My Grandma’s “Wash the Garbage” Cleaning Rule Is Weird but Super Smart

published Nov 10, 2023
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Recently, I’ve been talking to my mom a lot about the home-keeping habits she taught us (and many of these, like ”postage stamp” vacuuming, are practices she doesn’t even remember unless I bring them up!). It’s been fun to see how my mom’s memory and mine differ and overlap, and to laugh together over how she’s relieved my teenage room was no indication of how I’d keep my home as an adult!

When I asked my mom about any still-relevant home-keeping or cleaning habits she picked up from her childhood home, she shared a few surprising things. One was that she remembers being woken up on the day of a family trip by my grandmother telling everyone, “Vacuum! Vacuum!” Apparently, the non-negotiable rule to make sure the house is clean and in order before leaving for a trip has survived at least three generations; I’m the same way. (And my kids actually thank me for it when we walk into a clean house after a trip.)

The other surprising revelation was an unusual rule that my grandmother was a stickler about — one that has not been passed down, but is really super smart. My mom, who, like me as a child and like my own children now, had to clean up after dinner and one of her chores was to wash the garbage before putting it in the garbage can. 

My first reaction was, “What? Wash garbage? Why?” but the wisdom of this rule began to dawn on me pretty quickly. Rinsing out the garbage before tossing it into the garbage can has many benefits. First off, rinsing off garbage means the garbage can stays much cleaner. Rather than dripping eggshells or milk cartons creating wet, sticky messes that attract more mess in and around the garbage can, rinsing these off keeps messes to a minimum. 

Having less food waste in the garbage can not only keeps messes at bay, but it also drastically reduces odors. I’ve discovered this myself since having my heavy-duty garbage disposal, which keeps even more food waste out of the garbage can (and out of the landfill). 

My grandmother’s unusual but ingenious tip has already made me more aware of making sure to clean out anything I can that’s going into the trash. From giving takeout containers a quick rinse so that as much waste as possible can go down the disposal to taking the extra bit of time to rinse out that jelly jar so I can put it in recycling, rinsing trash does make sense.