How Do You Clean A Smelly Outdoor Trash Can?

How Do You Clean A Smelly Outdoor Trash Can?

Last updated on July 1st, 2021

Trash cans are notorious for smelling awful. This is a common problem in households across the country, but how do you fix it? A smelly outdoor trash can will not impact your life too much. When you open the lid to put the trash bag in, the offending smell can sometimes be so strong that it ruins your day.

We are here to give you some simple tips on how to clean a smelly outdoor trash can. No longer will you have to hold your breath as you open the lid! 


We probably do not need to say this, but you should always empty your trash can completely before you begin to clean and deodorize it. We recommend cleaning your trash can on the day that your garbage has been collected for the easiest option.

Empty any large bits of trash or debris that are stuck to the interior of your trash can. Grab a garden hose and spray down the sides of the trash can with water to remove any remaining debris. Swill this water around and empty it. 

White vinegar

White vinegar has long been revered within the cleaning community as a miracle solution. It can be used on almost all surfaces, is incredibly cheap to purchase, and is non-toxic. As well as this, white vinegar is incredibly effective as an odor neutralizing agent. 

We advise using undiluted white vinegar in a spray bottle to clean the interior of your trash can. This is the easiest way to apply it all over the interior surfaces and get the maximum amount of contact. 

We recommend allowing the vinegar to sit on the trash can walls for up to 5 minutes. Grab a long-handled brush and use this to vigorously scrub the inside of the can. Take care to scrub all areas to dislodge the dirt. 

Grab your hose again and rinse the walls of your trash can well. Once you are satisfied that all of the dirt and vinegar have been removed, drain the can. Set it outside in the sunshine to air dry naturally. 

You may notice that your trash can smells slightly of vinegar, but you should not be able to detect anything else. The same method can be used with a commercial disinfectant such as Lysol. 

Dish soap

If you do not have vinegar on hand, this is another highly effective way to reduce odors from your trash can. 

Once you have rinsed out the can, add a little dish soap to the bottom. Fill about ⅓ of the way with warm water. Grab a brush and use this to scrub the soap over all of the walls and the base of the can. Take great care to get into the corners and crevices. 

Once you are satisfied with the scrubbing, use your hose to rinse off the soapy suds. Repeat this process until the water runs clear. Allow it to dry before using it again. 

This process will work with bleach as well. Take care when using bleach as it is a corrosive substance that can cause harm if it comes into contact with skin or mucous membranes. 

How can you prevent smells from coming back to your trash can?

One of the best ways to do this is to switch the type of trash bags that you are using. Some are designed to prevent leaks and odors. Others have had a scent added during manufacturing. Some are marketed as being super strong. All of these will give your trash can an added layer of protection against lingering odors. 

When throwing away trash bags, you should ensure that they are tightly tied closed. This will prevent garbage or liquids from seeping out into the trash can. It will also help to stop the trash from attracting wildlife, maggots, and flies. 

In a similar vein, we strongly recommend that you put all of your garbage into bags before throwing it away. It can be hard to resist throwing away that small cookie wrapper into the outdoor trash can as you walk past. The more loose garbage in your bin, the higher the chance of odors developing. 

Try to not overfill the bags, as tempting as this may be. Excessively full bags are much more likely to split, leaking their contents into your trash can. These can fester unnoticed at the base of your bin and lead to some pretty bad smells as a result. 

Another great way to reduce the odors in the trash can is to clean it regularly. This will prevent the smells from reaching gag-worthy levels. Every time that your trash is collected and the can is empty, give it a quick spray with disinfectant and wipe it out. 

There are a number of deodorizing solutions that you can use to neutralize smells from your trash can. You can sprinkle half a cup of baking soda in the bottom, but be aware that this can cause some mess.

If the baking soda comes into contact with water it will clump and can be difficult to remove. Other deodorizing ideas include dryer sheets and cat litter being added to the base of the trash can. You can also purchase odor eliminating discs specifically designed for trash cans.

You could also consider placing a layer of old newspaper pages at the base of the can. This will absorb any moisture that escapes from the trash bags, helping to reduce mold. This will also help to absorb smells from the garbage.

We recommend that you store your outdoor trash cans in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight. The heat from the sun exacerbates the trash odors, so it is best to be avoided. That being said, we recommend not storing them in your garage.

This traps the odors into an enclosed space, which can make the scents more noticeable. It is a good idea to keep the trash cans outside to allow the odors to diffuse better.