How To Combat That Trash Can Smell In Your Home

Posted by Vivian McNeil on

Last night I made a delicious fish dinner for my husband and family. The fish of choice was salmon. Each time I use this fish I try to explore novel ideas and recipes. 

For last night's recipe, I marinated the salmon in a mixture of soy sauce, lemon pepper, garlic powder, salt, brown sugar, and olive oil. The smell from the grill was delicious and not fishy at all since the pieces of fish were so well brined in the sauce for at least two hours. I must admit the dinner was a total success and even the children enjoyed it. 

With a true feeling of accomplishment (when your kids eat fish you are entitled to a pat on the back.), I fell into a peaceful sleep. In the morning, my kids came running into my room excitedly.

“Mommy, there’s a terrible smell downstairs”. What could it be? Maybe I forgot to turn off the gas. My kids are not so particular about smells, they only put their socks in the hamper after I notice an odor coming from their rooms. (I forgot to mention they are of the male persuasion). 

As I came closer to the kitchen, I realized immediately that the foul odor was emanating from my kitchen garbage can with its lid still tightly attached. I am also very conscientious about using the right size and weight trash bags. I even tie them on the upper sides to prevent them from falling before they are half full. 

The stench in no way resembled the delicious smell of my marinated salmon of the previous night. To my dismay, as I picked through the garbage with my rubber gloves, I took a sniff at the salmon skins and realized that they were the guilty culprits. As I rushed to take out this half empty garbage bag which was so nice and tight fitting on my trusty garbage can, I wondered what could be done to avoid this type of smell the morning after a fish or other pungent smelling meal. Yes, I could be diligent and take out the stinky garbage immediately after supper to avoid this mishap. Yes, I could purchase scented trash bags, but I was not running to the store to buy new bags when I had a huge supply of regular black trash bags in my garage waiting to be used. I made sure to purchase plenty of trash bags at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and even though we have never had as much garbage as we have now, we still have plenty of bags left. Therefore, there must be other ways to help mask or eliminate garbage can odors and I was determined to find out as soon as possible. 

Without using harsh chemicals, you can safely keep your kitchen, bathroom and even your outdoor trash can free from nasty odors. Are you curious about learning how to keep your trash cans from smelling? Here are some excellent odor eliminating ideas on how to get rid of a garbage smell in the house and most of the items are found in a typical home. 

Baking Soda Sachet 

Most of us are familiar with the idea of putting an open box of baking soda in the fridge. So, besides the fridge and chocolate chip cookies, here is another use of the trusty box of baking soda. 

Some of us have sachets in our dresser drawers to keep our clothes smelling pleasant. You can make a sachet for your kitchen or bathroom trash can to stop the inhospitable odors from escaping to the rest of the house. Find a coffee filter somewhere in your home. Fill up the coffee filter with the baking soda and tie the top closed with floss or some other tie material. You can even use trash bag ties instead. Place your baking soda sachet at the bottom of your garbage can and hopefully this will alleviate your garbage smell issue. 

Clothes Dryer Sheets

Even after a one time use in your dryer, a dryer sheet can be reused as a trash can odor eater. Fling a dryer sheet into your trash can and those noxious odors will become bad memories. If the bottom of your can remains dry, you may leave the same sheet at the bottom after removing the old trash bag and putting in the new one. However, if the garbage bag leaks, then the dryer sheet must be thrown out along with the garbage bag. Once the dryer sheet gets wet, it will stick to the side of the can and will be difficult to remove. For horrid and strong smells, you would be better off using a more potent new dryer sheet. Trial and error will show you the way. 

Essential Oils and Cotton Balls 

These oils are derived from the plants that bear their names. They are called essential oils simply because they smell like the plants that they are named for. These oils can be used for many different purposes. They are effective on hair, efficient for cleaning, cooking and as medicinal aids. Here are some examples of essential oils: 

  • Citrus, extracted from lemons and oranges, are natural cleaning agents. The oils give off a bright and exhilarating scent that will shield nasty odors. 
  • Peppermint has a rousing scent and helps to thwart bugs. 
  • Tea tree has anti- viral and antiseptic attributes and is a great bacteria fighter. (There is an inhalant mixture that includes tea tree oil being used to treat the coronavirus virus). 
  • Lavender also has disinfectant properties as well as a calming aroma. 

Essential oils can make you in charge of the scent of your trash bags. Sometimes people do not like the smell of their scented trash bags and they must wait until the box is finished to be rid of the supposedly, “good” smell. 

Here is how to get the best out of your chosen essential oil. Take about five to fifteen drops (depending on how potent your oil is) and soak a cotton ball in the oil. Before putting in a new trash bag, place the cotton ball into the garbage can. Cotton is very absorbent and lasting. One individual cotton ball can soak up the liquid and not fall apart. Your essential oil cotton ball will stay potent for approximately one week. Someone suggested to me that if you do not have any essential oils around, pure vanilla extract can be used to saturate the cotton balls. Make sure to keep the garbage can lid closed for greater concentration of the vanilla. Won’t it be nice to walk into your home with the scent of vanilla waffing in the air? Hope your family will not be disappointed when nothing comes out of the oven for them to nosh. 


So far, the ideas we have passed on to you are great for a dry garbage can. What happens if your garbage bag leaks before you remove it to the outdoor trash bin? If you place a couple of layers of newspapers in the bottom of your trash can, leaks and drips will be absorbed. This will decrease bad odors and cleaning up the spill will be much simpler. 

Simple Cat Litter

Cat lovers will appreciate this idea because it puts something that they already have at home to another use. It’s only logical that cat litter could do double duty as a moisture and odor preventor for your garbage can. You can either sprinkle it straight or make a sachet( as instructed above with baking soda) .If you are a cat owner you will be reminded to replace the litter in your garbage can when you change the litter of your beloved cat. 

Outdoor Trash Cans 

Can these hacks be used for outdoor trash cans as well? All the hacks we mentioned can be used for your outdoor trash can except for baking soda if your trash can is metal. While baking soda is great for plastic trash cans, you must be careful when using it with metal cans. Baking soda can cause corrosion in metal cans as the chemical reaction between baking soda and metal is problematic. 

Many times, it is not so easy to find the cause of a foul-smelling garbage can. Using heavy duty bags is one good way to mask the odors. If that is not enough then the next step would be to use either baking soda and cat litter sachets, cotton balls saturated with essential oils or your trusty clothes dryer sheets. Please only use these scented items separately or your kitchen will smell like a small dark pub with all the different perfumes mingling in the night. Of course, the best course of action would be to immediately eliminate your garbage as soon as possible but practically speaking it is not usually possible for both time and economic reasons. A good strong garbage bag will have a price tag and you want to get your money’s worth out of it. It should be relatively full before you would want to remove it to the outside trash bin. Trying to deodorize your trash can with a variety of scents at separate times will eventually bring you to figure out which is your favorite scent. Unlike a bag of scented trash bags, you have the choice of the scent you are in the mood of each day.

Just like music, essential oils and other scented materials are available in different flavors and speeds. It is amazing what a particular scent can do to uplift a home and a family. Just like music brings out spirituality, the scents in a home elicit memories and feelings as well. Peppermint could bring back the memory of Doublemint Gum (double your pleasure, double your fun) for those seniors who remember this famous snack. Lavender can make one recall the lavender flowers in a grandmother’s backyard. There was a time that cream soda was one of the most popular sodas with a vanilla scent and taste. Look into your past and find a scent that brings back a favorite memory. Hopefully, those rotten smells of fish and other garbage worthy items will become old scenarios. Let us hope these hacks will help to fill your homes with the greatest scents and in turn these scents will fill your mind with happy memories.

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