There's nothing better than the smell of garlic simmering on the stove, promising a delicious meal. Yet, it's a smell you want when throwing together a delicious pasta dish— not the next day wafting from the bin.
The pungent odor can stick around in your bin for days after. Fortunately, you don't have to take out the trash every time you use garlic to cook and there are actually some pretty clever ways to stop garlic smelling your bin.
The best way to stop garlic from smelling in the bin is to neutralize it with lemon juice, baking soda or coffee grinds. Toss your garlic remnants in a drizzle of lemon juice before adding them to the bin or sprinkle some baking soda or used coffee grinds overtop. If you don't have anything to neutralize the odor simply put the garlic in a separate airtight bag before putting it in your bin.
If you often cook with garlic and other smelly foods, it might be worth finding a permanent solution so your bin (and house) isn't constantly being bombarded with the smell of garlic.
Each of these smart solution has pros and cons worth considering to find one that works for you.
1. Lemon Juice
The reason lemon juice works so well to get rid of the garlic smell comes down to science. Garlic contains an enzyme called alliinase, which catalyzes when you crush a clove, releasing a vapor.
The alliinase reacts with lemon juice, which neutralizes the vapors that usually come from garlic.
This means no more garlic smell when you apply lemon juice to the husks and missed bits. Just toss the leftovers in a bowl with a few drops of lemon juice, or sprinkle it overtop upon disposal.
The benefit of using lemon juice is its effectiveness. It's also a staple in most kitchens, making it an accessible option.
The downside is that it can feel wasteful to put perfectly good lemon juice in the trash, even for a good cause. But honestly lemon juice is so cheap it's not really a big deal to use a few drops before throwing the garlic in the bin.
Plus for me I love how simple this is to do and I love that it's all natural and that it isn't wasteful when it comes to plastic usage (like keeping garlic in a separate plastic bag is). You can also use vinegar instead of lemon juice for a similar effect, but then you'll likely have the smell of vinegar wafting out of your bin.
Fun fact: This can also be a good way to clean garlic smells off things like ice cube trays
Baking soda is the king when it comes to neutralizing odors. Sodium bicarbonate is a basic “amphoteric” compound.
As a base, baking soda absorbs acidic smells. With a pH level of 5.8, garlic is an acid, making it an ideal candidate for this scientific reaction.
Baking soda is another kitchen staple that most people have already. It's affordable and effective, though not as effective as lemon juice.
Generously sprinkle your soda on top of the garlic husks for maximum absorption before throwing in the bin.
Coffee grounds are another effective neutralizer and for coffee lovers like me I've got a lot of leftover coffee grounds that I can use.
Many aspiring chefs use leftover grounds to scrub their hands after handling garlic or onions. My daughter actually makes an amazing coffee scrub that we use on our bodies in the shower. The added exfoliating effect is a bonus.
Dumping leftover coffee grounds in the bin over your garlic could eliminate the smell. The pitfall with this strategy is that used grounds are heavy and usually wet.
Dumping wet coffee grounds directly into the bin could cause the bag to leak, especially if you use a French press. If you choose this method, try to strain away most of the water first or leave the grounds in a bowl on your kitchen bench to dry out.
I personally make espresso coffee so my coffee grinds are pretty dry after I've used them so I don't have this issue.
I like to throw the garlic in the bin first and then I make sure to cover the garlic in coffee grounds so it completely covers the garlic. Now my bin smells like delicious coffee – and that's something I'm not complaining about.
No, you're not trading one bad smell for another, we are talking about CLEAN and UNSOILED cat litter here. Using clean cat litter is key.
Cat litter has natural absorption and odor control effects. Depending on the type of kitty litter used some work better than others.
For just neutralizing garlic, the cheapest brand of cat litter will do. Just sprinkle a bit over the garlic, and you're set. If you struggle with leaky garbage bags, cat litter can also help prevent this issue as it is great at absorbing moisture.
This option is super convenient for cat owners, especially if you don't have baking soda or lemon juice. However, people who don't own cats shouldn't feel compelled to go buy cat litter just in case they use garlic.
If you don't own a cat but you do a lot of work with wood then sawdust can be another great alternative.
Did you also know that people use kitty litter is commonly used during winter to provide traction on ice? Silica gel (the white kitty litter crystals) has got the same chemical composition as sand so it's good to know that this kitty litter is non-toxic.
Whereas the options listed above help neutralize or absorb the scent, essential oils help mask it. Add a few drops of essential oils to the bin to help replace the smell with a fresh, aromatherapeutic scent.
Using essential oils is a temporary fix and may not neutralize the garlic smell entirely. You can reapply after a few days if needed. Using a high-quality brand of lemon essential oil could be more effective, though it tends to be more expensive too.
Another way to mask the smell is to lay a new dryer sheet over the garlic bits in the garbage. The strong scent helps mask the odor, while the physical coverage presents a lasting solution. If you use scent-free dryer sheets, they still help trap the garlic odor somewhat.
The downside of dryer sheets is that they're synthetic and contain chemicals, which isn't great for the environment. If you compost and want to neutralize the smell of garlic amidst your organics, don't use dryer sheets.
Freeze Your Garlic
Rather than throwing your smelly garlic leftovers directly in the bin, consider freezing them first. This strategy will help neutralize the smell and keep it contained until collection day. Then, you can toss everything in the bin the night before or the morning of collection.
This option also works for other organics to prevent odors as they break down for compost.
The downside is the risk of making your ice cubes smell like garlic. Consider using a small, sealed container for this strategy.
I like to avoid using disposable plastic bags as it feels wasteful. But a dedicated plastic tupperware container works great and I can wash and re-use it multiple times.
The hardest thing with this strategy is actually remembering to put these items in the big right before you take the bin out. Often weeks will go by and they are still left in the freezer, completely forgotten.
Get A Bin With A Lid or a Filtered Bin
If you struggle with kitchen odors, consider investing in a better bin with a sealed or carbon-filtered top. This is a more permanent solution that helps keep odors contained while keeping bugs out.
The benefit of a sealed bin is that you won't have to worry about garlic, onions, fish, or any other smelly food you enjoy.
The downside is spending more on a higher-quality garbage or compost bin when you already have one, but it's worth it if this is a recurring issue.
Outdoor Compost Bin
Composting is an excellent way to minimize food waste in the garbage. You can also use your compost to help grow a garden. Setting up an outdoor compost is a simple task, and removes the need to throw food scraps in the bin.
Unfortunately, this means dedicating a small part of your yard to a compost set-up. If you don't have a yard, you can get indoor composting bins that seal and break down the food for disposal.
This small 2.4 Gallon trash can can easily be installed on your cupboard on under the sink and features an odor-proof lid so there will be no nasty smells
Get the Garlic Smell Gone
Use these tricks to neutralize, mask, or eliminate the smell of garlic from your bin. Garlic can smell stronger in different regions or seasons, so try a combination of these tips if needed.