How to Fight Trash Can Odors: 4 Easy Ways

A diagram of how to fight trash can odors

The Spruce / Ashley Nicole DeLeon

A stinky trash can puts the damper on enjoying a family meal, hosting a dinner party, or sitting down to watch tv. Thankfully, there are some easy steps to deodorize a trash can to keep those pungent odors at bay and not attract pesky flies or rodents, either. You might just have a few of these items to help alleviate the stinky issue right in your pantry or laundry room.

To target smells, try putting cat litter, baking soda, citrus peels, dryer sheets, or a few chunks of charcoal at the bottom of your trash cans to absorb unpleasant smells. Scented bags, and sturdier ones that resist rips and punctures, also help alleviate unwanted odors.

Here are some simple ways to prevent you from having to deal with having a smelly trash can.

  • 01 of 04

    Baking Soda

    baking soda next to a measuring cup

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija 

    Baking soda can work wonders at preventing odors in your trash cans. Sprinkle it in the bottom of a trash can or directly into the trash to help absorb stinky odors. As a bonus, baking soda is great for scrubbing out your trash can to remove odors that may have seeped into it. This is often a number one product to keep trash cans less stinky.

    It's simple: add 1/4 cup of baking soda to the can in the morning. By the evening when the trash is ready to be taken outside, no odors will be evident. When it's time to clean out the trash cans themselves, leave 1 cup of baking soda in the bottom of the can after they have been washed and dried. This can help absorb moisture and odor until next week when you clean the cans out again.

  • 02 of 04


    bleach bottles and a towel

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija  

    Sometimes you need a tough disinfectant to get rid of germs and odors. Although bleach has its strong odor, it can kill germs that may be contributing to the stink in your trash. Be careful with bleach when using it to clean your trash can and make sure it won't damage the can's finish. Also, keep your work area well ventilated when working with bleach to avoid a concentration of fumes. Bleach can also be heavily diluted, and it will still perform perfectly. Add 1/4 cup of bleach to two gallons of warm water to clean out tough trash can spills and odors.

  • 03 of 04

    Cat Litter

    cat litter pouring into a trashcan

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija  

    Cat litter in the bottom of your trash can will keep moisture and trashy odors from invading your home. The cat litter absorbs odors and liquids, leaving a fresh scent in the vicinity of the trash. After a week or when the cat litter becomes damp with moisture, dump it out and add some more. There isn't a huge difference between the inexpensive and more costly cat litters, so save the good stuff for the cat and use the cheaper stuff in the bottom of the trash can.

  • 04 of 04

    Dryer Sheets

    stack of dryer sheets

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija 

    Dryer sheets make another great anti-odor tool for your trash. Toss a dryer sheet into the trash can, and stinky odors will be a thing of the past. It doesn't even need to be a new dryer sheet. You'll still get plenty of bang for your buck with used dryer sheets which can still block odors in your trash. If you use them in the can between the can and the bag, they tend to stick to the side of the can if they get wet and then dry and then they can be difficult to remove. If the trash is particularly bad, add a new and unused dryer sheet. The stinky smell will quickly be replaced with a fresh one.