Compactors 101

"Use & Care Guide: Whirlpool, Trasher Masher Compactor." Whirlpool Corporation, 1984.

“Use & Care Guide: Whirlpool, Trasher Masher Compactor.” Whirlpool Corporation, 1984.

The trash compactor is a rectangular appliance designed to fit seamlessly as part of a modular cabinet system for a kitchen. According to a review in the October 12, 1970 issue of Time  a compactor “looks like a kissing cousin to a small filing cabinet.”

Trash compactors compress trash with a ram on jack screws. This ram descends vertically to crush household waste into compact, dense masses of easily disposable refuse. Using only a standard 117-volt outlet in most cases, its 1/3 to ½ horsepower motor would compact the waste. Most advertisements estimated that three to five ordinary bags of garbage could fit into one compacted bag, making taking the trash out a once-weekly chore.


  •  Load the pullout compactor drawer with “cartons, glass bottles, cans, bones, scraps, paper, plastics – all the disposable clutter.”
  • After closing the drawer, insert a safety key, necessary for operation.
  • Now press the power button, starting a 60 second cycle of compression -decreasing in time as design improved- during which the door is locked closed.
  • (Either at the end of the cycle, or whenever the door to the compactor is closed, most models have an automated aerosolized deodorant spray activate.)
  • Repeat until the compactor is full of compressed trash.
  • Seal off the specialized heavy-duty paper bag lined with plastic, and take it out to the curb for your regularly scheduled municipal pick-up.
Sheldon M. Gallager, “Handy New Compactors Put the Squeeze on Trash,” Popular Mechanics, June 1972.

Detail. Sheldon M. Gallager, “Handy New Compactors Put the Squeeze on Trash,” Popular Mechanics, June 1972.

 Frank A Parker and Thomas L. Wright patented the first domestic trash compactor in 1957. Despite this early start, the first commercially available model was Whirlpool Corporation’s Trash Masher of 1969. By mid 1971, five other brands had come out with their own compactors. This prompted Klaus Paradies, Vice President of the American Institute of Kitchen Dealers, to optimistically call the trash compactor “the biggest hit of the decade so far.”

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