How to Get the Smell Out of a Plastic Garbage Can

eHow may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

Things You'll Need

  • Hose

  • Sodium borate (borax) or bleach

  • Rubber gloves

  • Hot water

  • Old bucket with a lid

  • Baking soda

  • Charcoal

Image Credit: Hemera Technologies/ Images

Sometimes an odor-causing bacteria or a fungus can grow in your garbage can. No matter what kind of deodorant you spray or how much hot water you use, the smell just won't go away. Garbage bags can leak, causing food particles to get into the plastic of your garbage can. The only way to rid your garbage can of the smell is to kill the bacteria or fungus.


Video of the Day

Step 1

Spray out the garbage can with a high-powered hose to remove any debris or food particles.

Step 2

Choose a cleaning solution. Two popular and effective options are household bleach and sodium borate. Sodium borate--borax--is an anti-fungal cleaning agent that eliminates odors, according to

Step 3

Put on rubber gloves. Pour a solution of sodium borate and hot water into your garbage can. recommends adding 1/4 cup of borax to a 1/2 gallon of hot water for a larger garbage can. For a smaller can, use 1/8 cup of sodium borate in 1 qt. of hot water. If using bleach, Clorox recommends 1 tsp. of bleach per gallon of water. Let the solution sit to kill any bacteria.


Step 4

Drain the cleaning solution from the garbage can into a plastic container. Cover the container with a tightfitting lid before disposing. Borax is toxic and should not be poured down sewers or drains.

Step 5

Rinse your garbage can with a high-powered hose and allow it to air-dry.

Step 6

Keep a layer of charcoal or baking soda at the bottom of your garbage can to eat odors on a regular basis.


Do not overfill trash bags. Overfilling can cause bags to rip, allowing food particles to get into the garbage can. Clean your plastic garbage can often as a preventive measure against odor.


Sodium borate--or borax--is extremely toxic. Take precautions not to inhale or ingest it. Keep children and pets away from the area when you are using it.