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The best trash can

While it doesn't feel glamorous shopping for a trash can, it doesn't have to be hard. With so many new styles hitting the market in recent years, there are now trash cans with a variety of convenience features and plenty of curb appeal.

Modern trash cans take your needs and expectations into consideration. If you need hands-free operation, consider sensor-enabled lids or reliable pedal mechanisms. For extra help keeping odors at bay, opt for ones equipped with carbon filters and other anti-odor features. Of course, if you just want a trash can that complements your kitchen space, there are several decorative yet functional options.

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Choose a new trash can that gets the job done while looking good with a little help from our comprehensive buying guide. We're including our top pick, the Simplehuman Butterfly, which earns big points for its small-space-friendly butterfly-lid mechanism.

Considerations when choosing trash cans

Capacity

Capacity is typically expressed in liters or gallons, so make sure you convert accordingly to compare apples to apples. Trash cans range from 2.6 gallons (10 liters) to 22.45 gallons (80 liters). Trash cans with small capacities are best for cubicles and dorm rooms, while larger-capacity trash cans are better for kitchens and offices.

Materials

Trash cans are usually made of stainless steel, high-quality polypropylene, or mesh.

Stainless steel is known for its durability and is well-liked for matching kitchen appliances. They do, however, end up being significantly more expensive than polypropylene trash cans. Polypropylene is also durable, though it can absorb odors as trash accumulates inside the can. One major perk of polypropylene cans is that they easily wipe clean -- and you can hose them down if necessary. Mesh or wire trash cans offer the most visual appeal, but they're porous and have limited functionality. They do a good job at holding paper trash in a stylish way, so they're best saved for offices and dorms.

Multi-bin styles

While there aren't nearly as many multi-bin trash cans as single-bin ones, they're slowly growing in popularity. Like divided laundry hampers, these trash cans have compartments to separate recyclables from regular trash. They're convenient and cost-effective, but they take up space in a kitchen.

Lid styles

Pedal:

Trash cans with pedal mechanisms to open lids are the most common choice for kitchens. These tried-and-true styles tend to be more economical than other options, and their hands-free operation minimizes your contact with bacteria and germs.

Sensor lids:

Sensor lids have motion detectors that open when prompted. Some styles require you to wave your hand directly over the sensor, whereas others are more intuitive and open as you come within range. They're a clever, hands-free option, but they're rather expensive.

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Swing:

Swing-top lids give trash cans a bulbous look. Aesthetically speaking, this breaks up the traditional rigid look in a kitchen. These trash cans are popular for bathrooms, though they're not ideal for kitchens. Since your hand and the trash will come into contact with the lid, it's not the most sanitary option.

Lidless:

Lidless trash cans are best for non-food garbage that won't attract bugs or animals. They're a good option for offices and dorms. The majority of lidless trash cans are made from polypropylene, so they're also easy to clean. Some consumers forgo trash can liners or bags all together.

Lift:

Trash cans that require you to manually lift the lid aren't the top choice for indoor use, as they're somewhat inconvenient and cumbersome. Instead, it's far more common to see them on outdoor trash cans.

Price

Budget-friendly trash cans cost $20 and below, though they're smaller and less durable. For better-quality models, some of which include sensors, expect to spend between $50 and $150. Large-capacity trash cans with advanced capabilities, like odor filters, cost upward of $150.

FAQ

Q. How do I keep pets out of the trash can?

A. Choose a trash can with locking mechanisms, or ones that require some effort -- or opposable thumbs -- to open. If your trash can doesn't have these features, it's best to invest in a childproof trash can lid lock.

Q. How long will a trash can last?

A. It depends on how well it is maintained, but it could last 10 years or more. Regular cleaning and inspection of moving parts, like lid lift mechanisms, will extend the trash can's life. Some trash cans come with extended warranties.

Trash cans we recommend

Best of the best: Simplehuman's Butterfly

Our take: Leading choice for a trash can with its innovative opening mechanism.

What we like: Sturdy design and reliable lid that supposedly lasts between 10 and 20 years. Overall quiet operation.

What we dislike: Expensive option that requires product line trash bags, which are also a bit pricey.

Best bang for your buck: Umbra's Venti

Our take: Swing-top style with attractive details to give the trash can real (indoor) curb appeal.

What we like: Budget-friendly and easy-to-remove trash bags. Lightweight model yet won't tip over easily.

What we dislike: Be prepared to wipe down lid after throwing out messy items, as there's no hands-free mechanism.

Our take: Touchless trash can that minimizes contact with garbage to keep germs at bay.

What we like: Sensor is accurate and intuitive, so few false openings. Comes with wheels for easy portability.

What we dislike: Pricey. Ongoing expenses for batteries.

Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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