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How To Deep Clean & Deodorize A Smelly Trash Can, 3 Ways

Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."
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You know the drill: Eventually, inevitably, your kitchen trash can starts to smell—well, like trash. And even when the bin is empty, the stink can linger on.

In the name of a freshly fragranced home, here are cleaning experts' favorite ways to deep clean your bin and keep it looking and smelling like new.

How to deep clean a trash can.

Once a week, Jen Chillingsworth, the author of. Clean Green: Tips and Recipes for a Naturally Clean, More Sustainable Home gives her bin a scrubbing using the following routine:

  1. Take out the trash and wipe any residual waste/spillage from your bin with a cloth.
  2. Pour a little liquid Castile soap into the trash can and fill with warm water. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  3. Drain the water, then wipe down the inside walls and bottom of your bin with a clean cloth. Leave to air dry.
  4. To finish off this deeper clean, wipe down the sides and lid of the bin with a cloth that's slightly damp with multipurpose spray. Chillingsworth likes to make her own using liquid Castile soap and water (a ratio of 1 tablespoon to 1 cup should do the trick) and a few drops of tea tree essential oil, but any of these cleansers would work too.

This is a good routine to add to your weekly cleaning schedule; if you're into meal prep, you can slate it for the day after you typically do most of your batch cooking.


How to freshen up your bin between bags.

In addition to the once-weekly deeper clean, these quick refreshes are great to sneak in between emptying out one bag and putting in another.

1. Spray essential oils.


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Grove Guides at natural cleaning marketplace Grove Collaborative Angela Bell and Georgia Dixon are fans of the beside-the-bin spray bottle. Theirs is filled with about 5 drops of tea tree oil per cup of water, and they spritz it on the inside of the bin and let it air dry before adding a new bag. "You can even create your own custom scent by adding a few additional drops of any essential oil," they tell mbg. "We love to add a bit of lemon or lavender to ours."


2. Sprinkle baking soda.

Baking soda, a natural deodorizer, can help keep your bin smelling fresh too. Get in the habit of sprinkling a thin layer on the bottom of your bin and replacing it whenever smells start coming back.

3. Make your own citrus powder.

Here, Chillingsworth shares a recipe that takes the standard baking soda sprinkle to next-level aromatics using citrus peels:

  1. Wash and dry a few citrus fruits like lemon or grapefruit in cold water (this is also a quick way to get some use out of often-wasted peels.)
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the colored part of the skin, leaving any white pith behind.
  3. Place the peeled strips on a plate, with their whiter insides facing up. Leave the peel to dry for three to four days at room temperature.
  4. Add the dried strips to a food processor or coffee grinder and pulse until they form a fine powder.
  5. Fill an old jam or pickle jar with baking soda and mix in the peel powder.
  6. Punch a few holes in the metal lid, then attach it to the jar. 
  7. Sprinkle the powder into your trash can as needed. 

Of course, the best way to keep your trash smelling better is to limit what you're adding to it. "Extremely stinky culprits, like fish or meat bones, can be bagged and frozen until trash day," Bell and Dixon say. And, we'd be remiss not to say it: Composting food scraps will also keep your bin—and the landfill—a little lighter.

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