Trash Compactor Maintenance and Troubleshooting

Trash compactors can make garbage day a snap, especially if you live in a small urban space or want to take fewer trips to your garbage bin. It makes life easier and conserves space by crushing your household trash into a neat little cube about a quarter of its original bulk. To make sure this trusty appliance brings you many years of good service, it needs proper care. Follow these trash compactor troubleshooting and maintenance tips to save time, expense, and the inconvenience of unnecessary service calls.

How to Use a Trash Compactor

Using a trash compactor correctly is an important step towards keeping it running well. Not all trash compactors are the same so check your owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to use your trash compactor. Generally, using a trash compactor is as simple as lining the compactor with a bag, inserting the trash, shutting the door, and turning on the compactor.

Tips for Daily Care and Trash Compactor Maintenance

Your trash compactor is designed to be a low-maintenance appliance, but these simple tips will help you safely and efficiently use your trash compactor to keep it working for years to come.

Avoid Trash Compactor Messes

Preventing spills is as simple as knowing how and what you can put in a trash compactor. Lay cans and glass containers flat. To keep shards of glass from flying or to contain messy food waste, put a brown paper bag or newspaper on top. Only use select garbage bags that are designed for use with trash compactors. If recycling is available in your area, consider putting glass, plastic, and paper waste into separate recycling receptacles.

Prevent Trash Odors

Here's one dirty secret about trash compactors: they can give off some nasty odors if you're not diligent about cleaning. Some models come with an insert to place an air freshener, while others come with odor-absorbing charcoal filters. These can help, but the best way to conquer the stench is to prevent it from happening by wiping spills as soon as they happen and cleaning your unit regularly.

If your trash compactor is giving off a bad smell, it may be time to deodorize. Sprinkle a light layer of baking soda on the bottom of the compactor before you replace the bag each time you clean. If your compactor has a charcoal filter, try replacing it.

How to Clean a Trash Compactor

Trash compactors get dirty, so you should clean your trash compactor regularly. Unplug the compactor and remove the bag. Be careful of any broken glass and use gloves. You might want to use antibacterial cleansers on your trash compactor. Make sure you thoroughly spray it down and dry it out before replacing the bag.

Don't Put Dangerous Items in the Compactor

There are limits to what you can put in a trash compactor, and some things should never be put in, especially toxic, explosive or combustible items that may create a dangerous situation. Separately dispose of things like paint thinners, old paint cans, and rags soaked with gasoline or oil. Be mindful of disposing aerosol cans (cans of cheese and whipped cream get the green light), but do not include cans with toxic or explosive chemicals.

Trash Compactor Troubleshooting Tips

Hopefully, your trash compactor operates without a hitch for many years. However, if something does go wrong, and your trash compactor is not working, try these trash compactor troubleshooting tips before you seek professional help. Be sure to check your owner's manual and follow all safety precautions.

Your Compactor Doesn't Start

Before you decide it’s completely broken, rule out a couple common causes: Check for a tripped circuit by looking at your electrical panel. Also, see if the drawer is completely closed. Trash compactors do not work if the door is open. Then, wait a few minutes before trying again, especially if you recently compacted a load; some models may have a component that needs to reset.

Your Compactor Stops Working

If your trash compactor stops in the middle of a job, this may be caused by an off-balance load that can trigger the anti-jamming feature. Follow the owner's manual to reset the unit. Make sure you know what you can put in your trash compactor and keep these objects evenly distributed.

The Drawer Is Hard to Open and Shut

Follow these tips to troubleshoot a stubborn drawer:

  • Turn off the compactor and remove the drawer from the cabinet.
  • Carefully search for pieces of broken glass or other particles that could be obstructing the tracks while wearing protective gloves.
  • Use a wet/dry vacuum to suck up any loose shards.
  • Clean dirty tracks and rollers with a cleaner or degreaser, checking for broken parts and adding a lubricant if needed.

Going forward, wipe spills immediately. Periodically check and clean the track and rollers for dirt and debris.

Compactor is Rattling

It may be possible for components in your trash compactor to loosen over time, especially with the vibration caused by the motor. Check drawer wheels and tighten power nuts regularly to prevent your trash compactor from not working. Inspect the compactor and tighten anything that may have become loose. Use a screwdriver to tighten any loose screws on the front door or use a crescent wrench to tighten the wheel/nut components.

The Drawer Becomes Stuck

To dislodge an object that’s stuck—such as an aluminum can—turn the trash compactor off and hold the drawer with both hands to work it back and forth. If that's unsuccessful, try switching the unit back on. If you have difficulty troubleshooting your trash compactor—or you're not comfortable trying it—call a qualified professional to investigate and remedy the issue.

HWA Can Help

Trash compactors can be useful and great appliances for many households. Just by following a few routine trash compactor troubleshooting and maintenance tips, you can keep your compactor running strong for its lifetime. For more information on how we might help you, check out our guide on how home warranties work, or give us a call at 1-888-492-7359.

HWA Has You Covered

A home warranty from HWA protects your budget and your peace of mind against the unexpected expenses of inevitable home repairs. Whether you're buying, selling, or already in your home, we have a plan to fit your needs!

View Plans