A good trash bag doesn’t call much attention to itself: It holds your garbage and eventually gets thrown out itself. A bad trash bag, however, makes itself known. It can cause a stinky mess if it leaks, breaks, or fails to hold in odors. To find out which ones can truly stand up to heavy loads and powerful smells, we consulted with nine experts, including professional cleaners and some non-pros with very strong opinions. With bags for kitchens, bathrooms, and even compost bins, their picks should have you covered for everything you toss out.
Best overall trash bags
These sturdy trash bags — and other variations on the basic kitchen size — were the most frequently mentioned among our experts. Ilya Ornatov, owner of Seattle-based cleaning company NW Maids, says ForceFlex bags “never break or leak no matter how much you put into them.” Irina Nikiforova, owner of Los Angeles–based cleaning service Rocket Maids, agrees. She says they’re the perfect bags for most households because they “won’t leak, aren’t expensive, and come with drawstrings that are easier to handle than regular twist ties, especially if your bin is overfilled.”
These Costco-brand bags are another of Nikiforova’s favorites. “No one can beat their price,” she says. “They are super-flexible and can stretch not only to accommodate lots of trash but also to fit most standard-sized trash cans.” Plus, they have wide drawstring ties, which Nikiforova says is important when you’re lugging heavy trash bags, so that it “won’t feel like your hand is about to be cut in half.”
Best scented trash bags
While some people may find scented trash bags cloying, there are others who prefer them, especially bags with subtle scents. If you aren’t taking the trash out very often — like if you live alone and don’t generate a ton of garbage — a scented bag can stop odors from building up. Kathy Turley, director of marketing for residential cleaning business, Home Clean Heroes, recommends these scented bags from Hefty. “The bags aren’t supersized so they don’t get too heavy for either me or my daughter to carry,” she says. She also likes that they have a drawstring top for easy tying.
Best extra-tough trash bags
If you’re tossing out broken glass, sharp objects, or just a lot of heavy trash, you may want to consider an especially durable bag like the Glad ForceFlexPlus. Raul Mercado, founder of Camping Helper, uses these bags both at home and on camping trips and says, “As long as you don’t throw away a bag of bricks you should have no trouble carrying these trash bags outside without any leaks or breaks.
Since they’re made for industrial use, Alex Tran, co-founder of Rain City Cleaners cleaning and disinfecting service, says Uline’s bags are the best for heavy-duty use. “You’ll have to buy in large quantities, but they will last you a while,” she says. They come in various sizes and Tran says her company will even use them for cleaning up hazardous materials.
Best biodegradable trash bags
For an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic trash bags, Alex Azoury, founder and CEO of the coffee-brewing guide site Home Grounds, switched to these compostable bags for both his compost and kitchen garbage. “Apparently they take only 50 to 100 days to break down in compost, so I feel good about one less piece of plastic in the landfill,” says Azoury.
Beth McCallum, a writer for the cleaning website Oh So Spotless, says these Aircover bags “decompose into carbon dioxide and water via microorganisms in the soil, but they also break down naturally in landfills, too.” Besides being ecofriendly, she says they’re “sturdy and durable,” so they don’t rip or leak.
Best custom-fit trash bags
Simplehuman, makers of some of our favorite trash cans, designs bags custom-fitted to their garbage cans — like the kitchen-sized N bags or the smaller A bags for bathroom bins. It might seem annoying to have to buy specific bags for your trash cans, but Simplehuman fans, like Toronto-based writer Natalie Shahinian, love the tight fit and the quality of the bags. “They fit over the garbage bin snugly —just along its rim — which means no guessing on what length of the bag to pull over the sides,” she says. She adds that the bags “are incredibly strong, durable and seem to always have room for more.”
Best bathroom trash bags
Nikiforova likes these small, mildly scented bags for use in the bathroom. “The scent is quite subtle and the bag itself is thick enough for small trash,” she says. Since you’re likely tossing bottles with remnants of lotions or creams in your bathroom trash, she says it’s especially important to look for strong bags that won’t leak. They’re a good choice for pet owners, too, says John Cho, founder of the animal resource guide My Pet Child. He says the Glad OdorShield bags are “flexible enough to hold a heavy load but also keep smells contained,” so they can handle litter box messes and are small enough to take with you while dog-walking.