Weekend Projects

This Weekend: Take Care of Your Kitchen’s Biggest Odor Offenders

published Oct 28, 2017
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(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Nothing says “c’mon let’s eat” like offensive smells in your kitchen. Kidding of course! Yet there are several spots that naturally get ickier than others, where gunk, dried liquids, and food bits combine to form a low-grade yet persistent maelstrom of malodor. This weekend, we’re going to take care of that.

All during October, we’re tackling your home’s “scariest” tasks — the dirtiest, foulest, most dreaded jobs on your to-do list. This month, get out your rubber gloves and get ready: we’ll all knock them out together.

If your kitchen sink is more bacteria-laden than your toilet, imagine what’s lurking in your garbage can and recycling bins. While of course you’re emptying both regularly, a receptacle that contains everything from raw meat scraps to rotting produce to beer spills is surely harboring some serious yuck — and the wafting stench of it, too.

Step One: Empty the Bins

Before you give your garbage cans a deep clean, take the trash out. This seems like it goes without saying, but here’s the thing you have to remember: keep going. The last thing you want, the thing that will elicit some choice words, is leaving the trash without a bag in it. You know what I’m talking about. The worst is coffee grinds. Anyway, take out the trash and then, before something distracts you, grab your garbage can to finish the job.

Step Two: Hose it Down

Most garbage cans, especially ones with foot pedals, have nooks and crannies that running water flushes out best. (If you have an electronic sensor lid, you probably can’t use running water, however.) Take your garbage can and recycling bins outside and give them a thorough spray-down with a hose. If you don’t have access to a hose or a space where you can do this, consider doing it in the shower (which you will clean thoroughly afterwards, obviously).

Step Three: Scrub

For trouble spots that aren’t addressed with even a hard spray of water, get a scrub brush or sponge and a powder cleanser such as Bon Ami, Comet, or even baking soda. Scrub thoroughly. This will apply especially for white plastic garbage cans that tend to easily show stains and discolorations.

Step Four: Air Dry

Once you’ve used a strong spray of water to dislodge caked-on gunk, let your cans and bins air dry. If it’s a sunny day, even better, since sunshine helps disinfect.

Step Five: Deep Clean

Depending on the type of garbage can you have, there may still be grooves that need some extra attention. Grab some cotton swabs, or a chopstick or butter knife with the tip covered in a rag and use your tool of choice to scrape out the stubborn grime.

Step Six: Disinfect

Once all the visible dirt has been removed, the final step is disinfecting. Use a Lysol wipe or spray with a white vinegar solution, let sit, and then do a final wipe-down.

Step Seven (Optional): Polish

If your garbage can is stainless steel, consider polishing it after you’ve cleaned it out. My favorite stainless steel polish is a very light mist of coconut oil buffed in with a paper towel.

When you bring your like-new garbage can and recycling bins back where they go (don’t forget to put a bag in the trash can!), you’ll be amazed at how much fresher your entire kitchen feels and smells.