How does junk removal work?

Downsizing? Get some assistance

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large dumpster on the sidewalk in front of a home

Many homeowners today are facing a clutter crisis. Too much stuff can be detrimental not only to your wallet but also to your mental health. In fact, in a 2019 study conducted by Mercari, an online marketplace, 50% of Americans said they feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in their homes. The study also found that the average American household has 42 items no longer in use.

Keeping items you don’t need or use costs money, and 1 in 5 Americans are paying rent for a self-storage unit, according to a survey by StorageCafe. Junk removal services can be a great way to clear out your home and get rid of unwanted items once and for all. These companies offer a range of services to fit your needs and budget, like full-service junk removal and self-service dumpster rentals.

Key insights

Junk removal fees are generally based on the volume of items. Typically, charges range from $100 to $600.

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A large portion of junk may be donated or recycled, depending on the company.

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Obtain at least three on-site quotes from different companies before hiring. Ask if the company offers any discounts.

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Make sure the junk removal company is both licensed and insured.

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What is junk removal?

Junk removal is a specialty service for both residential and commercial customers. A junk removal company can haul your unwanted items off for you and sort through them to see what can be recycled, donated or taken to the landfill.

Typically, these service providers charge a price per volume, or the portion of the truck taken up by your items (e.g., prices for one-fourth, one-half).

Junk removal is a good idea before moving — the company may be able to deliver items to multiple places for you, potentially saving you trips to your local nonprofit or recycling center. You also won’t have to worry about the hassle of loading things up and moving them yourself.

You might consider hiring a junk removal company to help clean out a property you’ve inherited from a family member. Sifting through personal and household belongings can be overwhelming. Once you’ve sold and/or collected those items you don’t plan to keep, if it’s affordable, you may wish to consider hiring a junk removal company to get rid of the rest.

What services do junk removal companies generally offer?

Junk removal companies sometimes offer other services, like dumpster rentals or cleanups. You can schedule a free estimate, during which the company will assess your needs and let you know about any services that fit those needs. These may include the following:

  • Full-service junk removal/truck hauling: If you choose full-service junk removal, the company will haul away most everything, including refrigerators and televisions, for a fee. You won’t be required to do any heavy lifting, but you will need to tell the team what stays and goes. Full-service removal is ideal when you need a space cleared out quickly (e.g., prior to a cross-country move). It may also work well for smaller jobs, like hauling away large items that take up garage space.
  • Self-service dumpster rental: Not all junk removal companies offer dumpster rentals. However, this could be a good option if you have a larger project (like a home renovation) and sort through items at your own pace. The company will drop off a dumpster for you to fill up, then will pick it up a few days later. Fees may vary based on the size and/or volume of the dumpster.
  • Cleanup services: Junk removal companies can help you clean up after a major home renovation and remove construction debris. They may also offer cleanup services after an emergency or disaster (e.g., fire or flood damage).
  • Donation pickup: If you have several items that you want to donate to charity, a junk removal company may be able to deliver those for you and give you a tax deduction receipt. (Make sure you know what kind of donations are accepted for any given organization.)

What items will a junk removal company handle?

Junk removal companies will take almost any item off your hands as long as it's not a hazardous chemical. You can generally find a list of accepted items on the company’s website.

Commonly accepted items:

  • Clothing
  • Furniture, mattresses and box springs
  • Large and small appliances, like washers, dryers and water heaters
  • Air conditioners
  • Yard waste
  • Grills
  • Electronics (computers, smartphones, tablets, gaming systems)
  • Power tools
  • Exercise equipment, trampolines, pool tables or playsets
  • Televisions
  • Pianos
  • Bikes
  • Storage sheds
  • Boxes and other packing materials
  • Carpet or area rugs

» DECLUTTERING FOR A MOVE? Best moving companies

Which items won’t a junk removal company take?

Junk removal companies may not accept potentially dangerous materials. However, you can still get rid of these items by contacting your local household hazardous waste disposal facility. You can usually find a list of nearby facilities on your state or local government’s website. The following are typically prohibited:

  • Asbestos
  • Toxic or hazardous waste, like antifreeze or insecticides
  • Oils
  • Open cans of paint and paint thinner (some companies may accept and dispose of these properly — it’s a good idea to check in advance)

How to choose a junk removal company

It’s important to do your research before hiring a junk removal company. Read online reviews for local companies and pay close attention to potential red flags. For example, did the company charge an additional fee that wasn’t disclosed in the quote? Is there a pattern of complaints regarding the service?

Nick Friedman, co-founder and owner of College HUNKS Hauling Junk & Moving, told us in an email about a few other red flags to consider, like “unclear pricing, lack of employee background checks and lack of professionalism.” Friedman also recommends asking for references from past clients to “gauge the company’s reputation and reliability.”

In addition to reading online reviews, ask the company about its environmental practices. Does it recycle or donate most items? Friedman adds that “reputable companies are committed to sustainable practices.”

Once you’ve narrowed down your search, request an onsite quote from at least three companies. Be sure to ask if there are any potential fees you may have to pay that are not included in the quote.

What does junk removal cost?

Friedman told us costs “can vary widely based on several factors, including the volume of items to be removed, the type of items being removed, accessibility and geographical location.” To get the most accurate cost estimate, try to schedule an on-site quote before hiring a particular company. Some companies may also provide quotes online or over the phone.

Be sure to point out every item in your space that you plan to have hauled away — the size and weight of the items may factor into the price as well.

Depending on the size of the job, you can expect to pay between $100 to $600 for full-service junk removal services.

Friedman noted that if you only have a few small items, like small appliances or a loveseat, the price could be less than $100. If you have a large number of items, however (think eight standard-size refrigerators or an 8-foot-by-8-foot deconstructed storage shed, for example), the costs will vary by region, though you can expect between $500 and $600.

How to prepare for junk removal

Once you’ve decided to hire a company, set some time in your calendar to tackle certain areas in your home during that time frame. Go through drawers and cabinets to separate the items you want to keep from those you want hauled away.

A short checklist:

  1. Schedule time in advance to sort through different areas of your home, such as the living room or the kitchen.
  2. Separate items you want removed into bags or boxes. Label heavy items with a note.
  3. Create an inventory of all items that should be removed and the area where they are located.

Label a moving box or a trash bag for items that will be taken away and pile them up together in one place. You can tag larger items, like heavy furniture or televisions, with a note to haul them away. If you have items in multiple rooms, it may be helpful to keep a checklist of those items separated by room or area so you won’t miss any on removal day. Taking the time to make these decisions in advance will help you streamline the junk removal process.

Where are you moving to?


Once you’ve cleared out your stuff and had it hauled off, how do you prevent junk from reaccumulating?

Schedule periodic times to declutter your home to prevent belongings from piling back up again, whether that’s five minutes a day or an hour once a month. Keep a donation box available where you can place items you don’t need anymore. When the box is full, drop it off at a local nonprofit that accepts item donations.

Do people often use junk removal companies when moving?

Yes, junk removal services are especially popular before a big move. You may consider using these services if you plan to downsize for your new place.

Are there any hidden charges when hiring a junk removal company?

There shouldn’t be any additional charges as long as you receive an accurate on-site quote from the company. You may choose to tip the junk haulers on removal day, but it isn’t required.

How can you save money on junk removal services?

You could save money on junk removal by getting rid of a few large items yourself that would take up a substantial amount of space in the truck. You can schedule a free donation pickup with a nonprofit that offers these services or post these items for free in a local group.

Another way to save is to rent a dumpster and dispose of the items yourself. Also ask the company if any discounts are available.

What do junk removal companies do with your stuff once they pick it up?

Some junk removal companies, like 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, say they try to either donate or recycle your stuff so otherwise useful items can stay out of landfills. However, anything that can’t be reused will have to be discarded ultimately. You can check with your junk removal company for its standard practices.

Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. PR Newswire, “Study Reveals Clutter Epidemic Cause: ‘Low Sell-Esteem.’” Accessed March 22, 2024.
  2. 1-800-Got-Junk, “What We Take.” Accessed March 22, 2024.
  3. 1-800-Got-Junk, “What We Do.” Accessed March 22, 2024.
  4. 1-800-Got-Junk, “Pre and post-renovation cleaning service.” Accessed March 22, 2024.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Building & Facilities Damage.” Accessed March 22, 2024.
  6. College HUNKS Hauling Junk & Moving, “Donation Pickup & Delivery Services.” Accessed March 22, 2024.
  7. College HUNKS Hauling Junk & Moving, “How Do I Prepare for a Junk Removal Service?” Accessed March 22, 2024.
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