No More Smelly Compost – Quick Fixes For Odor-Free Composting


You’re contributing to a greener planet by turning kitchen scraps into garden gold, but there’s a hitch—your compost bin smells!

Composting is an awesome way to reduce waste and enrich your soil, yet sometimes it can get a bit… ripe. Don’t let odors deter you from this environmentally friendly practice. With some savvy know-how, I’ll show you how you can keep your compost bin fresh (earthy) and functional.

Let’s tackle that smelly compost bin and keep your green thumb up and your nose happy. Here are the reasons your compost is stinky.

Compost Bin Needs Cleaning

Keeping your compost bin in top shape means giving it a good scrub now and then.

If you let organic matter build-up, you’ll create the perfect storm for those anaerobic bacteria that love to stink up the place.

So, how often should you roll up your sleeves and get cleaning?

For outdoor bins, aim for a thorough cleanse after a finished batch, or every few months, or when you notice things getting a bit too pungent. Kitchen composters should be emptied outside and cleaned weekly.

Now, let’s talk about eco-friendly cleaning methods that won’t harm your garden:

  1. Empty your compost bin completely, setting aside any un-composted material.
  2. Use a garden hose to rinse out leftover debris. A high-pressure nozzle works wonders here.
  3. Grab a stiff-bristled brush and warm water mixed with eco-friendly dish soap for stubborn spots.
  4. Give the inside of the bin a good scrubbing, making sure to reach into all the nooks and crannies.
  5. Rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear because you don’t want soapy residue mixing with your future compost.
  6. Let the bin air dry completely before adding new material or the material you set aside.

Overloading With Kitchen Scraps

Enthusiasm for composting can sometimes lead to an overabundance of kitchen scraps in your bin, which is a common misstep.

too many food scraps in compost

When the scales tip too heavily towards food waste, it can overwhelm the composting process and result in some serious stinky smells.

To keep things balanced:

  • Monitor the amount of kitchen waste you’re adding. If you have more scraps than your bin can handle, consider freezing some until there’s room.
  • Always pair your kitchen scraps with an equal or greater amount of browns to maintain that balance.
  • Break down larger kitchen scraps into smaller pieces to help them decompose more quickly and evenly.

Imbalance of Green & Brown Materials

When your compost bin starts to smell more like a landfill than a fertile plot, it’s often due to an imbalance between green and brown materials.

too many greens in compost

Greens are your nitrogen-rich kitchen scraps, such as banana peels, coffee grounds, and veggie cuttings. Browns are carbon-rich and include items like dried leaves, shredded paper, and straw.

The magic happens when you get the ratio just right. Aim for about 3 parts brown to 1 part green. This balance helps microorganisms thrive and break down materials without creating that notorious stench.

Here’s how to maintain the perfect harmony:

  • Regularly add brown materials to counteract the nitrogen in greens.
  • Shred or chop larger pieces to speed up decomposition.
  • Mix your compost regularly. This will aerate it and distribute moisture evenly.

A neighbor complained about a persistent smell coming from his compost bin. We discovered his bin was almost entirely kitchen scraps with barely any browns in sight!

So, we gathered some leaves and shredded newspaper and mixed them into his pile, and like magic, the odor disappeared over about a week as the compost regained its balance.

Excess Moisture

Too much water in your compost bin can be a real party for odor-causing bacteria. They thrive in damp conditions, breaking down organic matter in ways that produce some less-than-pleasant smells.

So, keeping moisture levels in check is key to a non-smelly composting experience. Here’s how to keep excess moisture down:

  • Ensure your bin has proper drainage. Holes at the bottom or sides can help excess water escape.
  • Cover food scraps with browns to absorb extra moisture.
  • If rain is frequent, protect your bin with a lid or tarp.
  • Add dry materials like sawdust, dead leaves, or shredded cardboard when the compost feels soggy.

Lack Of Aeration

Poor aeration in your compost pile can lead to anaerobic conditions, where oxygen-starved bacteria produce sulfurous, rotten-egg odors instead of the pleasant earthiness we’re all after.

gardener aerating compost bin with tool

To keep your compost smelling fresh, it needs to breathe just like we do. Here’s how you can give your compost the oxygen it needs:

  • Turn your compost regularly with a fork or shovel. This introduces air and prevents materials from compacting.
  • Use a compost aerator tool or poke holes into the pile to improve airflow.
  • Avoid overfilling your bin. Leave some space at the top for better circulation.
  • If you’re starting a new pile, layer coarse materials at the bottom for improved air passage.

Presence Of Meat Or Dairy Products

Adding meat or dairy to your compost bin is like sending an open invitation to pests and bad odors.

These products don’t break down in the same eco-friendly manner as your fruits and veggies. Instead, they create a breeding ground for pathogens and emit a foul stench as they decompose.

I’ve discussed adding dairy, meat, and bones to compost in other guides. But as a beginner, here’s why you should steer clear of tossing these into your compost, along with steps to avoid temptation:

  • Meat and dairy can attract rodents, flies, and other unwelcome critters.
  • They decompose slower than plant-based materials, disrupting the composting process.
  • The breakdown of animal products can produce harmful bacteria that aren’t safe for your garden.

To keep meat and dairy out of your compost:

  • Set up a separate bin in your kitchen for non-compostable waste.
  • Educate family members about what can and cannot go into the compost bin.
  • Consider indoor worm composting or Bokashi systems to recycle these waste items responsibly.

Following those tips to keep your compost from smelling, you’ll find the entire process more pleasant, keeping you on track to creating a free, nutrient-rich soil amendment that’ll keep all your plants looking amazing!

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