A few years back GeekDad’s Anthony Karcz reviewed a Simplehuman touch-less garbage can. At the time, he said “We’re not at the point yet where I can bark out orders at my kitchen and it will open lids,” but noted that Simplehuman was working on it. They definitely were, and when the company asked if I’d be interested in trying one out, I jumped at the opportunity. Here’s what the last month or so with the Simplehuman Voice + Motion Rectangular Sensor Can has been like.
I’m Pretty Sure This Is the Ultimate Kitchen Garbage Can
I’ve had a decade of using touch-less, motion sensor garbage cans in the kitchen, but nothing I’ve owned can hold a candle to the Simplehuman Voice + Motion Rectangular Sensor Can.
It looks like a high-quality product, with perfect fit and finish. No rough edges or misaligned pieces. I went with the brushed stainless steel option to match our appliances, but Simplehuman also offers it in rose gold, dark bronze, white, and black stainless steel. The surfaces are covered with a nano-silver coating that resists fingerprints and prevent microbes from reproducing.
The motion sensor works well, as you would expect. Wave anywhere near the front of the can and the lid opens, in near silence and smoothly. But what makes this one stand apart is also responds to voice command.
That’s it. It’s not integrated with Alexa or Siri, so you don’t need to pair it with a smart speaker or yell into your phone. There’s no account to sign up for. Just say “open can” and it opens immediately. Simple and ideal for those moments when your hands are full and you don’t feel like waving a foot around trying to get a motion sensor’s attention.
My kids put considerable effort into trying to trick it, but no one was able to beat the garbage can. The key is that specific command phrase. “Can open” won’t do it, so there’s no worry about the garbage can spontaneously opening when you ask which drawer the can opener is in. You need to be fairly close for the microphone to pick up (it seems to be about eight feet at normal speaking volume), minimizing the chance someone on a nearby TV yelling “open can” is going to trigger it. In nearly a month, I’ve yet to see it respond to a phantom voice command.
Refills and Battery Life
Simplehuman includes a 10-pack sampler of its Q-size (50-65L) garbage bags. These are probably the best kitchen garbage bags I’ve ever used. They’re thick, durable, double-seamed, and they hold a ton of trash. The garbage can is designed for them, including a dispenser that holds a package of refills so they’re always ready to go. They’re also relatively expensive, with a 20-pack going for about $19.
I tried the cheap kitchen garbage bags we usually pick up at Costco and they worked just fine with the Simplehuman can. They fit pretty snugly, don’t hold as much and are lot flimsier, but if you want to keep operating costs down they’re a fraction of the price. The point is even though Simplehuman would love you to use its own refill bags, you’re not locked into it.
In terms of battery life, I don’t have the full picture yet. What I can say is that the garbage can has been going for nearly a month on Amazon Basics rechargeable batteries with no sign of slowing down. That includes the “wow” factor for the first day when everyone was trying it out, and it probably did a week’s worth of opening and closing in a matter of hours.
Fixes Everything I Hated About Our Old Touch-less Garbage Can
We’ve had several touch-less garbage cans in the kitchen over the past decade. They’re convenient and the latest improved over the first, but it still had a number of issues that really bugged me. Chief among my complaints:
- It was pretty much the only device in my house that used C-Cell batteries.
- Changing the batteries required removing the lid (they were housed inside it), and on occasion the battery compartment would pop open and dump those C-Cells in the trash.
- The lid opening was significantly smaller than the can, and kids would often “miss” leading to garbage accumulating around the edge.
- Speaking of kids, the stainless steel finish was a magnet for fingerprints.
- If you moved too slowly, the lid would close as you were in the middle of scraping garbage, usually resulting in a mess.
- Removing and putting in a new garbage bag required removing the lid and finding somewhere to put it during the operation.
- The motor was loud.
This new Simplehuman garbage can eliminates every one of those complaints.
It uses AA batteries—and I have dozens of rechargeable on the go to draw from—and can be plugged into a power outlet if that’s handier. Changing the batteries is simple because they are housed in an easily accessible compartment on the back of the can. When the lid opens, it has virtually no lip so there’s a huge target. We’ve had zero garbage or drips around the edges, and the nano clear-coat is a marvel at resisting fingerprints. Whether you activate it by voice or motion, if the sensor detects continued motion in the area near the opening, it stays open until it detects the opening is clear. Removing garbage bags and installing new ones couldn’t be easier thanks to a hinged top and built-in bag dispenser. And the motor is quiet.
A Pretty Expensive Garbage Can, But I Think It’s Worth It
The garbage can Anthony reviewed was $150, but the latest model is even pricier: the version I tested goes for $200. Go for the Recycler model with dual compartments and that rises to $250. I’ve never paid anywhere near this much for a garbage can—even a stainless steel, motion-sensing can—but then again I’ve never used a garbage can that looks so nice, stays nice-looking, and works so flawlessly. I noticed you can also pick it up for substantially less on Amazon, with prices varying by color.
If you’re thinking of a kitchen garbage upgrade, this probably the best designed and “smartest” one on the market. After using it for nearly four weeks, there’s no way I’m going back to something more basic. Simplehuman also gives you 45 days to try it out so there’s no risk and covers it with a 5-year warranty giving you some assurance that your investment is going to last.
Disclosure: Simplehuman provided a sensor can for evaluation but had no input into this review.