You’ve probably never thought about your trash can much. That’s until a raccoon or a rat decides your outdoor garbage receptacle is an all-you-can-eat buffet by getting in your bin and tearing the trash bag to shreds. After an incident like that, your garbage can is the worst thing ever invented. The headache comes in shopping for a new one because the hardware store won’t let you bring your own varmint to see the toughness of each model.
Reviewed is here to help. We spent several weeks prodding, stuffing, and dropping from the second floor some of the top-selling 32-gallon trash cans to find which ones are worth your money. After tallying up the results, the Toter Blackstone(available at Amazon) proved itself resilient, easy to use, and easy to secure, allowing it to claim the top spot.
These are the best outdoor trash cans we tested ranked, in order:
Toter Wheeled Blackstone
Suncast Commerical 32 Gallon
United Solutions TB0042 Wheeled 32 Gallon
Behrens Galvanized Steel 31 Gallon
Rubbermaid Ace 32 Gallon
Blue Hawk 32 Gallon
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The Toter Blackstone won our best overall award. It beat the competition by being versatile, flexible, and mobile. When you first see the Toter, you'll notice that it towers over other garbage cans, measuring in at 37.5 inches tall. During testing, we found that the taller and funnel-like profile increased the odds that the trash bags we dumped were secure. When loaded with trash, we also noticed that the entire barrel lists forward. This design choice lent itself to stability, absorbing normal bumps and shocks without tipping.
Aside from tipping over, the next biggest headache comes from animals getting into your trash. The Blackstone does not come with a method to secure its lid. The swinging lid makes it easier to open with one hand and we noted that since it's attached you'll never lose it. However, a single bungee cord can turn this garbage can into a critter-proof fortress–all you need to do is to hook the cord onto the handle on the back and stretch it to the one on the front.
After taking into account its ergonomic design and rugged construction, we think the Toter Blackstone is going to suit most households. It's more expensive than most models but you get quality in return.
We think the name Brute fits this squat and durable trash barrel perfectly. Rubbermaid constructed this model out of commercial-grade plastic to resist cracking, warping, and even degrading from the sun. Even the lid has a ribbed interior to prevent it from getting crushed. Indeed, we assaulted the Brute with boots and mallets, dragged it cracked asphalt, and even threw it off our loading dock but nothing we did could end this garbage can's reign.
As much as we like its durability, we found that this model has other virtues. Its interior has special grooves carved into the side to aide in the removal of garbage bags. If you don't use bags, there are handles on the side and bottom to help empty the Brute.
Amongst all the models we tested, the Brute is the only non-wheeled model that we'd trust to drag to the curb season after season and to weather every condition. However, it's not as convenient as the Toter. While the lid may be tough, it's not attached so it can still be lost. The bottom may be durable but it's a pain to drag about. Finally, the Brute's squat design makes it tougher but a low center of gravity makes it harder to pick up.
For trash barrels that sit in one spot or if you need a large container for storage, our tests show the Rubbermaid Brute is the way to go.
Hi, I'm Jon Chan, the Senior Lab Technician at Reviewed. Along with my colleague Kyle Hamilton, we tested all the garbage cans in this roundup. Over the years I’ve worked here, I’ve tested everything from pocket knives to pressure washers. When it came to trash barrels, I wanted something that could withstand suburban, urban, and rural situations.
The testing broke down in the three sections: durability, security, and ease of use.
Durability testing involved a lot of dragging over rough asphalt, tossing them off a three-foot-high loading dock, swinging a ten-pound plate at them, and generally just beating on them. We then assessed each model to check for signs of abnormal wear, any points of failure like cracks or broken wheels, and lids that no longer fit. For several of the models we tested, we even tossed them off 17-foot-tall fire escape for a distance of 18.5 feet.
Security testing included checking how well each model resisted tipping over, how animal resistant they were, and how well they held in odors. The tipping test involved swinging a weight at both the top and bottom of the trash can and also a few good elbow strikes. The animal resistance test involved binding my hands in duct tape and then attempting to open the trash cans by any means, including knocking them over and belly flopping on them. Finally, we did a sniff test. We placed smashed 20 beads from inside an air freshener inside selected cans then placed them in an isolated area. We then asked volunteers to give the area a whiff.
Third, on our list was the ease-of-use testing. We created our own trash loads consisting of wet sand placed in ziplock bags, crumpled up printer paper, ripped up cardboard, and bolts of cloth into three kitchen trash bags. We also placed metal weights on the bottom of each trash barrel. In total the entire load tipped the scales at 70 pounds. We noted how easy it was to place the bags in. The next test was to gauge how the amount of effort it took to lift each model, this is important if you have to empty your trash into a dumpster.
What You Should Know About Garbage Cans
Your refuse can attract everything from mice to bears. For our testing, we considered no animals larger than a raccoon. Bear-proofing your garbage requires either a specialized and expensive trash can, a shed, or the use of spotlights. There are also straps you can get that can help secure your lids but they're not that great. The most important part about keeping critters out of your garbage is to secure the lid and keep smelly refuse in air-tight bags.
Do I Need to Buy a Garbage Can?
Some municipalities have guidelines for what garbage cans are allowed and in some circumstances provide them. Your landlord or real estate agent should have the details about the local rules.
Wheeled vs No Wheels
When the average family of four produces around 80 pounds of refuse a week why wouldn't you want a trash barrel with wheels? Simplicity is a good answer. If a wheel or axle on a wheeled trash can breaks, it's kaput, they typically don't have the handles or smooth bottoms to carry or drag them anywhere. A garbage can with no wheels also tends to be cheaper. So it's a good idea if you're getting one for storage.
Other Garbage Cans We Tested
Suncast Commercial 32 Gal.
As far as trash cans go, this is the one to get if you want one to sit in the garage. The model we got did not come with a lid. However, what it did come with was a body made of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE). Suncast's choice of material means that this trash can is chemically resistant, able to take temperatures of up to 120°F without warping and withstand 76 percent more damage from dragging.
Our testing showed that the Suncast is tougher than the Rubbermaid Brute but it's also more expensive. Plus, you have to buy the lid separately. When you combine all these facts, we think this trash can is better suited for taking non-food waste like from your garage or worksite.
The United Solutions TB0042 is a wheeled garbage can with a lockable lid. United Solutions advertises this model as critter-proof and rugged. After subjecting the TB0042 to our battery of tests, it didn't get the highest mark in either category. When the turn-and-lock lid is fully engaged, we able to pick the whole barrel up by the lid and it stayed secure. However, if you knock the whole unit over and apply a bit of pressure, the top pops off. We also found that while the body if fairly tough but not on par with others on this list.
Gripes aside, our testing did reveal this garbage can's virtues. While the lid isn't going to keep out a determined critter, it might not need to because it did a wonderful job of sealing odors away. We'll also praise the United Solutions for its ease of maneuverability. It can't roll with the likes of the Toter but it holds its own. Several marks against its record keep the TB0042 from claiming a top spot but we can't argue with how affordable it is.
You can't have a roundup of trash cans and not include an Oscar the Grouch house! The Behrens 31 Gallon Galvanized Steel garbage can has plenty going for it. First, amongst all the trash cans we tested, it was the easiest to clean. The stainless-steel body has no odd corners in the interior so it's easy to wash out. Regularly washing out your trash cans can help keep critters away. Not that many pests can chew their way through steel. Our second favorite aspect this trash can's durability. After accepting all the punishment we had to give, we were able to bend the Behrens back into place.
While this garbage can is good enough to accommodate Oscar, it isn't good enough to take a top spot. One of the reasons is that it's designed to be stationary. We found that the handles are not that ergonomic, cutting into your fingers after only a short distance. If you decide to drag it, be prepared for your neighbors waking up because the Behrens is capable of making a metallic racket. Both these issues pale in comparison to the fact that the Brehrens is difficult to open when empty. The lid grips the body strong enough that it takes a bit of trash can yo-yo-ing to get it open. Because of that issue, we think the Brehens would be ideal for holding birdseed or dog food.
Did you know that Rubbermaid makes an exclusive trash barrel just for Ace Hardware? Now you do. It's basically a wheelless Roughneck with an Ace logo on the side. During testing we found it to be a bit flimsy. This issue was especially true with the domed lid which can get crushed and bent out of shape more easily than its competitors. These durability concerns are not deal breakers but are certainly not attributes of an award winner. The lid popped off when it tipped over and its sides gave way more to impacts so it lost out to the Suncast and the Brute.
The Ace's performance might not live up to its namesake but it's well priced. You can get a bargain on mediocrity, especially if you're an Ace Hardware rewards member.
The 32-gallon Blue Hawk shares a lot of similarities with the Ace Hardware Roughneck, only this one is available at Lowes. We found the low price to be very appealing. However, durability concerns also plagued this model. One good smack can warp the lid or tip this model over. After subjecting it to our durability testing, we found several cracks in the side of the body. As far as trash cans go, the Blue Hawk is a good-enough-for-now model.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Senior Lab Technician at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
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.