11 Ways to Keep Animals From Digging Through Your Garbage

Keeping animals out of your garbage sounds pretty easy, but it’s often more difficult than you think. When critters smell a meal, they can get pretty creative. Raccoons are known for their human-like hands and their ability to work as a team to get to food waste. And if you’ve ever owned a dog, you know how sneaky they can get. But you also need to worry about squirrels, rats, and even bears in some parts of the country. Luckily, we’ve gathered 11 ways to keep animals from digging through your garbage.

1. Use Windex

Nearly everyone has Windex in the home. Many people find this an effective deterrent to all sorts of trash-seeking creatures. And it doesn’t have to be the name brand stuff, either. Nearly all different brands of window cleaner have identical ingredients, like ammonia, that keep animals away. You’ll want to give your garbage can a few sprays every time you put a new bag in to keep the magic working. 

2. Motion-Sensor Lights

Have you ever been scared by your own automatic lights? I know I have. So imagine how animals will feel if they creep up to your garbage cans in the middle of the night, only to have a bright light turn on and shine all around them. This may not work for bears, but for other animals, it should do the trick. 

3. Upgrade Your Trash Bags

A trash bag is a trash bag, right? Not when you’re trying to keep out tenacious critters. You can try bags that are specially made to block odors from escaping, to try to keep the smells inside the bag instead of wafting out for all the nearby animals to smell. You can also try ultra-thick bags, which can help keep the smell inside and make it harder for the animals to break through. 

4. Lock It Down

If you want a simple DIY project, you can install a lock or a latch onto most plastic garbage bins. All it takes is a drill with an appropriate-sized bit, whatever hardware you decide on, and maybe a few nuts and bolts if you go with a latch. However, be warned that if your garbage bins are city property, you may be charged for the modifications when or if you turn the bin in.

5. Seal It With A Bungee

YouTube video

For an easier and less involved solution than number 4 above, you can use simple bungee cords to secure your trash bin. All you have to do is have a couple of places to snag the hooks on either end of the cord, and you’ve got an animal deterrent. However, if you’re dealing with bears this may not be the most effective option. 

6. Wash Your Bin

It couldn’t hurt to wash your bin once in a while. Most modern garbage collection bins are plastic and they tend to absorb smells easier, making them a target for animals. If you wash your bin once every month or so and clean it out with some bleach or ammonia, you may see a reduction in pesky animal scavengers. 

7. Purchase Specialty Spray

YouTube video

Sometimes you just have to break out the big guns to keep your trash safe. And specialty animal repellant sprays are just the answer. You can purchase them for specific animals, or you can get an all-around repellant that should work no matter what critters are creeping on your trash. 

8. Compost or Disposal

Another way to keep your trash safely where it belongs is to limit (or eliminate) the amount of food waste your put inside. After all, food waste is what animals are after. To do this, you can start yourself a compost system or you can use your disposal for appropriate leftover food scraps. Obviously you shouldn’t put bones or the like down your disposal, but limiting the amount of food that winds up in your trash bin is likely to limit future trash attacks. 

9. Create a Trash Bin Enclosure

If you’re dealing with some incredibly persistent and powerful creatures, you may want to consider going all out with a trash bin enclosure. You can either do this yourself if you’re handy like that, or you can purchase a pre-made one. The main idea behind these is they should allow easy access when you need to deposit a trash bag in your bin, while still being secure enough that animals won’t get to it. This usually involves latches and/or locks installed around the enclosure. 

10. Use a Homemade Spray

There are several smells that animals don’t like, and if you coat your garbage bags with them you should have great success. However, think about your poor trash collectors before you do this. If your bins are collected by an automatic arm that just picks up the bin and dumps the trash in, go for it! But, if your garbage collection employees have to handle the bags themselves, it’s best to find another way, because this one can be a little much. 

To make homemade deterrent sprays, you can mix up and boil peppers (jalapeno, cayenne, and/or habanero) with some water. Spray that stuff on and around your bin, and you’ll be good to go. You can also do the same with lime, lemon, or grapefruit juice and water (don’t boil it for this one). Whether you use peppers or citrus, they can both keep animals out of your garbage.

11. Move Your Bins

I’ve saved the most obvious for last! But seriously though, moving your bins could be the easiest option. Most of us have a garage or a shed that we could fit our garbage bins inside with a little bit of rearranging. It may be a longer walk to deposit your bags in the bin than you’re used to, but after you’ve picked up smelly trash from your lawn a couple of times, that slightly longer walk starts to sound pretty good.


On your quest to keep animals out of your garbage it’s important to consider those people that your actions may affect. Spraying anything on your garbage bin could cause problems for your trash handlers. And although it’s not on the list, putting poison or traps out can be dangerous not only for pesky animals, but also for neighborhood dogs and cats. There are plenty of ways to keep animals out of your garbage safely and without causing potential harm to others. I hope these help!


Justin Childress is the creator of Sunshineandplay.com. He is also a devoted husband and father of his 1 year old son Gabriel. Justin enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, of course, contributing to Sunshineandplay.com.

Recent Posts