Simple maintenance can keep your garbage cans in good repair, odor-free and safe from raids by dogs and raccoons.
Here are some tips:
You'll get longer wear from garbage cans if you keep them under cover and away from moisture in a shed or garage. This is true of both metal and plastic cans.
To prevent odors, line the cans with plastic garbage bags and drain all garbage before throwing it into them. When full, the bags can be closed with a tie and easily lifted out for disposal.
Wash out the cans frequently. Use a garden hose to blast out loose soil and trash remains. Then, using a broom, scrub the cans with an industrial-strength detergent, preferably one containing a disinfectant, or with hot sudsy water with a little chlorine bleach or ammonia added. (Caution: Do not mix both bleach and ammonia in the same solution.) Let the cans dry in the sun, or at least in fresh air.
To keep metal garbage cans free from corrosion, coat their insides and undersides lightly with used motor oil. This will have to be reapplied occasionally. An application of asphalt roof cement, which can be purchased at building supply centers, will provide longer protection.
To repair damaged cans:
Patch small holes in metal cans with an epoxy-base mending compound, available from hardware stores.
Repair larger holes with 20- to 24-gauge galvanized sheet steel, available from hardware and building supply stores. Fasten the patch in place with epoxy compound.
You can also attach the patch with stainless steel pop rivets. Pop rivets are installed with a rivet gun that works somewhat like a stapler. Rivet guns are available at modest cost in hardware stores.
Here's how to repair with rivets: Align the patch over the hole. Use a center punch to mark the rivet positions on the patch. Drill holes slightly larger than the pop rivet diameter going through both the patch and the can. Insert the long end of the rivet (the mandrel) in the gun and the rivet in the hole, holding the gun flush with the surface. Squeeze the handles to form the rivet head and break off the mandrel.
Repair splits in plastic cans by sandwiching them between strips of aluminum roof flashing, available at building supply centers. Or, cut open and flatten a couple of aluminum beverage cans. Use aluminum pop rivets to fasten the patches in place.
To deter animal raids, secure the lids to the can handles with elastic shock cords, with a hook at either end, available in varying lengths at auto supply stores.
Fasten one end of the cord permanently to the can by drilling a hole in one of the handles and hooking one cord end through it. Crimp the hook closed with pliers. Then hook the free end to the other handle.
Some plastic garbage cans have molded lid grips. Groove a rectangular block of wood, about the size of the grip, across its narrow width. Then, screw or bolt the block, groove side down, to the grip. Run a length of rope or a shock cord through the groove and fasten its ends to the can's handles.