Raccoons? What raccoons? There couldn't be a single one attacking a single trash can in all of Beltwayland if the remedies I've received in the last few days all work.
The submitters swear they do. Readers who called and wrote to describe Ways to Keep Raccoons From Invading the Garbage all say they've tried their methods, and they never fail.
You might detect a mild air of skepticism from this corner. It's born of months of struggle around my own garbage pails -- and fond memories of anti-raccoon ideas that sounded wonderful at the time, but finished about as strongly as the horses on which I bet.
Still, in the spirit of public service, I present the following collection. Names of submitters are included after each idea so you'll know who to blame.
AMMONIA: By far the most popular suggestion. The normal off-the-shelf variety from the grocery is fine. Splatter liberally around the garbage can, and/or in it, and rediscover the pleasures of not waking up to the sound of the pail falling in the driveway at 4:45 a.m. Ammonia adherents include Ron White of Takoma Park, Mrs. W. F. Finner of Fairfax, Charles Sangaline of Springfield, Clare Metzger of Waterford, Va., Selma Swartz of Bethesda, Mary Myat of Silver Spring, Sandra Alcorn of Alexandria, Yvonne Chrapaty of Silver Spring, Maxwell Howard of Rockville, Don Knapp of Bethesda, Evelyn Hill of She-Didn't-Say-Where, Sharon Rotondo of Bolling Air Force Base and Harriet Males of Bethesda.
PEPPER: Again, simply sprinkle liberally. Use cayenne, says Carole Humphreys of The Plains, Va. Crushed black, counsels Ken Huff of Alexandria.
MORE MECHANICAL SOLUTIONS: Tie two pieces of elastic across the can's lid in the shape of an X, says Bruce Reynolds of McLean. No, no, use a rubber luggage holder, says Tracy Truman of Chevy Chase. Buy a container at Hechinger's with sliding doors made of metal, advises Anna Mae Farrell of University Park. Hey, all you need is a lid clamp -- get 'em from any mail-order house, says Marilynn Mansfield of Potomac.
LESS MECHANICAL SOLUTIONS: Put an old tire on top of the lid, says Patricia Nessul of Glen Echo Heights. A brick is better, says Fran Young of Kensington. Two bricks, tied to the handle, suggests Betsy Freitag of Cheverly. Leave food scraps around, votes Lynn Wilson of Gaithersburg. He'll go for them rather than for the pail. Or how about the Nancy Bowen method? Used disposable diapers never fail, she reports from Kensington.
WHY GO TO ALL THE TROUBLE DEPT.: Just leave an inch of air between the lid and the garbage, says Barbara Armiger of Wheaton. A vacuum seal will be created, and the raccoon won't be able to open the can. Charles Maitland of McLean proposes freezing your garbage and putting it out just a few minutes before the trash pickup. Jean Davis of Bethesda suggests springing for a two-pound, $3 bag of kitty litter impregnated with camphor. A little goes a long way, she says.
MOST UNUSUAL IDEA: Gloria Southern of West Springfield suggests "el cheapo dog food." Leave it near the trash can, but not right next to it. They'll flock to the el cheapo rather than turning over the can and making an el messo.