This is where to put a trash can in a small kitchen, according to designers


When designing a small kitchen, every inch of space counts. You want to make sure you’re maximizing storage and efficiency while maintaining an uncluttered appearance. One key element that is often overlooked is the placement of the trash can. While it may seem like a simple decision, its location can actually make a big difference in the overall workflow and aesthetic of your kitchen.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ideal spots to position a trash can in a small kitchen based on the advice of top interior designers and organization experts. We’ll go over the pros and cons of various locations so you can determine what will work best for your unique layout and needs. With the right placement, your trash can can become an asset rather than an eyesore in your petite cooking space.

Where Not to Put a Trash Can in a Small Kitchen

Before we get into the best spots, let’s first go over where you typically don’t want to place a trash receptacle in a compact kitchen. Avoid putting it in these locations:

Near the Sink

It may seem convenient to put a garbage can right next to the sink. However, this tends to create clutter and make the area feel even more cramped. It can also result in leaks and smells from the trash wafting over to your clean dishes. Not ideal!

In a Main Walkway

You don’t want a trash bin blocking primary traffic flows in an already snug kitchen. This forces people to sidestep around it constantly and can create a fall risk. It also ends up being an eyesore if it’s one of the first things you see when entering the kitchen.

Across from the Fridge

Avoid storing it directly opposite your fridge if possible. This typically means it will end up in an open walkway. It also puts your garbage on display front and center whenever you’re getting food, which isn’t very appetizing!

Near Food Prep Areas

Food preppers like chopping stations and spice cabinets should stay as far away from the garbage as possible. You don’t want smells to transfer over to fresh ingredients and utensils.

In a Corner

Corner placement often seems like a space-saver in a small kitchen. However, it can make accessing the can awkward. People end up crunching garbage bags while trying to pull them out.

Now that we’ve gotten the bad spots out of the way, let’s look at the ideal locations to place trash cans in petite kitchens…

Best Spots for Trash Cans in Small Kitchens

When deciding on placement, interior designers recommend prioritizing convenience while keeping it tucked out of sight. You want garbage disposal to be easy but not clutter up the kitchen zone. Here are the top spots to consider according to experts:

Near the Back Door

Positioning a trash receptacle near the back entrance to the kitchen is an efficient choice. This allows you to easily sweep food scraps, recycling, or other garbage directly into the can without traversing the entire room. It’s less underfoot than placing it by the main sink. Just be sure there’s enough clearance so the door can open fully.

In a Discrete Pull-Out Cabinet

Installing a built-in cabinet to house garbage bins is a space-savvy solution. It keeps the trash tucked away when not in use but still conveniently accessible. Pull-out cabinets with wastebasket slides are designed to hold cans of various sizes. They have the added bonus of containing odors and messes.

Under the Sink

While next to the sink can be problematic, storing cans underneath the basin is a smart workaround. This utilizes the void space under plumbing for practical storage. Just make sure you have a model that fully contains the garbage bags to keep moisture and drips from leaking out. Open wire frames don’t work as well.

In a Discreet Pull-Out Drawer

For a similar concept, consider a rollout drawer on casters designed to stow trash receptacles. They can be installed in a cabinet, island, or base unit for obscured storage that slides in and out smoothly. Position it near where food prep takes place.

In a Pantry or Closet

If you have a walk-in pantry or closet area adjacent to the kitchen, place garbage cans there. Out of sight is often the best approach for small spaces. Just ensure the storage room is easily accessible from cooking areas.

Between Cabinets

An narrow, often unused space between cabinetry is prime real estate for sliding in a trash can. Try not to put it near a high traffic cooking zone but rather near the periphery of the kitchen or by the dining room entryway.

By the Garage Door

For those who take trash and recycling out to the garage for pickup, keep bins by the door leading to this area. This eliminates having them sit out inside. But quick access to the garage is key.

As you can see, there are many options that provide smart trash can placement without it being front and center. The idea is to tuck it away in an unobtrusive but convenient spot.

Design Tips for Integrating Trash Cans Seamlessly

Beyond location, a few other design techniques can help trash cans blend into a small kitchen seamlessly:

Choose a Discreet Color

Selecting a subdued color trash can like black, gray, or stainless steel allows it fade into the backsplash. Flashy hues will only draw eyes to the garbage.

Buy Slim Models

Compact, narrow cans are more discrete than bulky standard wastebaskets. You can slip them into tight spots against walls to get them out of the way.

Use Lidded Cans

A trash can with a lid contains both odors and unsightly garbage views. Some even have weighted lids that open for hands-free, step disposal.

Get Custom Cabinetry

For a tailored fit, have cabinetry designed around the trash area, whether it’s a closet, pull-out, or under-sink space. Optimize every inch.

Incorporate Nearby Storage

Flanking trash zones with practical storage like racks, hooks, and drawers minimizes the cluttered appearance. The garbage then blends into the organized system.

With an intentional color, style, and placement, your trash receptacle can disappear into your small kitchen’s overall design scheme.

Trash Can Size Considerations

In addition to placement, selecting the right size trash can is key for an efficient system. Here are a few factors to consider:

Household Size

Consider the number of people living in your home. More residents will fill it faster. Opt for a larger size or additional cans if needed.

Frequency of Use

Do you utilize your kitchen often or just for occasional meals? Frequent cooks should size up for more capacity.

Available Space

Measure the area where you plan to place the can. Make sure the dimensions can accommodate the size you choose.

Garbage Output

What kind of waste do you generate most – recyclables, food scraps, packaging? This can determine ideal receptacle size.

Emptying Schedule

For infrequent bag changes, a larger can allows longer intervals in between. But make sure it’s not oversized for your space.

While excess capacity may seem beneficial, going too big can have drawbacks:

  • Bulky trash cans crowd out precious space in a petite kitchen
  • Overloading with garbage can make a full bag overly heavy to lift out
  • More capacity encourages letting trash pile up longer before emptying

When in doubt, start smaller and upgrade later if needed. You can always add supplementary cans in other strategic locations to spread out storage.

Selecting the Best Trash Can Style

Beyond just size, the style of garbage can you select can impact both aesthetics and utility. Here are some popular types to consider for small kitchens:

Step Can

Step cans feature a pedal-operated lid that flips open for hands-free, no touch disposal. This helps reduce the spread of germs. Just tap it with your foot to open.


Swing-top models have hinged domed lids that lift open without having to touch the can itself. The wide opening makes disposal easy but closing can be noisy.

Cabinet Pull-Out

As mentioned above, built-in cabinetry units create hidden integrated storage. Customize with your ideal trash can stored inside.

Drawstring Bag

Cans with drawstring bags allow you to cinch and neatly contain garbage odors and leaks. The low profile fits discreetly in tight spaces when not in use.

Motion Sensor

High-tech motion sensor cans automatically open when you wave your hand across the top. This adds next-level hands-free convenience.

Double Compartment

Cans divided into two sections allow you to separate recyclables from general waste in one discrete unit. Ideal for sustainability.

The style you select can upgrade both the functionality and appearance of your small kitchen’s trash storage.

Top Tips for Maintaining a Nice Trash Area

A clean, odor-free trash zone is possible even in a tiny kitchen. Here are some maintenance tips:

  • Empty the can frequently to avoid overloads. Take out garbage before it piles up.
  • Use scented trash bags to help contain odors between changes.
  • Keep a box of baking soda inside to absorb smells. Change it out monthly.
  • Wash cans with soapy water monthly (or spray with disinfectant) to kill germs.
  • Use liners in the bottom of cans to reduce stains and leaks over time.
  • Freshen the area with natural deodorizers like citrus peels.
  • Keep surfaces around the can wiped down to avoid grime.
  • Use the trash can damper to smother smells when lids are opened.

With proper care, your trash zone will stay fresh and blend into the kitchen decor.

Answering Common Questions About Trash Cans in Small Kitchens

As we’ve explored ideal placements and styles for trash receptacles in petite kitchens, you may still have some lingering questions. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Should I put my trash can in a cabinet?

This depends on your layout and preferences. Enclosed pull-out cabinetry can conceal trash discreetly. But make sure to size and position it conveniently so family doesn’t bypass it. Open shelving also allows quick access.

How do I reduce kitchen trash odors?

Take out garbage frequently and use scented bags. Baking soda inside the can help absorb smells. And don’t place near fresh food zones.

Where should I put two trash cans?

Utilize different zones based on usage – one near food prep and one near the exit door for easy emptying. Under the sink and in a pull-out cabinet work well as a duo.

Should I get a trash compactor?

In a small kitchen, a compacting unit may take up too much precious real estate. Simple covered cans strategically placed can work just as well without hogging space.

How do I hide an ugly trash can?

Paint it a neutral color and look for slim, discreet styles. Placing in a pull-out cabinet or drawer hides it when not needed. Surround with cohesive decor and accessories.

Carefully considering placement, style, and maintenance habits allows your trash cans to blend seamlessly into a small kitchen design. With these tips, it won’t have to be an eyesore.

Summary of Trash Can Placement Recommendations

To recap, here are the top spots to place trash cans in a small kitchen:

  • Near the back door for easy access
  • In a pull-out cabinet to conceal the cans
  • Under the sink utilizing the plumbing cavity
  • In a drawer or rollout on casters
  • Inside an adjacent pantry or closet
  • Between cabinetry or against a side wall
  • Near the entry door to the garage for disposal

Choose locations that are out of primary traffic flows but still conveniently accessible. Prioritize functionality and you can minimize the trash can’s visual impact.

With creative placement and the right size style for your needs, your garbage cans can become an asset rather than an eyesore. Applying these tips allows you to maximize your petite kitchen’s potential. A thoughtfully integrated trash zone keeps your cooking space both organized and visually appealing.

FAQs About Trash Can Placement in Small Kitchens

Q: What size trash can should I use in my small kitchen?

A: Look for slim, narrow cans roughly 12-13 inches wide. They can tuck against walls or into tight spots. For capacity, a 1.5-3 gallon size works well for small households. Go larger if you cook frequently or have more residents. But too bulky looks crowded.

Q: Should I put my trash can in a closet or pantry?

A: This is an ideal spot if you have a closet or pantry adjoining the kitchen. It keeps trash fully out of sight. Just ensure it’s positioned close to the cooking zones for convenient access, like near the entryway.

Q: Where should I put a trash and recycling can together?

A: Good duo spots are in split pull-out cabinetry or side-by-side in a pantry/closet. Under the sink works if space allows. Or keep one on the counter and one enclosed.

Q: How do I install a built-in trash can system?

A: Look for custom kitchen inserts with wastebasket slides or consult a contractor about adding pull-out cabinetry. Measure to fit standard trash can sizes. Integrated options create a tailored fit.

Q: Should I put a trash can in a drawer?

A: This is a great spot for discreet garbage storage in a small kitchen. Opt for full extension ball-bearing drawer glides to allow the can to pull out fully without tipping. Position near food prep zones.

Q: Where should I put the trash if space is very limited?

A: Under sink and in closet storage works best for tight kitchens. Or install slide-out trays or drawer units into unused voids between existing cabinetry to hide the cans.

Q: How can I reduce smells from my kitchen trash can?

A: Take out garbage frequently, use scented bags, put baking soda inside, wash cans regularly, use a tight sealing lid, and don’t place near fresh food.

Q: Should I put a trash can in my island?

A: This isn’t recommended, as it blocks circulation and takes up prime real estate. An island cabinet specifically designed to hold a pull-out wastebasket can work, but keep it tucked in.

Q: How can I prevent trash bag leaks?

A: Use bags designed for kitchens that are more durable and leakproof. Tie bags closed securely or use clips. Empty often so weight doesn’t cause seams to split. Use a trash can liner for added protection.


Strategic trash can placement is an important factor when designing a functional small kitchen. While it may seem like a trivial detail, the right location can optimize workflow and make garbage disposal much easier. At the same time, a poor spot can obstruct circulation or become an eyesore.

Following the expert tips in this article will help you identify the ideal spots in your own petite kitchen layout. Prioritize convenience and access without taking up prime real estate or cluttering cooking zones. With creative concealed areas and space-saving cans, your trash removal system can operate efficiently behind the scenes.

And don’t neglect maintenance either. Even the best placement won’t help if cans aren’t emptied regularly. Frequent garbage removal, scented bags, and deodorizing practices will keep odors away.

A well-planned, organized trash zone is possible in any tiny kitchen. With these recommendations, your receptacles can blend seamlessly into the overall aesthetic rather than detracting. Your small space can feel open and refreshed rather than cramped.

So don’t overlook the importance of the humble trash can! Making strategic choices will help maximize what your compact kitchen can do.