Standard Trash Can Sizes

Knowing the standard trash can size is important for multiple reasons. Read more below so you don't mess up a simple task.

If you’ve ever stood in the garbage bag aisle looking for the correct bag, you’re aware that trash cans come in a variety of sizes. Every place has a typical size garbage can, from modest office trash cans to outdoor waste bins that can carry dozens of gallons.

Many factors must be considered before you go out and buy one. You’ll need to consider the job at hand as well as the appropriate size garbage bin.

The most common can marketed for residential use contains between 13 and 16 gallons (about 50 liters), but there’s more to consider than waste capacity.

To get the best choice for your home, think about the quality, the size and capacity, the type of trash bags you’ll need, and why you might need to change your present garbage can.
Some good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Will it hold food waste and need to take up minimal floor space?
  • Will it hold recyclable materials and remain in outdoor areas like garages?
  • What capacity and materials are suitable for the space where it will be placed?

There’s a lot to consider whether you want an under-the-sink type or the largest trash can available.

Features of a Quality Trash Can

The most significant factor is neither the cost nor the aesthetic, with prices ranging from basic plastic models to pricey designer ones. Unless you intend to replace your garbage can every year, consider it a necessary home item.

Limit your search to a normal garbage can size with durable, high-quality features rather than the cheapest or most appealing one.


The sort of lid required varies depending on the room and the purpose. For example, you most likely prefer a hands-free approach to kitchen garbage cans. Touchless lids and stainless steel step trash cans are practical, but they provide less odor control than lids that completely close on a top opening. However, many gallon trash cans that are placed at the curb should have a top open feature that provides for simple access.

A white step on garbage bin.


You’ll also need to think about interior bin liners. They’re great for indoor spaces and make for easy bag changing. Plus, they allow garbage bags to a tighter fit. But there’s a good chance that your trash company won’t be a fan. For the main waste receptacle or bins meant to allow you to compost curbside, you may want to skip the liner altogether. 


Small, inexpensive plastic containers are good for under-the-sink cabinets or the kitchen island. However, more attractive stainless steel trash containers are easier-to-clean and great for more visible spaces. Then again, you wouldn’t want to put a metal container outside. So for outdoor spaces, consider choosing cans that are made from plastic or recycled materials. 

Choosing the Right Garbage Bags  

When you’re choosing a garbage container, you’ll want to give as much thought to the garbage bags you’ll also need. From the way bags are closed to the flexible nature of different materials, it goes a lot further than simply purchasing exact sizes. 

A standard sized outdoor black garbage bag.


Generally speaking, garbage bags are categorized into three sizes. Containers that hold from one-gallon bags to 10-gallon trash bags are considered small. Medium bags range from 10 to 29 gallons, and anything over 30 gallons falls into the large category.

Using a bag that’s too large for your container can overflow and cause quite a mess, but using a bag that’s too small will constantly fall into the can. You can see why using the appropriate bag for the trash is so important. 


Trash bags are typically made from the most popular type of plastic called low-density polyethylene, but there are several bio-degradable, eco-friendly options on the market. Both are durable options, and they come in various levels of thickness and flexibility. Standard trash bags are great around the house, but you might want to bring home something a little tougher for outside chores or recyclables. 

A color coded trash bin types.

When to Consider Replacing Your Trash Can 

Even the best of garbage containers will eventually reach the end of their life cycles and need to be replaced. 

If it’s become difficult to remove odors or stains, it’s probably time to purchase a new model. With a little careful research, you’ll find the one that perfectly suits your needs. 

The next time you find yourself in need of a new trash can, you’ll be informed about the standards. Your new garbage can will spend years in your home, and making a quality choice can help you get your money’s worth.

Teresa Burns
Teresa Burns is a design specialist who has been in the business for over 20 years. She has seen design trends change from traditional designs to more simplistic modern designs. She not only has seen it all, she understands it all. She has a large collection of articles to help spread her love for design.
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