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Best Trash Compactors

Updated November 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 25 Models Considered
  • 5 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 65 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best trash compactors

    Last Updated November 2018

    Taking the garbage out is a chore. A good trash compactor is a quick and efficient way to radically reduce the number of bags you fill. Instead of moving four or five, you only need move one. A trash compactor is more convenient and saves you time.

    But while all of these machines operate in basically the same way, there are lots of features and options to consider.

    Reading through the following trash compactor shopping guide will give you the benefit of the research conducted by the BestReviews team and provide the details you need to find the appliance that fills your requirements and budget.

    A trash compactor means your waste takes up much less space, but it doesn't reduce the environmental impact. It's still great to compost or recycle when you can.

    How a trash compactor works

    A kitchen trash compactor is a relatively simple device. You can think of it as a trash can with a motor and a big ram in the lid. Switch it on and the ram descends, pressing the garbage into a smaller volume in the bag below.

    These units are rectangular, so they fit in with the rest of your kitchen appliances. Behind a stylish front panel hides a pull-out drawer, with the bin in the bottom. A garbage bag fits in the bin for easy removal of the compacted trash and keeps the interior as clean as possible. Simply drop in your garbage, close the door, and the magic happens!

    Of course, manufacturers will try to tempt you with lots of different features. Before you decide, you’ll want to look at the important mechanical functions and aesthetics.

    A removable key is a nice safety feature to stop accidental operation of the trash compactor.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Trash compactor features to consider

    Appearance

    Any appliance has to fit comfortably in your kitchen and look good, so we’ll start with these considerations and then move on to the actual operation.

    Width: Trash compactors range from 12 to 24 inches wide, but most are 15 inches wide.

    Height and depth: These should be within a range that fits standard kitchen cabinetry, but it’s always safest to double-check before buying.

    Finish: As with many kitchen appliances, stainless steel is the dominant finish. There might also be black highlights or control panels. White, black, and chrome finishes are also popular. Some trash compactors have doors that can be customized to match the rest of your kitchen décor, but this adds considerably to the price. A few models have a more industrial appearance, which perhaps doesn’t suit most kitchens but is durable and perfectly acceptable in a garage or utility room.

    Controls: The control panel can be on the front, where it’s clearly visible and easy to access, or hidden behind the door. Controls inside the door are still perfectly safe – the machine does not run until the door is closed.

    Case construction: There are several available choices.

    • Built-in (also called under-counter) trash compactors are designed to fit under your existing work surfaces and usually don’t have a finished top.

    • Freestanding trash compactors have a finished top and sit level with your kitchen counter.

    • Convertible trash compactors can be built-in or freestanding.

    • Mobile trash compactors are fitted with sturdy casters and easily moved.

    Operation

    Force: The force the motor generates can be anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 pounds. It sounds impressive, but what’s more important in day-to-day use is the degree of compaction it offers, which can vary from 60% to 85% (the higher figure depends on the type of garbage being compacted). Real-world ratios are more realistic, the equivalent of four or five bags of trash crushed down to one.

    Capacity: This also varies. Most 15-inch trash compactors offer 1.4 cubic feet of capacity, but not all. The largest we saw holds 5.5 cubic feet, but you need to consider the width of the machine (24 inches), and that a full bag that size could be very heavy.

    Can crusher: High-end trash compactors don’t just crush items into one bin. Some also have a separate can/tin crusher, enabling you to keep these commonly recycled items in a different area.

    Sensors: Many trash compactors have anti-tilt and anti-jam sensors that prevent the machine from operating if there’s a problem or if the door is opened during operation. A few compactors can sense if the trash bin is incorrectly filled (too much weight on one side, for example), and sound an alarm.

    Filters: Because you can fit more trash in a compactor than in a garbage can, food waste can sit there longer. To prevent odors, good models use charcoal filters or have a compartment for air freshener. A warning light lets you know when these need to be changed.

    Insulation: The noise made by a trash compactor will depend on the items being crushed, but most models have good insulation and are relatively quiet. If your trash compactor is making a loud noise, it could indicate a problem.

    Swing-out bin: Some trash compactors have a bin that swings out, making it easier to lift out a full trash bag and fit in a new one.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Most kitchen trash compactors have similar capacity, but the amount they can compact the garbage varies considerably.

    Trash compactor prices

    Trash compactors vary widely in price, from about $150 to over $2,000.

    Inexpensive: We did find some cheap trash compactors – in the region of $150 – but these aren’t electric devices. They are ordinary trash cans with a handheld paddle – how much you can compact the waste depends on how hard you can press down the paddle!

    Mid-range: The lowest price electric trash compactor we looked at was a 15-inch model that cost $800. It makes little difference whether it is a built-in or freestanding unit. Equally, you might have visible or hidden controls. As with many kitchen appliances, some brands come at a premium. You can pay up to $1,200 for a 15-inch machine by a name brand. The difference will be a higher compaction ratio and perhaps less noise.

    Expensive: Models that offer compartments for separating the trash into recyclables and nonrecyclables (and have more than one compacting mechanism) can exceed $2,000, depending on size.

    EXPERT TIP

    A foot-operated door opener is big bonus when you've got your hands full of trash!


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Tips

    Let your trash compactor do the work. Never try to help things along by forcing items down with your hand.

    Always turn off the compactor first. If you think there's a problem or something has fallen out of the bag and into the machine, always turn off the compactor before you try to fix it.

    Be careful when you take out the bag. It's possible that sharp items are poking through the plastic. You don't want to cut yourself.

    Watch out for fire hazards. Make sure cigarettes, cigars, and candles are completely extinguished before putting them in the trash compactor.

    Watch the weight. A trash compactor dramatically reduces the volume of waste, but it still weighs the same. Be careful if you leave the bag in the compactor until it's completely full. It could weigh as much as 50 pounds!

    No room in the kitchen? Put your trash compactor in the garage. Wheeled models can be tucked in a corner and brought out when needed.

    FAQ

    Q. What can I put in my trash compactor?

    A. You should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, but the following is a good general guide:

    • Be careful with glass. It's a good idea to wrap jars and bottles in newspaper or cardboard first so that it doesn't tear the bag when it shatters.

    • Rinse bottles, jars, and tins. Liquids – particularly oils – will soak into the bag and weaken it.

    • Meat and fish can start to smell bad very quickly. Some trash compactors have odor control, but if you don't empty the machine frequently, it’s better to put these items in the normal trash.

    • Be careful with cleaning or garden chemicals. These can release toxins when the container is crushed.

    Do not put these in your trash compactor:

    • Aerosol cans: There's a risk they could explode.

    • Wood: It's surprisingly tough and could damage the machine.

    • Batteries: These can release acid.

    Q. Do I need to use special bags in a trash compactor?

    A. It's a good idea. Because of the forces involved, trash compactor bags are tougher than ordinary garbage bags. You can also get a lot more weight in there. A standard plastic trash bag would likely tear and dump garbage all over your floor! We would also be cautious about cheap replacement compactor bags. These might not be as strong as those recommended by the manufacturer.

    Q. Should I get a trash compactor or a garbage disposal unit?

    A. There's no easy answer, but let's look at what each one does.

    A garbage disposal shreds small items like vegetables and fruit, then flushes them away down the drain. There's nothing to clean up afterward. A garbage disposal is hidden under the sink.

    A trash compactor reduces the volume of your waste by crushing it, but eventually that trash has to be put out. Also consider that a trash compactor needs its own space. Anything that could go in a garbage disposal could also go in a trash compactor, but the reverse is not true. You can't put things like tin cans and olive oil bottles down the garbage disposal! Many people have both, but if it's a question of one or the other, the trash compactor is more versatile.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bob
      Bob
      Writer
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Enid
      Enid
      Editor
    • Kailey
      Kailey
      Writer
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer

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