Like garbage disposals, trash compactors allow you to take out your trash less frequently and reduce the volume of your household’s waste, minimizing your environmental impact. Unlike regular trash cans, trash compactors feature a manual or hydraulic-powered metal ram that condenses your garbage. They also can be used for recycling if your family disposes of a lot of boxes or cans. Read on to learn more about how to choose the best trash compactor for your home.
- BEST OVERALL: KitchenAid 15-Inch Built-In Trash Compactor
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: GE 15-Inch Built-In Trash Compactor in White
- BEST MANUAL: Household Essentials TK10XL-1 Trash Krusher
- BEST UNDER-COUNTER: Whirlpool 15-Inch Built-In Trash Compactor
- BEST FREESTANDING: Whirlpool 15-Inch Convertible Trash Compactor
- BEST FOR CUSTOM DECOR: KitchenAid Built-In Trash Compactor in Panel-Ready
- BEST PORTABLE: Gladiator 15-Inch Freestanding Trash Compactor
Types of Trash Compactors
Before shopping for a trash compactor, consider which type will best suit your kitchen. Most trash compactors fit into one of three categories: freestanding, under-counter, or convertible.
Freestanding trash compactors are best for those who already have fully finished kitchens because they don’t require any remodeling. Easy to install, the only constraint is that if they are powered by electricity, they need to be placed near a wall outlet. They have finished tops, which are usually made from the same material as the rest of the trash can. The top can become an extra work surface because they are not meant to be installed under a counter.
Also known as built-in trash compactors, under-counter models are installed between two lower kitchen cabinets like a dishwasher. They are typically available in standard cabinet widths so that they can replace a cabinet. They have unfinished tops and may require professional installation depending on your skill level. Some are designed to allow you to insert your own front panel so that the compactor is visually integrated into the rest of your cabinetry.
Convertible trash compactors are designed to function as either freestanding models or be installed under a counter. They have finished tops but can be converted into a built-in appliance for a kitchen remodel.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Trash Compactor
When shopping for a trash compactor, there are some key factors to consider. The following sections detail some of the most important qualities to keep in mind when shopping for the best trash compactor.
Manual vs. Automatic
Trash compactors can be manual or automatic.
- Manual trash compactors are not powered by motors but rely on your body to deliver compression force. They are less powerful than automatic models and aren’t recommended for condensing glass or cans.
- Automatic trash compactors operate on electricity and need to be plugged into an electrical outlet. They have powerful motors that offer high compression force to condense your trash.
Size and Capacity
Most trash compactors on the market are sized to fit within standard kitchen cabinets. They are usually between 12 and 15 inches wide, between 34 and 35 inches tall, and 24 inches deep. If you’re opting for a built-in model, it’s important that you take measurements to ensure that it will fit.
The capacity of the trash compactor depends on the type. Automatic models typically range in capacity from 1.4 to 1.7 cubic feet. Manual models tend to measure their capacity in gallons and can hold between 5 and 15 gallons of waste. For reference, the common capacity for automatic models of 1.4 cubic feet is approximately 10.5 gallons.
High-quality automatic trash compactors have powerful ⅓-, ½-, or ¾-horsepower motors that deliver optimal compression force. Compression force (also referred to as compaction force) is typically measured in pounds. Most models on the market have a compression force of between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds.
High compression force contributes to a high compression ratio. Automatic models tend to have maximum compression ratios of 4:1, 5:1, or 6:1. A ratio of 5:1 means that the compactor can compress the average volume of five bags of garbage into just one bag.
Controls and Sensors
Automatic trash compactors have control panels that allow you to operate the device. While the functionality of most trash compactors is relatively simple, some have added features like a bag retainer button that ensures the trash bag doesn’t become displaced. Hidden control panels provide a sleek appearance, and touch-control panels that don’t feature raised buttons are easier to clean.
Many automatic models also include sensors that can detect when the drawer is open and, as an added safety feature, prevent the machine from operating. Some also have a sensor that alerts you when the trash bin is full.
When your hands are full, it’s not easy to maneuver a trash can lid. Some of the best trash compactors have hands-free opening systems, allowing you to use your foot to open the trash compactor.
Air Freshening and Odor Control
One of the primary concerns for those considering a trash compactor may be the potential smell. Because trash compactors allow you to take out your trash less frequently, unpleasant odors from days-old garbage are somewhat inevitable. Luckily, many models are equipped with odor-control systems and charcoal filters to prevent unwanted smells from being emitted, which will keep your kitchen smelling fresh.
Trash compactors can be loud, so many modes are designed with different styles of noise insulation to reduce the sound they produce.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know more about trash compactors, it’s time to start shopping. The following products are picked based on the features above, including type, size, compression force, opening system, and odor control. This list offers a variety of choices for a top-notch trash compactor to suit a variety of needs and budgets.
KitchenAid’s under-counter trash compactor has an array of high-end features that make it stand out from its competitors. It features a powerful ⅓-horsepower motor that provides a 5:1 compression ratio, reducing the volume of your kitchen waste by as much as 80 percent. It features a fan and charcoal filter for odor control and is designed to operate quietly with noise insulation. It’s easy to open with a toe-bar drawer opener. It also has a tilt-away trash basket and side-release bin, making it easy to remove the trash bags. The capacity is 1.4 cubic feet, and it measures 15 inches wide by 34.13 inches high by 24 inches deep. Its stainless steel finish will match other appliances in that finish.
Automatic, built-in trash compactors are generally available in a limited price range, but this pick from GE comes with many of the same features as pricier models. It’s powered with a ⅓-horsepower motor that provides 2,300 pounds of ram force. The compacting mechanism features an automatic anti-jam function and offers a 75 percent reduction in trash volume. It has a toe-pedal opener as well as a removable drawer, making it easy to both fill and empty.
It’s available in white and black. A stainless steel finish is offered at a slightly higher price point. The control panel is hidden for a sleek and simple appearance. Its capacity is 1.4 cubic feet, and it measures 14.875 inches wide by 35 inches high by 24 inches deep.
This manual freestanding trash compactor features a compacting mechanism in the lid, allowing you to use the force of your body to press down and crush the contents of the bin. It has a 2:1 compression ratio, letting you cut the volume of your trash in half. It’s foot-operated and has a soft-close release so that it won’t slam shut. There’s also a lever to keep the lid open when you’re changing the bag. Its finish is made from fingerprint-resistant brushed stainless steel.
It has a 50-liter capacity, uses 13-gallon trash bags, and measures 17.5 inches wide by 25.5 inches high by 14.6 inches deep.
This built-in under-counter model is made by Whirlpool and features a ⅓-horsepower motor that achieves a 4:1 compression ratio. It allows for hands-free opening with a toe-touch drawer opener. It has a sensor that detects whether the door is open and an anti-jam functionality. The compactor also features a unique bag retainer button to ensure the trash bag stays in place and doesn’t slip.
It has a stainless steel finish and a hidden electronic control panel, providing a stylish look that would suit most kitchens. It has a 1.4-cubic-foot capacity and measures 15 inches wide by 33.88 inches tall by 24.38 inches deep.
This model is a great pick for those who have a kitchen renovation planned. It’s convertible, so it can be used as either a freestanding or built-in model. It’s also portable, meaning it can be used in a garage or pantry. It has a ⅓-horsepower motor and a 4:1 compression ratio, making it powerful in comparison to other freestanding models. The drawer is released with a toe-tap mechanism, and it features easy-to-clean touch-pad controls. As an added safety feature, it includes a hidden removable-key control knob that keeps the drawer locked during use.
It comes with heavy-duty bags and features a bag-retainer button to keep them in place. Sound conditioning also is offered for quieter operation. Its capacity is 1.4 cubic feet, and its dimensions are 15 inches wide by 33.19 inches tall by 24.38 inches deep.
Those who are looking for a trash compactor that seamlessly blends into their kitchen’s design may want to consider this pick from KitchenAid. This automatic model is panel-ready, allowing you to install a front panel that perfectly matches your kitchen cabinets so that the compactor is fully integrated. It has a ⅓-horsepower motor and provides 5:1 compaction, significantly reducing the volume of your waste. It manages odors with a combination fan and charcoal filter system and reduces noise with sound insulation. It also includes additional features like side bin release and a tilt-away trash basket.
It has a capacity of 1.4 cubic feet, and it measures 15 inches wide by 34.13 inches high by 24 inches deep.
This trash compactor is on casters, allowing you to easily wheel it around. This makes it a great addition for garages because it can be placed next to your workspace. The front casters lock into place when you don’t want it to roll around. It has a ⅓-horsepower motor and offers 4:1 compaction with a 2,200-pound compression force. It’s operated with a foot pedal to keep your hands free. For added safety, it has a removable key knob that can be hidden from children.
It has a capacity of 1.4 cubic feet and measures 15 inches wide by 38 inches tall by 24 inches deep.
The Advantages of Owning a Trash Compactor
There are several advantages to owning a trash compactor. They allow you to do the following:
- Reduce the volume of your household waste.
- Take out the trash less frequently.
- Reduce waste-removal costs if you typically exceed your city’s limits.
- Compress recyclable items like cans and boxes.
FAQs About Trash Compactors
Below are answers to some of the commonly asked questions about trash compactors.
Q. Do you need special bags for trash compactors?
Yes, trash compactors require trash bags that have a perfect fit, so it’s important to use the bags that are recommended by the manufacturer.
Q. What should you not put in the trash compactor?
Unlike garbage disposals, automatic trash compactors are capable of safely crushing most household waste. Most manual trash compactors shouldn’t be used for glass or cans. It’s important to avoid putting explosives or flammable items in a trash compactor.
Q. How do I know if my trash compactor is full?
While many models have a sensor that will alert you when your trash compactor is full, it’s also easy to assess visually.
Q. How long does a trash compactor last?
Trash compactors last for approximately six years.