How To Clean Those Smelly Outdoor Trash Cans

I think I have finally arrived! My nephew Scott (and business partner) is seeking advice from “Jillee”! lol. I received this as part of an email a few days ago…..

“My garage smells like hell right now because of those big stinky trash cans. It will get worse because its getting warmer. I thought to myself, “Jillee would know how to fix this!” :) Anything you can find?”

(If Grandma’s reading this…I’m pretty sure he meant to say “heck”.)

I have to admit I got a chuckle out of this…but then realized…he’s exactly right! I absolutely ABHOR taking out the trash to the BIG trash container outside because I can’t STAND the smell when I open the lid. I mean think about it…we put ALL our household trash in there….let in bake in the sun in a black plastic container all week until the municipal trash truck comes and takes it away. Is it any wonder it REEKS???

So after some fairly unpleasant research about garbage cans and how to clean them…here is the list/method I came up with for my nephew…but I’ll let you take a peek as well:

#1 GET THAT BIG STINKY THING OUT OF YOUR GARAGE! I realize they don’t exactly up the “curb appeal” of a house…but your garage will be a MUCH nicer place to be.

#2 The ideal time for trash can cleaning is on trash day, right after trash pickup, but if that’s not possible…just make sure you’re planning ahead and avoid putting any bags into the big container until “cleaning the can” is mission accomplished.

#3 Move the container to some place you don’t mind getting wet and somewhat soapy, the lawn would be ideal.

#4 Squirt some dishwashing liquid into the bottom of your EMPTY trash container and use a sprayer attached to a garden hose to “pressure wash” the inside of the offensive can.

#5 Pour out the soapy water and RINSE.


Photo Credit: i Dream of Clean



If the can is particularly SMELLY…you might want to whip up this batch of homemade disinfectant from Household Management 101.


3/4 cup of chlorine bleach
1 gallon warm water
1 tablespoon powdered laundry detergent


Mix the ingredients in a cleaning bucket and pour into the trash container. Let sit for 15 minutes, then using a long handled scrub brush, scrub the insides of the can. Rinse with the hose, and turn it upside down in order to let all the water drain out of it.

Turn the garbage bin back around so that it is right-side up, and let it dry in the sun all day

Finally….spray the inside of the garbage bin thoroughly with a disinfectant.

You should now have a “like-new” garbage bin you can be proud of. :-)

And to KEEP it that way……

Put leftover food, fruit peels, fish heads, etc in a plastic grocery sack and throw it in the freezer until trash pick up day.

Put the trash bin in a cooler, or shady area or anywhere other than inside the garage.


And last, but not least…..if you can stand the smell….and you have a vehicle big enough to handle it….take the big green monster to the car wash and give it a good pressure washing!

Good Luck nephew! Hope there’s something there that is helpful.

Feel free to utilize One Good Thing By Jillee consultation service anytime.

We aim to please! ;-)

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  1. Jessica says

    Your blog is like a “to-do” list for me. Everytime you post a cleaning tip I go and do it and mark it off the list!!! My trash can is clean and the hubby can’t complain about diapers smelling it up any more!!

  2. Mary Alice says

    Arm & Hammer Carpet Fresh handles this problem quite nicely. Whenever it starts to get stinky in there, I sprinkle in some of this Carpet Fresh and that’s it. Problem solved. I keep a box of this in my garage, so it is on hand when I need it. Plain baking soda may work as well, but this in nicely scented so I prefer to use it.

  3. Mary Malone says

    Is that a special pressure washer on the end of the hose? That would be great for washing down the house in spring. ! Ace? Home Depot?? I love this blog!

      • Tommi says

        I use the “Gilmour Nozzle Water Jet with Built-in Shut-Off
        Item #: 204693 | Model #: 06MJGF”. This little nozzle is quite inpressive for its size and price! i use it it, along with a pump garden sprayer loaded with my *”miracle house cleaner” to clean the outside of my house and my *”miracle car wash” to clean my car. It can reach to the top eaves of my second story house. The only draw back to these is that they are so small and get lost in my garage and yard if I take it off of the hose. BUT @ -$2.00 at Lowes (I am sure Home Depot has an equivalent) I usually pick up several at a time. I have let neighbors borrow them only to have them give my nozzle and I a look of “what am I supposed to do with this puny looking thing” and then turn their nose up at it. But then once they use it and experience the awesomeness of it I never get it back!

        A 1 gallon pump type sprayer
        2-4 Cups of household Bleach (amount varies depending on how dirty an area I am cleaning)
        1-2 Capfulls of liquid laundry detergent
        12-14 cups of water

        1. Measure bleach into sprayer bottle
        2. Slowly add your water to the 1 gallon mark on your sprayer.
        3. Pour in laundry detergent.
        4. Cap the sprayer bottle tightly and shake well.
        5. Pump up the sprayer and spray on the side of house, garage door, roof, windows etc…
        6. Let sit for 5 mins and rinse off with hose that is equipped with the high pressure nozzle.
        – Remove pets and children from the vicinity.
        – Spray down vegetation with copious amounts of water BEFORE AND AFTER cleaning.
        – Wear protective clothing and eye protection (I usually wear white clothes, large sunglasses and a hat).

        This recipe is great because, unless you are washing a motor home or if your car is REALLY dirty, you won’t use the whole gallon. I keep this on hand at all times for quick washes!
        A 1 gallon pump type sprayer
        1 Cups of household Bleach
        2-4 Capfulls of liquid laundry detergent
        OR your favorite car wash mixed according to the directions on the bottle (ALWAYS make sure that the car wash does not contain ammonia, if it does OMIT THE BLEACH)
        12-14 cups of water

        1. Measure bleach into sprayer bottle
        2. Slowly add your water to the 1 gallon mark on your sprayer.
        3. Pour in laundry detergent.
        4. Cap the sprayer bottle tightly and shake well.
        5. Hose down entire vehicle with hose equipped with high pressure nozzle to loosen any dirt, mud, pollen or bugs.
        6. Spray down entire vehicle with “Miracle Car Wash” let sit for 5 mins (Do not let the solution dry on your vehicle).
        7. Rinse thoroughly and repeat if necessary (I have never had to repeat).
        8. (Optional) Dry entire vehicle with a soft cloth or chamoise and wax (I RARELY dry my car after I wash it and this method had left very little spots behind after it dries AND my car is BLACK)
        NOTE: The laundry detergent may remove wax…. So use Car Was Soap if you are concerned with that possibility. Household pine cleaner (Pine Sol) and *Oil Soaps (Murphy’s Oil Soap) work very well withough removing the wax, but I always have laundry detergent on hand do that’s what I use most of the time.

  4. Billie says

    I used cleaning the garbage can as an opportunity last week to purchase a new toilet bowl brush. I used the old one to scrub out the bottom of the garbage can.

  5. says

    In my kitchen garbage can, I throw in a couple of fabric dryer sheets after I have cleaned it and before I put in a new bag. That might work for this too.

  6. Marsha says

    My dad froze his kitchen garbage for years or at least what he didn’t compost, and, of course, his dutiful daughter does the same! Our town now does curbside recycling (YAY!) and the recycle bin gets stinky too, even though I clean out what I put in it. Thanks for this cleaning tip!

  7. D in WV says

    Sometimes I will use an old string mop to scrub the bottom and get that nasty, sticky, leaked out garbage mess removed.