Not all trash bags are made equally. To find the best trash bags on the market, our team researched 38 of the top options and purchased 9 of the most popular to test side-by-side. We purchased all of these products at retail and then put them to use. We loaded them with weights to test strength, filled them with smelly trash to gauge odor control, examined every bag for quality control, and judged their dispensing system. We keep our testing independent, objective, and thorough to bring you a comprehensive review to help you quickly and easily find the best trash bag for your needs.Keeping up with cleaning the house can be a chore enough. The last thing you want is to spend too much time deciding which cleaning products to buy. Our domestic experts have tested a variety of sanitation staples, from the top-ranked paper towels to the best vacuum cleaners, and even our favorite sponges. Of course, you'll want to pair one of the best trash cans on the market to go with your fresh new bags.
Our Top Picks
The simplehuman Code M Custom Fit Drawstring bags are the best we tested, provided they fit your trash can. Simplehuman makes a whole line of trash bags, like many other manufacturers. However, unlike others, they make all of their bags to fit in their own branded trash cans; each with a lettered size. Any given lettered size has a volume and a shape. Two different letters might have the same or similar volume but different shapes. Simplehuman wants you to use their trash cans and bags together, but their bags can also work well in other cans. Ascertaining which simplehuman model works for you can be a little tricky, but we can tell you that "Size M" simplehuman bags work in at least some "tall kitchen" trash cans.
Once you get the correct size, the simplehuman brand bags are the best we tested. They are strong, resist odors better than the majority of the other bags, and come packaged in a way that makes dispensing them neater and cleaner than any other option we tested. Don't discount the ease of dispensing. These feed out of the packages neatly and one at a time, a luxury you didn't know you were missing in your home chore routine. Our main gripe with these bags is the difficulty of discerning which size bag will work with your trash can (provided you don't have a Simplehuman brand can). They are also pricier than many other bags. If you take the time to figure out what you need, you will be rewarded with high performance.
For extended, regular use of 30-gallon bags, we recommend the Glad ForceFlexPlus Drawstring Large 30 Gallon. The size and shape are standardized for typical 30-gallon cans (note that 32-gallon cans are more common and that 30-gallon bags will not work on most larger cans. Strangely, we have found that 30-gallon bags are very common, while 32-gallon cans are the most common in this range). We appreciate that the closure is simple and clean, and the stretchy plastic is confidence-inspiring. These Glad bags performed better than most in our sniff test.
The ForceFlex was a decent performer in our strength tests. However, during one round of testing, it had significantly worse results than the other rounds, suggesting the possibility of manufacturing consistency issues in the batch we tested. These bags are great for those who know they have a 30-gallon can and need a bag to handle heavy loads and smelly contents.
The biggest downside is construction consistency. We used or destroyed at least five of every single model during our testing process. In doing so, out of eight Amazon Basics bags we evaluated, we found one that had a failed seam. It was only a small gap but was large enough to ruin the structural integrity of the trash bag. We also noticed this issue with the other models of Amazon Basics bags we tested. After our formal testing period ended, we continued to use dozens of Amazon Basics bags and didn't encounter any more failures of this kind. Still, less expensive products like this one are more prone to such manufacturing inconsistencies. Other than this single poor performance, these are great, strong bags.
When you need a stock of 30-gallon bags for occasional and light-duty use, we recommend the Amazon Basics Multipurpose Drawstring 30 Gallon. It is a fairly standard trash bag at a great value. As best we can tell, most trash is collected in kitchen-size (13-gallon) bags, whereas most 30-gallon bags are purchased for use in a garage, yard, or at parties and picnics. For these uses, value is more important. In your kitchen, for extended use, most will prefer nicer, more robust products. These bags are perfect for occasional and light use, where volume is the most important factor.
With all that in mind, we recommend the 30-gallon Amazon Basics. Just as with the smaller kitchen-sized Amazon Basics bags, we found a quality concern. One of the seven Amazon Basics bags we tested and examined had a drawstring that wasn't attached. No other brand's bags had any such significant manufacturing inconsistencies that we could find. If you seek value in a larger, basic trash bag, check this one out.
You don't always use trash bags for just trash. In some contexts, you might use them for organizing or transporting things besides refuse. Most trash bags work well for this, but the Glad Tall Kitchen Quick-Tie 13 Gallon bags work better than most. Further, in certain trash collection situations, some might prefer a bag with handles and a tie closure over drawstring closures. When you want a bag with handles, we recommend these Glad bags.
The handles are molded from the same material as the rest of the bag. There is no reinforcement around the rim of the bag, as you would find on a drawstring bag. This makes the overall construction and application of the Glad Quick-Tie a bit less robust than the others we tested. Because of the handled construction, these bags are far less durable in all metrics than any of the other bags we tested. Choose these for their handles, not for their strength.
The Glad Tall Kitchen Bag 13 Gallon is a perennial high scorer and a fan-favorite for general use among some of our testers. There is almost nothing wrong with these trash bags, but at the same time, there is also nothing incredibly special about them either. In our strength testing, they scored close to the bottom of the bunch, underperforming most of the other options.
They are widely available and can be purchased in nearly limitless configurations of package count, scents, and sizes. We did, however, like the look of the grey color scheme, if only because it is different from the typical black or white offered by most other brands.
The Hefty Ultra Strong Tall Kitchen Drawstring tall kitchen bags do their intended job. We weren't disappointed with their performance, nor were we overly impressed with anything. The construction is simple and familiar, and the drawstring closure slides smoothly. To dispense, Hefty sets the package up with a perforated box flap that lets you pull each individual bag off the roll.
During our strength testing, the Hefty Ultra Strong performed poorly across the board. It is incapable of holding more than 40 pounds. While your kitchen trash will probably never weigh this much, trash occasionally contains pointy objects. When snagged with a testing object, much like the blunt end of a click-style writing pen, the Hefty Ultra Strong failed with as little as 14 pounds. With the phrase "ultra strong" branded in the name, we expected stronger performance from these bags. Despite our gripes, these bags were serviceable and something we recommend, especially if you find them at a good price.
Hefty Strong Multipurpose Large 30 Gallon trash bags can be found at nearly every major retailer and are built with stout plastic. They also readily dispense from the box with little issue. In one strength test, we got this bag to hold 75 pounds before it failed. Bags like this turned our test into a good stay-at-home workout.
In multiple iterations of our odor control sniff test, the Hefty Strong delivered mixed results. However, we like that these bags offer the performance they do without textured or overly elaborate construction and materials. This is a simple trash bag. Stretchy, "quilted" style bags work well and seem to use less material overall (for equal performance), but they don't inspire the same confidence that a bag like this Hefty does.
The UNNI Compostable trash bags perform a very specific function; if you use them as intended, they are a decent product. These bags are biodegradable, making them ideal for collecting kitchen food waste or potentially green waste from your yard. They claim to be compostable even in home composting setups, although we didn't get a chance to see if the bags fully broke down into usable compost.
Due to the biodegradable design, these bags begin to break down as soon as they have a little moisture in them. We found they started to leak within 48 hours of food waste sitting in them. We recommend throwing them into your composting bin or collection site at the end of each day, or you may end up with a big mess on your hands. They were the weakest and most prone to tearing out of all the models we reviewed. They will work fine for collecting lawn clippings or leaves, but anything that's slightly pokey will surely rip them. These bags are ideal for collecting your daily food waste and not much else.
Why You Should Trust Us
Testing strength involved a series of different weighting and tearing examinations. We employed wire hooks, hand-lifted bag loads, and up to almost 100 pounds of weight plates from a home gym. Testing odor resistance included sealing a tablespoon of a distinctive, strong, inoffensive (for testers' sanity) liquid into the bag for hours. We used Pine-Sol cleaning fluid as the odor source. We then had multiple testers examine the emanations from each bag. Product consistency and dispensing were tested throughout the process. In total, we used or tested to destruction a minimum of six of each model.
We test hundreds of categories of consumer goods and appliances. Each time we do, we seek expertise in the field and employ a proven but flexible protocol. We always purchase the products at retail, and we design objective, repeatable tests that tax each product in a measurable way, which exceeds the "real world" demands placed on the product. We employed long-time tester and review editor Jediah Porter and empowered him to coordinate testing of strength, odor resistance, product consistency, and dispensing.
Analysis and Test Results
We've done the dirty, strenuous, stinky work of testing bags. It isn't glorious, but we find it fun to compare and analyze even the most mundane of home goods. We considered all you might need or want to know about trash bags and then worked hard to assess and compare the best on the market. Our team took this seriously and tapped into expertise with trash, statistics, and close analysis of a wide range of products. We divided our testing and analysis into four subcategories: strength, odor control, product consistency, and dispensing. Our scoring and ranking reflect the relative weights of these different criteria.
Strength is a measure of how much each bag can hold without deforming or tearing. We tested both of these things. We loaded each bag with absolute maximum weight for overall strength assessment and initiated tears under load to assess tear resistance. We found some patterns in performance. Mainly, and primarily, maximum strength and tear resistance are directly correlated. Most of our award winners are also our strongest bags.
The 30-gallon Glad ForceFlex Plus is the strongest bag we tested. Over and over again, it delivered consistent, strong results in our tests. The Simplehuman Code M bags were super strong, and the plastic is "stiffer" than others. As we loaded the Simplehuman bags, they didn't stretch until just before they catastrophically failed. The Amazon Basics Tall kitchen-size bags were remarkably stretchy on the other end of the spectrum. They began elongating with the very first weights and continued until the original shape was virtually indistinguishable.
The Glad Tall Kitchen Handle Tie bags were the weakest in the test. Our favorite aspect — their built-in handles instead of drawstring closure — is the reason they weren't as strong. It turns out that the drawstring closure sleeve on most bags serves to reinforce the rim of the bag. This Glad bag doesn't have the rim reinforcement that supports heavier loads in a variety of settings.
Odor control is essential but difficult to assess. Like other comparative testers online, we discounted scented bags and their impact on actual odor control. Masking smells isn't the same as truly containing them. Further, many testers and consumers find the odor-masking scent applied to trash bags to be unappealing, if not more so than typical trash odors. Our odor analysis considered only odor containment and not masking. Our odor control testing involved sealing a strong smell inside each bag. At different times, from minutes to days after the initial sealing of the contents, we had multiple different testers try to detect and gauge how much of the smell escaped. Our findings were not always unanimous, but observed patterns give us confidence in our findings.
There is no question that the Amazon Basics Kitchen bags were best at containing odor. Interestingly, as noted above, their plastic was considerably different than the others; it was way stretchier. Whether this unique plastic is associated with odor resistance or not, we can't tell you. But we can tell you that these bags, sealed up in your garage between trash pick-up days, will let out less smell than others. Other high performers included the Glad ForceFlex Plus and simplehuman. The thin plastic of the Glad Handle Tie bags let out more smells than the rest.
Of course, it should be noted that all bags will eventually let out the gnarliest of smells and that your best strategy for odor control is the timely removal of trash from the house. Take out the smelliest trash regularly, and you'll have no odor problems. Leave the mildest trash unattended, and it will stink up the place. As in many consumer situations, the behavior is more important than the exact product you select.
We found some variation between the bags in a single box. These bags are likely mass and machine-produced and packaged with little or sporadic quality control. The quality control issues were definitely associated with brands. We "tested" product consistency by using many bags of each model. Of our test fleet, the most prominent issues were with the Amazon Basics brand bags. Both tested models had one failed bag in the first half dozen or so. One bag had a disconnected drawstring, and another had a gap in a seam. Neither is major, but both are notable. Other issues were minor; mainly, we noted in our behind-the-scenes scoring of product consistency when a model had widely varying strength scores across the test runs.
It's already a mess underneath your kitchen sink; you don't need a bunch of unused bags filling the space with their chaos and unfurling tangle. The best dispensing system we encountered is with the simplehuman. Simplehuman packages their bags in soft-sided packages akin to tissue packages. You pull one out, and a corner of the next protrudes, ready to be deployed. Tension in the opening and between all the bags left inside holds it all in place, ready for your next bag need.
The next best-dispensing arrangement is a small box of bags with a corner, perforated opening for dispensing from the roll within. The kitchen-sized Amazon Basics bags had this sort of dispensing, as did the Glad Tall Kitchen Trash Bags. Larger packages of bags have clumsier delivery. The most annoying dispensing we found was the big, flap-closed box of two rolls of Glad ForceFlex Plus bags.
Our testing is thorough and independent of manufacturer or PR firm influence. We buy the products at retail, plan out a comprehensive, realistic testing regimen, and provide you with clear and understandable reviews. We purchased and tested nine different bags and are happy to report on our findings, which include top performers in strength and odor control. We hope our above findings serve your purposes and help you make your eventual choice.
— Jediah Porter