Outdoor trash cans can get downright disgusting, and cleaning them isn't the most fun activity. These easy step-by-step instructions demonstrate how to clean outdoor garbage cans and keep them clean all year round...even when they get really nasty in the summer!
A few weeks ago, I was walking a bag of trash to our outdoor garbage can, and the trash bin stunk soooo bad! Also, there were a couple of maggots. I know, so gross, but I'm keeping it real here. I quickly tossed the bag of trash in the can and ran as fast as I could back into the house to call and complain to my husband about the grossness. I immediately told him that I knew there was a service that would come and clean the outdoor trash bins and that I was calling them as soon as I got off of the phone with him. This guy knows me well, and just said, "whatever you need to do, Jess." So, I called the first trash can cleaning service I could find, and got a quote. It would cost $45 per can. I'm not going to lie, I scheduled a time for them to come and clean mine. Then I thought to myself...am I really going to pay someone $45 to clean my trash bins? Is this what the world has come to? Come on now...surely I can do this myself, right? So, I decided to wait until after the next trash pick up day, and clean it myself no matter how gross it was. I also came up with a list of ways to keep it from getting that gross ever again.
What do you need to clean outdoor trash cans?
While most of these items can be purchased at your local grocery store, I like to provide Amazon links to the products as well, just in case you'd like to purchase them there. If you click any of the affiliate links to Amazon in this post and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission.
- 4 cups of white distilled vinegar ( Purchase HERE )
- ½ cup of dish liquid ( Purchase HERE )
- Water hose ( Purchase HERE )
- Bucket ( Purchase HERE )
- Scrub brush ( Purchase HERE )
- Extendable tub and tile scrubber ( Purchase HERE )
- Rubber gloves ( Purchase HERE )
- Tarp ( Purchase HERE )
How to Clean an Outdoor Trash Can Video
I put together a quick video showing just how easy it was to get my nasty outdoor trash can clean in this cleaning video...
How do you clean outdoor trash cans?
- Start by rinsing out your trash can. You can turn the trash can on its side and spray it out really well.
2. Next, make a cleaning solution using 4 cups of distilled vinegar, ½ cup of dish liquid and water.
3. Dip your extendable scrub brush or any scrub brush you'd like to use in the solution and start scrubbing the inside of your trash can. I like the extendable scrubber because it means I don't actually have to get all the way into the nasty trash can to scrub it.
4. Once you have scrubbed the inside of the trash can really well, turn it on its side and let all of the gunk out. I like to lay down a tarp to do this on so the debris doesn't go into my yard or driveway.
5. Rinse the inside of the trash can out with water.
6. Now it's time to clean the outside of your trash can! Dip a scrub brush into the cleaning solution and give the outside a good scrubbing.
7. Rinse the outside of your trash can with the water hose.
Once your trash can is clean on the inside and out, open the lid and let the inside dry overnight.
Now that I've shown you how to get those trash cans nice and clean, let's talk about some easy ways to keep them cleaner going forward...
How to Keep Outdoor Trash Cans Clean
1. Don't Overstuff Trash Bags
First of all, when you overstuff trash bags inside of your home, it just makes them harder to tie up and take out without ripping the bag. We are really guilty of doing this because everyone just smushes the trash down as much as they can, so they can fit what they are throwing away in and not have to actually take the trash out themselves.
2. Make Sure Trash Bags are Sealed Tightly
This goes back to my first tip. When you take a trash bag to the outdoor garbage can, it should be sealed tightly so that the contents of the trash don't attract flies, which lay eggs that lead to maggots. It will also help keep leaks from happening and mucking up your outdoor cans.
3. Don't Throw Small Loose Items in Outdoor Bins
We have been really guilty of taking items like fast food bags and store packaging straight to the garbage bin without bagging them. The fast food bags should be thrown away in a tightly sealed bag. You can reuse grocery bags for this as long as they don't have any wholes in them and they are tied tightly. Loose items like packaging from a recently bought toy can puncture the other trash bags in the bin or can blow out of your trash bins if the lid of your bin comes off for some reason. There isn't much worse than walking out your door and seeing your neighbors trashcan lid has blown off and their trash has blown all over your neighborhood.
4. Recycle. Recycle. Recycle.
I shouldn't even have to share this tip at this point, but even we are guilty of not recycling as much as we should or not recycling properly. Most homes are provided with a recycling bin, and if your home isn't, it's easy to recycle as long as you have a dedicated spot for recyclable items. For more information on how to properly recycle, check this article on Recycling 101 from Real Simple.
5. Rinse Your Outdoor Garbage Can After Pick-up
Once the trash has been picked up, give your trash can a quick rinse with your garden hose and leave the lid open so it can dry for about an hour. This will wash away any liquid from leaks that may have occurred in your trash cans.
Looking for more home tips and cleaning tricks? Find hundreds of them HERE on my Home Tips Page!
Mary Boger says
Good video. I also still a few holes in the bottoms of the yard and the trash cans.
Mary Boger says
Still a few holes
You hit the nail on the head. My trash bin is awful. I'm doing this on the weekend. Thanks for the push in the right direction.
After washing my bins, I put stay fresh Downey beads. Works great ...
What are stay fresh Downey beads & if you put them in your can; they will be dumped with your garbage each week. Please explain.
I just use a pressure washer with a brush attachment.
Lisa Short says
Where can you get that cool scrubber with a handle like that?!
I got mine at Target, but I would assume that they have them at most stores in the cleaning section. It's actually a bath and shower cleaner, so look there. Hope this helps!
I haven't cleaned mine since I inadvertently stepped on the rim of the lid as I was pushing it. This caused me to go down faster than you can possibly image. I face-planted on the edge of the can, and suffered facial injuries. Please make sure to have the lid closed when moving your garbage receptacle.
Oh goodness...I'm sure that was a horrible experience.
can probably use an old or very cheap broom or mop too ...
This works out great! I've tried it before
carol plant says
nice to have you back Jess - thanks for the ideas - i clean out my little kitchen food recycle bin everytime i change the bag - dont want fruit flies in the house - my problem is with my green bin - i live in a condo so dont have access to anything outside like a hose - i dont want to clean it in the condo (i.e. my bathtub) for obvious reasons - do you have any ideas that may help - just the thought of looking in it or cleaning it is awful but it needs to b done - its not tooo bad since i have special paper recycle bags for food waste but it still needs work - any help will be appreciated thank you and regards carol
Thank you, Carol! In your situation, it may be a little more tricky. I think I would fill a bucket with warm water and pour it in the garbage bin. Maybe add a bit of dish liquid or a little bleach if it is really dirty. Let it sit in the bin for about an hour, then come back to it and use a long handled scrub brush to distribute the mixture on the inside walls of the bin. Then pour out. Then maybe rinse with warm water. Hope this helps!
I don’t like the idea of adding even more plastic waste to the landfill by using more garbage bags, liners, etc. I throw my garbage in “raw” in the house and take it outside to the bin daily. I think a quick weekly hosing of the bin is not too much for most of us to do our part to protect our environment.
Judy Stough says
I hate dirty garbage and recycle bins so your video, etc., is a great and timely reminder of needing to get that awful chore done! Thank you always great and practical tips you provide. (Your site is the only one I kept after cleaning out sites I signed up for.) Your hard work is truly appreciated.
Thanks for this helpful guide. Our trash cans were especially rotten after some raw eggs sat in them a little too long. We ended up dumping the vinegar mixture in the can over night and let it sit outside over night because it smelled so bad! Worked like a charm. Nice not to have to use bleach!
Where is the best place to dump the nasty water?
I found large trash on Amazon that are large enough to line my 95 gallon can. I put a new liner in weekly after trash is picked up.
Beryl Feist says
I use a broom to clean my bin. I also use a bin liner which usually stays on the bin when it is emptied. When it is too gross it gets thrown out and replaced with a new one. It usually lasts 4 weeks. I am only a household of two. I dont use bin liners in my kitchen bin, just line a bin/bucket with newspapers and tip straight into the big bin. This way saves on plastic going into landfill. I also have a worm farm and a dog so there are very few food scrapes in the bin.
Amandie Van der Merwe says
May I suggest not throwing any wet leftovers or meat packaging in your bin. Put them in a bag in your freezer and put it in the trash just before putting it out. That ensures no maggets at all. Also put a chlorine tablet inside the bin. That also keeps flies away. I also hang a material bag with some mothballs on the handle of the bin. It also keeps flies and other scavengers away from the bin.
After garbage has been picked up I add kitty litter to the trash can. Helps a lot. Rinse periodicslly when needed.
What do you do with the tarp after you dump the gunk out??
Wondering the same about disposing the tarp! We really need to clean out our trash bin but worry about stinking up the grass or drive way area trying to clean it out. Thanks!
I’m hoping for a response about what you do with the tarp water too.
Mary m Young says
Your text came in so handy today. We have to go to a recycling center. During the pandemic they were not crecycling onlycardboard and glass. so now are back to the regular recycling.
My garbage was so nasty complete with maggots. First I bounced each bag on the ground before putting them in my car. After dumping by bags I removed the car liner and gave it a good shake so I didn't have any remaining maggots. ick.
So this is what I have done in the past and will start doing now. Use my garbage dispolal more, I get from the store one of those large clear plastic tray covers that they use for take out buffet items. fits the bottom of the can perfectly. then do the big garbage bag and fill with the bags from the house. What I do with the inside can that gets emptied every day is place an opened egg crate in the bottom of the can and then insert my plastic bag. Sometimes I spray the bag with a room deoterizer. If I have anything that is liqiuid I pit it in a zip lock bag.
and dispose.Alsi dump the new box of bags in the bottom of the can so I don't have to go hunting for a new bag and it takes up zip space in your kitchen if it is small.
recycling is a scam and you should stop doing it.
I have always put a bucket of Jeys fluid Strong disinfectant and boiling water in my black bin, that’s the smelliest one ,leave over night , then lean to the side and scrub with old sweeping brush, tip out at bottom of garden .must. Admit I don’t do it often enough now at 76
This is a little off-subject. My building is close to the enclosure housing the trash bin. Its big enough so I can just open the top. I suspect it "grows" bugs. Is there something I can spray into/around the bin. The obvious answer is Raid or something similar. Pretty sure I can't leave excess moisture on the outsides and cause a safety problem. Nothing that will cause anyone to slip. Thanks.
Before sometimes I have to clean outdoor garbage can. But it almost becomes dirty immediately again. I can't clean it anymore. Therefore I decided to put a big plastic bag inside. We just take out every time and only need to clean outside.
If it will fit in your car, even with the trunk lid open, take it to a do it yourself car wash. Works great. Aso, I would check with condo mgmt. Seems they wouldn't want smelly garbage cans around.
Let me tell you that I was mortified this morning when I opened my trash can. It was full of maggots that had hatched overnight. Immediately went to the store and literally sat by the window waiting for the truck to go by. This worked like a charm and I feel so much better. Definitely going to do this periodically to keep it clean.
Are we supposed to dumb the Soiled water in the streets. I feel this system we are about to start won’t be good for our storm drains. Nowhere does it say what to do with the water after cleaning
I came across your post and it got me thinking. I've been looking for the best way to keep my outdoor garbage bins clean and found you can use distilled vinegar to do so!
Thank goodness for you, because I am always complaining to my husband, especially during the summer months about our dirty, smelly trash cans. I will make sure he do this from dis day forward. ♥️♥️♥️ You nailed this for me.
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Rick Jones says
I'll try to make sure my trash bags don't overfill. I want to hire a trash collection service to avoid having a dirty bin. But overfilled bags could still spill trash and cause issues.
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Melissa N says
May want to check with you state before trying this. "By California law, this bacteria-loaded water is not allowed to enter the storm drains. Even if the runoff could be contained, hosing down the trash can uses gallons of water and does not sanitize nor adequately clean the can."
Korey Ehorn says
Why should users use OBS
Thank you so much, I was just bringing my bins in and was like these things are so gross, I need some sort of extended brush to get in there and clean them. thanks for the links too, so helpful, hopefully you get a little something for promoting them.
LaKisha Perry says
Where do I dispose of the wet trash inside because it can’t go down the street drains is that correct. Please assist.
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Don’t understand why there is no reply about people asking where the nasty water gets dumped? Is it even a real video of someone cleaning in their own home? The worst problem is having that dirty water after cleaning the trash can. So many people asked this question but not replying to this question seems like the video is not even by the person who is saying they cleaned this trash can at home. Never returning to here to waste my time to only know the basic things. The only thing that stops most people from cleaning these big trash cans is not knowing where to dispose the dirty water.
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