For Bon Appetit, by Alyse Whitney.
Confession: Up until this year, whenever my garbage can got gnarly, I threw it away. I’ve only been through half a dozen in my adult life, but I always felt guilty about it. As an apartment-dweller New York City, the idea of cleaning one out — Where would I even do it? Where do I get a hose?! — was just too much. Average plastic kitchen ones only ran me $20, which was split with my roommates. But then when I moved last month, I splurged on a gorgeous rose gold simplehuman garbage can and realized I would have to learn the right way to clean it.
I set out to do just that, with the help of cleaning expert Toni Hammersley, whose blog A Bowl Full of Lemons and forthcoming book The Complete Book of Clean (out April 11) will get your home in mom’s-coming-to-visit shape.
First, Hammersley insists you must change your bag daily to eliminate odors. Your trash can’t stink if you don’t let food sit in it until it’s spilling out of the lid. While the bag is out, spritz the inside and the lid with a homemade cleanser of 50:50 vinegar to water and wipe it quickly with a paper towel. You can use your favorite cleaner, even a disinfectant wipe, for this too, but the DIY stuff will save you money. The whole process should take about a minute — taking the bag out and giving it a quick wipe down inside and out — that can be part of your end-of-the-day routine, along with opening and closing the fridge deciding if you should eat that cheese.
If you feel like it’s too wasteful to take out the bag daily, you can do this process a few times a week instead. Just clean up spills immediately as they happen (like if the bag tears). If your can smells a bit after a few days’ worth of trash, add a few drops of essential oils to your vinegar and water mixture to help deodorize. Hammersley recommends strong scents like peppermint or lemongrass to maximize odor elimination, and you can also use a sprinkle of baking soda in the bottom of the can.
If you have a pretty gross situation to start with, you can still save it! It’s time to give your trash can a bath.
If you have a pretty gross situation to start with, you can still save it! It’s time to give your trash can a bath. You don’t have to fill it with water or anything — just mix 1 Tbsp. bleach into a 24 oz. spray bottle filled with water and give the can a good spritz. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then scrub it quickly inside and out. (Highly recommend wearing gloves while doing this.) Rinse it off... and then clean your bathtub. This is something you only have to do once or twice a year to maintain the cleanliness of your can and kill the germs that have been sitting in there for months. If you have a house with a yard and a driveway, then by all means, do this outside. For big ones that you park curbside, use the same bleach and water solution and clean with a big scrub brush like you would when washing your car.
For stainless steel cans, cleaning the outside is just as important. All simplehuman cans claim to have "anti-fingerprint" technology that keeps you from smudging your beautiful garbage can, but what does that really mean? According to Dave Wolbert, head of product innovation at simplehuman, a special coating makes the steel "less susceptible to being fingerprinted." Since brushed steel has a texture, any oils in your hands could transfer into the grain of the metal. The clear coat seals the grain so you can just use a microfiber cloth, dry paper towel, or non-abrasive sponge to wipe it down without damaging it. Wolbert says you should be able to dust it off, but if you have a big spill—like he recently did with pancake batter—use water or a household cleaner to clean it up immediately. Stainless steel absorbs less odor than plastic, too, so that's another reason to upgrade your can—other than just aesthetics.
The garbage can may be not be the most glamorous part of your kitchen, but don't overlook it—you don't want to be known as the friend with the smelly trash, do you?
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