Best Trash Bags of 2021
The simplehuman bags are the best we tested, provided they fit your trash can. That's an interesting qualification, right? Allow us to back up. Simplehuman makes a whole line of refuse bags, like many other manufacturers. Unlike others, they make all their bags to function with their own branded trash cans; a lettered size mates cans and bags. 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 we tested, 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 ForceFlex Plus. 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 decent in our strength tests. Of the four rounds we performed (with four different versions of each model of bags), the ForceFlex Plus delivered one outlying performance. The outlying test result provided significantly worse performance than the same model's other scores, 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.
Amazon's Solimo 13 Gallon bags are simple and inexpensive. In the max-strength version of our tear resistance test, it stretched to the tester's maximum reach with 75 pounds before finally failing. This stretchy performance was unique and appreciated. Only larger bags with thicker plastic matched this particular performance. In a sealed-off "sniff test", this unscented Solimo bag model scored somewhere in the middle of our testing group.
The primary drawback is in construction consistency. We used or destroyed at least five of every single model of tested bags through our testing process. In doing so with the Solimo bags, out of a total of eight Solimo bags we evaluated, we discovered one that had a failed seam. It was just a small gap but was large enough to ruin the structural integrity of the bag. We also observed this issue with the other model of Solimo bags. Subsequent general use of dozens of Solimo bags, after the end of our formal testing period have yielded no more such failures. Less expensive products, like this Amazon-branded option, are likely going to be more prone to such manufacturing inconsistencies. Other than this one 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 Solimo 30 Gallon. It is a fairly standard trash bag, but it is being offered at a great value. As best we can tell, most trash is collected in kitchen size (13 gallon) bags, whereas most 30-gallon size 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 Solimo. Just as with the smaller kitchen-sized Solimo bags, we found a product concern. One of the seven Solimo bags we tested and examined had a drawstring that wasn't attached. No non-Solimo bags had any such significant manufacturing inconsistencies that we could find. Despite our minor gripes, this Solimo is something we can recommend to you. 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 Handle Tie bags work better than most. Further, for some people and in some trash collection situations, handles and a tie closure are preferred to drawstring closures. When you want a bag with handles, we recommend the Glad Tall Handle Tie.
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 Handle 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 is a perennial high scorer among other reviewers, and some of our testers reported them to be their favorites before this test. 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, outperforming 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 being offered by most other brands.
The Hefty Ultra Strong tall kitchen bags did 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.
In our strength testing, the Hefty Ultra Strong performed poorly across the board. In no situation did it hold more than 40 pounds. Your bag of kitchen trash will likely never weigh this much, but your kitchen trash will contain 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. We'd expect stronger performance from a product branded with the phrase "ultra strong". Despite our complaints, these bags were serviceable and are something we can recommend, especially if you find them at a good price.
Hefty Strong 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 the Hefty Strong 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 monolithic 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 to collect 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.
Being biodegradable, these bags start to break down as soon as they have a little moisture in them. We found that they would start to leak within 48 hours of food waste sitting in them. We would recommend throwing them into your composting bin or collection site at the end of each day, or you might end up with a big mess on your hands. They were the weakest and most prone to tearing of all the bags we tested. They will work fine for collecting lawn clippings or leaves, but anything that's the least bit pokey will surely rip them. These bags are ideal for collecting your daily food waste and not much else.
Why You Should Trust Us
We test hundreds of categories. 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.
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 tester 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.
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 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 and high 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 Solimo 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 Solimo 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 Amazon's Solimo brand bags. Both tested models of Solimo bags 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 Solimo 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 manufacturers 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