Simplehuman Recycler and Small Step Can
How we tested
It’s not the most glamorous tool in the kitchen, but a good trash can is certainly one of the busiest and most important. When we reviewed five models, the Simplehuman 50L Rectangular Step Can exceeded our expectations. It’s compatible with standard 13-gallon trash bags, and those bags stay firmly in place even when heavy items are dropped in or the bin is filled to its maximum capacity. Its wide, rectangular opening provides enough clearance whether you’re wiping off a large cutting board or dropping in an armful of trash. A few clever features, including a step-pedal mechanism that opens the lid and a removable, easy-to-clean liner, make taking out the trash less of a chore. Simplehuman also makes a dual-compartment model that houses both recycling and trash, as well as a petite, roughly 2½-gallon trash can meant for offices and bathrooms. We were curious to see how each performed.
We started by evaluating the capacity and bag compatibility of both models. The dual-compartment model features two liners, which have a combined capacity of a little more than 12 gallons, that can be configured to hold trash and recyclable materials. These liners are taller and narrower than most trash cans, which means that we had to use Simplehuman’s somewhat pricey custom bags (Codes V and H) instead of regular trash bags. We considered this to be a bit of a nuisance, but the bags, which were easy to put in place and remove, were sturdy and stayed firmly in place during use. We found that the relatively small openings on the liners (the larger one is about 7½ by 8½ inches and the smaller one is about 4½ by 8½ inches) didn’t allow much leeway when depositing bulky items such as folded-up cardboard boxes and chicken carcasses. Most other kitchen items, however, didn’t pose a problem. We were able to drop in a handful of empty cans, empty a dust bin without dropping any of its contents, and wipe off a small cutting board without spilling.
The smaller model we tested was more standard in size, so regular 4-gallon trash bags (often marketed as “small”) and disposable plastic shopping bags fit nearly as snugly as the company’s custom-designed bags (Code R). The bin’s opening was large enough to allow us to easily deposit items, but the unit’s overall footprint was impressively small. It tucked neatly into small spaces, such as between a toilet and a bathroom sink, with ease.
In all other evaluations, the two models were nearly identical. Both employ the same step-pedal mechanism to open the lid as our favorite large Simplehuman model. Their lids close slowly and gently and can be propped open when needed. They also did an impressive job at containing odors. The liners of both models are made of lightweight plastic and can be removed for cleaning. We also love that their stainless-steel exteriors resisted fingerprints. After 3 weeks of daily use in a product reviewer’s home, they looked as good and opened and closed as smoothly as they had when we first unboxed them.
If you produce enough trash to fill a standard-size 13-gallon kitchen trash can every few days, we recommend sticking with the spacious yet streamlined Simplehuman 50L Rectangular Step Can. But with many Americans moving toward composting and making concerted efforts to produce less trash, we can also strongly recommend the Simplehuman Rectangular Step Can, Recycler. During our at-home tests, a household of two could regularly go more than a week without emptying either the trash or the recycling bin. The Simplehuman Profile Step Can would be a welcome addition to any bathroom, bedroom, or home office. Each of these attractive, cleverly designed trash cans is a worthwhile investment.
- Test two Simplehuman trash cans: a 40-liter dual-compartment can priced at about $150 and a small 10-liter trash can priced at about $40, both purchased online
- Evaluate compatibility with custom-made Simplehuman bags, Glad trash bags, and, in the smaller model, disposable plastic shopping bags
- Drop a 5-pound item into liners of each model to assess bag fit
- Test accessibility and capacity of each model with items of different sizes
- Apply measured amounts of tomato paste, yellow mustard, and canola oil to liners; let mixture sit for 24 hours; and then wash liners and check for staining
- Open lids with step pedal 50 times to check durability
- Evaluate how well bin contains odors from household trash, recyclable items, and kitchen compost
- Test at home for 3 weeks to evaluate in real-life situations
Bag Fit: We evaluated how well a variety of bags fit in each model, noting whether bags stayed in place when we added a heavy item and how easy bags were to remove when full.
Odor Control: We considered how well the models contained odors from household trash.
Opening and Closing: We rated each model’s step-pedal mechanism for opening the lid and considered whether there was an option to prop the lid open for longer tasks.
Stability: We looked at how sturdily and securely the models sat on the floor, especially when the lids were open.
Accessibility: We considered how wide the openings of the liners were and how easy it was to access them while depositing trash and recyclable items.