Introduction: Trash-Vac!!

About: My goal with every instructable is to be short & sweet with lots of pictures.

This is a little project I came up with to solve the issue of trapped air under the bag. A simpler solution would be to drill a few holes in the bottom, but where's the fun in that?? Now my kid LOVES to take out the trash for me!

When the button is pressed, the fan sucks all the air out and creates a nice fit for the bag inside the can.

My initial prototype was built with spare parts I had laying around and cost $0 to make, but I wanted to get a little "fancy" and added a switch.

Time to Build:

Approximately 1 hour if you have all the parts and tools ready to go.

Parts List / Cost:

Trash Can......................$12

Computer Fan................$15

Momentary Switch.........$5

AC/DC Adapter..............$10

1/2 inch pipe strap..........$0.20

Total Cost: $42.20

Attention: As with anything, SAFETY FIRST. Use caution when doing this project. Always use the safest practices / guidelines when doing anything related to this instructable.

Step 1: Parts

The only real important thing to note with these parts is the AC/DC adapter should have the same voltage as the fan and approximately the same current.

Here I use a 12 volt / 3 amp fan and adapter so there should be no issues.

The hardware and wire I already had laying around but I recommend using a wire gauge (thickness) that is slightly larger than that on the fan. Smaller wires may not be able to support the load current and could potentially get hot. Bigger is the cooler (temp) and safer option.

Step 2: Marking It Out

Here I placed the fan on the inside and traced around it. This helps to get a properly sized cutout.

It's a little tricky to mark the inside of the trash can but I didn't want to leave markings on the outside.

Step 3: Jar Lid

I used a plastic container lid, approximately the same diameter as the fan, to get a more precise cutout. You'll notice, though, the square sides cut off a portion of the circle. Play it conservatively and cut a small hole and gradually increase the size until you have a good fit. If the cutout is too big then you won't have the proper seal needed to work.

Step 4: Cut It Out!!

A few tools can be used to cut the hole, depending on what the trashcan is made out of. I used a combination of a rotary tool and a utility knife. Just note that a rotary tool will melt the plastic and cause a hot mess if you're not careful with it.

Again, cut small and work your way out.

Place the fan over the hole to make minor adjustments.

Leave a little bit of a lip to provide a proper seal over the fan.

Step 5: Fan Mounts

Position the fan on the exterior and secure it with tape.

Drill the first hole and place a nail in it to keep that position fixed in place.

Drill the remaining 3 holes the same way, always inserting a nail afterwards to hold things still.

Mount the fan on the inside with the airflow directed out of the can. The airflow direction is indicated by an arrow on the side of the fan.

Step 6: Switch Install

Strip the insulation off the wires and screw them onto the switch. For this switch it doesn't matter which one goes where.

Tie a knot in the wire and add on a rubber boot.

(I don't know where I got the boot from. It was in my box of assorted screws and parts. It just happened to work perfectly with this project. I'm thinking it came off a TV coax cable...?)

Step 7: Mounting the Switch

Find a good placement for the switch and drill 2 more holes using the pipe strap as a guide.

A smaller 3rd hole is then drilled just below allowing for the wire to poke inside the trashcan.

2 bolts were then used to fasten the switch in place.

This 1/2 inch pipe strap also came from my assorted junk box and provided a nice solution to mounting the switch.
Originally I was going to mount the switch flat on the side but realized the back end of it would poke into the bag.

Step 8: Cutoff Extras

To reduce objects poking into the trashcan I cutoff the extra length of each bolt and filed them smooth, removing any sharp edges.

Step 9: Wiring It Up

Drill a hole at the base of the trash, just big enough for the outlet plug to poke through.

With black as negative and red as positive, screw in the black wire from the fan to the negative post of the power input.

The positive wire from the fan should then be connected to the red wire leading to the switch..

The black wire coming from the switch should then be connected to the positive post of the power input.

In the photos above I created a wiring schematic of how I connected everything.

Note: My fan had a third (blue) wire which is not needed. I clamped on an insulated cover to keep it out of the way.

Step 10: Tape It Down

Here I used duct tape to hold all the wires down and out of the way.

Step 11: Plug It In, Plug It In!

Last thing is to plug it in and try it out!!

If you followed all these steps correctly you should have no troubles.

If you don't have a good enough seal around your fan you can use a silicon caulking to close up any gaps and improve the performance.

Overall this was a fun, simple project that has impressed all my family and friends. My daughter won't even let me replace the trash bag without letting her push the button. And though my wife objects to all of my projects, I've noticed she doesn't ask me to take out the trash nearly as much as she used to!!

If you enjoyed this project please vote for me in the competition!

Good Luck!!!



    • Metalworking Contest

      Metalworking Contest
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest

    54 Discussions

    Cool, but I'd go with a 9 volt battery and housing. You are not leashed to the wall and not constantly drawing a current.

    Wow I see so many comments like "why don't you just drill holes?" and it makes me sad that every single one of those people is completely missing the point. I'm betting next time you want to make something like the cool trashcan, your kid will be begging to help, have fun, and learn about electronics and how things work. This project while it may be an overkill solution to a simple problem, is still freakin awesome! I love to see people taking things apart and building new functional devices with them. Great work!

    For those who opt for the simpler version; remember to keep the hole(s) a few inches above the bottom. The wasted space is minimal and after all, the trash can is supposed to keep yucky stuff inside.

    Neat concept. I solved the same problem by drilling a 1/2" hole in the can.There is a bit more waiting though without fans powering it.

    1 reply

    Awesome. Props to the poster for the eletric solution, but this one fits better with my laziness


    1 year ago

    Just so ya know. I was able to scrounge up a VERY high power, altho low ma. rated DC fan, and I built the project.

    I figure that this thing will be able to be used, in short bursts on the batteries, for many years.

    I did add a reverse switch, and it truly broke the seal of the bag between the bag and the can, to assist in the removal of the bag.

    I can only imagine Glad, or some other major manufacturer offering this system in the future!.

    As I said earlier, great useful project, that pretty much any skill-set can conquer.


    1 reply

    That's really cool! You should post some pictures on here. I'd love to see it!!


    1 year ago

    Hell, I may even scrounge up a small Key-Fob remote module to turn it on, so I don't even have to bend over to that's one lazy Canadian!!


    1 reply

    I'm really diggin this idea!! haha

    How about adding a circuit (maybe 555 based) where you press a momentary switch that runs the fan for some period of time, maybe a minute, then shuts down. Better yet use an Arduino to monitor an air flow sensor so you have auto shutdown when the bag is fully seated.

    Another idea is to have a air handling manifold (using moving flaps) on the outside of the container that controls whether the fan pushes air in or sucks air out. This allows computer fans to work in either direction. As long as we're at it let's add a charcoal filter in the air out direction.


    1 year ago

    I guess that if you cannot find a reversible fan, you can have two fans, each blowing in opposite directions, controlled by a double throw switch, with the center position as "off".

    Man, I sure know how to complicate an otherwise simple, elegant project.

    Not trying to be an inventor's buzz-kill,
    but I've always used a trick I learned from my first job, a local burger
    joint(not a chain or franchise).

    First spray the inside of the
    empty can with a nice smelling disinfectant(Lysol works), so that you
    get the sides of the can a little damp.(This also keeps the can smelling
    nice - even in a fast-food restaurant)

    Second take one trash bag,
    fully expand it(OUTSIDE of the can). Then grab the sealed end of the
    bag, and 'toss' the bottom end of the bag into the trash can without
    holding the bag anywhere else. As you spread the open end over the can
    edge, blow hard into the bag to cause it to inflate(forcing it into
    contact with the can sides). Once the bag is fully expanded, tie off the
    bag so it cannot fall inside the can.

    Opening the bag first
    removes the static electricity/ vacuum effect that makes it so hard to
    open the bag while inside the can. Spraying the inside of the can with
    disinfectant does two things - first, it makes the can smell better and
    second, the liquid causes the bag to 'stick' to the can sides while the
    bag is inflated(which insures that no folds or twists will 'catch'
    trash later and possibly cause the bag to rip/split).

    I've had this same idea for a few years now, but never got around to doing a project. I'm glad to see that it works!

    If you use a DC fan, perhaps you can reverse it to make it easy to remove bag !

    1 reply

    Nope! Never seen a computer fan that wasn't brushless. They contain electronics and coils to rotate the magnetic rotor with the timing controlled by the position of a hall sensor - or sometimes just plain free-running. Reversing the supply is likely to destroy the fan. However, since the fan only runs when the bag is inserted, there is a large hole in the bottom of the trash bag carrier, so the vacuum is already broken. No problem (unless you really want a partly/lightly-filled bag to fountain as you remove it!)

    Man, thats great! Useful and so fun to make. I hope I'll have some free time to make one also. Thanks for sharing!


    1 year ago

    That's nifty and not one bit overkill. I've always been happy with
    drilling a hole or two in the bottom of the trash can but this works
    too. ;)


    1 year ago

    Clever - they should sell them like that, with a battery holder instead so you don't have to move it near an outlet.

    1 reply

    Great project!
    I do agree Thomas. And you don't have the constant stand-by consumption of the adapter. There are these tiny 12V batteries (23A), which should be fine for a few months. I'd use one of those. I guess after all it'd even be more environmentally friendly (grey energy and standby-consumption).