Our testing methodology
We tested six bins side-by-side for a week, noting ease of use and cleaning and odor (as much as we could stand it). We also consulted experts, including Caitlin Rose of Fresh N Folded, based in Seattle, Washington, and Kaddy Feast, a longtime New York City bartender and the founder of Sorted, a professional home organization service.
While the best bins tended to be large, heavy, and lidded, not everyone has that kind of real estate to dedicate to a trash bin, so we talked through some of the more practical options available with both Rose and Feast, who helped us deduce the best possible categories for most households.
Here’s what we looked for in our top picks:
Ease of use: We used each bin as part of our daily routine for a week, noting how easy and intuitive the trash cans were to use and operate. We engaged the pedals (where applicable) at various angles, noted the range of motion on lids, and took into account what emptying the trash and loading a fresh bag entailed.
Durability: We pushed over each bin and looked for dents, scratching, or damage. Where lids were applicable, we tested to see how smoothly they performed and opened and closed them dozens of times to see if we could induce squeaking (or worse). In testing the pull-out bins, we were particularly rough in pulling them in and out to see if they might dislodge from their tracks or if the screws holding them in place would give way.
Cleaning: After the testing period, we cleaned the inside and outside of each bin. The standalone step bins we tested were the hardest to clean because they had the most working mechanisms and the most nooks and crannies. Conversely, the bins without lids, including the pull-out (or under-counter) ones, were the easiest because they have smooth surfaces with no mechanisms, like latches, lids, pedals, or truss rods to work around.
Odor: We also regularly sniffed around each bin during testing, though at the point of a week’s worth of garbage buildup, they all emitted some smell. The ones with lids lasted a couple of days longer before starting to let out the undesirable smells, and the tighter-sealing, heavier-duty stainless steel lid on our top pick, Simplehuman’s Rectangular Step Trash Can, did the best job. The pull-out trash cans were similar to the lidded ones in that smells were contained within the cabinet.