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Simplehuman Recycler and Small Step Can

Published April 2020
More on the Best Trash Cans
We also love the standard-size version of these trash cans. Our full review of kitchen trash cans with detailed brand comparisons is available here.

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. 


Methodology

  • 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

Rating Criteria

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.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*