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What can I do to bare (painted) wall behind a trash can to protect it from, well, trash?! Would like it to be washable, obviously, and only semi-permanent as we will not live in this house forever and I don't want it to look too tacky. I considered tile, but that is too permanent. Also considered sheet metal, but I thought that might look too weird.

Suggestions?

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    How about not throwing trash all over and putting it inside the can? I don't see the problem here. – Carl Witthoft Apr 27 '17 at 15:55
  • Very funny. Obviously we're not throwing trash at the wall. But it does get splashed once in a while with food or whatever as it gets tossed in the trash. You mean to tell me the only dirty thing in your kitchen is neatly contained inside the plastic trash bag?? – TheSmallestOne Apr 27 '17 at 22:21
  • A high quality gloss paint should be perfectly suitable for that wall. Why do you need more, do you expect impact damage as well as splashes? – Jimmy Fix-it Apr 28 '17 at 0:48
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I'd consider fiber-reinforced plastic panels (FRP or "milkhouse panels" - example) attached with hook-and-loop tape. Both are available at your nearest home improvement store. It would be very tough and could be easily removed.

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    Big upvote. Or for that matter any of the PVC or polycarb translucent roofing panels such as Tuftex. i love that stuff. – Harper Apr 27 '17 at 14:49
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Putting some form of plastic there, as suggested in the other answers, is a great idea, but there is an even simpler solution. Mask off a neat rectangular area behind the can and paint it with something washable. Many paints are washable. You can even use a clear "plastic" finish (endless varieties available). If anything gets on it, it can be easily wiped or washed off. When you leave, it can be painted over.

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For a similar purpose I used clear plastic carpet runner material which I stuck to the wall with carpet tape.

The carpet tape was stuck on top of a wall that was covered with wall paper so it is not too hard to recover the wall by replacing the wall paper.

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