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Trash Compactor Buying Guide

Make fewer trips to the trash can and help the environment by installing a trash compactor in your kitchen. You'll also reduce the volume of household waste. Using a trash compactor can lower transportation costs and reduce the amount of space used in landfills.

Trash Compactor Buying Guide

The Basics

Trash compactors work by using ram force to reduce trash volume. This means you’ll make fewer trips to the garbage can if you install one in your kitchen. Models are available in black, white, stainless steel and wood panel to ensure a beautiful fit with your cabinetry and appliances.

Good to Know

Because your old trash compactor is mostly metal, it is recyclable. Contact your local waste management authority for instructions on recycling your old trash compactor.

Choosing a Trash Compactor

There are three basic types of trash compactors on the market today: freestanding, under-the-counter and convertible.

Freestanding compactors have finished tops for use as additional counter space. Some companies manufacture cutting boards for the tops to create flexible work areas.

Under-the-counter compactors do not have finished tops and install between cabinets. Trim kits are available for these units for a flush console look. Just be sure your measurements include the trim kit when you’re considering space.

Convertible compactors are installed as freestanding or under-the-counter appliances, creating a best-of-both-worlds scenario for homeowners.


Space requirements vary by trash compactor, so it’s essential to take accurate measurements of the space available in your home before you shop. Note that compactors range in width from 12 to 15 inches, in height from 34 1/8 to 35 inches and in depth from 24 to 24 ½ inches. Knowing the space available to you will make shopping easier and the final results more aesthetically pleasing.


Trash compactors have similar features but vary in size and compacting ratio. Some features to consider:

  • Capacity and compression force
  • Removable key-knob controls to prevent accidental operation.
  • Anti-jam and tilt sensors
  • Toe bar opening systems
  • Built-in air freshener compartments or charcoal filters for odor absorption
  • Noise insulation
  • Hidden controls
  • Rear rollers for easy installation
  • Tilt away trash baskets for easier bag replacement
  • Reversible front panels to accommodate your kitchen’s decor
Good to Know

Whether you choose a compacting ratio of 4:1, 5:1 or 6:1, keep in mind that compacted trash bags will be heavier than traditional trash bags. Therefore, your appliance selection may need to be altered or adjusted depending on the user.


Except for occasional cleaning, compactors are virtually maintenance free. Wear thick, sturdy gloves and follow these steps to clean your trash compactor:

  • Unplug the compactor
  • Remove the bag and caddy, or bin, and follow the manufacturer's cleaning instructions
  • Vacuum the inside
  • Clean inside and outside of the compactor using warm, soapy water, then rinse and dry
  • Close the drawer and replace the caddy with a new bag
  • Periodically, check and replace the air freshener or charcoal filter

Going Green

Trash compactors dispose of general waste products and do not replace recycling or composting. Remember that trash reduction through reducing, reusing and recycling is not the same as compacting. Compacting simply minimizes the number of trips you take to the trashcan. To upgrade your eco-efforts in trash compacting, use paper or biodegradable compactor bags in your trash compactor.

Good to Know

Use trash compactors to dispose of general waste products. Recycle when you can and remember that many kitchen scraps can be composted for your garden.