How to Keep a Garbage Can from Smelling in the Garage?

Smelly garbage in the garage is typically a nightmare when the garage is frequently used. This is especially true in the summer when the trash is heated up and smells are magnified.

An easy solution to this problem is to just keep the cans outside. However, it is often not that easy of a decision.

Firstly, the convenience factor is ruined. It is often much easier to deposit trash in the garage can with a few steps into the garage versus traveling into the yard to brave the elements.

Secondly, an outside trash can may attracted critters. Critters often make a complete mess of things and return frequently to keep the trash cleanup fun rolling. 

In lieu of dealing with a smelly garage or having to store the trash can outside, here are a few tips to minimize or eliminate garage trash can smells. 

Bag It 

It might be convenient to throw away something like the remains of a rotisserie chicken straight into the garage trash can. However, this is not a good idea if you are looking to eliminate smells. A tightly tied trash bag helps seal in smells from the side. In other words, put all items that have the potential to smell in a trash bag. 

Clean the Trash Can

People often assume odors are coming from within the trash bags placed in the can. This is not always the case. Smell your trash can when it is empty to gauge if smells are coming from the can itself. To clean your trash can, there are some professional services that will do it for you for a fee. The Clean Can Company and San-A-Can are examples of companies that perform this service. To do it yourself, follow these instructions:

  • Tilt the trash can on its side and spray the interior and exterior with a hose to remove any debris. Even better, use a pressure washer at a PSI that will not damage the can.  
  • Pour out any water that is in the interior of the can. 
  • Add to a bucket a 1/3 cup Dawn or similar dish soap and 2 cups white vinegar. Then fill the bucket with water. 
  • Use a long handle scrub brush such as this Meibei found on Amazon to clean the entire garbage can with the cleaning solution created above. 
  • Rise the garbage can with hose water to remove the cleaning solution. The inside of the can should not have any water pooled on the bottom. Allow the can to dry before adding trash. 

In lieu of the dish soap/vinegar solution mentioned above, you can also use bleach. Mix one part bleach with four parts water for another effective cleaner. 

Use the Garbage Disposer

A garage disposer attached to the kitchen sink chops up unwanted food into fine pieces before it moves to the drain. This can prevent many foods from being tossed into the trash, which later can smell up the garage. If you have a garage disposer, get in the habit of using it more.

The below video provides a good primer on the types of garbage disposers available and the foods that can be disposed using the disposer. 


Baking Soda

Baking soda is a base so it has the ability to neutralize smelly acids that often surface from things like rotting food. Baking soda is commonly used in refrigerators to soak up odors but it can also be used in the garbage can. Simply sprinkle a liberal amount of  baking soda on the bottom of the can to assist in taking away smells. 

Dryer Sheets

Nothing too complex here. Grab a few dryer sheets and stick them inside the garbage can. The sheets will provide a much needed fresh scent inside and near the garbage can. 

Kitty Litter

Kitty litter is made of clay, which is excellent at absorbing liquid and masking smells. Throw a scoop or two of non-clumping kitty litter on the bottom of the garbage can to tackle odors. If you have any litter remaining, it can be used for traction on ice in the winter or to clean up spills such as oil in the garage. 

High-Quality Trash Bags

Trash bags made of a thicker material will help trap in smells when sealed. They will also help prevent something sharp from piercing the side and allowing garage to make its way out of the bag. If you are struggling to eliminate garage trash smells, consider upgrading your trash bags to something more heavy-duty.


Instead of throwing away smelly things like onions, old fruit, and certain dairy products, you may consider composting them. Since these items will no longer be thrown away, they will not stink up the garage trash. Check out this article by Michigan State University to learn how to start composting in your yard.