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Getting Rid of Dumpster Smell

Getting Rid of Dumpster Smell

Posted by Trash Cans Unlimited on 15th Sep 2021

The average person generates more than four pounds of trash each day. When that trash piles up over the course of a week, bad smells naturally start to gather. Though garbage never smells nice, that doesn’t mean it needs to stink up your entire neighborhood.

There are some simple and effective ways to combat dumpster odor— other than getting a new dumpster. If you do happen to find yourself in need of new outdoor garbage or recycling receptacles, Trashcans Unlimited has the best cans at the best prices. If you want to explore options other than purchasing a new trash can, continue reading to find out how to get rid of dumpster odor.

How to Deodorize a Dumpster

How to Deodorize a Dumpster

As usual, preventative maintenance is the best place to start. You should combat dumpster odors with a combination of both preventative measures and reactive measures for best results in the long term.

Get The Right Trash Bags

This is step one. If you’re not using trash bags already, now’s the time to make the switch. Well-tied garbage bags seal odors inside so that only a foul whiff or two can escape. You may need to switch to sturdier bags if smells are still a problem, your bags could be breaking open and releasing odor when tossed in the dumpster.

Keep it Dry

Smelly bacteria and mold thrive in moist, warm environments. Do your best to keep liquids out of the trash bins, bags, and the dumpster itself. You can also “air out” the dumpster by leaving the lid or side doors open on dry days. Though this might make the odor worse at first, you can dry out any liquids that might be causing the smell, which will reduce the problem over time. Remember to close it back up to prevent more moisture from getting back in, and to keep away scavengers looking for a meal.

Keep Invasive Pests At Bay

Even if you take the steps above, feral cats, rats, or raccoons could still wreck your efforts by ripping open trash bags in search of a meal. There are a number of rat proofing and raccoon repellent methods:

  • Since food tempts pests to raid the trash, try composting organic waste to keep critters out of your dumpster.
  • You can invest in motion-sensor lights or using taste-deterrents like peppermint oil or cayenne pepper to discourage animal invasions.

It’s normal to find flies buzzing around dumpsters, but they can be a problem too. If you find maggots in your trash, check out our guide to dealing with maggot infestations.

Clean the Trash Cans

What goes into the trash can eventually goes into the dumpster, so it makes sense to start the odor removal process there. Instructions for how to clean plastic trash cans are as follows:

  1. At least once a week; rinse the washcloth with clean water and wipe again to remove any soap; then finish with a wipe of a dry terry towel. DO NOT use steel wool, stainless steel polisher, bleach, salts or acids.
  2. Empty contents and wipe/scrub with warm soapy water until water runs clear and wipe dry with towel and/or leave the sun to dry.
  3. Extra gross messes can be soaked in soapy water and scrubbed with a scouring pad or scrub brush.

Add Odor-Removing Agents

If you use a rental dumpster, be sure to check with your trash services before adding any odor-removal materials. They may also have advice, resources, or preferred products or services available to deodorize the dumpster.

Spray odor control products are typically bio-enzymatic and will remove odors in the long term. Remember to always follow the product label for proper use. Spray odor remover should be applied every time the dumpster is emptied. You do not need to scrub or remove the product after application.

Granule odor control products are typically clay-based and will neutralize odors in the short term. In average-sized dumpsters, you will typically need to apply one to two pounds of granule odor remover. Prior to adding granules, the dumpster or compactor should be emptied of large debris for best results. Granules should be applied each time the dumpster is emptied or as needed. Granulated odor remover does not need to be removed after it has been applied.

If you’re looking for a less specialized, more DIY approach, toss a few cups of kitty litter and baking soda on the floor of the dumpster when it’s empty. The litter will absorb liquid, and the soda will absorb odors.

If you’ve already got a dumpster that’s beyond the point of deodorizing, it’s time to clean it.

How to Clean a Dumpster

Fortunately, cleaning a dumpster isn’t too different from cleaning a stainless steel trash can.

As always, safety first! Always read all labels and instructions before using cleaning chemicals and products. Also, remember to wear the necessary protective gear, like gloves, goggles, and masks.

Tools to Clean a Dumpsters

Make sure you have these tools handy:

  • Outdoor hose with a pressure nozzle
  • Chlorine bleach, pine-based, or citrus-based cleaner
  • An old floor mop

Steps to Clean a Dumpster

  1. Put the nozzle on the hose, set to the most powerful setting, usually "jet."
  2. Open the top of the dumpster and use a strong stream of water to wash down the sides. Add about 6 inches of water to the inside. Add 1 cup of cleaner (bleach, orange or pine oil soap).
  3. Shake the dumpster using both hands. You can also roll it around grabbing onto the handles, and mixing up the water with the soap. Let it sit that way for a half hour or so.
  4. Tip the dumpster over, and let the water drain on the driveway, near the street.
  5. Lay the dumpster on its side, and start hosing down the sides of the container. If there is serious grime and grunge on the sides, use an old mop to break loose the baked on dirt. If the dirt is seriously crusted onto the surface, pour some bleach or soap solution on the mop and scrub the sides where the dirt is the worst. You can lay the dirty side on the concrete so that it's like scrubbing a floor.
  6. Rinse the dumpster after it is all cleaned, and leave it open to dry.


  • Do not drain the soapy or bleach solutions onto soil. It will affect plants or kill plants put there in the future.
  • Orange oils are nontoxic in the house, but may be toxic to plant roots.
  • Bleach is the most toxic of solutions. If you have pets or kids, keep them away from the area while you clean the dumpster.

Finally, talk to your trash services. If you use a dumpster rental, reach out to your trash removal service for tips about dumpster odor control. The waste removal company can tell you which odor removal methods they prefer and offer guidance for how to prevent odors from building up again in the future.

If you’re making sure to keep your cans clean and dry, you shouldn’t have too many problems with smell. With a little maintenance, you shouldn’t need to do a big clean again. If you need new trash cans, Trashcans Unlimited is your source for all the cans you might need. Get in touch with us, and let us know how we can help.