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Often overlooked, the trash can is an elemental part of any functioning kitchen. With myriad models on the market, it can feel overwhelming to find the perfect trash can for your particular space. Price points vary, technological upgrades vary, and even size and capacity vary.
Since your trash can will inevitably become one of the most actively used items in your kitchen, it’s important to choose a model that won’t easily wear down, according to recipe developer Carolyn Truett of Caramel and Cashews. She recommends that, if possible, you "avoid focusing solely on the price. Instead, focus on the quality and how long it will last."
To decide what will work for your household, think about how you interact with your trash can. Do you want to wave your hand to have it open? Do you need an area for recycling or food scraps as well? Of course, the great limitation is space. In the end, the right trash can for you may be a matter of what your kitchen can accommodate.
From a classic step model to vertical dual bins, here are the best kitchen trash cans to have in your home.
Best Overall: Simplehuman 50-Liter Rectangular Step Trash Can
Dimensions (LxWxH): 12.8 x 19.8 x 25.7 inches | Capacity: 50 liters/13.2 gallons
When it comes to trash cans, simplehuman is an infallible brand. The brand is known to design tools that make your home life more efficient and easier.
"I've used simplehuman's trashcans in the kitchen for years. They're very well-made and their customer service is awesome."— Cambria Bold, Senior Editor, Cooking Education
Of their many trash can models, this 50-liter/13.2-gallon rectangular one is at the top. Its sleek design, built-in wheels for easy relocation, smudge-proof stainless steel, and a stay-open lid means it'll live in the corner of your kitchen for years. The hinges are on the inside, so you can position this flush to the wall and avoid behind-the-garbage messes. The foot pedal promises to last through 150,000 steps (approximately 20 years, when broken down).
This trash can is compatible with simplehuman's Q liner codes and comes with a 10-year warranty.
Best Budget: simplehuman 40-Liter Slim Step Can
Dimensions (LxWxH): 19.2 x 10.2 x 25.2 inches | Capacity: 40 liters/10.6 gallons
Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean you have to miss out on simplehuman's brilliance. A less expensive simplehuman model, the 40-liter slim step can easily fit into small corners of the kitchen.
Despite the low price point, this can comes equipped with a motion-controlled lid, thoroughly tested foot pedal, and slide lock that guards against kids and pets. The plastic body is also designed to resist dents and fingerprints. Because it’s on the small side, this is a great choice for less spacious kitchens.
This trash can is compatible with simplehuman's K liner codes and comes with a 5-year warranty.
Best Touchless: iTouchless 13-Gallon Stainless Steel Automatic Trash Can
Dimensions (LxWxH): 12.8 x 10.8 x 27.9 inches | Capacity: 13 gallons
The touchless trash can is not for everyone, but converts often don’t want to go back. Wave a hand over the iTouchless and the lid automatically opens (a red light lets you know that it’s close to closing again).
It’s not the largest can on the market, but with a 13-gallon capacity, it does the trick. An extra-wide opening assures that you’ll be able to contain even the most unruly of messes. And the stainless steel exterior guards against fingerprints. An added bonus comes in the form of odor-resistant filters.
You will need four D batteries or an AC adapter to power this up, but it is backed with a 1-year warranty.
Related: The Best Garbage Disposals
Best Large: GLAD Extra Capacity Stainless Steel Step Trash Can
Dimensions (LxWxH): 16.4 x 14.1 x 29.1 inches | Capacity: 20 gallons
For some, taking out the trash is a near-daily occurrence and it might help to go big. If you find yourself in need of a truly large kitchen trash can, the Glad Extra Capacity 20-gallon model is probably for you.
Big families can rejoice at this pleasant-to-look-at trash bin, which has a separate compartment on the back for extra bags so they can be dispensed and replaced with ease. There's an interior ring that keeps your trash bag in place and antimicrobial protection built into the lid and lid frame to prohibit odor-causing germs. The exterior is fingerprint-resistant, meaning your can won’t always look as messy on the outside as the contents on the inside.
Best Stainless Steel: simplehuman 60-Liter Steel Bullet Open Top Trash Can
Dimensions (LxWxH): 15.8 x 16.1 x 29.8 inches | Capacity: 60 liters/16 gallons
A round can that is both sleek and functional, whether you need it for a coffee shop or the communal kitchen. Simplehuman's circular cans are made of dent-resistant brushed stainless steel, have built-in side handles for easy maneuvering, and are ADA-compliant.
This beautiful trash can has an extra-wide lid with no cover, instead, it lifts off for bag replacement and hides the bag completely. A 9-inch wide opening is best for cups and smaller trash. The base is meant to be gentle on all types of flooring—even hardwood—and it holds 60 liters, more than many other units.
This trash can is compatible with simplehuman's P liner codes and comes with a 10-year warranty.
Related: The Best Refrigerators
Best Luxury: Brabantia Bo Touch Bin
Dimensions (LxWxH): 12.3 x 21.3 x 26.8 inches | Capacity: 9 gallons
This pricey trash from Brabantia can definitely lands in luxury territory, and for good reason. It stands on legs, meaning that it’s easier to use (and easier to look at and clean beneath).
Although it’s a relatively small can, at only 9 gallons, this trash can is a performer. It has two removable inner buckets, a 3-gallon and a 6-gallon, which makes it flexible to use—it can be used as a trash and recycling bin or simply as a trash can with one larger compartment. There's also touch top technology, so you just lightly press on it and don't have to lift at all. But its sleek design puts this model over the top. Rather than a trash can, this looks like an artful addition to a curated kitchen.
Best Dual: Joseph Joseph Totem Trash & Recycling Bin
Dimensions (LxWxH): 14.5 x 15.5 x 32 inches | Capacity: 60 liters/16 gallons
Marry your trash and recycling needs without taking up too much space with this excellent dual-bin from Joseph Joseph.
It holds 16 gallons of trash and recycling in two compartments and has an added compost bin that lives in the waste section. The compost section, for what it’s worth, can also be separated and kept on the kitchen counter. Of course, smaller households can place both waste and recycling in one bin, and use the other for easy storage. Either way, the bins are stacked right on top of one another, making this a taller, slimmer unit than many dual cans.
This uses Joseph Joseph's IW2 and IW6 liners and is covered with a 10-year warranty.
Simplehuman comes to the rescue again with its 50-Liter Rectangular Kitchen Step Can (view at Amazon). This multi-functional can has a lot of space for all your kitchen garbage needs, as well as a sleek design and a step pedal that is built to last. Simplehuman's 40-Liter Slim Step Can (view at Amazon) is a great budget option too.
What to Look for When Buying a Kitchen Trash Can
The trash can size that you’ll need in your kitchen depends on the size of your household. Most kitchen trash cans on the market range from a 10-gallon capacity to a 20-gallon capacity, and, as you might assume, the number of people sharing the trash can dictates which end of that spectrum your can should occupy.
As a general rule, a person who lives solo or a couple can make do with a 10-12 gallon kitchen trash can. A household with three or four people should aim for the middle of the size range (12-16 gallons), while a family of five or more should seek out a kitchen trash can on the large side. Other factors will also contribute to your choice of trash can size; for instance, households that cook frequently will likely require a bigger trash can than households that dine out multiple times a week. Also, if your household participates in composting, that can cut down the need for a large trash can, enabling you to purchase a smaller size.
It can be challenging to choose a properly sized trash bag for your kitchen trash can. It may seem intuitive to buy a 10-gallon bag to fit into a 10-gallon can, but because a full trash bag will sag under the weight of the items within, the 10-gallon bag will inevitably dislodge in the can, which can cause an unnecessary mess. On the other hand, a bag that’s far too large for your can is wasteful. Ideally, the bag will have 2 to 4 inches of overhang from the rim of the can, which is enough to fit the can and provide the bag with clearance space for lifting and tying.
Most kitchen trash cans are made of two materials: plastic and stainless steel. Plastic cans tend to cost less than their stainless counterparts, and their benefits include the fact that they’re lightweight and easy to maneuver, as well as easy to clean with soap and water or disinfecting sprays. However, some design-minded shoppers feel that plastic cans lack the visual appeal that they’d prefer from an item that’s prominently displayed in their kitchens. As for stainless steel cans, they feature impressive durability, and their sleek aesthetic blends into many kitchens (especially those with stainless steel appliances). As far as negatives go, stainless steel cans are heavier than plastic cans, and their shiny exteriors make scrapes, dents, and smudges more visible.
What’s the best way to clean a kitchen trash can?
Whether you’re working with a plastic can or a stainless steel can, disinfecting sprays can be used to clean kitchen trash receptacles. After removing and discarding the bag, use your cleaning spray of choice to thoroughly spray down the inside, then use a rag or paper towel to wipe away any stains and trash residue. If you’re cleaning a stainless steel can, be sure to buy a bleach-free spray, since bleach can compromise the “stainless” quality of this metal, leaving it vulnerable to rust.
Is there a best place to keep a trash can in the kitchen?
The best place to put your trash can is, quite simply, wherever it will prove the most useful to you. In terms of sanitation, it’s advisable to maintain a distance between your trash can and your food prep area; if you need to throw items away while cooking, try using a large mixing bowl as a “garbage bowl,” which you can then empty in the trash can as needed. Also, while keeping your trash can in a cabinet may make sense for decorative purposes, the constrained and enclosed space will make it far more difficult to control odor issues. In a corner, against a wall in a less-trafficked part of the kitchen, or on the side of a kitchen island all work as viable trash can locations.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Hannah Selinger has written about food and drinks for local and national publications since 2015. A former sommelier, Hannah has worked for some of New York’s top restaurant groups, including Laurent Tourondel’s BLT group and David Chang’s Momofuku group. Her work has appeared in Eater, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, and more. Hannah’s four human, two dog, and two tortoise household produces a lot of kitchen trash.
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