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How to Keep Raccoons Out of Trash

How to Keep Raccoons Out of Trash

Source: Will Rodrigues/

It’s hard to deny that raccoons are pretty darn cute. But let’s face it - no creature is cute enough to live in your trash cans, tear up your garbage and make a full time job out of destroying your property. Anyone who’s fought to keep these little scavengers out of their property knows how skilled they are at exploiting any opportunity you give them, and that means keeping them out of the garbage can be an especially tough task. 

If you’re tired of raccoons raiding your garbage cans, or you are one of the lucky ones that has not  had problems yet but want to be proactive, there are steps you can take to banish these fuzzy burglars from your waste disposal area. 

1. Use smells raccoons hate.

Raccoons find your garbage through their keen sense of smell. But their powerful noses also make them dislike strong, harsh scents, such as vinegar, ammonia or hot pepper water. You can rub these in the area around the trash can, or spritz some from a spray bottle onto your trash bags before you take them to the curb.

Another solution is to use urine from larger predators like wolves and coyotes around your garage cans. While that may sound extreme, these fairly popular products can be found at  most garden and outdoor stores. Just remember: Like your own perfume or cologne, scent does fade in time, and will need to be periodically re-applied. We recommend reapplying a few times a month to keep the racoons away consistently. 

2. Use light and sound to keep raccoons away.

It’s easy to spook raccoons with lights and noises. Hanging a string of lights next to your trash cans is one popular way to deter raccoons from getting in, as they prefer the cover of darkness. If you’re battling a serious raccoon problem, a motion sensor and a floodlight offer a more permanent solution. (It really sheds some light on the problem ;) ) 

Some people have even had success with leaving a radio playing near their garbage cans to deter raccoons. Talk radio stations are thought to work well because they may be able to fool raccoons into thinking humans are nearby. However, while this may drive away racoons - it may flock angry neighbors to your door if it is too loud or able to be heard by close by neighbors.

Novato, California / USA - October 10, 1994 - A raccoon raiding a trash can in Novato, California.

Source: The Old Major/

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3. Don’t leave pet food outside.

To secure your garbage, it’s important to avoid doing things that will draw raccoons to your property. One of the most common mistakes is leaving pet food outside. A bowl of food for your dog or outdoor cat may seem harmless, but in a raccoon’s eyes, it’s the equivalent of putting a neon sign that says FREE FOOD on your home. Keep the pet food stored in a secure container indoors. 

This is important not just for securing your garbage but for protecting your pets, too. An altercation with a raccoon can be dangerous for your furry friend, especially because raccoons are among the most common carriers of rabies.

4. Keep your trash cans clean.

Dirty trash cans smell, and smells attract raccoons very quickly. What’s more, a dirty trash can can easily attract a breeding population of insects which provides another food source for raccoons and makes your trash can an even more tempting target. Already got gross bugs moved in? Check out our guide to how to get rid of maggots in a trash can for tips on fighting the infestation.

Using the right size and type of trash can liners is one of the most important ways to make sure your trash bins aren’t turning into critter central. Our 55-gallon trash bags are good for general outdoor trash cans, but make sure to get the full-sized 96-gallon trash bags for your curbside trash bins. 

In addition, you should be hosing out your garbage and recycling bins periodically. How often you need to do this depends on how messy your trash carts get, but once a month should usually be sufficient. 

5. Make your trash can harder to get into and harder to knock over.

One of the most reliable ways to keep raccoons out of your trash is simply to make your trash more difficult to access. If you have a garage, try keeping your rollaway carts in there except on collection day, and never leave can lids open no matter where they’re sitting. 

Fastening your trash bin lid shut, such as with a bungee cord, can create a barrier that many raccoons can’t overcome. Various types of chains and straps for securing your garbage are also available online. With these methods, even if raccoons manage to knock your trash can over, they won’t be able to get it open – which saves you from having to clean up the inevitable mess. 

Overflowing trash can against a brick wall

An all-you-can-eat raccoon buffet. Don’t let yours look like this!

Source: Karen Hermann/

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Raccoons might be pretty clever, but we still think human ingenuity will still come out on top in the end. Browse Plasticplace’s full selection of trash bags for durable bags, fast shipping and superior customer service.

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