Things to Consider When Selecting Trash Can Size for Your Home & Kitchen

How much thought did you put into selecting the trash cans for your home? If you’re like most people, then you probably thought about it very little. For a household object that is so important to keeping your home neat and tidy, it is surprising how few people do research before making a purchase. One trash can decision you should definitely give some extra thought: size.

Size Matters

When it comes to trash cans, size definitely does matter. An overly large trash can will take up valuable floor space in a room and have more volume than you really need. On the other hand, a trash can that is too small can end up overflowing and will need to be emptied constantly. Go with the Goldilocks standard on this—you want your trash can to be “just right.”

Figuring out what size trash can your home needs can feel like a math problem. There are a lot of factors you need to consider, but it is a problem worth solving. Choosing the right-sized trash can will help you keep your home cleaner and more organized.

1. What Room Is It For?

Most households have their largest trash can in the kitchen, as that is where the most trash is usually created. Bathroom trash cans will likely be very small because they have to fit in a small room, and minimal trash is created there. Other trash cans are often placed in bedrooms, garages, or offices, and can be slightly larger.

While the exact sizes will vary due to the other factors in this list, generally a bathroom trash can will be around 4 gallons, a bedroom or office trash can will be 7-10 gallons, and kitchen trash cans tend to be 12-16 gallons.

2. How Many People Live In Your Home?

The number of people who live in your home is a big factor in how much trash you create. A family of six or more is probably going to create more trash than two or three people living together. The more trash you create, the larger the trash can you ultimately want.

Empty nesters or young couples can likely get by with 7-10 gallons for their main trash can. A family of four will want to size up to 12-16 gallons to avoid taking out the trash too frequently. A large family or a house shared by more than four people may want to size up to 20-30 gallons for their main waste receptacle.

3. How Much Trash Do You Create?

If you have a compost pile, or if your city picks up compost curbside, then you likely produce a lot less trash than someone who puts all of their food waste in with their regular trash. If your trash company doesn’t offer recycling pick up, then you probably create a lot more trash than the average person. (We strongly encourage those who do not have curbside recycling to find a recycling center to drop their recyclable materials off at.)

If you compost and recycle, then a 7-10 gallon trash can should be sufficient for the other miscellaneous waste you create. If you put food waste in with your trash, then you should size up to 12-16 gallons. If you throw food, recyclables, and trash in the same bin, then a 20-30 gallon trash can will be appropriate.

4. How Much Space Do You Have?

In a small kitchen, a large trash can takes up valuable floor space and gets in the way. While an under-sink trash can is helpful for reclaiming floor space, it limits how large your trash can is allowed to be. It is important to keep in mind where you want to put your trash can and how much space you have before purchasing it.

Most under-sink cabinets are 30 inches tall, so your trash can needs to be shorter than that to leave room to throw trash in. A 7-10 gallon trash can will usually be the right size, but measure your under-sink space first. An attractive stainless steel trash can adds to a larger kitchen’s decor and fits easily in a corner if it is between 12 and 16 gallons. If space is no issue at all in your kitchen, then a large 20-30 gallon trash can may fit nicely next to a kitchen island or in a pantry.

5. What Size Bag Do You Prefer?

If you find yourself with lots of old grocery bags to reuse, you may prefer using those over traditional trash bags. However, if the bag is much smaller than your trash can, you will only be creating more mess. If you are using a 30-gallon bag with a smaller 10-gallon trash can, then you will also create more mess in addition to waste.

Don’t waste money on trash bags that don’t fit your trash cans, or on a trash can that doesn’t fit your preferred bag style. Our trash can liner guide will help you select the right trash bag to pair with any trash can.


In each of these charts, you might be told you need a slightly different sized trash can. Whichever size you fall under most often is the size that will be best for you. Of course, personal preference is a factor that only you can decide on. At the end of the day, you need to pick the trash can that is right for your space and lifestyle.

Trashcans Unlimited sells trash cans in every size, material, and style you could want. Check out our selection of kitchen and bathroom trash cans if you’re ready to clean up your home.

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