Why Does Your Trash Smell Bad? 12 Easy Tips That Work!

A garbage bin filled with smelly organic waste

Do you have a trash bin that always seems to smell, no matter what you do? You’re not alone. Odors that come from our trash can be especially powerful, unpleasant, and difficult to combat. One smelly garbage bin can prevent you from fully unwinding in your home or entertaining guests.

You may not think you’ve done anything to cause such a smell, but even the very best countertop trash cans can smell if they’re not being maintained properly. Thankfully, you can tackle trash odors with just a few tips and solutions. We’ll be providing you with all the information you need as we cover these topics:

We won’t get into our effective tips just yet. To successfully eliminate your trash can’s odor, you’ll need to determine why it smells so bad in the first place. 

Reasons why your trash might be smelling

A young man holding a bad smelling blue garbage bag

Understanding why your trash smells badly will help you develop the right strategy for combating the odor. Here are a few of the reasons why your trash might be smelling.

  1. Rotting food: Old eggs, spoiled milk, and any kind of moldy food can cause a very unpleasant odor. This stench comes from the chemicals that the food releases while it’s being decomposed by microbes.  
  2. Cheap trash bags: Thin or poorly-made trash bags that are prone to ripping and tearing can be problematic. They may allow garbage to pour or leak out, which can cause a bad smell. 
  3. Overly full: If your bin is overflowing, that’s a sign that it’s not being emptied enough. That means the food inside is continuing to rot and smelling worse and worse with time.
  4. Poor garbage bin: A cheap garbage bin, like one made of porous plastic, can hold onto bad smells long after it's been emptied. That’s why it’s key to invest in a great kitchen scrap container.
  5. Excess moisture: Moisture creates a damp environment, which allows unfortunate smelling bacteria to thrive.

If your trash is smelling, it’s likely due to one or more of the factors listed above. Once you’ve identified the cause, you can begin using some of the tips and tricks we’ve provided down below.

12 ways to keep your trash can from smelling bad

Getting rid of trash odor doesn’t have to be overly complex or expensive. With these 12 tips, you can keep your trash can from smelling and create a more pleasant environment for you, your family, and your houseguests.

1. Use quality trash bags

A full tied up black trash bag

Poor-quality trash bags could be to blame for your smelly garbage cans. When bags rip or leak, the odor can escape and create an unpleasant stench in your kitchen. Thankfully, you can avoid this by simply using high-quality trash bags.

You want your bags to be thick and durable so they can hold a lot of garbage and resist tears.  If you don’t want to create more plastic waste with heavy duty plastic bags, consider investing in some great biodegradable garbage bags.

2. Separate your food waste

A silver bucket filled with a variety of food waste

Food waste can cause your entire bin to smell. The odor comes from the chemicals released from the food as it’s decomposed by microbes, or the chemicals produced by the microbes, such as bacteria, mold, and yeasts. This is why food waste in landfills tends to smell so unpleasant.

Separating your compostable waste could go a long way to eliminating the trash can odor. Instead of dumping your organic scraps into your regular bin, you can keep them in a steel can of their own to compost later. You could also keep them in a Lomi composter. This device is one of the best electric composters out there and is incredibly user-friendly. 


Lomi by Pela



Lomi allows you to turn food waste into plant-ready nutrients in under 24 hours. Boost your plants while reducing your waste.


3. Baking soda

A box and small bowl filled with baking soda

Want to eliminate the odor of spoiled food and other trash? A little baking soda can go a long way. Baking soda is great at absorbing smells. All you have to do is sprinkle some in the bottom of your trash can or directly into the trash. Even a ¼ cup will do. If you decide to sprinkle the baking soda at the bottom of your bin, remember to wash and dry the can first. 

4. Empty garbage can frequently

Two black garbage bags on the grass by a river

An easy way to fight back against that unpleasant garbage smell is to empty your trash cans more often. If you don’t empty your garbage bins on a regular basis, the food scraps inside could rot and begin to smell progressively worse. If emptying your bins in time for every garbage pickup day isn’t enough to get that fresh scent back, consider emptying them twice a week.

5. Cat litter

A kitten stepping out of a box of  litter

If you’ve ever had a cat, you probably already know how great kitty litter is at absorbing odors and liquids. This has made cat litter a trusted tool for people that want fresher smelling kitchens. Sprinkling some kitty litter at the bottom of your garbage cans, and swapping it out with new litter every week, can help absorb moisture and the odors of strong smelling foods and wate.

6. Use a steel bin

Someone throwing something into a steel bin

Not every trash can is exactly alike. Plastic cans may be inexpensive and lightweight, but they tend to hold onto smells. Plastic is a porous material, so the smells of things like rotten meat can linger for days or weeks after being thrown out.

Consider investing in a higher-quality garbage can made of a less porous material like stainless steel. It should be noted, however, that plastic is fine for an indoor compost bin. In fact, some of the best countertop compost bins are made from recycled plastic. A composter being made of a porous material is completely fine, so long as the kitchen waste inside is disposed of or converted into dirt before it can rot. 

7. Dryer sheets

Putting a single dryer sheet into a drying laundry machine

One of the simplest ways to prevent your trash from smelling is to throw in a dryer sheet. Whether it’s new or used, a dryer sheet can effectively block most odors. You can either place them directly inside the trash or put them between the bag and the can. It shouldn’t be too long before you notice a difference.

8. Bleach

A plain white bottle of bleach beside a stack of towels

Bleach is one of the toughest disinfectants out there. It has a strong odor, but it can effectively kill the germs that may be causing your trash to stink. You should be very careful when handling bleach, as it can be damaging to both you and your trash can.

Keep the area well ventilated and be sure to heavily dilute the bleach before using it. A ratio of ¼ cup bleach to two gallons of warm water should be sufficient. Finding maggots in your trash? You can also use bleach to get rid of maggots in your garbage can!

9. Drain excess liquids

Water going down a sink steel sink drain

As explained above, a damp environment can lead to unfortunate odors, as moisture allows bacteria to thrive. You should be draining excess liquid from anything you plan on throwing away before putting it in your garbage can. One of the best examples of this is pouring leftover soup into the garbage disposal, rinsing the cans, and allowing them to dry before throwing them away. 

10. Try citrus peels

Clementines and orange peels ripped into smaller pieces

Separating your food scraps from the rest of your trash is normally a good idea. One of very few exceptions, however, is citrus peels. Though they should eventually end up in your compost bin, you can first keep them in between your garbage can and bag to help mask bad odors. Naturally, this will only work until the peels start to rot.



11. Buy a smaller bin

Two small and gray kitchen garbage bins

One of the best tips listed above is to empty your garbage cans regularly. A great way to push yourself to keep up with this habit is to buy a smaller garbage bin. If you’re essentially forced to empty your cans every few days rather than weekly (or bi-weekly), then you’re lessening the chances of your waste spoiling and stinking up your kitchen.

If emptying your garbage cans every few days sounds too time-consuming, no problem. Instead of swapping out all the cans in your home, you can just get a smaller bin for your kitchen. Check out this list of the best kitchen trash cans to find one that’s suited to you and your home. 

12. Use a loose lid

Throwing trash into green and white plastic bins with loose lids

Some people think that a tightly sealed lid on a trash can will keep odors out. Unfortunately, the opposite can also be true. If no oxygen is able to reach your waste, it’ll become increasingly moist and full of bacteria. To get around this, you’ll need a trash can with a loose lid that allows for some air flow. Alternatively, you can stick with the tightly sealed lid and just empty your trash as frequently as you can. 

Try Lomi - a convenient way to deal with your kitchen waste 

Someone adding watermelon rind to Lomi

One of the most common causes of trash odor is rotting food. You can solve this problem and create your own nutrient-rich dirt by using the Lomi kitchen composter. This compact electric composter uses a carbon filter to keep smells out as it transforms your scraps into a natural fertilizer. It keeps your kitchen smelling good and leaves you with a great soil amendment.

You can use this fertilizer in your garden or house plants. Needless to say, this is a much more environmentally-friendly use of your scraps than what happens where your garbage usually ends up. If you’d like to learn more about what other waste Lomi can break down, please check out this guide of what can go into Lomi.

Written by: E Sawden