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How to Pressure Wash an Outdoor Trash Can

    Clean trash can on street after being pressure washed

    Cleaning up an outdoor trash can isn’t pleasant. It’s gross and only gets worse the longer you leave it. The simpler you can make it, the better. Enter pressure washers, the convenient tool that makes cleaning just about anything simpler. 

    With the right brush, nozzle and soap your pressure washer can even make cleaning an outdoor trash can simple. We’ll cover the best way to pressure wash your home outdoor garbage bin, as well as commercial dumpsters that you may have at work, green bins and recycling bins.  

    Choose Your Tools 

    You need the right tools for this job. You can use a low PSI pressure washer for home garbage bins, perhaps around 1000 PSI. Dumpsters, especially metal dumpsters may need higher PSIs of 1500-2000. 

    The pressure washer isn’t the only tool you’ll need. The right brush, extension arm, nozzle and soap will all make this dirty job much easier. Here are our recommendations.  


    1. Universal Pressure Washer Surface Cleaner from Greenworks

    We recommend this pressure washer brush for a few projects, not just for cleaning trash cans. The bottom spreads out the impact of the pressure washer to cover more surface area, and combines it with a ring brush, so you clean faster. It is great for the bottom of trash cans, where it is hard to scrub. Just be sure that this model can fit in your bin. It’s eleven inches wide. 

    By the way, if you have a Sun Joe pressure washer you can buy a Sun Joe-specific surface cleaner for it that’s a bit smaller, and therefore more likely to fit in your trash can. 

    2. Rotating Brush from WUYOR 

    While this rotary brush is meant for car washing, it does a great job in a trash can too. It’s great to have a pressure wash attachment that will scrub in a circular motion for you, so you don’t have to do it. When you’re cleaning a trash can, it’s a necessity, so you don’t have to go in there are scrub yourself. 

    Nozzles & Other Accessories 

    1. Extensions 

    An extension for your pressure washer wand is a smart investment for washing any outdoor trash bin. After all, you do not want to stick your arm further into the can or dumpster than you have to. Those with back pain will find their extension wand is helpful for other pressure washer projects as well. 

    2. 25 Degree Nozzle 

    For most trans can cleaning jobs you want to use a relatively gentle 25 degree nozzle. This applies enough pressure to get the dirt off, without deforming the plastic of the bin or tearing the paint off the dumpster. Your pressure washer’s default 25 degree nozzle will work fine, but if it doesn’t have one (or you’ve lost it) we recommend the set from Twinkle Star. They work with both high PSI and low PSI pressure washers. 


    Other than the pressure washer, the soap is probably the most important part of cleaning your trash can. You want a powerful soap that can help grime come off easily. Plus, you want a soap that has deodorizing properties. Here’s a few good options. 

    1.  Homemade Soap 

    Combine two cups of water with one cup of vinegar and some dish soap. The vinegar kills odors and helps built-up grime rinse off. 

    2. Bar Keeper’s Friend 

    This spray is ideal for outdoor trash cans as it tackles everything your trash can holds, from oils to rust and mineral deposits. Further, it can clean any surface your trash can might be made out of. It doesn’t have much of a deodorizing property, but you can also use a bit of vinegar after the trash can is clean to remove smells. 

    3. Lysol Clean and Fresh Multi-Surface Cleaner 

    For a more immediate odor improvement, this Lysol spray is a great choice. The fresh lemon scent is great and the cleaner helps remove the dirt, oils, and other grime even in the corners of the trash can.

    How to Clean an Outdoor Garbage Can 

    Once you have your pressure washer, accessories, and soap picked out, it’s time to get to work. These instructions will make the clean go smoothly and as quickly as possible. 

    1. Empty and Pre-Soak 

    First, empty out any trash from the can, including any liquids. It’s gross to pour, but you don’t want it foaming up with the soap. 

    Next, add soap and foam it up just enough to coat the inside of the can. Now leave the trash can to soak, for as long as you think it’ll need. 

    2. Scrub 

    Once the can has been soaking for some time, attach the scrub brush to the pressure washer and start scrubbing. 

    3. Pressure Wash 

    Once it has been scrubbed up, it’s time to detach the brush and attach your nozzle. Then secure the can to something, or even just lean it against the wall. The pressure from the water is enough to send the can bounding down the street. Start at a low pressure so you don’t damage the can. If it isn’t enough power to remove grime, turn the PSI up. Or, soak the can again, for longer or with a more powerful soap. 

    4. Deodorize 

    Is there some leftover smell in your can? It’s time to add some deodorizer. While vinegar has a powerful smell, it fades all other smells when it fades away. We suggest you dilute some vinegar with two parts water, one part vinegar, and pour it in. Leave the lid open while you let the vinegar sit. Be sure to rinse it out when you think it has sat enough. 

    How to Deodorize a Trash Can 

    Don’t have any vinegar on hand? Or, is vinegar not doing the job to deodorize your outdoor trash can? Here are some other options to deodorize your trash:

    • Laundry sheets: The sheets you throw into the drying machine absorb odors and eliminate them. If you put one, or two, in your trash can they can absorb up the odors. Just be sure to add them to a trash bag after a day or so. We recommend Scentiva, for its intense smell. 
    • Arm and Hammer: This company makes a trash-specific deodorizer. You can add more as smel accumulates. 
    • Cat Litter Deodorizer: If your deodorizer can handle the kitty litter it can handle for garbage. This deodorizer from NonScents is pretty powerful. You only need a little sprinkler in each trash bag to keep the smell down. 

    When to Clean Your Outdoor Trash Can 

    How often and when should you clean up your trash can? It’s an unpleasant task but the more you can do it the easier it becomes. There are a few key times you should make sure you’ve cleaned out your trash can:

    • Spring: As the snow melts outside, any liquids in the bottom of your trash can will melt too. It’s wise to clean them out before they begin to smell. 
    • Summer: In the summer, a monthly rinse of the trash can will do it wonders and prevent flies, animals, and bacteria from taking an interest in it. 
    • Trash-dependent: Have you thrown out something especially gross? It’s a good time to clean out your can. 

    How to Pressure Wash a Dumpster 

    Cleaning out a dumpster for your fast food store, grocery store, or any business is a much bigger job than cleaning out a home garbage bin. Here’s how you can accomplish this gross task the fastest. 

    1. Empty, with Caution 

    As with the home garbage can, you need to start by emptying out the dumpster. It’s best to do this just after your last garbage pick-up, but there will probably still be some trash leftover in the dumpster that you need to remove. 

    This may be a dangerous job, depending on the kind of waste your business handles and if the public has been tossing their garbage in. Wear safety equipment and be on the lookout for sharps, chemicals, and other hazardous materials. 

    2. Pre-Soak 

    Before you start pouring anything in the dumpster find out if it has a drain. If it doesn’t, you need to lay the dumpster on its side, near somewhere it can safely drain, to get to work. Otherwise, how will you remove the soap and water you pour in? 

    Once you have a drainage plan, choose your soap and suds it up thick with the brush attachment on your pressure washer. You want a thick soap so that it will stick on the sides. You don’t want to waste all of that water filling the dumpster up. Allow the suds to soak for a few hours, or even overnight. 

    3. Scrub

    After you’ve presoaked the dumpster in your soap, another round of scrubbing should much more easily remove any oil, dirt and other grime inside. Don’t spend too much time scrubbing, as the next step should take care of anything that is still stuck on. 

    4. Pressure Wash 

    Attach your 25-degree nozzle and start pressure washing your dumpster. Not only should the dirt come out, but you can use the spray to rinse out all of the suds and wash it down whichever drain you’ve chosen. 

    When you’re done, turn the dumpster right side up and power wash the outside. The grime on the outside of dumpster is typically not as gross on stuck-on as the grime inside, so it should come off very simply with the pressure washer. However, if you find that’s not the case, you can scrub the outside of the dumpster with your soap an let it soak, then try again with the power washer. 

    5. Bleach 

    A simple clean is often not enough for a dumpster. A bleach solution can help you kill any bacteria in the dumpster and give it a truly fresh start. However, you have to consider where you’ll be draining this bleach first. Don’t just pour it onto the grass next to your dumpster—it will kill it. 

    If you do have a safe way to drain the bleach, make your solution of one part bleach, five parts water. Cover the inside of the dumpster with the solution. It doesn’t have to sit for too long to be effective. Last, rinse it out thoroughly. 

    6. Lock Up 

    How do you keep your dumpster cleaner moving forward? One way it to lock it up in a way that animals and people can’t get in. 

    Another method is to clean it more frequently. After the garbage pick up you can take the pressure washer to it without even working in some soap first. It’s faster and will prevent grime from building up and sticking to the surface of the dumpster. 

    How to Pressure Wash a Recycling Bin 

    Pressure washing a recycling bin is similar to cleaning out a trash bin. However, there are a few adjustments you can make. First, choose a smaller brush head to fit in the small bins. Also, place the recycling bin on something tough, like your driveway. There are holes in the bottom (usually the corners), and your pressure washer will blast through those onto whatever is behind it. 

    How to Pressure Wash an Organics Bin 

    An organics bins can also be cleaned just like a trash bin, with one major difference. You should try to use a soap that doesn’t compromise the compost. After all, your green bin contents might end up in your soil, or the soil used to grow your food. There are organic, non-toxic soaps that are still powerful. Consider these:

    • Krud Kutter: This cleaning solution is powerful as well as non-toxic, biodegradable and non-flammable. 
    • Mrs. Meyers Multi-Surface Cleaner: As well as being biodegradable and cruelty-free, this spray cleaner removes odors quite well. 

    Ready for Another Pressure Washer Project?

    We have a bunch of guides on our blog for other pressure washer projects that can make your home or business a cleaner place. Including how to rent a pressure washer, how to wash your car, and how to winterize a pressure washer. Check them out today. 

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