You deserve a chic-looking kitchen trash can. Just because it does the dirtiest and most thankless job—containing and concealing all your kitchen garbage—doesn't mean it can't be a paragon of form, function, and fabulosity.
To find a can that ticks off all of these boxes, we spent weeks on research and testing. We evaluated everything from hands-free auomated trash cans to simple plastic trash cans.
Our favorite Simplehuman Rectangular Kitchen Step Trash Can(available at simplehuman for $130.00) is a slick, brushed stainless steel (and, dare we say, sexy?) piece of functional design.
These are the best kitchen trash cans we tested ranked, in order:
Simplehuman 45L Rectangular Step Can
Simplehuman 40L Slim Step Can
iTouchless 13-Gallon Deodorizer Sensor Trash Can
Simplehuman 45L Butterfly Step Can
Umbra Venti 16-Gallon Swing Top Kitchen Trash Can
Rubbermaid 13-Gallon Step-On Wastebasket
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This trash can is a reliable winner in a bevy of "best of" lists, and our review is no exception. The 45L can is about as glamorous as waste receptacles get. The gleaming, stainless steel trash can (which also comes in black, white, bronze, or rose gold) has custom-fit liners that dispense from inside the can, a wide rim that both secures and obscures the bags, a lid with patented “shox” technology that facilitates a smooth, silent close, and a steel foot pedal supposedly designed to withstand 20 steps a day for 20 years.
Clean, rectangular dimensions allow it to be tucked into corners or set along a wall, and while it’s still quite heavy, a handle in the back assists in lugging it around. It also has a Nano-Clear coat (frequently used on cars) that harnesses UV rays in order to repel fingerprints, inhibit germs and microbes, and eliminate odors. Granted, you’ll pay for all these features, but an impenetrable build and 10-year warranty ensure you won’t be coughing up cash for a new can for a while.
With a great price tag and a 5-year warranty, Simplehuman's 40L Slim Step Can offers all you can really ask for from a value can. Yes, it’s plastic (which is definitely less attractive and generally less durable than stainless steel), but the material is surprisingly sturdy. It's also fingerprint-proof and, like the brand’s rectangular steel model, comes equipped with a foot pedal engineered to last 150,000 steps. Though its slender, ergonomic shape gives it a slightly smaller capacity than a standard can, this design choice allows it to unobtrusively fit into tight, awkward kitchen spaces. And it even includes useful bonus features, like a set of wheels for ease of movement, as well as a locking lid that renders it the most effectively dog-proof unit we tested by far.
I’m Sarah Zorn, a professional food writer, cookbook author, and recipe tester. In case there was any doubt, these various roles mean that my kitchen trashcan gets a whole lot of use—and takes a fair amount of abuse. I’m also an adoring dog mama and devoted wife, so finding pup-proof waste receptacles that my husband also likes to use is of utmost importance to me.
Working with standard 13-gallon trash bags, we evaluated how easy it was to fit and secure them in the trash cans, without stretching, sliding, or drooping. Once full, we also determined how easy those bags were to remove. We threw a bunch of smelly trash (including shrimp shells) into the bins over the course of a week to see which units could effectively combat the stench. We also packed clean bags with dog-tempting treats to see if they could stand up to a four-legged assault. And since it’s often important to be able to seamlessly move cans around the kitchen, we gave them a bit of a spin around the room.
What You Should Know About Kitchen Trash Cans
A surprising number of factors can come into play when selecting the perfect trash can. Price is generally determined by materials used, with plastic trash cans (which also tend to be lighter) proving more affordable, while stainless steel tends to command a higher price. That’s because stainless steel is usually better-looking, more durable, and easier to clean. It also often comes with some kind of warranty.
You may also want to consider whether the can has special features that support odor absorption. And if you don’t want to constantly search for specially-sized liners, know that a 13-gallon bag is the standard capacity when it comes to kitchen trash bags. As for lids, it’s a matter of personal preference: the basic, hand-lifted top is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cans, which also come in step-to-open, swinging, and touch-free automatic varieties. Just make sure the lid fits well onto the can, to prevent odors from spilling into your kitchen.
Finally, you’ll want to identify the ideal shape for your space. Squares, semi-circles, and rectangles are easier to nest along a wall, while slim-fit options can be conveniently tucked under or between counters, allowing you to make the most of limited kitchen real estate.
Other Kitchen Trash Cans We Tested
iTouchless 13 Gallon Deodorizer Sensor Trash Can
Sometimes it seems like you can buy an automated version of anything, so why shouldn’t that extend to trash cans? In addition to saving you some effort, a sensory activated lid exempts you from actively touching an icky trash can or making the can icky if your hands are covered in, say, raw chicken.
At about $65, it isn’t overly expensive, though you'll also need to purchase batteries or an optional AC adapter. Appealing extras include an activated carbon filter, which keeps unpleasant aromas contained, a smudge-resistant, easy-to-clean stainless-steel exterior, and an extra-wide opening for stashing bulky items. A retainer ring on top keeps your bag in place, and air vents on the bottom aid in easy removal. The standard 13-gallon size means it fits all basic kitchen bags, but the square-shaped unit is a touch taller than it is wide, so it takes up the bare minimum of space.
However, because it’s a hands-free automated device, there’s always a chance this can might break down. It’s also heavy, making it difficult to move, especially since the lid activates when you’re near it. That touch sensitivity could also be a detractor as far as trash-motivated dogs are concerned... a simple tail wag and it’s open sesame.
There’s no question that this intriguingly designed, brushed steel basket is a real looker. Its slender dimensions allow it to fit snugly in odd corners of your kitchen, and its split butterfly lid, with two doors that open from the center, make for easy under-the-counter clearance. It too has all the fun Simplehuman extras, including the indestructible foot pedal, custom fit liners, and a fingerprint-resistant finish. An internal hinge lets you set it against the wall without scratching, and the lid stays open until you close it, which is helpful for drawn-out tasks. Yet even with a handle in back, the sheer heft and torpedo shape makes it cumbersome to move around, and it can’t be denied—at this price, this is one costly can.
While space is at a premium in our New York City apartment, we understand that many people are blessed with far more palatial kitchens (which they share with a bigger household than a husband and a dog). As such, they require a more capacious can, and the heavy-duty Umbra Venti definitely fits the bill. It readily takes on 16 gallons of trash, but can still be fit with a standard, 13-gallon bag (which is kept in place and hidden from view with a neck ring). Its polypropylene material puts it at the lower end of the price spectrum, but it is reasonably durable and weatherproof, so the wastebasket can be used indoors or outdoors.
Its round shape can be a problem, since it can't be neatly tucked into a corner, and though it’s tall, this can is definitely no match for a motivated dog. It also has a swing-top lid, which comes with pros (they have less chance of breaking down than an automated or step pedal model and you don’t need to be as hands-on as with a basic lid) and cons—it’s tricky to fit items like pizza boxes through the slim, swinging opening, which also tends to get yucky once trash reaches all the way to the top).
You’ll find no shortage of great reviews for this budget can. If we hadn’t seen what Simplehuman could do for about the same price, we wouldn’t have expected a lot for the money. But this can's boxy, semi-circular build and basic black plastic material make it a bit of an eyesore in the kitchen, and there are no special features for holding a bag in place or containing odors. Dogs will have no trouble whatsoever helping themselves to your garbage, either. However, the biggest issue for us was that the snap-on top refused to stay in place during testing. So, not only were we regularly unable to use the foot pedal, but we had to refit the dirty lid by hand far too many times.
Sarah Zorn is a food writer, cookbook author, and product tester for Reviewed, Wirecutter and the Food Network. She regularly contributes to outlets such as Saveur, Esquire, and Civil Eats, and has very much passed her food obsessions down, as her beloved rescue hound, Rowdy, regularly deglazes his kibble bowl.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.