How to Keep Raccoons Out of Trash and Garbage

If you’ve ever found your trash can toppled over and had to clean up the remnants of last week’s meals from your driveway, then you understand how frustrating and time-consuming it can be when you’re unprepared for raccoons. 

The truth is, these clever creatures are omnivores and master scavengers, and they are hard-wired to seek out food wherever they can. That means it’s your job to secure your trash cans from them. After all, raccoons are just following their instincts, and you’re supplying them with a high-calorie, low-effort meal. Of course, they’d be drawn to a free buffet! Wouldn’t you?

With that being said, I’m about to teach you how to keep raccoons out of the trash — safely and humanely.

Securing Trash Cans

One way to secure your trash is by investing in a bin with a lid that can be tightly secured. Raccoons are dexterous and can easily climb walls and fences to access trash. They can also easily lift or flip over loose lids on overstuffed trash cans.

A few ways you can secure your trash cans include using a metal trash can, placing the bin in a well-protected area, or securing the bin with a bungee cord or C-clamps. I’ll tell you the best way to employ each of these strategies below.

How to Keep Raccoons Out of Trash.

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Use a Metal Trash Can

First and foremost, you should opt for a metal trash can rather than a plastic one. Raccoons are notorious for their ingenuity and creativity. They are also known for their ability to chew their way through plastic.

On the other hand, metal trash cans are not only impossible for the raccoon to chew through but are also easily reinforced with a lock or a chain with a padlock. This gives you extra security even if the trash can is knocked over — the lid shouldn’t come loose with these additional reinforcements.

Store Garbage Bin Under Lock and Key

If you have a garage or shed, it is best to keep the trash can behind closed doors. But if you don’t have an enclosed space to store your bin, it can be a bit trickier to find a secure spot away from curious raccoons.

If that’s the case, you may also try placing your bin against a stake or pole and securing it with a rope. This can help prevent raccoons from knocking it over.

Of course, if you need to have your bin accessible for pickup, these may not be feasible options. If this sounds like your situation, bring your trash can directly to the area where it will be retrieved in the morning rather than the night before. Raccoons are nocturnal, so this is the best way to minimize the chances of dealing with an overturned can and messy driveway.

Secure Lid with a Bungee Cord

If a chain and padlock seem a bit too hefty, or if you’re worried about losing the key, another potential solution is using an elastic cord to secure the lid. You can secure the cover with a cord quickly and easily. Here’s how to keep raccoons out of trash using this method:

  1. Close the lid to your bin. Ensure it snaps into place or closes securely.
  2. Hook one end of the cord under the handle on one side of the garbage can.
  3. Bring the bungee cord across the top of the lid and find the other handle.
  4. Hook the other end under this handle.
  5. You can add another cord for increased security by repeating steps 1-4.

Use C-Clamps on Flip Lids

If an elastic cord doesn’t work, you can always try putting a little elbow grease into the project. Simply place a C-clamp over the lid and base handle and tighten. Repeat this on the other side with another C-clamp.

This should do the trick to keep raccoons away from your trash, even if they do manage to tip it over. However, as noted previously, if you need to have your lid free for collection, you’ll have to be sure to remove them on the morning of trash pickup. Always check with your city or housing association to see the rules for your area.

Create Tight Fitting Lid

If the lid to your garbage can doesn’t seem to fit as snugly as you’d like it to, you can try cutting a length of hose to fit around the outer rim of the bin. When you put the lid on, it will create a tight seal.

This trick works better with metal cans than plastic but it is a great way to reinforce the lid without spending a lot of money or messing around with locks, chains, bungee cords, or C-clamps! Check out this YouTube video for more tips similar to this one:

Home & Lawn Pest Control : How to Keep Raccoons Out of a Trash Can

Raccoons Follow the Scent

Raccoons are nocturnal and, like most nocturnal animals, have a great sense of smell that helps them locate food even on the darkest of nights. According to National Geographic, they’ve been known to trace the scent of French fries at the bottom of a trash can!

While it’s obviously essential to keep your trash cans secure in the event raccoons attempt to dive inside, it’s also critical that you minimize the odor of the trash. This may help prevent them from snooping around in the first place. In this next section, I’ll cover how to keep raccoons out of the trash by controlling odors.

Keep Your Trash Can Clean

The most obvious solution to an odorous trash can is pretty simple — just keep it clean. I know that’s not always the most pleasant solution but it is undeniably effective. I recommend following the below steps once a month, or as needed, to maintain a cleaner trash bin:

  1. Turn the trash can on its side. Spray it out with a hose.
  2. Make a cleaning solution with 4 cups vinegar and ½ cup of dish liquid and water.
  3. Scrub the inside of the trash bin with this solution. (I like to dedicate a handled cleaning brush to this one gross task to prevent cross-contamination.)
  4. Spray out the bin with the hose.
  5. Use the same solution to scrub the outside of the bin.
  6. Spray the bin with the hose.
  7. Leave the lid open to air dry for an hour.

This might seem easier said than done but it truly does make a difference. Raccoons have highly sensitive noses. If remnants of any tasty morsels are removed from the bin, they’re going to be less likely to dig through it in an attempt to locate the source of the smell.

Double Bag Your Garbage

Leaks and spills are the most significant sources of mess inside a trash can. You can avoid a lot of this by double-bagging your garbage. Tie each bag securely for extra protection against spills and leaks.

Use tough and flexible bags,and do not over-stuff them with waste. Filling them appropriately not only makes them more manageable for you to carry and lift into the bin but it also makes them less likely to tear under pressure. And, should the raccoon manage to tip the trash over, they’ll still have to work to get through the layers before garbage starts littering your property.

Use Scented Trash Bags

Using scented trash bags is a simple way to mask some of the odor. In addition to being easier on your human nose, raccoons are also repelled by some of the scents added to these products. Although they cost slightly more than non-scented bags, they may be worth the extra couple of dollars.

This trick works on multiple levels: first, by masking odor inside the bags and, second, by repelling raccoons (and other pests) with scents that they find unattractive. Raccoons are particularly averse to mint. You can also try adding a couple of drops of mint essential oil to the bags for a similar effect.

If you feel that the scented bags aren’t doing the trick, you can spray some peppermint essential oil near the trash bin’s perimeter as well.

Rodent Repellent Spray or Granules

Rodent repellent spray or granules are made from an essential oil formula and designed to be safely used around kids and pets. These products are used outdoors to keep mice and rats out of areas. However, it can also prevent raccoons and other pests from getting into your trash can.

Simply spray the formula or spread the granules around the perimeter of your trash can. They are engineered to be long lasting and rain resistant. They are also safe for other animals in the area.


Ammonia is another option. It smells like raccoon urine, making it one of the most potent repellents. To use ammonia to keep raccoons out of the trash, spray it around your trash can and any areas where you know raccoons are likely to enter your property. 

Check out Are Raccoons Dangerous and Do They Bite here.

Automatic Raccoon Deterrents

If you’re wondering how to keep raccoons out of trash without using something you can smell, there are a few other tricks you might want to try. These include motion-activated lighting, motion-activated garden sprinklers, and ultrasonic rodent repellent. I’ll go over each of these next.

Motion-Activated Lighting

If you install motion-sensor lights around the yard or next to your garage where you keep your trash, you can startle raccoons before they get too close to cause any trouble. The lights only come on when they detect movement, so if they are appropriately placed, they shouldn’t be on for more than a few minutes at a time.

These lights are also great if you have any other pests coming to snoop around your trash, like the neighbors’ dogs or stray cats. If you’re in a more rural area, deer and even bears have been known to try to root around in trash cans. Motion-activated lighting is a smart way to startle the intruders away without confronting any of them.

Motion-Activated Garden Sprinklers

If the thought of bright lights turning on at night doesn’t appeal to you, then you may want to try something like motion-activated garden sprinklers. Some models can be set up to detect motion during the night or day, meaning you won’t have to remember to turn them off or on. They’re a humane option, even if the raccoons leave the scene a little bit startled — and damp.

However, if you have a large yard, this might not work as well. You may need to have multiple sprinklers placed strategically at points of entry or high traffic. You also need to have access to a spigot for the hose. So, this solution may be an option for people whose bins need to be placed far from the house.

Ultrasonic Rodent Repellent

These electronic ultrasonic repellents create frequencies that are out of human hearing range. While we cannot hear them, they supposedly irritate pests. The sounds do not cause harm but are intended to deter unwanted pests from entering the area.

The nice thing about using ultrasonic repellents is that they can cover thousands of square feet. Unlike sprinklers and motion-activated lights, which require motion nearby in order to be triggered, the ultrasonic rodent repellents simply emit a sound human can’t hear — they don’t require anything to trigger the sound. Therefore, it’s a “set-it-and-forget-it” option.

Note that the efficacy of these deterrents is up for debate, with organizations like the Federal Trade Commission and International Association of Certified Home Inspectors disputing their claims.

The Takeaway: Keeping Raccoons Out of Trash

Learning how to keep raccoons out of trash may take some time. Some people may need to simply create a tight fit for the trash can lid, while others may need to invest in motion-activated sprinklers and secure the trash can lid with a lock.

No matter what, it’s important to try these non-invasive, safe methods of solving your raccoon problem before anything else. Never approach a wild animal or try to trap it if you don’t know what you’re doing. And if you continue to have issues, you may need to consult experts for their advice.