean easily with warm water and soap. Stainless steel trash cans will look clean and bright with a cleaner designed specifically for stainless steel.