How to mask trash can smells – 7 ways to make any kitchen smell better

Banish bad odors for good with these seven scent-sational solutions

A light blue kitchen with a double stacked oven and broiler drawer
(Image credit: Searle & Taylor)

There are arguably few worse smells in a home than that of a kitchen trash can. Even when we clean them and change out the bag regularly, the very nature of this waste management solution means it's prone to smell. 

Whether you’re dealing with kitchen scraps or everyday rubbish, banishing bad kitchen smells is essential to creating a welcoming environment you won’t mind cooking in or hosting guests. 

We spoke to professional cleaners to learn their tricks for masking trash can smells for a kitchen that always smells great. 

How to mask trash can smells

These seven practical tips for masking trash can smells are super simple and have an instant impact on how your home smells, experts assure.  

pull-out trash can under kitchen sink next to dishwasher

(Image credit: Getty images / Aliaksei Shaviakou)

1. Use a trash can with a lid

The obvious go-to if you want to keep any nasty odors at bay is to pick out a trash can with a good lid to contain smells to the bin itself, begins Jade Piper, operations manager for BetterCleans

More often than not, metal trash cans do a better job at containing smell than plastic trash cans do, as they stop odors from leaching through. However, if you want a bulletproof solution, you could use an electronic trash can that either opens on demand, keeping the bin locked at all other times, or a trash can that seals off the bag each time you trash something, locking trash into compartments to contain mess and make your home smell nice.  

Airdeer Automatic Trash Can | $139.99 at Amazon

Airdeer Automatic Trash Can | $139.99 at Amazon
This self-sealing, self-opening trashcan is the perfect solution to stopping odors in their tracks in a kitchen.

2. Use a two-compartment trash can

One thing people with nice smelling kitchens always do is separate out their trash into types – such as clean recycling and organic waste, points out Steve Evans, owner of Memphis Maids. This helps to limit odors, he explains:

‘I think the best way to stop kitchen bins from smelling is using two-compartment trash cans and replacing the one with organic waste every day. You can leave the second compartment for cardboard, paper, and anything that doesn’t stink after three days basically.’

Pullout Dual Garbage Cans | $100 at QVC

Pullout Dual Garbage Cans | $100 at QVC
These dual pull-out garbage cans are a great way to separate waste and keep your kitchen organized and smelling fresh. They can be mounted inside cabinets to keep your kitchen looking neat, too.

3. Clean your trashcan weekly

Just as you clean a kitchen weekly to stop odors and keep it hygienic, you should also clean out your trash can, reminds Jade Piper, cleaning expert:

‘I’ve made it a habit to wipe down the exterior of my trash before wrapping up the night. Then I clean it once a week with warm water and a little bit of Dawn. I either use a long-handled brush or a sponge. If there’s a smell, I sprinkle just enough baking soda and leave it for at least 30 minutes. Rinse it out and dry it as usual.’

Steve Evans, a cleaning expert, also adds that leaving your trash can out in the bright sun can help to dry it off and ward off odors – helping to add a little extra freshness. 

4. Deodorize with vinegar

Of course, if the odors linger, it is always a good idea to turn to cleaning with vinegar, reminds cleaning expert Steve Evans. Just a spritz of vinegar around the bin can help to remove odors, especially when paired with a sprinkle of baking soda in the base of the trashcan or in the bag itself.   

Cleaning Vinegar | View at Target

Cleaning Vinegar | View at Target
It is a good idea to keep a container of cleaning vinegar in your cleaning cabinet for tackling all sorts of household chores. 

5. Conceal trash can in cabinets

If the lid alone isn't enough to mask some trash can odors, you can take it further and hide a trash can in a kitchen – holding odors at bay and improving the overall appearance of the kitchen, adds Gabriella Dyson, Solved section editor at Homes & Gardens

You can then add odor eliminators to the cabinet (usually the one beneath the sink) to really mask any lingering smells. 

6. Replace the bags regularly

While we should be doing this anyway, replacing the kitchen trash bag regularly is a must to keep odors at bay, reminds Delah Gomasi, cleaning expert and operations manager at MaidForYou:

‘Another pro tip is to always remove rubbish and put it in your external bins. Especially for rubbish that has organic food waste – these shouldn't be left in the kitchen overnight if you can help it. 

‘Ideally, you'll be changing your rubbish every day and replacing your bins with a neutral-smelling bin liner.’

Ecobag Scented Trash Can Liners | $6.95 at Walmart

Ecobag Scented Trash Can Liners | $6.95 at Walmart
Mask odors easily by using vanilla-scented bin liners. These ones are eco-friendly, making it easier to swap them out more regularly.

7. Use a scented cotton ball

'One great hidden trick people with nice-smelling homes use is to place a small cotton ball soaked in essential oils in the base of their trashcan before they add in a new bin liner,' reveals cleaning expert Jade Piper. This adds a more pleasant aroma to your kitchen while distracting from bad bin smells. 

‘You can also attach it discreetly to the lid or side,’ she adds. Just remember to replace it every time you change the bag, or once a week. 


Why does my garbage bin smell so bad?  

One of the main reasons garbage bins smell so bad is that they are filled with organic waste such as food scraps that break down, releasing chemicals that contribute to nasty odors. One of the best ways to avoid these smells permeating your kitchen is to change out the bag regularly and clean your trash can each time.  

Is vinegar or baking soda better for beating odors?  

While both vinegar and baking soda are great for combatting household odors, vinegar often comes out on top – especially for larger areas such as your refrigerator, washing machine, or a room. You can either spritz the area with vinegar, allowing it to soak in for an hour or so before washing away, or place a dish or vinegar-soaked paper towel in a smelly location and wait for it to work its magic. Just be sure to replace it every 24 hours if needed so it stays effective.  

These simple trash can methods for neutralizing kitchen odors is a great first step to creating a constantly fresh smelling kitchen you’ll be happy to host in. Pairing these tricks with other kitchen cleaning hacks, such as using a vanilla vinegar cleaner to deodorize a fridge, or keeping a bowl of vinegar next to your stove will instantly improve your cook space. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.