The best trash can

Cleaning Tools & Supplies

Stainless steel is the top choice for trash cans that look good and are sturdy, easy to use and easy to clean both inside and out.

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Which trash can is best?

A good-quality waste receptacle holds everything until you have the time to take out the trash. It should be sturdily made, durable, leakproof and easy to operate. 

An excellent choice is the rugged simplehuman 11.9 Gallon Hands-Free Butterfly Lid Step Trash Can, a fingerprint-proof stainless steel trash can that opens with a simple step on the pedal and is engineered to last for 20 years.

What to know before you buy a trash can

Trash vs. garbage

Garbage and trash are often used as synonyms, but there are two important differences between them.

Garbage is the term used to describe wet waste that decomposes quickly. Garbage comes mostly from the kitchen: eggshells, moldy bread, animal parts, fruit and vegetable peels and leftovers will all break down quickly and begin to smell. The odor from garbage attracts pests to your home, which has health consequences for the members of your household. Containers for wet waste should be leakproof and have lids to keep the odor in and the pests out.

Trash refers to dry waste that is slow to decompose, like cardboard boxes, paper, glass and plastic. Many communities make it easy to recycle dry waste and you may want to consider getting one trash can for garbage, another for paper products and a third for glass and plastics. Lids are useful for dry trash but not essential.

Size of your space

The size of the space where you put it will determine the size limits of any trash can you buy. If you take out the trash less frequently, you may want a larger trash can than if you take it out daily.

To learn even more about trash cans, take a look at the full trash can buying guide from BestReviews.

What to look for in a quality trash can


If your habit is to take out the trash every day, a small trash can will suffice. If you want to make fewer trips outside, you will want a larger trash can. Trash cans for the kitchen that are designed to be hidden away must be sized to fit the available space you have set aside for their location under the sink or in a similar closed space.


Manual-lift lids are the most common. Because you lift the lids with your hands, they are the least expensive of the lid types.

Hands-free lids are ideal for kitchens because you don’t need to touch the trash can and risk bacterial contamination. Most hands-free lids are opened by stepping on a foot pedal and close automatically when you take your foot off the pedal.

Swing lids open and close on a hinge usually located in the center of the lids. This type is a good choice for bathroom waste.

Sensor lids are the high-tech variety. They detect your presence and open the lid for you. The downside of most sensor lids is that they are battery-powered, meaning the batteries have to be replaced after a while.


There are three main materials used in the manufacture of trash cans: stainless steel, plastic and metal mesh.

  • Stainless-steel trash cans are the easiest to clean, they don’t absorb bad odors and they are the most costly material.
  • Plastic trash cans are cheaper, but they retain unpleasant odors and stain more easily than metal trash cans. 
  • Metal mesh trash cans are best for offices where the primary waste product is paper. With mesh sides, small bits are prone to falling through the gaps.

How much you can expect to spend on a trash can

Trash cans made of plastic or metal and built with lift, swing and hands-free lids can be found for under $20. Midrange models with a few good features cost between $50-$150. Above $150 is where you get into things like fingerprint-resistant stainless steel and odor-neutralizing carbon filters built right into the trash can itself.

Trash can FAQ

Why does my trash can smell bad?

A. Your trash can smell bad for three reasons: you may be dumping liquids into the trash instead of down the drain, you may not be taking out your trash often enough and your plastic trash can may have absorbed unpleasant odors permanently.  

What should I not throw in my trash can?

A. Do not put anything in your trash can that your city or town says is unacceptable, such as electronics, batteries, broken glass and the like. 

Is there any other way to dispose of wet waste?

A. If you cook a lot and produce a lot of wet waste, consider bypassing your local landfill by buying an in-sink garbage proposal. If you keep a flower or vegetable garden, you might want to think about a small composter for fruit and vegetable scraps.

What’s the best trash can to buy?

Top trash can 

The simplehuman 11.9 Gallon Hands-Free Butterfly Lid Step Trash Can

The simplehuman 11.9 Gallon Hands-Free Butterfly Lid Step Trash Can

What you need to know: This simplehuman product is the top choice for people who want a well-constructed, hands-free trash can.

What you’ll love: The strong steel pedal of this fingerprint-proof stainless steel trash can is engineered to last for 20 years at 20 steps a day. The patented Lid Shox technology controls the lid for a slow, silent close and the internal hinge allows you to place this trash can right up against the wall. The removable inner liner lifts out for easy cleaning.

What you should consider: This is a premium product at a premium price, unless you take into account its long service life.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Top trash can for the money

Umbra Venti 16.5 Gallon Swing Top Kitchen Trash Can

Umbra Venti 16.5 Gallon Swing Top Kitchen Trash Can

What you need to know: This is a large, well-built trash can made of lightweight plastic for the budget-minded consumer.

What you’ll love: This kitchen garbage can is well-built for a plastic trash can and features a neck ring to hold the bag in place while concealing it for a clean and modern look. It works with 20- and 30-gallon trash bags, even those with drawstrings and flap ties. 

What you should consider: The swing top lid is not very effective at controlling odors.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Worth checking out

iTouchless 23 Gallon Touchless Stainless Steel Trash Can

iTouchless 23 Gallon Touchless Stainless Steel Trash Can

What you need to know: This touchless trash can uses a sensor to open the lid so you don’t have to come in contact with your garbage can.

What you’ll love: This trash can comes with a natural carbon odor filter that neutralizes offensive trash odors. Available extras include an AC adapter that eliminates the need for regular battery changes and a set of easily installed wheels.

What you should consider: This unit is heavy and expensive.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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