Sneaky Squirrels and Rascally Raccoons–Hoping This Will Be the Solution!

Ever since my son and daughter-in-love moved into their home several years ago, they’ve been in an ongoing, full-scale battle to keep the critters with whom they share their yard, out of their trash cans. Regular trash cans didn’t even slow down the raccoons who visited their home and their neighbor’s homes every single night. It’s not a great way to start the day–walking out the door dressed up nicely for work, only to find trash strewn all across the driveway.

Raccoon Eating From Backyard Bird Feeder


I had two trash cans with locking handles that I was no longer using since the company that picks up my trash provided a super large can. They were still in excellent condition and they worked great for keeping out the raccoons, but recently the issue has been the squirrels! The squirrels that frequent their yard have literally chewed right through the lids in multiple places My son opened a can one day to find a surprised squirrel staring up at him. lol


The squirrels also chewed holes through another raccoon-proof style can my son was using that came with lids that screwed on. If it’s not the raccoons, it’s the squirrels! Argggh! We were talking about this issue a few days ago after I awoke to find trash pulled out and strewn across the driveway. My dil mentioned that their neighbor next door had purchased metal trash cans and that seemed to work.


Yesterday, on my way back after running an errand, I picked up two galvanized steel cans from the local Ace Hardware. The lids fit down tightly onto the cans so I’m hoping they will be raccoon-proof. They definitely should be squirrel proof, or at least that has been the neighbor’s experience. If the raccoons return and are able to get the lids off, or if the lids loosen with use over time, I found some cool-looking locking straps online here: Trash Can Locks. Last night was their first night in use. My dil put a bag with chicken pieces inside one of the cans as a test and so far, so good!


I love the retro style of these cans; I even like how they sound when you open and close them. I actually have one like this in my garage near my potting bench, but never thought of it as the solution for the squirrels and raccoons until my dil mentioned it seemed to be working for the neighbors. It will be so ironic if this old-school trash can turns out to be the solution to this multi-year, never-ending battle to keep the raccoons and squirrels out of the garbage!


Have you ever had this issue and if so, how did you overcome it? Would love to hear what you’ve tried and what worked. I’m hoping these steel cans will be the solution but I would love your suggestions and what you have found works to keep the critters out.

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  1. Gayle Kesinger says

    We have lots of raccoons and squirrels in my neighborhood, but nothing as aggressive as the ones you are talking about! Maybe we just have more available food around because pet owners leave food for the feral cats which is a problem. I hope those latches work. Low tech but effective!!

  2. SharonFromMichigan says

    I remember my parents having the raccoon issues & my Dad used bungee cords over the metal lids from one handle on the can to the other. Those worked the best, but sometimes you could hear the clatter of the metal lid against the metal can when they were out there trying to figure out how to open the cans! LOL I do remember the metal cans getting beaten up by the garbage collection workers, but that’s better than picking up garbage all over the driveway and lawn.

    • I suggested bungee cords to my son. I hope he doesn’t have to use them, but that may be the only way to keep them out. Yeah, I was thinking these will have dents galore in no time, I’m sure. They are so pretty right now, well as pretty as a steel garbage can, can be. lol

  3. In Boulder we have to keep our trash cans inside the garage…Bears! We do not actually see many of them, but being in the foothills, if they could find food in cans they would take up residence in every neighborhood. We have a squirrel feeder we put peanuts in every day which is also shared by the bluebirds. Multiple bird feeders that the raccoons visit too. Love those retro trash cans, they are much cuter than the big ugly brown ones the trash company gives us.

    • Wow! Never thought about how you deal with bears! That would def be a challenge! How do the sanitation folks pick up your trash, do they go inside the garage? I know, I like the look of them. I’m sure they’ll get beat up over time.

      • We take them to the curb and the truck lifts them up by special handles. No one even gets out of the truck. So different from when we were growing up and the trash collectors got out at every house. Makes their job so much easier. They pick up the recycling bin the same way. The squirrels and raccoons do not tear up anything here, fortunately.

  4. Watch this (& several others by Mark Rober) with your grandsons for guaranteed entertainment:
    Those squirrels are tenacious & the raccoons can be vicious! Two years ago squirrels completely tore apart 2 of my chair cushions to take the filling for their nest! On a much more somber note, neighbors had been discussing whom to call to remove a family of ravenous raccoons, but before the trapper came, the mama raccoon killed our neighbor’s beautiful Akita! The 2 babies were attempting to get into the trash, when Caesar ran over barking, mama pounced on him, puncturing his jugular before anyone could get near him..
    We all learned that raccoons must be removed from any yard where kids or pets play, to be sure!

    • That was delightful to watch! Thanks.

    • I’ve watched that with my son a few years back and it is funny! I need to show it to my grandsons, they would love it. Thanks for the link, MerriJo. That is so sad about the dog, that’s horrible! 🙁

  5. S. Celia Davis says

    Metal cans with tight lids, secured by metal handle which locks lid when raised…..from Tractor Supply, used for years, NEVER had a problem with our many raccoons or squirrels!

    • Celia, what size is your can? The only ones I can find online at Tractor Supply with the handle that raises and locks are very small 6-gallon sizes. They do have the kind I just purchased (at Ace) that are 31 gallons, but those don’t have a handle that you can raise up…just the normal metal handle on the lid. If you can send me a link to the one you have, that would be great!

  6. Kathleen says

    I agree with MerriJo. Removing raccoons by trapping them is the only way to ensure safety for pets and people. I would also have squirrels removed,too, if they are a persistent problem because they can bite when surprised as happened to Susan’s son. If that were to occur, it’s possible for squirrels to be rabid and a knowledgeable doctor might recommend that he endure the series of rabies shots to avoid the disease. Trapping avoids all dangers and keeps everyone safe, animals and people.

  7. Great idea! The cans remind me of Oscar the grouch’s house on Sesame Street.

  8. Could they keep their cans in the garage?

    • Unfortunately, they can’t because it’s a really small garage–barely holds two cars. This house was built in the 1920s so the garage is really small, it may have been an addition at some point.

  9. Our metal cans were no problem for the racoons. They would jump onto the lids, pull the cans over, the lids would pop off in the process and the garbage would be all over. They always waited until about ten minutes after we were in bed at night. Like clock work, as soon as we turned off the lights, we would hear the cans crashing over. One night I saw the babies lined up and mom showing them how to do it. We discovered if we left the lids on loosely, they would pull them off, climb into the can, take what they wanted, and not spread the garbage around. So that was our solution until rabies desimated the population. Good Luck- my Dad always said, ‘these are professional racoons. They know what they’re doing!’

  10. Horse people have known about and used these metal cans for years to store grain. We have 6 of them in our feed room to store the various types of grain we feed the horses on our horse farm. They are very effective at keeping the mice and rats out of the grain so I’m sure your son and daughter-in-law will not have any more problems with the raccoons or squirrels raiding the garbage cans as long as the lids fit tightly and are always put on securely. If the cans/lids become dented or warped where the lids don’t fit snug anymore, I could see a raccoon tipping the can and being able to use the handle to remove the lid. Those buggers are smart and they have pretty good hand dexterity!

  11. Linda Gardepe says

    We had raccoons in our neighbor hood and they were using our decks as their latrines! After some research, we discovered that this is what raccoons can do. They find a spot to poop and then continue to use it. My neighbor had a pile about 6 inches tall!! Their feces can be toxic to humans and is just disgusting. They came because another neighbor left their garage open with cat food available! finally the only way we got rid of our raccoon problem was the use of a trapper. We caught 7 and since that neighbor moved, no more raccoons!

  12. Maureen E. says

    My suggestions will be a bit different. We have squirrels and raccoons in our neighborhood, too, but we never have trouble with them getting into our trash. For one thing, we keep our big trash can inside the garage unless it is garbage day. For another, before my husband sets the trash can out for the garbage pick-up, he bags all the trash in one of those super-heavy, black yard trash bags so the odors from any food inside are not easy to detect.

    Finally–and this is the biggest deterrent–we have a deep freezer in our garage, and every time I open a package of meat, fish, or anything else that has a strong odor; and every time I cut up sweet-smelling fruit (such as watermelon and canteloupe), I put the empty package or the rinds inside a plastic grocery-store bag and set it in the deep freeze. That keeps it out of the garbage can where odors can build up, especially when it is hot (as it is here in Florida), and the freezing also removes the odors.

    Just before my husband puts the trash out for pick up, he takes whatever bags of trash are in the freezer and puts them in one of those yard bags, then puts that inside the big garbage can that he sets out for pick-up. Our big trash can is plastic; it’s old and worn out; and we’ve never had an animal break into it.

    I think the key is just not leaving things out that have odors and will naturally attract animals.

  13. Sandra D, Jol_Il says

    That’s super sad about the Akita dog being killed. I had an opossum that shredded leaves and plastic bags, then proceeded to stuff them around my car battery. I guess it would lay on the felt cover my battery has. I was driving in March 2020 when a guy kept honking at me so I pulled over and cracked my window. He yelled at me that my car was on fire. Little bugger must have bit into something that caught stuff on fire. The officer couldn’t open my hood cause it melted that cable. The firemen bent my hood in half with the largest crowbar I’ve ever seen and when they started the hose….out came the arsonist and it fled the scene. Had to get a new car and I was so mad because I only had two payments left. I don’t have a garage so my car sits out and we’ve lived here over 40 years and fed the birds. Never had this happen before. So I quit feeding the birds except Thistle and nectar for hummingbirds. That fall I put out a trail camera (under $ 60 on Amazon at the time) because I seen Marigold seeds on the battery felt and the felt under the hood was being torn off. First night I seen 2 raccoons go under my car and their little legs would disappear up into the hood area. About an hour later they would come down. What they did inside there is beyond me but the opossum that came by didn’t go in it. I rubbed cayenne pepper into the felt under my hood and on the battery. I didn’t see them anymore but I told the car mechanic to make sure whoever changes my oil isn’t allergic to pepper. I’ve seen videos where squirrels destroy a car by chewing on all the wiring because the plastic insulation on wire is now made with soy. I also have skunks but they never got into my car, just had to repair my shed I didn’t know had a hole in it until 5 little skunks came out of it one night. Cute as buttons but they also carry rabies. The squirrel hasn’t been too much trouble and I used to have field mice chewing everything they could in the shed and garage but I have 5 feral cats I care for so they stopped that and yes, my vet fixed them. I fixed up bedding for the cats in the shed in the fall and winter. There’s a field behind our house and I think people dump their cats there but I have my limit and can’t care for any more. I used galvanized trash cans when I fed the birds and nothing ever got into them but they had plenty of Nut and Fruit seed mix to feast on. My friend used to feed the birds & squirrels until one summer they went on vacation and the squirrels were chewing their back door “where the food usually came from” so they quit feeding birds too. I miss the cardinals, chickadees, woodpecker, etc but I can’t afford another car fire.

  14. We have had problems with squirrels and raccoons. They are so smart and have been able to get into cans, open locks, chew through bungee cords
    Out of desperation I pored Clorox around the cans and sprayed some on the lids. I know, sounds crazy. But oddly it works. I’ve been doing this for years. I now just pour it around the cans on the ground. I know this is not something that everyone can do, but it works for us and we live in a rural wooded area.

  15. We have lots of raccoons and squirrels in my neighborhood too. The raccoons dig holes in my flower beds, those twits! Oh, and oh the squirrels, hit the birdfeeder like they are starving! NOT!!! They are big, fat and happy! No garbage problems at all. I can see why your metal cans might help you out!

    Have a great day!

  16. We’ve had years of raccoons traveling through our yard. They couldn’t get into our trash/yard waste/recycle totes because that was stored in our garage. However, the raccoons were pooping in our yard, which is dangerous to humans. Finally, we resorted to hiring a wildlife removal service, insured and licensed for live removal. The first year they took 18 raccoons that traveled from the neighborhood through our yard . More years, more raccoons but not so many. The wildlife removal man said it was likely that neighbors were feeding birds and squirrels, and leaving pet food outdoors, besides trash cans. The service takes the raccoons far, far away to an authorized wildlife area where they cannot be a nuisance to people. Also, be aware that raccoons can find their way into homes, including attics and make their home inside your home.

  17. We have big heavy plastic rolling carts provided by the city for our trash and compost/food scraps, and so far, no animal problems. But I did use a small metal can with a super tight lid for the bird food supply I like to keep out by the feeders. We seem to do pretty well with the feeders that close with the weight of a squirrel, but squirrels are pretty amazing critters – I’m sure they’ll figure something out! 🙂 Hope the metal cans work for your family!

  18. I was in a rural area of NY for 2 years during the pandemic to stay with my elderly dad. How many times I would get up at 6AM, go to the window first thing, and down by the road the garbage can was on its side, garbage bags strewn around, sometimes dragged across the road into the woods so Mr. Bear could eat quietly – he seemed to like the bacon wrapper and ice cream carton a lot. Since they have to use the giant can with the lid that just flips up, there isn’t really a way to secure it. The garbage truck comes once a week, so it can’t be secured anyway because the truck just picks it up automated and dumps it. My brother lives 5 miles up the road, and the bears have even come up on his deck, which is very high, when his wife left the garbage bag out there. My brother has had to hoist his bags with a rope over a high tree branch. My dad’s neighbor heard them during the night and went out and fired a shot over the bear’s head down below, but it just looked up and kept eating, LOL! So what to do? I suggested bleach. So my brother and I both started spraying our bags inside generously with Clorox Clean Up, especially if there were bones, seal tightly, and it seemed to help because it rarely happened, and I would see the neighbor’s garbage raided when ours was not. I’m now back in Florida, and my dad wasn’t following the “rules” and I was just told his garbage was turned over again, so maybe the bleach makes it taste bad. As far as racoons or squirrels, no problems with them at all with garbage up there, although the squirrels ate through a place in my brother’s roof and my nephew woke up to a squirrel in his bedroom! In FL we have gators, but they don’t turn over the garbage, lol!

  19. Regality3 says

    Interesting solution re the metal cans. “New and Improved” is rarely both and most of the time it just means “Less User Friendly” and “It Will Cost You More for Less”. Rant over.

    My garbage company requires that I use their specific (supplied) type of heavy duty plastic can which works with their automated truck system, so the metal cans wouldn’t be allowed here. There is an abundance of both squirrels (which I love) and raccoons (which I hate with an unmitigated passion) in this area, but they’ve never gotten into the garbage. I wonder why.

  20. As previously mentioned, my family had full success using a metal garbage can and a bungee cord to secure top lid through the handles. Easy for us to use but raccoons couldn’t release it. Good luck to your family. Those critters are cute but destructive!

  21. I’m glad the metal cans are working out for your family Susan. I don’t know how much they are out in the evenings, but please tell the children to be safe. A cornered coon is not good. Better if they can get them trapped and relocated. Squirrels can be very destructive too as well as dangerous, they can chew wires to your vehicles, etc…, and you saw how they chewed through the trash can lids…they will chew on anything! Trap and relocate if possible is the best option for those in the burbs. Out in the country on farms, they are shot. Sad, but they will ruin things on the farm….hay and straw, equipment, etc…

  22. My husband finally started to win the garbage can vs raccoon wars after he retired. Currently he built a three sided enclosure against our garage that he cut to the height and width of the cans from dog eared wooden fence sections. The opposite side from the garage is a locking panel that swings open. On top he has an elaborate series of hinged 2 x 4 boards that rest firmly on the lids of the cans and lock in place with a metal slider. It has held them off for four years now.

  23. Susan, they can fill a spray bottle with half water and half ammonia. Just spray the cans when they put them out and it will keep the critters away.

  24. Susanne C says

    Live in rural town in northern Canada – squirrels, raccoons and bears – oh my! We are obliged to use large city pails that get picked up by special trucks. My husband doesn’t worry too much about recyclables, but the regular garbage cans get two bungee cords. He only takes the cords off early in the morning of pick-up. One time, a bear dragged one pail three houses away into their backyard…when we got it back their were giant teeth marks! We rise early at 6:00 a.m. and only then take the cords away…we’ve had to pick up grandchildrens’ diapers etc. – so we pay attention.

  25. While I have nothing new to contribute, repeating the tried and true is another vote for keeping smelly trash (food scraps) in the freezer til garbage day and keeping cans inside if possible. Doesn’t sound like that is possible, but would look for a way, somehow, someway! If only long enuf to break the usual raiding habits of the racoons. Good luck!

  26. franki parde says

    Endless…*sigh* However, our “problem now” are deer…when there are 17 deer in less than 7 miles…it becomes hazardous…for them & us… unfortunately, neighbors feed them…”whatcha gonna do”…franki

  27. Susan,
    My problem was with a neighbor who continuously fed the squirrels by throwing out large bags of peanuts in his yard and since he had nothing in his yard but grass, they would come into my yard to bury these peanuts in my pots, digging out the flowers I planted or knocking over pots and then I had to clean up dirt and mud in my little patio. They also dug in my yard to bury them as I have no grass and my small little yard is one huge flower bed. They would be looking in my Den window at me! So after 5 years of him promising to stop but lying right to my face, i threatened legal action against him. I would petition our Twp. to enact an ordinance like most municipalities have in our area, I also spoke to our insurance agent who said that any damage incured if they got into my attic would be his fault as he was blatantly feeding them and he would be held responsible. 2 other neighbors joined in with me and now he has finally stopped and I have no more Squirrels destroying my property!! Good lick with this situation..I tried everything before this from sprays, moth balls, forks and knives in my pots, high frequency sound emitting machines, etc. to no avail!

  28. Mary Lou says

    Northeastern Ohio has been invaded by bears in recent years. Pray they don’t make it to where your son lives! We have tons of squirrels and occasionally raccoons want to nest under our deck and porch but since we have hickory and oak trees we have plenty of nuts and acorns and wild things for them to eat and I think that is what keeps them out of the garbage.

  29. My family also had a raccoon, squirrel and seagull problem with our trash cans. Someone suggested spraying ammonia in the garbage and can. I haven’t had a problem since. Please be careful when spraying. Ammonia is very powerful!!! I also spray ammonia around the curb by my mailbox and flowers to keep neighbors’ dogs from lifting their leg and spraying.

  30. Kathleen says

    No raccoons here, but do have multiple ground squirrels. They do a lot of damage to the pastures with their holes. Have never had any get into garbage cans. We keep grain in the metal cans and never a problem, they just come and eat what is put in the bins for the sheep! One thing about the metal can lids is they are not rain proof. I discovered this after a rain and found a pool of water inside the can and contents. The lid handle has a slight opening on each side that let in the rain water. I’ve had rats chew up plastic bins. I also have a cat that makes it his business to kill squirrels. He’s quite good at it. Hope the cans solve your son’s raccoon problem!

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