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Published Sep. 17, 2021

While large trash cans work well in the kitchen, small trash cans come in handy in bathrooms, bedrooms, and home offices. While standard-size trash cans have capacities of 10 gallons or more, small trash cans typically have bins with capacities under 5 gallons. 

With so many trash cans on the market, choosing one can be overwhelming. We’ll break down what to look for when shopping for the best small trash cans for your home and discuss the key considerations to keep in mind as you shop. Keep reading for tips on choosing the best small trash can, and explore our curated picks for the best options on the market.

How We Picked the Products

Methodology 

While it’s easy to assume that all trash cans offer similar performance, a number of factors affect their functionality. Several years of experience covering interiors and home products as well as extensive product research went into choosing our final curated selection. We reviewed more than 30 small trash cans and weighed a number of practical considerations when making our recommendations. 

  • Material: Trash cans can be made from a wide variety of materials. The two most common are metal and plastic. Metal trash cans are sturdier, but they tend to show dust and streaking, so they require regular cleaning. Plastic trash cans are generally more affordable but they might tip over if they’re made from lightweight materials. We considered both metal and plastic models for our guide. 
  • Lid type: Trash cans with lids come in a variety of different styles. Hands-free lids that operate with a foot pedal or motion sensor come in handy when your hands are full and are more hygienic. Stainless steel trash cans with tight-fitting lids are best for bathrooms and kitchens where unpleasant odors may need to be contained. 
  • Liner rim: Small trash cans may or may not be designed to be used with a liner. Liner rims hold a garbage bag in place while simultaneously keeping it tucked away so it’s not visible. This feature is necessary only for trash cans that you intend to use with a liner. 

The Best Small Trash Cans: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: simplehuman 6 Liter/1.6 Gallon Bathroom Step Trash Can

Stainless Steel Step Can

Stainless steel construction and a step-operated lid make this 1.6-gallon trash can our top pick. simplehuman

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Why It Made The Cut: simplehuman’s 1.6-gallon trash can is pedal-operated for ease of use and constructed from stainless steel for optimal durability. 

Specs: 

  • Type: Pedal-operated
  • Capacity: 1.6 gallons
  • Material: Stainless steel

Pros:

  • Stainless steel construction
  • Pedal-operated lid
  • Semi-round design
  • Multiple finish options

Cons:

  • Limited capacity

simplehuman’s 1.6-gallon trash can is perfect for bathrooms but also works well in small kitchens because of its stainless steel construction and tight-fitting lid. The pedal is extremely durable, and according to the manufacturer is built to withstand over 150,000 steps, which is more than 20 steps a day for 20 years! The lid closes silently because dampers prevent it from slamming shut. The inner bucket is removable for easy cleaning and makes it easy to secure a trash liner. 

One of the major benefits of this model is that there are several finishes available to best suit the color scheme and existing fixtures in your space. Choose from brushed stainless steel, white steel, bronze, and rose gold. 

It has a semicircular shape which is designed to sit flush against your wall in order to save space. The total dimensions are 13.3 by 15.9 by 25.2 inches and simplehuman makes custom-fit liners that are crafted to slip into this trash can perfectly. 

Best Value: Umbra Mini Waste Can

Simple and Affordable

This 1.5-gallon mini waste can is made from biodegradable plastic and features an easy-to-use swing lid. Umbra

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Why It Made The Cut: Umbra’s mini waste can is our top value pick because of its streamlined design and affordable price. 

Specs: 

  • Type: Swing lid
  • Capacity: 1.5 gallons
  • Material: Plastic

Pros:

  • Made from biodegradable plastic
  • Removable swing lid
  • Multiple colors available

Cons:

  • Swing lid isn’t the most hygienic option

For many spaces, you don’t need a trash can with many bells or whistles. A simple and affordable swing-lid option—like this one from Umbra—is sure to fit the bill. It’s made from biodegradable plastic and has a 1.5-gallon capacity, so it’s perfect for your office, bedroom, or bathroom. The lid comes off completely so it’s easy to clean. 

It’s small and compact, measuring 7.5 by 12.5 by 7.5 inches, meaning it can easily be tucked under a desk or stored in a cabinet. It has a cylindrical shape that’s well-suited to being placed in corners. Since it comes in seven colors—black, white, yellow, red, silver, surf blue, and linen—there’s sure to be an option that suits your room’s color scheme. 

Best Automatic: Ninestars DZT-12-5 Motion Sensor Trash Can

High-Tech Pick

With a waterproof motion sensor and a removable ring liner, this automatic trash can works well for small kitchens or bathrooms. Ninestars

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Why It Made The Cut: This motion sensor trash can from Ninestars opens automatically, comes in multiple colors, and includes a removable ring liner. 

Specs: 

  • Type: Automatic
  • Capacity: 3 gallons
  • Material: Stainless steel with plastic lid

Pros:

  • Motion sensor-activated lid
  • Removable ring liner included
  • Multiple finish options 

Cons:

  • Batteries not included

An automatic trash can is an excellent hygienic pick that prevents users from having to touch the lid by opening it whenever it detects movement. With a 3-gallon capacity, this option by Ninestars is a great mid-size trash can that would work just as well in a small kitchen as it would in a high-traffic bathroom. It features a soft-close lid and a nonskid base to prevent it from sliding out of place. A removable ring liner holds trash bags in place and prevents them from coming out the sides. The motion sensor is water-resistant so it won’t be damaged by leaks or spills. 

Choose from several color options including brushed stainless steel, pink, blue, red, yellow, and rose gold. While the brushed stainless and rose gold versions have stainless steel bins and plastic lids, some of the other color options switch it up and feature plastic bins and stainless steel lids. The trash can is operated by two AA batteries, which are not included. It measures 7.8 by 10.3 by 14 inches. 

Best In-Cabinet: simplehuman 10 Liter/2.6 Gallon In-Cabinet Trash Can

Compact Kitchen Pick

This in-cabinet trash can has a 2.6-gallon capacity and can be permanently installed or hung using the durable steel frame. simplehuman

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Why It Made The Cut: simplehuman’s in-cabinet trash can is a high-quality pick for those with limited kitchen floor space. 

Specs: 

  • Type: In-cabinet
  • Capacity: 2.6 gallons
  • Material: Alloy steel frame and plastic bucket

Pros:

  • Heavy-duty steel frame
  • Custom-fit liners
  • Removable plastic bucket

Cons:

  • Lid must be lifted manually

Not all kitchens have adequate floor space for a large freestanding trash can, which is why under-cabinet models are popular for small spaces. This handy pick from simplehuman has a 2.6-gallon capacity and hangs on your cabinet door so that you can easily access it while you cook. The heavy-duty alloy steel frame can also be screwed in for a more permanent installation. 

The durable plastic bucket is easy to clean and has a sleek black finish. One downside, however, is that the lid on this model must be opened and closed manually. The trash can’s dimensions are 8.7 by 11.7 by 14.3 inches and the manufacturer also makes custom bin liners that perfectly fit its specifications so that your trash bags don’t slip out of place. Before purchasing this trash can, review the listing carefully as the brand provides the necessary dimensions for your under-sink cabinet. 

Best Slim: mDesign 1.3 Gallon Rectangular Slim Profile Metal Step Trash Can

Sleek and Streamlined

A slim design, pedal-operated lid, and rainbow of color choices make this trash can an excellent pick for small spaces. mDesign

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Why It Made The Cut: With a slim design and a wide range of finish options, this trash can from mDesign is a great compact pick. 

Specs: 

  • Type: Pedal-operated
  • Capacity: 1.3 gallons
  • Material: Stainless steel exterior and plastic bucket

Pros:

  • Slim profile
  • Removable bucket
  • Wide range of color options

Cons:

  • Limited capacity

This model by mDesign measures 11.25 by 5.5 by 11.75 inches, so it’s perfect for storing beside the toilet or under a desk without taking up much floor space. While this version has a 1.3-gallon capacity, there’s also a larger 2.6-gallon version that measures 13.77 by 6.88 by 15.35 inches. A pedal-operated lid lets users throw away their trash without getting their hands dirty. 

The shatterproof plastic bucket can be removed using the metal handle for easy cleaning, though it can also be used to hold a bin liner in place. 

One of the biggest perks of this trash can is that it’s available in a rainbow of different finishes to best suit your decor style. There’s matte white, copper, graphite gray, soft brass, marble, and many others. 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Trash Can

Keep the following things in mind when shopping for a trash can for your home. 

Intended Use

The primary consideration when shopping for a small trash can is where you plan to use it. A trash can for a powder room, for example, should be able to discreetly contain bathroom waste with a lid, while an open-topped wastepaper basket would be sufficient for a home office. Your intended use will dictate which type of trash can is best for you. 

Type

Before you start shopping for a trash can, consider what type is best for your home. 

  • Lidless wastepaper baskets feature a simple, open-topped design. They’re a good choice for bedrooms and home offices.  
  • Hinged lids are the most basic lidded option, but require users to open them manually, which might be messy depending on the trash being inserted.
  • Step cans are pedal-operated. They work well in kitchens and bathrooms to prevent users from getting their hands dirty. 
  • In-cabinet trash cans are generally used in the kitchen and can be mounted to the inside of your cabinet door. Some have mechanisms that automatically open the lid when the cabinet opens, allowing for hand-free access. 
  • Motion-activated trash cans are a newer innovation that allow you to open the trash can by waving your hand in front of a motion sensor. They’re a useful and hygienic option, but they tend to be associated with a higher price point. 

Size and Shape

Trash can sizes are generally measured by their capacity in either liters or gallons. Full-size trash cans generally have capacities of 10 or 13 gallons in order to fit standard garbage bags. Small trash cans vary more widely in size since many are designed to be used without a liner, so they don’t need to follow standard sizing. Generally speaking, a small trash can has a capacity of between 1 and 5 gallons.

Small trash cans also vary in shape. Some rectangular trash cans are designed to tuck into tight spaces while half-round trash cans have a flat surface at the back so they can fit neatly against a wall. 

FAQs 

Q: What’s the best trash can size for a bathroom?

Bathroom trash cans vary in size, but a 1.5-gallon capacity is sufficient for most households. 

Q: Do trash cans always need liners?

While a liner is a must-have for messy kitchen waste, they’re not strictly necessary for office, bedroom, or bathroom trash cans. If you use a trash can without a liner, keep in mind that it will need to be cleaned periodically. 

Q: Does a bathroom trash can need a lid?

It’s advisable to choose a lidded trash can for bathroom and powder rooms so that guests and the other members of your household can dispose of personal items discreetly. 

Final Thoughts

Our recommendations for the small trash cans cover a variety of types and styles to best suit your needs. The simplehuman 6 Liter/1.6 Gallon Bathroom Step Trash Can is our top pick because of its sturdy construction, pedal-operated lid, and stainless steel finish while our recommended choice for those on a budget is the simple and affordable Umbra Mini Waste Can

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