The 8 Most Effective Ways to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Trash Cans

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Published: November 20, 2023
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There’s no denying squirrels are cute creatures, but the cuteness ends as soon as these backyard critters start rummaging through your trash. They can carry dangerous diseases that could harm you and your family. Are you looking for ways to keep squirrels out of your trash cans? 

There are a number of things that can draw these rodents into your trash bins. Here is what you can do to keep them out!

1. Use a Metal Trash Can

A 30-gallon metal trash can will run you around $100.

©James Andrews/ via Getty Images

The vast majority of trash cans are plastic. One easy and affordable way you can keep squirrels out of your garbage is by switching to a metal trash bin. Plastic is easy for squirrels to grip onto and chew through. 

When they’re looking to stockpile food for winter, they’ll do whatever they can to get into the trash. Thankfully, upgrading to a metal one is relatively squirrel-proof as long as the lid is secured.

2. Keep a Secured Lid

Man throwing out black eco-friendly recyclable trash bag in to big plastic green garbage container. Take out the trash

To keep squirrels out of your trash cans, make sure they latch or lock.

©Daria Kulkova/iStock via Getty Images

Speaking of, if you don’t have a lid secured on your trash bin, you’re essentially inviting squirrels in for a free buffet. They are intelligent creatures that will persistently try to go wherever they smell food. 

When a lid is loose or absent entirely, squirrels and other scavengers will graciously tear into the trash receptacle. To keep them out, get a tight-fitting lid. There are many on the market that have latches and locks to prevent squirrels from getting inside. 

3. Location is Everything

garage with wooden paneling and transparent mesh door. bin storage near the boarding house. protects citizens' property and order in the closed shelter. car parking safe and without snow, cobblestone

Some homeowners opt to build a place to store trash to help keep squirrels away.

©beekeepx/iStock via Getty Images

Just like when you’re buying a home, location is everything in this scenario. Where you put your trash can will make a huge difference as to whether or not squirrels try to get in. Having a physical structure to keep it is the best method to prevent scavengers from entering.

We suggest putting your garbage container in your garage with entry points closed. If you can find a squirrel that can open a garage door to get inside a garbage bin, they likely deserve whatever treats they’re going after. 

The more barriers you put between the rodent and the food is how you keep them away.

4. Regularly Clean Trash Cans

Using baking soda Sodium bicarbonate and white vinegar for home cleaning. White vinegar in spray bottle and baking soda in glass jar.

Mixing vinegar and baking soda is a great way to refresh your trash cans.

©Helin Loik-Tomson/iStock via Getty Images

Cleaning a garbage bin is a task that nobody wants to do. When bags filled with leftovers start to leak inside the can, it can quickly attract squirrels. How often you need to clean your trash bin is relevant to how dirty it is. 

Doing so once a week after the garbage service has gone by is ideal. You can fill the receptacle with your hose or warm tap water. Let it soak for an hour before rinsing. Add soap or bleach to prevent animals and insects from getting inside.

5. Fix Any Existing Holes

Squirrels at Boston Common public park in downtown Boston

If a


can get into the trash can, they will quickly make a mess of the contents.

©Roman Babakin/iStock via Getty Images

Does your garbage can have any holes or cracks? Perhaps this is why you think a squirrel is going into the bin in the first place. It’s essential to patch these up to keep out a variety of rodents

You can use epoxy or fiberglass tape to repair any damage. If there are several cracks or holes, it’s best to replace the entire bin.

6. Install Motion-Sensor Lighting

Modern wall lamp with motion and light sensor on the brick wall - pathway or wall light for modern design building or house - motion activated porch light - part of home security system

Lighting can scare of a variety of wild animals from getting too close to your home.


Squirrels and other wild animals will get scared by motion-activated lighting. If you place these on your home and have the trash can nearby, they’ll likely stay away. 

Not only does this keep squirrels out of your trash cans, but it also upgrades your home’s security. There are plenty of affordable outdoor motion-sensor lighting that will spook wild animals and scare them away from your home. 

7. Spray Ammonia

Chemical in the laboratory and industry

Never spray ammonia in your home, especially around children or pets.

©chemical industry/

This next method to keep squirrels out of your garbage can is best for homes without pets. You can create an ammonia mixture that will kill insects and ward off raccoons, rats, squirrels, and other creatures. 

Because ammonia can irritate pets and people, you should only spray it outdoors. Find an open location, such as your backyard or a nearby field. You’ll need an empty spray bottle, ammonia, and water. 

Mix one part ammonia to one part water. Combine in the bottle and spray all over the interior of the trash bin. This will keep away wild animals and kill any insects. 

8. Mask Any Smells

Grey squirrel looking for food in trash can

The smellier your trash can, the more it will attract squirrels.

©Leo Watson/iStock via Getty Images

Nobody likes a stinky garbage can… except squirrels! The smell of rotting trash entices a myriad of rodents and invites them right into the garbage bin. The best thing you can do is eliminate the smells altogether. 

To do this, consider double-bagging your trash in your home and add a bit of baking soda to the bottom of a fresh bag. It’s even better if you’re using scented garbage bags. You can also mask the smell by spraying glass cleaner inside and around the perimeter of the trash receptacle. 

Summary of How to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Trash 

1.Replace plastic cans with metal ones.
2.Keep the lid secured at all times. 
3.Keep your garbage can in the garage or a shed. 
4.Regularly clean the garage can. 
5.Patch any cracks or crevices on the trash bin. 
6.Install motion-sensor lights.
7.Spray ammonia in and outside of the trash can. 
8.Get rid of any smells.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © JZHunt/iStock via Getty Images

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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