These vintage trash compactors could perform amazing feats – and if you had one in the 70s & 80s, you were officially living the high life

Vintage trash compactors The built-in, undercounter appliances that made garbage no big deal

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We need vintage trash compactors to come back into style!

Back in the 70s and 80s, vintage trash compactors like these were one way to deal with America’s growing trash production, as pre-packaged convenience foods and other disposable items (like Dixie cups and paper plates) became ubiquitous.

While trash compactor popularity peaked during this era, the appliance failed to really take off as a kitchen necessity. (Let’s face it, those on a budget back in those days were probably saving up for a dishwasher — and who can blame them?!)

While you can still buy them today, you’re far less likely to see them in modern kitchens, particularly since more and more people have turned to recycling and composting.

It probably wouldn’t hurt the environment for trash compactors to make a comeback, though.

Trash compactors are a new item (1973)

By Carol Cheesman – Tipton County Tribune (Tipton, Indiana) May 18, 1973

The trash compactor, an instant hit on the market, is the newest in kitchen clean-up appliances.

It’s the first totally new major appliance performing a new function to come onto the market in nearly 30 years.

The trash compactor does precisely what it is intended to do — compacts the trash from an average family of four into one neat little package, weighing 25 to 30 lbs.

It squeezes refuse to about one-fourth of its original size — meaning that the neat little package can replace some four garbage cans of non-compacted trash. [Ed. note: emphasis mine and also 😱]

1970s retro kitchen appliances with dishwasher and trash compactor

Typical examples of what can be placed in a trash compactor include milk, cereal, and egg cartons; empty coffee and beverage cans; all types of glass jars and bottles; rags and large meat bones.

Each year the average person discards about 188 pounds of paper cartons, 250 metal cans, 135 jars, and bottles, plus other miscellaneous refuse.

Some experts even estimate that the yearly output of trash by most Americans comes to the startling figure of 1-1/4 tons, making for a growing nationwide problem and causing some ecologists to fear that we are burying ourselves in our own refuse.

Whether the trash compactor is the answer to ecological problems is still being debated.

The operation of a trash compactor is fairly simple. Electrical energy is converted to mechanical energy which reduces the volume of the trash. A large motor-driven ram does the actual compacting. Most trash compactors run on a normal 115 volt, 15-ampere circuit.

There are two basic types of trash compactors — drawer loaded and top loaded. You also have the choice of built-in and free-standing.

Kitchen with old trash compactor (1977)

Most feature a container into which plasticized paper bags are inserted to hold the compacted trash. The bags must be purchased either from the manufacturer or the retailer selling the appliance.

If you are considering a trash compactor look for a safety lock feature for protection. Ease of cleaning. is another feature to look for. Make sure that the compactor will accept normal cartons.

Odor control is important, too, because the trash will remain in the kitchen longer than does non-compacted trash. Manufacturers have devised various ways to counter this problem.

Prices vary from $175 to $235. Extra features are optional, of course.

ALSO SEE: Vintage toaster ovens: See how these small kitchen appliances changed over the years


Vintage 70s Tappan kitchen appliances, including the compactor

Vintage 1970s Tappan kitchen applliances


The Trash Masher by Whirlpool (1970)

In the beginning, God created man. And man promptly created trash.

Now, in 1970, Whirlpool has finally created a civilized way to get rid of it; the Trash Masher compactor. It fits under your kitchen counter or plugs in anywhere.

Whenever you have trash or garbage, simply toss it into the replaceable plastic-lined bag inside the drawer. You can even throw in bottles and cans.

Then shut the drawers and turn it on. It evens itself off in less than a minute, and you can lock it so kids can’t operate it.

The trash is compacted with o crushing force of 2,000 pounds and sprayed with a deodorant.

You get up to a week’s worth of trash in a neat little bag.

And when you finally take it out and seal it, you can put it outside overnight without a garbage can. Rain won’t soak through it. Your neighbor’s dog will be completely baffled. And your garbage man will love you.

The Trash Masher: A week’s worth of trash in a neat little bag.

The Trash Masher by Whirlpool (1970)


Woman using a vintage trash compactor from General Electric (1970s)

Woman using a 1970s kitchen trash compactor appliance


Just when everyone is coming out with their first trash compactor… (1971)

Whirlpool is coming out with its second.

In 1969, Whirlpool introduced the world’s first home trash compactor. Over the past two years, consumer acceptance of this new household appliance has just grown and grown and grown. Which isn’t terribly surprising, really. After all, it does make life a lot easier when you have an appliance right in your kitchen that compresses a week’s worth of trash into a neat little bag.

(For those of you who aren’t all that familiar with our Trash Masher compactor, here’s how it works: Every time you throw away trash, just open the drawer, drop the trash in the bag, close the drawer and push the button. In 60 seconds, your trash is compressed to one-fourth its original size — and it’s sprayed with a deodorizer.)

Anyway, it seems several other manufacturers are jumping on our bandwagon. However, during the past two years, we haven’t been sitting back, basking in our own success. Our engineers have been constantly at work on ways to improve our original Trash Masher compactor.

DON’T MISS: Vintage table mixers: See KitchenAid, Hamilton Beach, GE & more classic stand mixers

Thus, the 1972 Whirlpool Trash Masher compactor. Available in under-counter as well as freestanding models. With the major components throughout redesigned and retooled for better performance as well as simplified service. A sleek one-piece front drawer (with interchangeable panels). And storage space for our special tear-resistant bags is located right in the unit (on our freestanding model ).

Why buy an imitation of our original trash compactor from somebody else, when you can buy not only the original, but an improved version of the original from us.

Vintage Trash Masher trash compactor - 1971


Vintage trash compactors: Packaged by a Whirlpool Compactor. (1975)

Convenient storage compartment for extra bags. Automatic deodorizing spray system. Key-knob starts the Trash Masher compactor, stops it, and locks off the power. Tough disposable plastic-lined bags.

Whirlpool. We believe quality can be beautiful.

Vintage Whirlpool Trash Compactor (1975)


Retro KitchenAid Trash Compactor in a kitchen (1980s)

ALSO SEE: Vintage ConTact paper & Rubbermaid shelf liners: Easy ’70s home decor with adhesive vinyl

1980s Trash compactor - KitchenAid


The KitchenAid Trash Compactor. You’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. (1981)

Spend a week with the KitchenAid trash compactor, and you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.

It squeezes a week’s trash into one small load. Does away with over-flowing wastebaskets and smelly trash cans.

The KitchenAid compactor has an exclusive Litter Bin door on top that’s super convenient for quick throwaways. And a big trash drawer down below for wastebasket loads. Its exclusive Tilt-Away basket can be used with or without trash bags. And the exclusive activated charcoal filter removes odors.

A KitchenAid trash compactor has the same kind of built-in reliability and performance as KitchenAid dishwashers. Plus convenience feature that it’ll prove their worth many time a day.

To learn more, see your KitchenAid dealer or write for ou free point-by-point comparison.

We built our reputation on performance, not promises.

Vintage 80s trash compactor (1981)


How they worked: KitchenAid Trash Compactor diagram (1991)

Parts of the machine: Control panel, trash drawer, built-in storage compartment, tilt-away trash basket, built-in “litter bin” door, basket release handle, charcoal air filter with fan

Whirlpool trash compactor diagram (1991)

NOW SEE THIS: 22 great vintage kitchen ideas you don’t see much anymore

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Comments on this story

2 Responses

  1. Except, unless you only filled it with dry trash it would ooze sour garbage juice and get really smelly. Broken glass and jagged metal didn’t help as they would sometimes poke through the bag and when you’d take it out to toss it, it would leave a garbage juice puddle inside the compactor and a sticky trail all the way from the compactor to the curb, lol. Don’t let the “deodorizer” feature fool you either. It just smelled like stinky garbage that someone sprayed perfume on. Mildew and bacteria would soon colonize because they were impossible to clean properly and got really nasty fast. In the end my folks just ended up using theirs for clean dry trash only which was mainly light cardboard and plastic. Glass items, meat packages and anything wet or had food on it went into the regular trash can.

  2. Growing up, I never knew anyone who had a trash compactor. My understanding is that they are most useful if you live in an area without curbside trash collection and need to haul your trash to a municipal dump.

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