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How to Stop Your Trash from Smelling So [email protected]!n Bad

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My trash can and I have been at war since May 2015.

Despite my diligence, the trash stinks. I use a scrap bowl while I cook not because I'm efficient (ha!), but because I dread pressing my foot on the lever at the bottom and releasing the foul odors into my apartment. 

And the problem is even more embarrassing (and unpleasant) when guests are over. Nothing undoes the sweet scent of sautéeing onions or the candle I lit in the entryway (yeah, sure) like the stench of my trash.

The best thing to do: Take out the trash every night. But as someone who accidentally bought a trash can that requires pricey name brand bags (stupid, but innocent, mistake), I must fill it up.

Trash smells, and that's the hard truth. But what makes this sad reality bearable is that there are tricks that will help keep your trash as least smelly as possible.


1. Use your common sense.

  • Consider getting a smaller trash can. It may seem counterintuitive to downsize, but having a smaller receptacle will force you to take the trash out more often, and it will mean that the stuff at the bottom of the can has not been lingering there for weeks on end.

  • Use high-quality trash bags. You want trashbags that are thick enough to hold in odors and sturdy enough not to spew garbage or leak funky juices as you drag them down five flights of stairs. Better trash bags equal less-stinky trash cans—and sometimes it's not the trash, but the can, that really reeks (so clean that often, too).
  • Moisture is not your friend because a damp environment allows bacteria to thrive. Before you throw something to the trash, drain off any excess liquid into the sink. Don't even think about throwing your old soup into the trash. Or, at the very least, put it in its own container first (see below). 

  • Contain the smelliest stuff in a bag of its own—and expel it from your kitchen ASAP. Fish scraps, animal bones, leftovers that have seen better days, spoiled (or soon-to-spoil) dairy products, and banana peels should be contained to separate, sealable containers (the plastic grocery bags exploding under your sink, the cardboard boxes from cereal or crackers) before they get dumped into the trash at large. Better yet, set aside a separate bag for these 

  • Start composting—it's the best way to keep all your potentially-smelly food scraps in the same, very contained area. If you're worried about the countertop compost bin stinking up your kitchen (but, if it's well-made, it shouldn't!) keep it in the freezer. 

  • Reduce your amount of trash by cooking with the "scraps" that aren't really scraps at all

2. Add an odor-absorber.

  • You know that a box of baking soda absorbs the odors in your fridge, so it makes sense that it can absorb the odors in the trash can, too. Sprinkle baking soda all over the inside of the can—or even throw some directly into the bag. It's also a powerful cleaning tool: Mix it with lemon juice and vinegar to scrub down your can between trash take-outs.
  • Add a sprinkling of cat litter to the bottom of your trash can. It absorbs odors and liquids (obviously) and contains bacteria and smell inhibitors. Change it every week or when it's damp. But be warned that cat litter (even clean cat litter) has its own, often slightly chemically, smell. 

  • Dryer sheets—even used dryer sheets—will absorb the stink. Add a couple to trash can before you put in the bag. 

  • The old coffee grounds you were about to throw away? Those are powerful smell sponges, too. Mound a layer of used coffee grounds (let them dry out first!) in the bottom of the trash can. Our Director of Audience Development Megan Lang avoids the mess by stuffing her grounds into used tights and tossing the bundle every week, or so. 


3. Mask the smell with a more powerful odor.

  • Throw some citrus peels between the can and the bag.

  • Be like our editor Caroline Lange and add a few drops of essential oil to the bin each time you switch out the bag

How do you keep the trash from perfuming your home with less-than-pleasant odors? Give us your tips in the comments!

Tags: Advice