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How to Clean a Trash Can

No matter how we feel about it, trash is a part of life. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Trash is messy, and as a result trash cans can get pretty grimy. Torn holes in bags, tossing something into the can before replacing the liner, the soup you threw away that managed to seep through the trash can liner – all these and more can cause unsightly stains and odors on your trash can, not to mention attracting pests such as flies and mice.

The fact is, your trash can probably needs a good cleaning. This guide will help you to find the best, easiest, most painless ways to clean your trash cans.

Why you should clean your trash can

Besides just the practical aspects of removing the physical grime that builds up on your trash can, there are some pretty good reasons to ensure that cleaning it is part of your regular household cleaning chores.

For one, the bacteria from the things you throw away can cause illness. Salmonella and e.coli are some of the most common household bacteria found on trash cans. These bacteria come from foods such as raw eggs and uncooked meat, and can cause diarrhea, cramping, fever, and even death. 

Additionally, mold can grow in the dark, wet crevices of your trash can. Spores are released into the air and can also cause illness. Cleaning and disinfecting your trash can will discourage the growth of these harmful molds.

The messier your trash can is, the more frequently you will have unwanted guests visiting your trash. Flies are bad enough, but their eggs produce maggots. Nothing is more gross than opening the lid of your bin to find a mass of white squirming worms. Mice will be attracted to your trash as well, and can then take up residence in and around your home once they have found your trash can to be a good source of food.

Cleaning your indoor plastic trash can

Your indoor trash cans, especially the one in your kitchen, probably get the most use and are touched by everyone who lives in your home several times a day. If they have a lid, it’s a good practice to simply wipe down the lid with a disinfectant wipe on a regular basis. That alone will cut down on the spread of germs. When it’s time to really get in there and get clean, though, you’ll need a different approach.

First, gather your materials. You can use dishwashing detergent and a rag for a simple wash. For a larger trash can you’ll need something like a clean toilet brush to reach down into the can. Once the grime is washed away it may be wise to wipe the entire trash can, in and out, with a disinfecting wipe or spray with a disinfecting spray, just to ensure it is completely clean.

For a smaller trash can, such as the type used in bathrooms and bedrooms, you can probably complete this task using the kitchen sink. Fill the sink with hot soapy water and use a rag or a scrubbing sponge to clean the inside and outside. Be sure to get all sides of the lid as well, if there is one. 

Once it is clean, leave it to dry outside on your patio or even dry it in your bathtub. Be sure to set it upside down so the water runs out. Make sure it is completely dry before setting it back out to be used or you run the risk of the trash thrown into it getting wet and sticking to the trash can.

You can wash a larger trash can either outside or even in your bathtub, using a similar method. Make sure you have a clean toilet brush to use to reach down into the can, making sure to get the corners and edges. Again, let the trash can sit out to dry completely before using it again.

Cleaning your stainless steel trash can

Most stainless steel trash cans contain a plastic liner on the inside, which can be easily removed for cleaning. This part can be cleaned just like the plastic trash cans above. For the outside, clean the stainless steel carefully with a soft cloth and soapy water. If fingerprints are still visible, you can try using a glass cleaner for the remainder.

If your trash can has moving parts (such as a pedal to lift the lid), avoid immersing them in water. The liner should protect these parts from getting too dirty, but if you can see that they do need to be cleaned just give them a wipe down with your soapy rag or scrubbing sponge.

Cleaning your outdoor trash can

Outdoor trash bins can get very gross. They sit outside, baking in the hot sun, filled with stinky garbage wafting into the air and inviting every scavenger around to come and have a look! What’s worse, the smell can drift into your home, making your house smell like trash. Cleaning outdoor trash cans is especially important, and especially gross. Here are a few tips to make it a bit easier.

You will definitely want to clean these outside, with a hose. If you own a power washer you can use that to power off all the grime on the inside and the outside of the bin. If not, use a spray nozzle on your hose to increase the water pressure to help spray off grime.

Before you start scrubbing, make sure your trash can is empty. Fill your can up with water and soap and let it soak for a while. This will make it a bit easier for you to clean the dried-on grime. 

Using a rag or a sponge, clean the outside just as you would with your indoor garbage bin. Cleaning the inside can be a bit more tricky, but with the help of your toilet scrubbing brush or another long-handled brush you should be able to reach down into the crevices at the bottom of your can. Rinse and drain as much of the water out as you can, and let it sit with the lid open until it is completely dry. 

Once it is dry, spray the entire can inside and out with a disinfectant spray. To keep your trash can clean for longer, be sure that anything you toss into it is already in some kind of a trash bag or a grocery sack. This will help keep your trash can smelling fresh for longer.

Your trash can will need to be cleaned at some point. You can make your life a little bit easier by wiping up spills on your trash can as soon as you notice them. Always use a liner in your trash cans, even the small ones. If you are trying to reduce plastic use by not using a liner in small trash cans, see if you can use a liner but then just combine the trash into a larger trash bag, leaving the liner in the small bag in place until it becomes necessary to change it.

Trash cans don’t have to be messy or stinky, and taking out the trash doesn’t have to be a completely unpleasant experience. Trash is a fact of life, but stinky trash cans don’t have to be!

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