BrickTest: SimpleHuman's odor-absorbing charcoal pads for your stinky trash

By Kelly Kreth  |
December 6, 2010 - 2:41PM

Because NYC apartments tend to be small and under-ventilated, BrickUnderground is always on the lookout for innovative ways to deal with big smells in small spaces—like the smell of last night’s roasted salmon blasting through your galley kitchen every time you pop the lid of your trashcan. 

So when we heard about odor-absorbing charcoal filters that fit inside trash cans, BrickUnderground promptly asked urbanite-friendly homegoods purveyor simplehuman for some samples, and handed them to contributor-at-large and Upper East Side apartment dweller Kelly Kreth to test.   Here’s her report:

The product

The $5.99 Odorsorb filter kits contain a holding case and a charcoal filter.  You stick the filters into the case and attach firmly with adhesive to the underside of your trashcan lid. (The instructions say it can also be used in pantries and fridges, but since they typically don’t smell like putrid, rotting food or used wee wee pads, we only tested it in the trashcan.)  In theory, the charcoal is supposed to absorb odors and must be “recharged” in sunlight every four to six weeks. 

The test(s)

I inserted the charcoal filter into its plastic case, peeled back the adhesive, and stuck the holding case to the inside of my covered trashcan.  Easy enough. 

I then experimented with three things that frequently find their way into my kitchen trash:

  • Used wee-wee pad: I put a soaked wee wee pad from my dachshund Mini in the trash, shut the lid, and waited eight hours. I opened the lid and there was not much change in terms of smell; it was pretty much as strong (and disgusting) as I remembered.
  • Bacon grease: I put in a fresh garbage bag and this time filled it with paper towels soaked in bacon grease. I opened the lid the next morning and the smell in the can had pretty much dissipated. 
  • Tunafish: My last experiment involved a half-empty tuna can. After a couple of hours, I found the filter pretty ineffective in absorbing the pungent tuna smell, as did my dog, who whined at the garbage can trying to get in for a snack.  I closed the lid and gave the filter another few hours; when I opened it, the fish odor had somewhat lessened.

The verdict

Overall, I found the filter kit about as effective as placing an open box of baking soda in the bottom of my trashcan. While it seemed to absorb some odors more than others, it never completely eliminated any of them.  Still, for the affordable price, it might be worth a try, especially if you are odor-sensitive and located far from a garbage chute. 




Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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