The Best Kitchen Trash Can

The best garbage can for your kitchen is the simplehuman Wide Step Rectangular Step Trash Can, in fingerprintproof stainless steel and a 10-gallon/38-liter size. It has the best balance of size, shape, features, durability, and cost out of the many, many cans we reviewed. It also has key features (a sturdy step, an easily removed liner, and a stay-open switch) that the competition lacks; it's worth the $115 price (give or take $20-$30, depending on your size needs).

For $115, this trash can isn’t cheap, but it’s the best balance of size, shape, features, and durability that we’ve found. It also has some useful features that the competition lacks.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $116.
I spent more than 30 hours researching and arguing the merits of at least 50 trash cans, talking to a half-dozen food professionals, then testing a dozen finalists with a panel of a dozen average trash can users. There are, as we often find at the Sweethome, many nuances to a seemingly simple fixture. I started out these tests wondering how I could possibly differentiate between garbage cans; I ended up agonizing over which one of more than 20 factors should weigh more.
Also Great
This plastic step can can be tucked into a tight space between appliances. It's not as heavy as our main pick, and it's harder to empty and clean out, but it gets the job done.

But our pick is certainly not the cheapest. If you want a solid can and do not care about metal looks, the simplehuman 40-liter slim plastic step can is a can that should work in all but the most foot-slamming of homes; it will save you around $50-$80 beyond our top pick. It’s not as solidly heavy as our winner, and it’s not as easy to empty out and occasionally clean up, but it gets the job done.

Also Great
For less than $15, this touch-lid can comes with a spring-loaded top and an easy to clean, roomy plastic body. Not very solid if you have clumsy kids or pets who like to knock things over, though.
Going much cheaper, there is a touch-lid Hefty can for $14.47 we can see a place for if you generate less trash than average, don’t have any kids or dogs ready to knock it over, and absolutely need something cheap but minimally functional.

And for very active spaces where trash goes out every day—or at least smelly stuff is rare and immediately tossed—the $120 simplehuman 50-L Slim Open Can looks nice and avoids the lid/step/close business entirely. Again, though, we must stress: this only works if you have a very particular kind of household: one that takes out trash daily or hardly ever throws out things that could smell. It’s the best version of an open can, but an open can is not for everyone.

Why don’t we have a specific runner up? simplehuman offers three kinds of rectangular step cans (“steel bar,” “wide-step rectangular,” and “rectangular”), each in different sizes (usually 30-liter/8-gallon, 38-liter/10-gallon, and 50-liter/13-gallon) and with some different finishes and options (white/brushed/fingerprintproof steel, sometimes with a plastic/steel lid difference). There are also “recycler” models that you should avoid.

We specifically recommend the 38-liter/fingerprintproof stainless/wide-step version. If you had trouble finding that specific can in stock at Amazon or your local store, you should not be afraid to change up finishes, lids, or switch from wide to regular step; none of these options invalidates the can’s appeal. We do not, however, recommend the added expense of the steel bar step.

Table of contents

Who should buy this, and should I upgrade?

You probably have a kitchen garbage can already, unless you’re reading this on your phone on the first day of living in your new space. It’s a hollow object with a certain volume—what more do you need, right?

What might move you to improve your kitchen experience are all the little aggravations that arise with almost every garbage can—how you get scraps into the mouth of the thing, how well the lid stays open when you’ve got a lot to drop in, how successfully the can keeps smells in and dogs out, how easy it is to do the occasional interior cleaning, whether the can is sturdy and balanced, and how well a good kitchen trash bag fits in the thing.

Upgrading to our pick can solve all of these issues. We think it’s worth it for a kitchen item you use multiple times a day and that should last up to 12 years. Perhaps after a decade we’ll see sensors, brand-new battery technology, and home automation turn the trash can “smart;” in the meantime, our favorite garbage can will work smoothly and reliably for you.

How we picked and tested

The contenders.

The contenders.

In very brief summary, the Sweethome editors and I considered garbage cans mostly for how they did the job of containing your kitchen and household trash, and then, on a much lesser scale, how they looked while doing so.

A can should not dent, rust, or become a fingerprint magnet. It should hold a standard 13-gallon “kitchen” trash bag well. It should not knock over, but it should still be fairly easy to carry around.

The can itself should not have crevices or bag-catching angles that make cleaning a true punishment of the fates.
And because we can all remember the last time a garbage bag broke, spilling vile, slightly-composted liquid everywhere, the can itself should not have crevices or bag-catching angles that make cleaning a true punishment of the fates.

Narrowing down size and shape was tough. Some households create enough refuse that trash bags must be taken out near-daily; some only make it out to the curb or parking lot once a week. Some kitchens have more than enough room for a free-standing, roughly 13-gallon square-shape can, while others need smaller cans with less floor commitment.

In the end, we aimed for a 40-liter volume and a 1.5-square-foot footprint, which we thought would be appropriate for most people.

Rectangles give you more volume than round and semi-round, but with the same footprint.

Rectangles give you more volume than round and semi-round, but with the same footprint.

A rectangular shape with an internal hinge that doesn’t require an extra inch of clearance against the wall seems to make the most sense for the most kitchens. Semi-round cans work so long as you have a section of open wall in just the right spot for trash tossing. Round cans, particularly retail cans made for households, take up good space without necessarily being easy to empty or move around. There is an occasional slim-profile can you might consider (one of which we tested), but generally, you want a rectangular can. Not only does it efficiently use its space, but it makes scraping and emptying scraps from rectangular cutting boards and dustpans easier than round or semi-round cans.

The criteria considered most heavily (and which spurred the longest arguments among writers and editors) is how one gets the can open.

Ideally, you want a can that could be opened without hands, though not one that prevents manual opening. The construction, tension, and durability of the hinge or levers is key, as is whether you can keep the thing open for multi-trip jobs. Most of us lean toward step-operated cans which allows for hands-free use, but a decent push-button or even open-top could have won us over, if the opening action became second nature over time.

Some styles got very short shrift in our initial reading and review sorting. Lids on swing-tops and fold-in cans get blocked when the bag is full. Swing-top and fold-in lids also collect germs and prevent use at their centers and edges, respectively.

Swing-top and fold-in lids also collect germs, and prevent use at their centers and edges, respectively.
Cans with sensors seem goofy from the outset. They need batteries or charging and often lack alternative opening mechanisms. The majority of affordable units are made by firms that haven’t established themselves. Most of all, when the sensor goes wonky or dead dead, you’ve bought a trash can that doesn’t even work as well as our $15 Hefty pick.

Materials and finish are a matter of personal taste. In general, the stainless steel models provide a more sturdy, heavy base without retaining smell but can be prone to rust (if chipped) and dents; fingerprintproofing involves the same steel becoming coated at a premium.  Plastic models clean up pretty easily but are easier to topple and can absorb odors over time.

I started my search with a hunt for other publications’ reviews of garbage cans. It turns out there really are not many at all.

The most comprehensive survey of trash or garbage cans came from Slate, but it came in 2004. Blog Apartment Therapy had an “annual guide” in 2012, but it is really just a big list of links to affiliate-coded products and prior content. RealSimple did an overview in 2012, but it was only a series of glances and there were some odd picks (although they affirm that sensor cans are not very good). There is, of course, a decent Ask Metafilter thread on the topic, but it dates to 2005.

I spoke with five chefs I knew in my city about their trash cans, but their line of work calls for huge, ugly cans that are, above all, sturdy and leak-proof. Those who deal with garbage professionally have their specialized containers and tools; we consumers are left to glean what we want from experience.

To compile my list, I had to turn to customer reviews at Amazon, Target, Home Depot, and other stores, and I asked friends and professionals in trash-generating fields. I found a general trend: the market is all but dominated, over a certain dollar amount (let’s say $45), by cans from simplehuman. There are maybe hundreds of cans under $50 and a handful of truly showpiece cans over $200, but almost every price point in the middle is held down by simplehuman, at almost every major retailer. But I read the reviews, gathered the SKUs, and gathered a list of roughly 50 cans.

Using customer reviews, the few published guides, and eliminating any cans with obvious problems, we narrowed it down to 8 cans that were widely available, with fairly middle-of-the-road options:

To test those cans, I pretended like I was a busy cook with some bad habits and really bad luck. 3_paper_scrapsI fitted our Glad Tall Kitchen Drawstring bag to the can or its liner and pretended I wasn’t neurotic about it. I created fake food scraps with shredded paper, wetting down half of them to make lumpy, runny messes. I ran a sponge around inside the cans, as if I’d had a bag break on a night when a lot of raw chicken was trimmed.

I created fake food scraps with shredded paper, wetting down half of them to make lumpy, runny messes.
I dumped equal parts kitty litter and water into bags inside each can, seeing if there were any catches or ergonomic challenges yanking soaked, heavy contents out. And I dropped far too much essential oil of camphor into each can, then came back to them after two hours to see how much you could smell outside the can. (All of the cans fared pretty well with this test, including the open-top bullet can.)

As for the steps on the step cans, I measured and observed what I could–the closure time, the likelihood of the lid to fly off or become detached if pressed too hard–and also had friends and coworkers test each can and gauge which can felt right, felt sturdy, felt like it might not be terrible to have to use that can every day. Those tests, plus long discussions about can merits with editors and picky friends, brought me to our pick.

Our pick

For $115, this trash can isn’t cheap, but it’s the best balance of size, shape, features, and durability that we’ve found. It also has some useful features that the competition lacks.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $116.
A 38-liter rectangular wide step can from simplehuman won our neurotic hearts. We set up a ton of tests and standards before testing as to what a good trash can could be, and this model scored a mix of high marks and passing grades on all of them.

It has a space-saving shape, a sturdy and smooth foot pedal, consistent lid movement, and a stay-open feature. The can looks good and stays clean while being able to fit both simplehuman-brand bags and standard bags well. This model comes highly recommended from people who felt compelled to recommend a trash can to me. 4_our_pick

We recommend the 38-liter/10-gallon size for a standard 2-to-4-person household, but if your family generates more or less trash, you can easily scale up with the same basic product to 50 liters/13 gallons, or down to 30 liters/8 gallons.

This can, like all simplehuman cans, has a foot pedal that was designed for 150,000 steps, or 20 steps a day for 20 years. That sounds like marketing, but that pedal, along with the airflow-regulated internal damper, makes simplehuman pedals feel like no door, bike pump, or brake pedal you’ve ever pushed. The can opens and closes smoothly and quietly, and it stays open at the peak and closes slowly enough for most trash-dropping needs (even long kitty-litter pours). What’s more, the lid can stay open with the flick of a tiny red switch under the lid. 5_hinge_lock

In asking about a dozen coworkers and acquaintances to step on the dozen cans I had assembled for testing, at least eight instantly claimed the rectangular step as the best and most obvious pick. One tester said he didn’t want to ever buy a stainless steel object again, but would consider an allowance for this can.

You probably know the simplehuman look: generally stainless, somewhat ultra-modern or maybe futuristic (depending on your kitchen’s other fixtures), but still somewhat unassuming. The can size we recommend comes in brushed stainless, fingerprintproof stainless, and, for the truly modern, white steel.

I believe the finish is worth the extra money, as it really does keep your can looking nicer for longer.
A fingerprintproof finish costs $30-$40 more. It is very fingerprintproof indeed, and notably better than the stock stainless. I believe the finish is worth the extra money, as it really does keep your can looking nicer for longer, and fingerprintproofing is a treatment they can only pull off in the factory. Besides, there is a small grace to buying the non-print-resistant brushed steel version: its lid is plastic, and that saves you quite a few fingerprints in itself.

Because the can has a pull-out liner—one that is easy to grip where the can indents at the sides—you’re less likely to smudge anything since there’s really no need to ever touch the stainless steel, but if you have kids that like to grope things at their height, the fingerprintproof treatment will be worth the extra cost.

The plastic liner inside this can fits well and slides out easily, with no hinge springs or catches for your garbage bag to get snagged on. The liner has small vents that prevent vacuums, both when inserting  a new trash bag and when dropping the liner back into the can.

Two sides on that liner also indent slightly; you might not realize it if you don’t read the tags, but that indent allows you to “park” the bucket almost halfway out of the can. That way, you can pull the bag off without having to lift the whole liner out. The liner is easy to clean out in the event of a bag break or handle-drop, and the vent holes are high enough to avoid most leaks. If you do have liquid leak, it’s not the easiest can bottom to clean, but you can get the job done with a kitchen sink sprayer.

The liner is pretty easy to clean, and the hole in the back can be used to tuck bag excess for a tight, neat fit with any bag.

The liner is pretty easy to clean, and the hole in the back can be used to tuck bag excess for a tight, neat fit with any bag.

The company encourages owners of the 38-liter step can to buy simplehuman’s own trash bags (the “J” size, in this case), which are supposed to fit better than generic bags. Simplehuman’s J liners cost about $0.31 cents per bag on Amazon (in the 50-count package that allows Prime shipping), just over twice the cost of our 15¢-per-bag Glad kitchen bag pick.

We are not fans of corporate subscriptions; even if you do like the simplehuman bags or know a cheap source for them, you will occasionally need to substitute a standard kitchen bag in a pinch. In our testing, the liner of the 38-liter can, with its hole for tucking bag excess, worked pretty well with a standard garbage bag, once we got a feel for pulling and tying off the drawstring. It’s not as easy as it is with non-liner cans, but then again, excess bag length doesn’t end up rolled around the exterior of the can.

A standard bag tucks neatly inside the can—no bunchy plastic around the lip—and is easy to lift out by the liner handles.

A standard bag tucks neatly inside the can—no bunchy plastic around the lip—and is easy to lift out by the liner handles.

This can holds in smells very well, as did most of the finalists.
This can holds in smells very well, as did most of the finalists. It has a sturdy base and stays still when stepped on, yet is not too heavy or difficult to move to a new location quickly. At about $100 on Amazon (give or take $20 for sales, third-party sellers, and Prime shipping), it is not a cheap can, but that price seems to be the floor level for the more sturdy, attractive, and full-featured simplehuman cans. You can spend a lot more on a can and get less in the way of daily usability and function. Both the fingerprintproof and untreated stainless steel versions of this model get notably high ratings: 4.5 and 4.7 out of 5 stars, respectively.

Our pick’s reviews garner praise from relieved dog owners (“So brushed steel-y. So heavy duty. So… magnificent.”), from military base residents using standard/value bags, and from those now winning the war against pests. Some of the 4-star reviews second-guess the price of the can, and the 1-star and 2-star reviews tend to call out the can for not fitting standard bags (which, as noted, we didn’t find a problem with when using our Hefty bags). There are no 3-star reviews, notably enough; people either really like this can or really don’t. (Often, detractors discovered the can had a dent when it arrived off the truck; if it happens to you, just exchange it or get a refund.)

simplehuman, meanwhile, offers a 10-year warranty on their step cans (with terms), and has a somewhat deserved reputation for fast, satisfactory service and replacements. And when I asked a few thousand Twitter folks for recommendations, I got back mostly recommendations of this can or its larger or smaller cousins. People like to recommend this trash can.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

What’s wrong with simplehuman’s rectangular step can? A few things, mostly the flip sides of the good features.

When closed, the metal (or plastic) lid is very much flush with the lip of the can. That’s great for smell containment, but tricky if you somehow needed to open the can with your fingers in a tight spot or if the pedal was somehow blocked. We don’t think this would apply to most situations, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless.

There is very little space between the can body and the liner, especially with a bag attached.

There is very little space between the can body and the liner, especially with a bag attached.

There’s a similarly tight fit between the liner and the interior of the can. Cleaning that space is a bit tricky because of the not-quite-finger-width crevices.

It’s true that you’d need to bring out the kitchen or garden hose for a really bad interior spill, but that’s true of many other cans. As noted, too, getting a standard bag to fit perfectly around the liner lid takes some getting used to. You don’t want to fill your bag to the very top, lest you knock things into that in-between space.

The pricing of the can is something that’s hard to get around: it’s not cheap. If you’re good with that, the other tricky part is the variations in the can. You won’t necessarily head out and find the exact can I’ve linked up in your store, or even want that exact model. You can buy a bigger or smaller can, a different finish, or even a plastic or metal lid. Given that the internals are the same on all the cans, you’re fine with whichever you buy; the difference is in aesthetics and fingerprints.

The step down

Also Great
This plastic step can can be tucked into a tight space between appliances. It's not as heavy as our main pick, and it's harder to empty and clean out, but it gets the job done.
As noted, the runner up for any kitchen that needs a smaller or bigger can is really the 50-liter or 30-liter variations of our pick—again, with fingerprintproof finish and metal lids as the best options. But if you’d rather spend less, I would recommend the simplehuman 40-liter slim plastic step can in black, white, or gray. At $40, this sturdy step can fared pretty well in our tests.

This slim can does better than a semi-round, round, or very light (and cheap) rectangle can precisely because of its narrow shape. The length gives it stability when opening, and its shape makes it fairly convenient to tuck alongside a counter or into a tight space between appliances. It retains the simplehuman look, and the color options should fit most kitchen aesthetics. It has an optional click-on lid lock in the front; some owners of heavier dogs on Amazon, however, wouldn’t bet their dinner scraps on it. And it has much the same smooth, sturdy foot pedal action as our top pick.

In testing, I found that while there’s no easy switch for keeping the lid open, simplehuman plastic cans have a kind of unintentional keep-open option. You press with the foot pedal to open, then gently hold open the lid while the internal plunger recedes. It’s not optimal, but worth it for multi-step kitchen maneuvers. 9_slim_liner_less

The slim, liner-less can also fits a 13-gallon trash bag well enough, and you can even keep a red drawstring from showing if you do a little tucking (though simplehuman’s own bags do fit a bit more snug and without showing). It holds in odors quite well, as attested to by a friend who uses one as his primary diaper can. It’s very easy to move around, given its light weight and two rear wheels, and the long side of its rectangular shape allows for fairly easy cutting board scraping and bag emptying.

If you tend to stomp on cans, you will absolutely bust this thing. I managed to send the lid flying during testing…
Where this option comes up short is its lid and its bottom, in certain circumstances. The slim can gets generally good-to-great reviews on Amazon, but the main point of contention is the hinge on its lid. If you tend to stomp on cans, you will absolutely bust this thing. I managed to send the lid flying during testing, stepping harder than I can imagine ever stepping at home.

As for the bottom, it has tight corners and raised surfaces that complicate cleaning the can itself in the event of a bag breaking or leaking.

Lots of crevices make the Slim Can harder to clean.

Lots of crevices make the Slim Can harder to clean.

The can did not rip the bags filled with saturated litter or scraps, but a raw chicken juice leak would require either a long hose or hoisting up the can itself.

The (ultra) budget option

Also Great
For less than $15, this touch-lid can comes with a spring-loaded top and an easy to clean, roomy plastic body. Not very solid if you have clumsy kids or pets who like to knock things over, though.
Hefty makes a touch-lid can that is $14.47 at Walmart (and similarly cheap at Target, slightly costlier at Staples, and varying in price at other stores). It’s available in tan, red, and black. It is specifically sized to fit a 13-gallon tall kitchen trash bag without an inner liner can. It’s spring-loaded, press-to-open lid is indeed quite springy, and it stays open for longer jobs.

Being a simple rectangular vessel, it is dead-simple to clean out if a bag breaks, it holds in smells surprisingly well despite its non-air-tight closure, and it is nearly impossible to dent in day-to-day life. Did I mention that it costs $14.47?

If you really just need a garbage can to just sit in a square in your kitchen, and looks are the last thing on your list of priorities, this can gets good reviews and has a surprisingly decent open/close mechanism. Only three of 86 Walmart reviewers noted problems with the lid, and one of them only noticed after two years of use. It feels durable enough to last a few years, although it does not feel as robust as a simplehuman can.

The press-to-open lid is spring loaded.

The press-to-open lid is spring loaded.

The biggest drawback is a set of four little molding or support notches at the bottom of the can–they are weirdly sharp, and they ripped a small hole a trash bag when I roughly dropped it halfway down the can again (somewhat simulating dropping something heavy in midway through the week). The handles on the sides of the can could be a bit bigger, too; as it is, there’s only enough room for fingertips.

These corner supports ripped my bag.

These corner supports ripped my bag.

…if you have kids or dogs that like to knock over garbage, this less-than-four-pound unit won’t stand up to much when it’s near empty.
And if you have kids or dogs that like to knock over garbage, this less-than-four-pound unit won’t stand up to much when it’s near empty. For $14.47, you can decide if you can remember to keep a light touch with heavy bags with this model.

Going topless (lidless cans)

Also Great
*At the time of publishing, the price was $119.
This unbreakable, open-mouthed bullet can provides easy access for super busy kitchens.
And then there are open cans. If it is very easy to take out your trash, or you are certain to take it out every day (or two) by habit or necessity, an open can would work for your kitchen. They are easy to access, and they often look better than their lid-holding contemporaries (particularly because they hide bags so well). And some kitchens do not deal with meat scraps, pet waste, or very old leftovers often or ever, so an open can might work just fine.

In short: open cans only work where the trash is taken out every day or every other day, restaurant-style; or, conversely, where very little garbage is generated, and not much of it potentially smelly. That’s why simplehuman sells them as “commercial” cans. But for very active cooks who don’t want anything with hinges, an open can can be a time-saving, easy-disposal joy with fewer breakable parts.

The simplehuman “commercial” open can design–in 50-liter/13-gallon “slim”, 60-liter “bullet”, or 80-liter bullet–is a particularly good one. Amanda Hesser, cookbook author and Food52 co-founder, hipped me to the value of simplehuman’s open can: “It’s not unsightly, which is a big accomplishment in garbage can design. And we like that the top curves inward, which means no one is looking at garbage, and it’s easy to access in a busy kitchen like ours. For anyone who cooks often, having a garbage can with a swing top is useless–and almost always breaks.”

On an objective level, the 50-liter (13-gallon) slim open can I tested passed all of the objective tests I put the other cans through with flying colors. It’s flat on two sides, so it doesn’t eat as much space as a totally round can. The 14-inch opening on its wide side made trash scraping and dropping easy, and it fits a standard kitchen (13-gallon) bag fine, with all excess hidden under the removable lid. Even in the essential oil smell test, I didn’t find I could smell much unless I had my nose right up to the can.

But I have a dog and two cats, and friends with infants, and I abandon a lot of leftovers in the back of the fridge. I know that things can work up a smell, and that your creatures and nature’s pests get into things. There is also the same issue with the can’s bottom crevices, which are too tight for fingers around the edges (but wouldn’t be an issue when you’re not letting trash build up and get heavy). 13_simplehuman_opensimplehuman’s open cans are great versions of an option that might work for a small percentage of people. They’re worth mentioning, even if most of you want to keep your garbage out of sight and its scents entirely out of the air.

The cans we trashed

We tested almost every distinct simplehuman can style, some cheaper options, and one trust-fund trash can. We could dismiss most of them.

There are variations on our winner: one with a three-way reinforced steel step bar, and another with a smaller area step (and plastic lid). Both are fine purchases, especially the brushed/plastic/smaller-step can. Me, I have size 12 feet, and I’m often coming at the trash can from the side, as I make fussy coffee next to it and need to toss out stuffed filters, so I like a wider step area.

But while the steel bar step wraps around the front and gives you even more side access, it’s not worth an additional $90 or so. The steel bar is supposedly engineered for an upgraded 20,000 steps and 20 years of use, but the warranty is the same (10 years). Buy some kitchen trash bags in bulk if you’re eager to spend the extra cash.

The closest runner-up to our picks was the plastic 45-liter rectangle step trash can. At $45, with the nice simplehuman step mechanism (and a wider step than the slim can), it seemed like a nice compromise against its steel-coated brethren. But stepping on this can when it was near-empty moved it quite a bit. It had the same loose lid hinge as the slim black can, just without the other benefits. Fitting a standard bag on this can left a lot of red/white trim showing.

The bag’s drawstring hangs out in an unsightly way.

The bag’s drawstring hangs out in an unsightly way.

The same exact downsides apply to the 50-liter/13-gallon semi-round step trash can, but the semi-round shape takes up more precious kitchen space.

The closest competitor to simplehuman’s mid-to-high-end models is the Brabantia brand. Brabantia’s 50-liter touch waste bin in solid steel won best-in-upper-class mentions from Slate and Real Simple. It is indeed a very nice-looking can, slightly heftier than a simplehuman, and the push-button operation is very smooth and steady. The semi-round opening isn’t the easiest to work with, though, and the bottom of the can has a perimeter crevice that is all but impossible to clean with a sponge. Reviewers at Amazon and elsewhere note problems receiving dented cans; it does seem like its shiny-as-anything finish would give way to a kick, a counter, or any other notable impact. The $140 price is more than you need to pay for a great trash can, and the push button top just isn’t better than a hands-free step.

The expensive Brabantia has heft and looks good, but has hard-to-clean crevices.

The expensive Brabantia has heft and looks good, but has hard-to-clean crevices.

A 40-liter “touch bar” simplehuman can was promising in reading early reviews: it’s heavy in a solid way, it stays open, and it could theoretically be popped open with a hip swivel. Opening the can with a hip pivot or thigh press resulted in a lot of can-wobbling without guaranteed success. More significantly, within 10 minutes of having friends test its opening mechanism, this can’s lid flew off the top and picked up a scratch and dent on its top. The touch bar is going to need cleaning after any job that gets your hands dirty (basically, all of them). Nobody with any kind of mental germ aversion is going to want this can.

We tested a 45-liter butterfly step can, and somewhat instantly wondered what was the point. It could save you some space, if you could stash your can under a  highcountertop, but you can’t keep the lid open without stepping on the can’s narrow side, the can underneath its liner has tough crevices, scraping, or dumping things into this design is very tricky, and at $135 on Amazon, it just doesn’t seem worth changing how you use a trash can.

Among cheaper cans, we considered a well-reviewed swing-top by Umbra and a few similar models (some I already had in use at a coworking space). Swing-top cans, as mentioned, are inherently problematic once slightly full, or with odd-shaped trash. The IKEA FILUR bin is only $13, but one Sweethome editor who owned said it feels as cheap as it is; it’s also hard to stretch bags over its square edge. The Hefty is $2 more, but sturdier. There was an OXO trash can at Sears that was very hard to find in stock at a retail store, and it now seems to have disappeared entirely.

Tramontina seems to make some interesting step cans, but as with some other Tramontina products sought in the U.S. (like enameled Dutch ovens), finding a name-brand reseller that doesn’t charge painful shipping is tricky. Amazon reviewers have run into a few problems getting cans, or getting returns processed. If you only eat take-out and neatly enclose it in its container before tossing it away, a white plastic Sterilite step can might work for you. For the rest of us, it’s a non-starter, because it will look absolutely terrible after a few months of scraps, spills, and anything darker than milk.

In general, stores are stocked with four types of cans: cheap plastic cans that are simply cans, simplehuman cans, a white-label simplehuman-esque step can, and a rare sensor-based can. The simplehuman knock-offs at the Container Store, Home Depot, and a few other stores looked intriguing, but we ran into stock issues ordering test units, and none had even store-site reviews to match the simplehuman cans. If we can get our hands on a few decent options, and suss out their availability, we will update this post.

Care and maintenance

I believe the fingerprintproof finish is worth the money. But if your simplehuman can doesn’t have a fingerprintproof finish, you can actually prevent fingerprints yourself. Use a tiny amount of baby oil, some Pledge, or a neutral cooking oil (one Sweethome editor used coconut oil), and apply a very, very light layer across your can’s surfaces. Then you just need a good quality chamois or microfiber cloth. When the oil wears off and prints show up, clean your can about as often as you would normally have to do so for food waste.

If a bag breaks, or something slips into your can outside the bag, you need to hose that thing down…
If a bag breaks, or something slips into your can outside the bag, you need to hose that thing down: in your kitchen sink, if the can or liner allows, with a garden hose if not, or ultimately in a bathtub if nothing else works.

Then, follow BrightNest’s recommendations (which line up with Real Simple’s interview with a veteran cleaner) and decide one what level of stink and germ warfare you need: homemade disinfectant spray, vinegar, or an enzyme-based, pet-focused cleaner (we use Simple Solution in my one-dog-two-cats home). If you’ve had a particularly noxious leak, use bleach, cautiously, after hosing off any previously used cleaner with plenty of water.

Wrapping up

We think our 38-liter simplehuman rectangular step can will pay off its $100-ish price in its durable nature and smooth operation over time. You will use a trash can every day that you live in your home, and you’re the one stuck cleaning up if things go wrong. Invest in a good garbage can, and it will pay you back by making itself completely unnoticeable. Our other picks—the slim plastic, the Hefty touch lid, and maybe the daring open can—should work for everyone else needing something cheaper, way cheaper, or even less fussy.

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Sources

  1. Sara Dickerman, Which garbage cans aren't garbage?, Slate, March 22, 2004
  2. Best Large Garbage Cans 2012, Apartment Therapy
  3. Danielle Claro, The Best Kitchen Trash Can for Your Home, Real Simple
  4. What's the best trash can?, Ask MetaFilter, April 22, 2005

Originally published: July 31, 2014

  • therouxdown

    I’m in love with my inexpensive stainless steel touchless trash can from Amazon. Bought it about 4 years ago for $70 or so, and it’s been going strong ever since. Batteries rarely need changing. Touching a trashcan feels so gross and unsanitary to me now. When it does die, I’ll feel like I got my money’s worth out of it.

    • Kevin Purdy

      Would love to see a link or model name!

      • Andrew

        I’ve had this one for a couple years and remain a big fan:
        http://www.amazon.com/Recycler-Touchless-Automatic-Stainless-18-5-Gallon/dp/B0031M9H30/

        Nine Stars has a number of related models on Amazon. This one has two compartments, one for trash and one for recyclables. The touchless operation isn’t instantaneous, but once you get used to it you sort of figure out how to hover your hand just long enough for it to open. It’s really not an impediment and I can’t even recall the last time it caused a mess. (But drippy food tends to go in my compost bin, so maybe that’s part of why.)

      • therouxdown

        According to my Amazon account, it was this model, but it’s been redesigned since I bought it:

        http://www.amazon.com/iTouchless-Deodorizer-Touch-Free-13-Gallon-Stainless-Steel/dp/B000EJVYTS/

        Generally I feel that the Wirecutter/Sweethome editorial style/voice is far too quick to eliminate entire product categories with a pat answer. I know you have your word limits, but there’s more nuance to it than that.

        “They need batteries or charging” — Yes, they need batteries. But the batteries provide a pretty strong benefit. I’ve never used a rechargeable or AC adapter model. I only have to replace my batteries once every two years or so?

        “The majority of affordable units are made by firms that haven’t established themselves.” The top 3 hits on Amazon have 1,800 reviews (going back to 2006), 900 (going back to 2010), and 800 (2009) reviews respectively. Each has an average four star rating. By comparison the Amazon link for your top trashcan has 52 reviews going back to 2012, and a 4.5 star average. This claim is not backed up by the data.

        “Most of all, when the sensor goes wonky or dead dead, you’ve bought a trash can that doesn’t even work as well as our $15 Hefty pick.” True. But foot pedal mechanisms break, too. And you can also lift the top off for oversized/awkward items.

        And to the user who said this: “There’s a slight delay while you wave your hand to open it, and if you’re trying to throw away something drippy then it’s just long enough to make a mess.” All I can say is this hasn’t been a problem for me. I guess I’ve adapted. I tend to steer gross drippy messes into the sink/garbage disposal.

        Personally, I’m often barefoot at home, so stepping on a metal foot pedal isn’t in the cards for me.

  • http://incise.org Nick Welch

    “There are also “recycler” models that you should avoid.”
    Huh?
    Who in 2014 doesn’t recycle or compost?

    • Kevin Purdy

      You should recycle. In fact, you should recycle as much as you can, which is usually more than the models that have a tiny blue bin liner packed into the side of the trash slot. A friend who owns one ended up switching the liners’ assignments (to the detriment of the trash, somewhat).

      • http://incise.org Nick Welch

        The color assignment is really up to you. It still is very convenient and makes a lot of sense to put two or even three bins inside of a single can.

      • Jenny

        I have to agree. I really wanted a can that could hold both trash and recycling, but then I realized it would have to be massive. None of the options are really big enough. An empty juice bottle would render most of them almost full.

        Now we’re in an apt where they only take recycling on Wednesday, so we really need that full size can for it.

      • http://twitter.com/stuckinactive John

        I own the recycler version of your pick. While the recycler side is rather small, it’s big enough to keep the soda cans and smaller recyclables off the kitchen counter. Which as it turns out was driving my wife crazy.

        The recycler version replaced a smaller butterfly SH trashcan and the trash side is still bigger than our old can.

        We’re a 2 person house so satisfaction with the combo trash/recyclers may vary with the number of trash generating meat robots.

      • Garrek Stemo

        I bought the recycler version of your pick a couple of weeks before this review went up. I live in Osaka City in Japan, where household recycling is [often, but not always] divided into plastic bottles, glass, aluminum cans, general plastics, and burnable garbage. I have waste sorting bags from Ikea that help with separating trash (I keep these in a small storage room out of sight). I can’t find the exact product, but it is very similar to this: http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/10180133/

        I agree that the recycling version of the Simple Human trash can is small; I use the small blue bin liner for “general plastics” and the larger liner for “burnable trash.” If I did not have my Ikea sorting bags for the other three categories, the Simple Human would simply not do for my recycling needs. But since Japan has these waste sorting practices, the Simple Human with the recycler works very well.

  • http://www.lisabrewster.com/ Lisa Brewster

    The butterfly can is perfect for some kitchen layouts. With the pedal on the short side, I’ve got mine at the end of my counter and can open it without having to walk around to the other side. You can also hold it open manually by lifting the plastic liner to a propped up position.

    I’ll also add that touchless electronic cans really aren’t the utopian robot future you’d think they’d be. There’s a slight delay while you wave your hand to open it, and if you’re trying to throw away something drippy then it’s just long enough to make a mess. Foot pedals are definitely the way to go.

    • Kevin Purdy

      We totally agree on touchless cans. I was a bit brusque with butterfly cans, but, sure , some layouts may be just fine. At 6,100-ish words, I have to be a bit brusque!

    • Lance Parsons

      Have to agree with the butterfly design fitting some layouts much better. There really is no space for the rectangular can in our kitchen, esp since there would have to be room behind for the lid to open. But the butterfly design would fit perfectly next to our island (we have the slim plastic one there now). The simplehuman website does mention that “The lid stays open for as long as you like — perfect for longer chores.” Not sure how that works, but if it’s true, that would make it about the perfect can for us.

  • BenReform

    It would be nice to see how the iconic Vipp trash can compares against this pick. Is it worth 3 times the price of this can?

    • Kevin Purdy

      I’m pretty sure I found a Vipp somewhere, but supply/sourcing issues makes it a bit of a non-starter for a broadly recommended product.

    • Lars

      For sure, the Vipp would be a step-up to the step-up. I read the review with great interest as I was just about to order a trash can. In the end, I ordered the Vipp and I am very happy with design, quality and the way it works. Highly recommended if you want the best and if you are ready to invest in something that lasts.

  • Joe Chapman

    I personally prefer an under-sink model to get the trash can out of view. It also is very convenient when removing food waste from the sink (potato peels, etc.). Durable, easy to install, smooth gliding, and fits the Glad tall kitchen bags nice and snugly.

    http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002XD08Y/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    • Kevin Purdy

      A review/recommendation for a smaller can one can fit under the sink might just be coming along, Joe :)

  • Kevin Hall

    I have a slightly older version of the simplehuman can (the red switch is a little different, but it’s otherwise basically the same). It is much better than other step cans I’ve owned and I would buy it again in a heartbeat if I needed another somewhere else. it holds bags well without a clamp or band to hold it and it’s easy to get bags in and out. The step mechanism has held up well over a few years of use.

  • TKR421

    I have been the happy owner of not one but two SimpleHuman trash cans. (I “upgraded” to one of the recycling models, which was a mistake, as the article implies, but the article explain why.)

    Nevertheless, when I moved across the country to go to grad school, I knew I could not spend $100+ on another trash can.

    I’ve owned an IKEA FILUR for a year now, and it does everything you could want a trash can to do. Sure it’s not as pretty as a SimpleHuman, but it’s perfectly understated, and while it might not last 10+ years (and I would never buy something I was going to have to turn right around and throw away), $116 buys a lot of $12 trash cans.

  • http://www.mysmartcan.com Kiran Rajbhandary

    None of these solve the challenge of bag suction and vacuum when removing a full trash bag. Smartcan eliminates this issue forever. We’ve just launched on kickstarter.
    http://bit.ly/smartcan

  • AloXander

    I have the slim Simplehuman plastic can and it’s OK, so I’m considering getting the metal, upgraded version. Some flaws in the slim model: the lid mechanism has some gaps in the rear which allows fruit flies to have a field day. This is the main reason that I want a different model. Also, cleaning the can, as noted above, is a royal pain because of the all the nooks at the bottom. I ended up taking it outside to just hose it down with a garden hose. Also because of the light weight of the can, and the fact that you can’t prop the base against a wall because the rear of the lid extends outwards so opening the lid digs into the wall, means that I had to place an object on the floor between the can base and the wall.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Thanks for the feedback!

  • Dan Fehrenbach

    I have a slightly older version of the recommended can and, while I agree that it a fine receptacle, one downside to the flush-fitting lid and the overall tightness of the enclosure is that if you put something in the can that generates heat/moisture then it will get trapped inside the can and form a pretty gross layer of condensation on the underside of the lid. Picture throwing away a bunch of vegetable parts that had been boiled to make stock. So, just keep that in mind.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Clorox wipes :)

  • John Powers

    OMG if you have DOGS the Butterfly is impossible for them to “Break” into I have watched them try and try but to no avail…..

  • http://www.girlmakesfood.com/ Alissa

    We bought this simplehuman trash can based on this article and couldn’t be happier. The ease of taking out the inner bin with the bag when the garbage is full and heavy has made a huge difference for me. I also love that there is a little hole in the inner bin so you can easily tuck the excess top of the bag in so it’s nice and tight and tidy. Thanks for being awesome The Sweet Home!!

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Glad you like it! It’s the Rolls Royce of garbage receptacles!