Your trash can isn't the most glamorous thing you'll buy for your kitchen, but it's one of the most essential. Of all the waste you generate in your home, the kitchen garbage will always be some of the smelliest and most perishable. Having a functional trash can that contains (or controls) odors, cleans easily, and ideally looks good doing all of that, is a real bonus. If you're not happy with your current situation, we've picked out seven of the best kitchen trash cans to choose from.
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What to Consider When Purchasing Kitchen Trash Cans
Size and Capacity: The biggest question when you're choosing a trash can is "How much trash do I generate?" Most kitchen trash cans fall into a range of 10 to 20 gallons, with a few larger or smaller outliers. Anything in a size of 10 gallons or less is best-suited to households of 1 or 2 people, or those that diligently recycle and compost (and therefore put less in the actual trash). As you get closer to 20 gallons, the trash can is better suited to households of 3 or 4. If you have a large family or entertain frequently, you might want something even larger.
A second (closely related) point is the physical size and shape of the trash can. Some are more space-efficient and take up less room in your kitchen, either because they're taller and slimmer or because they're shaped as a slender rectangle. When in doubt, look closely at the size and shape of the place your trash can will live and then choose one that fits the space.
Trash cans are measured in terms of the volume they hold, which will be stated in either gallons or liters. A liter is slightly larger than a US quart, so the math is easy when you want to make apples-to-apples comparisons. To convert gallons to liters, just multiply by 4, and to convert liters to gallons divide by 4. It’s rough math, and not entirely accurate—20 gallons is actually about 75 liters, not 8—but it’s close enough for comparison purposes.
Aesthetics: Unless your trash can fits under the sink, it's going to be out in plain sight every day. Since everyone will see it, including guests, ideally, it should be pleasing to the eye. Some offer a sleek stainless steel esthetic that matches modern appliances, while others are downright stylish and come in a range of designer colors. Still, others settle for just being unobtrusive and easy to ignore. At a minimum, you should look for something that's fingerprint-proof and conceals dirt.
Features and Good Design: This is what separates the best kitchen trash cans from the also-rans. There are some tangible things you can look for, such as a liner that slides out for easy cleaning or a holder to keep your bag from slipping down into the garbage can. Some are less obvious, like a hinge mechanism that won't keep your trash can from resting snugly against the wall. Refinements like that, or a soft-close lid, aren't obvious, but they'll make a difference in day to day use.
The Best Overall Kitchen Trash Can
Simplehuman 45-Liter/12-Gallon Rectangular Step Trash Can
Simplehuman isn't a household name like Rubbermaid or Glad (which both feature in this roundup), but the company has a reputation for doing simple things really, really well. One of those things is trash cans, and in fact, they recently topped our roundup of bathroom trash cans. This one isn't their top-tier kitchen offering, by any means, but it represents a sweet spot of price and function that should appeal to most of us. At just 13 by 19 inches, it's slim enough to fit into most kitchens, and while it's not as sleek as their higher-end stainless steel models, it still shows a degree of design flair (it comes in black, dark grey or white, with stainless accents).
More importantly, it packs plenty of function inside its appealing form. The step mechanism is designed to last through 20 years of steady use, the liner rim holds your bags securely in place, and the silent-close lid works flawlessly. There's even a dispenser built in to hold the company's own replacement bags. You don't need to use them—regular brands will work just fine—but having replacement bags ready and waiting in the trash can itself is a real convenience that illustrates Simplehuman's single-minded focus on efficiency.
The Best Value Kitchen Trash Can
If you're looking for a utilitarian trash can that isn't fancy but gets the job done, there's a very good chance that Rubbermaid was already on your list. They're a top trash can manufacturer in both the residential and commercial markets, and this 13-gallon trash can is a good example of their style. It's large enough for most small families, and—while plastic trash cans aren't as appealing as their metal competitors—it's lightweight, durable and won't show fingerprints.
The step mechanism is sturdy, the Linerlock arm holds your bags in place pretty securely while they're in use, and the current model of this long-time favorite even includes a soft-close lid. It's available in four colors, including bronze and gunmetal blue, along with the more traditional black and white, so it will fit into most styles of kitchen. While it's not as sleek or as pretty as most of our other picks, it does the job well and offers excellent value at the price point.
The Best Large Kitchen Trash Can
Glad Stainless Steel Step 20-Gallon Trash Can With Clorox Odor Protection
A big 20-gallon trash can is convenient for larger families (they're about 50 percent larger than regular 13-gallon models), or for anyone who has a long haul to get their trash to the collection bin. Unfortunately, those big cans can take longer to fill, which means smells can become an issue. This burly model from Glad tackles that issue head-on, because the lid and its frame are infused with an odor-preventing Clorox antibacterial agent that will last for the lifetime of the can. That's a good feature to have, but more importantly, the entire trash can is functional and well-thought out. The foot pedal is sturdy, there's a bag ring to keep your bag firmly in place while it fills up, the soft-close lid is smudge- and fingerprint-resistant, and—like our top pick—there's even a dispenser built in for replacement trash bags. All in all, it provides solid value for anyone who needs the added capacity.
The Best Hands-Free Kitchen Trash Can
iTouchless 13-Gallon SensorCan Touchless Trash Can
If you're in the middle of preparing a meal, the last thing you want to do is touch the lid of a trash can with your hands. Our picks so far have used a foot pedal to keep your hands clean, but the other option is a sensor trash can like this one from iTouchless. It couldn't be simpler to operate: Just wave your hand (or your cutting board, or whatever) over the motion sensor, and the lid opens for completely touch-free operation. When you're done, it closes.
This model's slim rectangular shape and 13-gallon size make it suitable for most kitchens, though the company makes larger models if that's what you need. The sensor may not strike you as a big improvement over a low-tech step pedal, but for anyone with balance or mobility issues, it could be a game-changer. One additional perk of the iTouchless is its activated charcoal odor filter, which subdues organic odors (your food waste) as well as filtering out volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from cleaning products or other sources of chemicals. The powered lid requires either D-cell batteries or an AC adapter, either of which is sold separately.
The Best Under-Counter Kitchen Trash Can
Simplehuman 30-Liter/8-Gallon Under-Counter Pull-Out Trash Can
Earlier, we said that the trash can was something you'd look at every day, but there's an obvious exception to that rule: an under-counter trash can, either the door-mount or pull-out variety. This Simplehuman trash can is the pullout kind, and as these things go, it's surprisingly easy to install. The heavy-duty steel frame and slides come pre-assembled, so installing the hardware is a simple matter of driving eight screws into your cupboard.
This is the ultimate space-saver for small kitchens, taking up exactly zero square inches of your floor. At a capacity of 30 liters, it's a small trash can, and you'll need to empty it frequently, but if space is at a premium, that's a pretty small compromise. You'll want to do that anyway in order to keep smells at a minimum, because there's no lid. Simplehuman has its own custom-fit bags for this trash can, but generic 10-gallon garbage bags will fit just fine. If you need a recycling bin as well, the company makes a similarly-sized dual compartment model with a total of 35 liters' capacity, split between trash and recycling. Both models carry a five-year warranty.
The Best Splurge-Worthy Kitchen Trashcan
Simplehuman 45-Liter/12-Gallon Semi-Round Automatic Sensor Trash Can
A certain number of you may have read through the reviews so far, and said to yourselves, "Okay, but what if I want it all?" If that's you, then this is your trash can. It's not just a simple receptacle for waste, it's legitimately a statement piece in your kitchen. It genuinely has just about everything you could ask for in a state-of-the-art kitchen trash can. Handsome brushed stainless steel exterior? Check. Antibacterial, fingerprint-resistant coating? Check. Motion sensor? Check. About the only thing missing is odor control, but the automatic lid fits so well that it shouldn't be an issue for you.
It's also designed so that you can remove and replace the bags without having to lift the top from the unit. Like other Simplehuman models, there are custom-fitted bags available for this one, and a storage dispenser in the can itself so you can simply pull out a new bag as soon as the old one is removed (You can use aftermarket bags as well, though they won't necessarily fit the dispenser). If you like the idea of an automatic trash can, this one's large capacity and its attractive, thoughtful design—not to mention the five-year warranty—make it an excellent choice.