Having a trash can in the bathroom, kitchen, or anywhere else in the home is an invaluable addition that some may even consider an absolute necessity. This simple device can block offending odors, contain discarded food and liquids, and provide a physical barrier that is difficult for insects to invade. Without a trash can, you’ll need to deal with a loose garbage bag that is vulnerable to tearing and being tipped over by children or pets, leaving a mess to clean up.
However, not every trash can is suitable for every home. It’s important to choose a trash can that is the right size and shape for the space, preferably with an appealing opening mechanism that is easy to use. The below list of some of the top options on the market is a great place to start looking for a new trash can. However, before making a decision, read on to learn about the important product considerations to keep in mind while selecting the best trash can for your home.
- BEST OVERALL: Ninestars Automatic Touchless Sensor Trash Can
- RUNNER UP: NINESTARS Touchless Motion Sensor Trash Can Combo Set
- UPGRADE PICK: iTouchless Dual Step Trash Can & Recycle Bin
- BEST FOR KITCHEN: BestOffice Garbage Can Automatic Kitchen Trash Can
- BEST FOR BATHROOM: Brabantia Mineral Finish newIcon Step Trash can
- BEST FOR OUTDOORS: Rubbermaid Commercial Products Wheeled Garbage Can
- BEST IN CABINET: Rev A Shelf Kitchen Cabinet Waste Bin Container
- BEST STEP CAN: simplehuman Hands-Free Kitchen Step Trash Can
- BEST TOUCH TOP: Brabantia Touch Trash Can
- BEST AUTOMATIC: iTouchless 13 Gallon Sensor Trash Can Automatic Bin
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Trash Can
Before choosing the best trash can for your home, it’s essential to keep in mind the most important shopping considerations. These considerations include the type of trash can, the material with which it is made, the size and shape of the trash can, the kind of opening mechanism it features (if any), how easy the trash can is to clean, and more.
Modern trash cans are available in several types that are typically distinguished by their placement or opening mechanism.
- In-cabinet trash cans are designed to fit into or under a cabinet, allowing them to be kept completely out of sight. They often include slide-out hardware that can be installed in a cabinet for simple slide-out access.
- Step trash cans are operated with a pedal at the bottom front of the base. They are suitable for use in the bathroom, kitchen, and other indoor locations but aren’t normally large enough for effective outdoor use.
- Touch-top trash cans must be depressed slightly with the fingers to release the lid, allowing it to open slowly. The lid closes flush with the sides, making it a good option for homes with children or pets who may lift the lid on a standard trash can.
- Automatic trash cans are the best option for anyone who doesn’t like to touch the trash can. A sensor located near the lid detects motion and automatically opens the lid, so trash is discarded without any manual effort. The lid then closes on its own after a period of time typically set by the manufacturer.
Trash cans are generally made of heavy plastic, like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyethylene, or a variety of metals.
- Plastic trash cans are typically less expensive than metal trash cans. They can feature pullout designs, step pedals, touch tops, and automatic sensors, as well as a wide variety of color options. Plastic isn’t as strong as metal, but it adjusts better to temperature changes and is more resistant to water and other liquids.
- Metal trash cans have a heavier construction than plastic trash cans, and they can feature all of the same opening mechanisms. Metal has the benefit of blending in with modern appliances, and aluminum, in particular, has been used for years to make outdoor garbage cans because they resist being blown away in the wind. The high durability of metal also keeps the trash can from breaking or cracking when garbage collectors toss it back onto the driveway or the kids knock it over in the kitchen.
Size and Shape
Choosing a suitable trash can will usually entail some thought about the material and more time finding the proper size and shape. This is because a trash can needs to be large enough to collect all of the household trash during the time between garbage collection, but it should also be an appropriate size for the bathroom, kitchen, or cabinet where you plan to place it.
Bathroom trash cans tend to have a cylindrical or oval shape with around a 4-gallon capacity. Trash cans primarily used in the kitchen come in a variety of shapes, including rectangular, oval, round, and even D-shaped, with an average capacity of 12 to 16 gallons. Outdoor trash cans are usually cylindrical, though larger ones may be more square or rectangle-shaped with rounded corners. These trash cans have an average capacity of 32 to 95 gallons.
The opening mechanism on a trash can is such an important feature that it’s actually used to distinguish between a few of the different types, like step, touch-top, and automatic trash cans.
- Step trash cans have a foot pedal that is connected to the lid through a mechanism that runs under and behind the base of the trash can. When the pedal is pushed down, it will lift the lid, allowing for hands-free use of the trash can.
- Touch-top trash cans aren’t completely touchless, but they require very little effort to open. They are designed so that the lid needs to be pressed down to open.
- Automatic trash cans use an infrared motion sensor that is similar to the motion sensor on a soap dispenser. When the sensor detects movement over the top of the lid, it responds by slowly opening the lid. After a certain period of time, the lid will automatically close without anyone needing to touch it.
Ease of Cleaning
While trash cans don’t need to be regularly cleaned, it’s important to clean them in the case of a torn trash bag or spilled liquids. Otherwise, they should be cleaned twice per year: for example, once in the spring and once in the fall. To facilitate this cleaning process, look for materials that are non-staining and odor-resistant as well as features like an air freshener, deodorizer compartment, or internal liner.
- Air fresheners and deodorizers are designed to absorb and mask garbage odors. Some trash cans have a compartment in the lid to place these products to limit odors for an average of one to two months before they need to be replaced.
- Internal liners protect the trash can from the oils, fluids, and grime that can leak through small tears in the trash bag. The liner is usually made of thin, flexible plastic that easily lifts out to prevent having to struggle with the full trash bag.
Basic trash cans usually have a base to place the bag, a lid, and an opening mechanism, but some products may have additional features that can make them more versatile, easier to use, or easier to clean.
- Stay-open lids are a relatively new feature of automatic trash cans. These lids remain open as long as necessary instead of automatically closing after a few seconds. This makes it easier to discard trash without having to repeatedly open the lid.
- Built-in deodorizers absorb and neutralize garbage odors. They usually have a charcoal filter or air freshener that needs to be replaced every one to two months.
- Separate compartments allow a single trash can to collect and organize garbage and recycling in one durable base. Some trash cans with this feature may also have separate lids and pedals so only one side needs to be accessed at a time.
Unless the trash can is tucked into a cabinet or under a countertop, it’s a noticeable part of the decor in a bathroom or kitchen. For this reason, it’s important to look for a product that isn’t just functional but appealing as well. Stainless steel is a common material for trash cans that looks attractive and matches modern kitchen appliances with the same or a similar finish.
For the bathroom, plastic trash cans are usually available in an assortment of hues to match just about any color scheme. Outdoor trash cans don’t usually carry the same aesthetic importance, but it’s still a good idea to consider the color and design so they are easy to see and manage in the dark. After all, a completely black trash can may make sense until it becomes a tripping hazard at night.
Our Top Picks
The top picks were selected based on the important shopping considerations detailed above. Additionally, the trash cans’ quality, features, and overall value were taken into account to help you find the best trash can to keep your home clean, smelling fresh, and insect-free.
This D-shaped automatic trash can from NINESTARS boasts a large 18.5-gallon capacity, which is split into two separate compartments for trash and recycling. Power this trash can with four D batteries (not included) to activate the infrared motion sensor, which automatically opens the lid when it detects someone in front of the trash can. However, the sensor includes a built-in delay so the trash can doesn’t open every time someone walks by, to protect the garbage from passing pets and kids. The sensor is also water-resistant to keep it from being damaged by liquids that may accidentally miss the opening of the trash can.
The fingerprint-resistant stainless steel base contains a removable ring liner designed to hold the trash bag in place while preventing overhanging. The purchase of this trash can includes 30 extra-strong trash bags that have a drawstring closure.
Two automatic trash cans are included in this affordable value pack from NINESTARS. The 13-gallon trash can is appropriate for the kitchen, and the 2-gallon trash can is ideal not only for a bathroom but also a nursery to dispose of dirty diapers. Both trash cans are made of durable, fingerprint-resistant stainless steel, and they each feature an infrared motion sensor powered by two D batteries for the smaller trash can and three C batteries for the larger trash can (not included). The motion sensor is designed with a delay so passing kids and pets don’t activate the lid. In each trash can, a removable ring liner holds the trash bag in place so it doesn’t have to be draped over the sides to be secure.
Instead of trying to find more than one place to store trash and recyclables, this premium trash can from iTouchless features a large 16-gallon capacity that is split into two 8-gallon compartments. One compartment includes a blue removable container for recycling, while the other compartment includes a black removable container for trash. Both containers offer built-in handles that make it easy to pull them out of the trash can when they are full.
The dual-step trash can provides two foot pedals that each control one of the two lids, allowing access to the trash container without opening the recycling container and vice versa. The base of the trash can is made of fingerprint- and smudge-resistant brushed stainless steel that is easy to clean. The trash can also features two AbsorbX odor filters that absorb and neutralize odors produced by garbage and recycled items.
Kitchen trash cans, like this high-quality BestOffice trash can, serve the important job of containing most of the household garbage. As such, this trash can is designed with a sealed exterior and airtight lid to ensure it contains offensive odors. It boasts a 13-gallon capacity and is made with durable stainless steel that resists scratches, fingerprints, and other oils. The trash can also has a nonslip base and a pull ring in the back for easy lifting.
The brushed stainless steel finish pairs well with most decor, and the oval shape of the trash can doesn’t extend too far from the wall like cylindrical trash cans, so no kitchen space is wasted. The lid operates with an infrared motion sensor that detects nearby movement and responds by quickly opening. It’s powered with four D batteries and has a switch at the back that needs to be turned on for the sensor to operate. Otherwise, the lid is used manually.
A smaller trash can is typical for bathrooms for two reasons: There usually isn’t as much available floor or cabinet space, and there is usually less garbage generated in the bathroom than in the kitchen. This trash can from Brabantia provides a moderate 5.3-gallon capacity that is large enough for the main family bathroom but only takes up about 1 square foot of space. It also offers a protective nonslip base and a handle located at the back for easy lifting and emptying.
The trash can is made with durable corrosion- and oil-resistant stainless steel. The lid opens with the foot pedal located at the bottom front, and the soft-close function keeps it from slamming shut.
Collect full garbage bags inside this outdoor trash can from Rubbermaid Commercial Products, instead of leaving them inside to stink up the house. It boasts a huge 50-gallon capacity to hold multiple garbage bags and a robust lid that is difficult for raccoons and other wandering creatures to open, ensuring that the bags won’t be ripped open before garbage day. The trash can features a reinforced rim and is made of strong, UV-resistant plastic capable of withstanding freezing temperatures as low as 0° Fahrenheit. It is also compatible with auto-lifters.
The heavy-duty trash can is able to sit flat when upright, but when tilted backward, the two high-performance treaded wheels will support the full weight, allowing it to be wheeled around with ease. An ergonomic handle at the back of the trash can helps to control the speed and direction while it’s being transported to the curb for trash collection.
Keep kitchen waste hidden with this in-cabinet trash can set that includes a pair of 8.75-gallon (35-quart) trash containers, making it simple to store both trash and recycling out of sight in the same cabinet space. The trash cans are made of stain- and odor-resistant durable black plastic, so they’re easier to keep clean.
The rectangular trash cans sit on a chrome-plated, heavy-gauge wire frame that can support up to 100 pounds. The wire frame is attached to two stainless steel ball-bearing slides that fully extend, so access to the trash cans isn’t obstructed by the cabinet. The installation of the slides is easy, requiring just four screws (included) to mount them to the cabinet floor. Once the slides are installed, the trash cans can be pulled out or pushed back into the cabinet with very little effort via the wire handle.
Step trash cans have a big advantage over automatic trash cans because they offer the same hands-free function, but they don’t use batteries or power cords. This simplehuman step trash can provides hands-free functionality simply via the power of a foot, even if the power is out or no batteries are available. The lid opens when the wide steel foot pedal is depressed and then closes slowly and silently when the pedal is released. It’s designed to last up to 150,000 steps—that equals over 20 steps a day for 20 years.
The 45-liter-capacity trash can is made with brushed stainless steel that resists water, fingerprints, and oils. It’s also infused with agion, which is an EPA-registered antimicrobial agent that is safe for people and pets but inhibits the growth of bacteria, fungi, mold, and mildew. The trash can boasts a stainless steel liner rim that flips up to replace the bag and then closes over the new bag to hold it in place without it overlapping the sides of the can.
The Brabantia touch trash can features a touch-top lid that keeps out pets but opens easily when it’s pushed down and released. The lid will stay open until it’s manually closed, so there isn’t a race against the clock to discard trash before the lid closes. The lid slowly rises as it opens instead of quickly banging into position, ensuring that it doesn’t damage the wall or edge of a counter. The entire lid can be removed to change the trash bag or for easy cleaning.
The stainless steel cylindrical trash can is lightweight and durable with an impressive capacity of 16 gallons that makes it suitable for large households or homes that produce a lot of garbage. It also resists stains and fingerprints while pairing well with most kitchen decor. The bottom of the trash can provides an anti-slip floor ring that protects smooth tile floors from scratches and prevents it from sliding.
This 13-gallon automatic trash can from iTouchless boasts an infrared motion sensor that detects movement and opens the lid. However, this product isn’t powered by disposable batteries like most automatic trash cans. The included 5-foot power cable plugs into an electrical outlet, and the lid also includes a button for manual operation in the event of a power outage. The trash can also operates via four D batteries (not included) for wireless power if desired.
The completely touchless functionality of this rectangular automatic trash can ensures that the kitchen remains a clean, sanitary area for food prep without worry of oil, bacteria, and other waste from the garbage being transferred from your hands to the countertop or even the food. The stainless steel body is resistant to fingerprints and other oils, making it easy to clean. The trash can also includes one natural carbon odor filter to absorb and neutralize garbage odors.
FAQs About Trash Cans
While trash cans may seem like simple products, they can offer a wide range of sizes and features. If you want to know more about trash cans and trash can maintenance, take a look at these most frequently asked questions and their answers below.
Q. How big is a standard trash can?
The average size depends on the type of trash can. Bathroom trash cans have a standard capacity of about 2 to 5 gallons, while kitchen trash cans average a capacity of between 12 and 16 gallons. Outdoor trash cans are made to hold several garbage bags, so they range from 32 gallons to as much as 95 gallons in capacity.
Q. How do you clean a trash can?
Follow these simple steps to properly clean a trash can:
- Empty the trash can.
- Add soap and water to the trash can, and let it soak to loosen any stuck-on grime.
- Pour out the water and wash the sides and bottom with a rag and soap.
- Rinse the trash can.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the trash can is completely clean.
- Allow the trash can to dry before inserting a new trash bag.
This process may need to be completed outdoors if the trash can is too big to pour the water into a sink or bathtub.
Q. How often should you clean a trash can?
A trash can doesn’t need to be cleaned with the same frequency as many other items around the home. Cleaning it twice a year should be sufficient unless there is a noticeable mess in the bottom of the trash can from a torn trash bag.
Q. How long do trash cans last?
Trash cans are usually made with long-lasting materials like strong plastic and metal, so if they are well cared for, they can outlast most humans. For instance, an aluminum trash can may take between 80 and 200 years to break down, while a plastic trash can could last for 450 years before beginning to break down.
However, the average trash can will last between 10 and 20 years in a family home before a hinge, lever, or sensor breaks, prompting the repair or replacement of the trash can.