Mulch smells like poop


My sister forwarded an article about compost and mulch/manure mix being…

I would love to read the article about the mulch. In doing a little research I did discover that some of the recycled waste wood used for making landscape mulch products is contaminated with various chemicals, such as creosote and CCA (chromated copper arsenate). That is the chemical that was used in manufacturing of pressure-treated wood. There is currently a ban on arsenic-based wood preservatives like CCA, but if old pressure treated lumber is used for mulch then there can be traces of that chemical. Mulches made from chipped pallets and wood sources of unknown origin can have the possibility of chemical contamination. You’ll see this in some of the dyed wood chips. If you have bark chips like pine bark or woods like cypress or cedar, this should not be a concern. Your best bet is to talk to you supplier and see if he can tell you what the wood source is of the chips you purchased. I don’t know of any labs that directly test mulch. I do know that soil tests can be performed looking for heavy metal contamination in soil from the University of Massachusetts:
The odor often comes from mulch that has begun to breakdown due to the way it is stored. Once it is spread, it should air out and quit smelling.
Here is a good fact sheet on mulch in the home landscape:
Don’t forget to keep mulch away from tree trunks; no “volcano” mulch piles high up on the trunks! Apply mulch 2-3 inches deep and keep it 2-3 inches away from all plant stems.
If you have other questions, please email us. I hope this helps.

Compost Smells Bad: How To Fix Bad Smelling Compost

While compost for the garden is wonderful, a compost pile can occasionally get a little smelly. This leads many gardeners to wonder, “Why does compost smell?” and, more importantly, “How to stop compost smelling?” When your compost stinks, you have options.

Does Compost Smell?

A properly balanced compost pile should not smell bad. Compost should smell like dirt and if it does not, there is something wrong and your compost pile is not properly heating up and breaking down the organic material.

There is one exception to this rule and that is if you are composting manure in your compost pile. This will commonly smell until the manure breaks down. If you wish to suppress the smell of composting manure, you can cover the pile with 6-12 inches of straw, leaves or newspaper. This will reduce the smell of composting manure considerably.

Why Does Compost Smell?

If your compost smells bad, this is an indication that something in the balance of your compost pile is off. The steps to composting are designed to help break down your organic material faster and, a side effect of this is, to stop compost from smelling bad.

Things like too many greens (nitrogen material), too little aeration, too much moisture and not being mixed well can cause a compost pile to smell badly.

How to Stop Compost Smelling

At the heart of it, stopping your compost from smelling comes down to fixing what is making it smell. Here are some fixes to some common issues.

Too much green material – If you have too much green material in your compost pile, it will smell like sewage or ammonia. This indicates that your compost mixture of browns and greens is off balance. Adding brown materials like leaves, newspaper and straw will help bring your compost pile back into balance.

Compost pile is compacted – Compost piles need oxygen (aeration) to decompose the organic material properly. If your compost pile gets compacted, the compost will start to smell. Compost that has too little aeration will smell putrid or like rotting eggs. Turn the compost pile to help get air into the compost and stop the bad smell. You may also want to add some “fluffy” materials like dry leaves or dry grass to help keep the pile from over-compacting again.

Too much moisture – Often in the spring, a gardener will notice that their compost stinks. This is because due to all the rain, the compost pile is too wet. A compost pile that gets too wet will not have enough aeration and the effect is the same as if the compost pile was compacted. Compost that is too wet will smell putrid or like rotting eggs and will look slimy, especially green material. To fix this cause of a smelly compost pile, turn the compost and add some dry brown materials to absorb some of the moisture.

Layering – Sometimes a compost pile has the right balance of green and brown material, but these materials have been put into the compost pile in layers. If the green material is isolated from the brown material, it will start to decompose incorrectly and will start to give off a bad smell. If this occurs, the compost pile will smell like sewage or ammonia. Fixing this is only a matter of mixing the pile a bit better.

Proper care of a compost pile, such as turning it regularly and keeping your greens and browns in balance, will help your keep your compost pile from smelling.

It is a mystery that has tongues wagging and noses sniffing across our area.

For at least 24 hours people have been noticing an unusual odor popping up in Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties and beyond.

It’s not your imagination and it’s not something on the bottom of your shoe.

So what it is? One thing is for sure, everyone has a nose, and almost everyone has a theory.

From Luzerne to Lackawanna to Wyoming and Schuylkill Counties, there is a mystery in the air and it doesn’t smell too good.

“I had my window down. I came in and I was like ‘what was that?’ I didn’t even know, I don’t know what it is,” said Cassidy Martz of Benton.

For about the past 24 hours a strange stench has been popping up and just about nobody knows exactly what to make of it.

Natural, chemical, animal? A mixture of everything.

“I thought I smelled something funny like sewage, and when the other girl came in she said, ‘did you smell that?’ I am like ‘yeah,'” said Tiffany Gray of Shickshinny.

At Janet’s Total Appearance Salon in Shickshinny even people who didn’t get a whiff of the odor have been caught up in the buzz.

“Seen it on my Facebook newsfeed a lot yesterday, and when I was at work last night, and on the news,” said Amanda Ellersick of Mocanaqua.

We explored the Wyoming Valley, trying to sniff out some answers.

DEP spokesperson Colleen Connelly says the situation is unusual.

“Nothing we have ever seen like this before, so it is kind of baffling. It really is,” Connelly said.

The agency is checking sewage plants and landfills, but so far nothing definite has been found that could account for the widespread stink.

It looks like the prime suspect is Mother Nature.

There is plenty of snow and ice left and it may be that this unusual winter has led to the unusual smell.

The odors may be triggered by a variety of phenomena, including river gas, vegetation rot, and snow mold

“When snow sits around for a while, it picks up the odors in the air, and it starts to melt, it starts to break down, and there is an odor,” Connelly said.

The DEP has gotten hundreds of phone calls, but with so many theories about the smell, nobody “nose” for sure.

“They have all their ideas what they think it is, ‘it is a manure pit, sewage pit, my neighbor’s dog buried his bones in the back yard.’ (It) could be that, unfortunately, yeah” laughed Connelly.

Connolly doesn’t believe the smell is dangerous but if it is making you feel ill, you should go inside. She also says the time of day could also play a factor.

DEP has staff from its Clean Water Program checking around with area sewage treatment plants to check for any strong odors. Also our Emergency Response Team is checking at area landfills for any strong odors.”

The phone number for the DEP complaint line is 570-830-3057

Let them know what you are experiencing, and maybe they can get to the bottom of the smell wafting through the area.

Some of our viewers have reported the smell on Twitter:

— Larry Kowalski (@larrykowalski) March 28, 2014

@WNEP smells like sewer percolating. Smelled it since the tunnel.

— The Real SWB Grump (@TheRealSWBgrump) March 28, 2014

How To Compost Without Raising a Stink

This shouldn’t be a stinky subject. When done right, your compost bin or compost pile should not smell. If you’re currently thumbing your nose at making your own compost or just don’t know how to get started, then let me show you how to compost the right way with less stink and more soil success.

Composting is a frugal and environmentally friendly way to turn kitchen and garden waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer for your lawn, garden, or potted plants. Everyone can benefit from composting, whether you live in an urban apartment, a home with a yard, or on an organic farm like me.

Photo: Kate, my sister-in-law, examines the massive compost bin her husband built.
So stop holding your nose, save your kitchen scraps, and learn how to give a green thumb’s up for composting! I promise your nose won’t get out of joint with the sweet smell of soil success. Smile.

4 Really Good Reasons To Compost

I’ve got four really good reasons to start composting your kitchen (and garden) scraps today. Do you have more?

  1. Composting reduces the amount of garbage you produce, which can decrease the cost of garbage pickup and save you from spending additional dollars on plastic garbage bags.
  2. Composting can eliminate the need to use synthetic fertilizer, saving you at least $20 to $50 per a year on gardening costs.
  3. You can decrease the amount of water you use in your garden (and save money) because composted fertilizer absorbs and retains water more readily than normal regular topsoil.
  4. Composting increases soil quality and can produce superior flowers and higher yielding vegetable gardens.

Getting Started: Your Compost Checklist

All you need to create your own soil and reduce garbage waste is a compost bin, a kitchen compost bucket, and a shovel.

Here’s your basic compost checklist:

  • A lumber wood or plastic compost bin for $0 to $100.
  • A shovel or pitchfork to periodically turn the compost, around $20.
  • A kitchen compost bucket or a plastic container for $0 to $50.

Composting bins can be built for little to no cost using scrap lumber, while plastic compost bins can be purchased at Amazon or at most hardware stores for around $60. Your city or municipality may even sell plastic compost bins for half the price in the spring.

Some gardeners prefer to stir their compost less often by using a compost tumbler. Here’s how to DIY and build a compost tumbler if you’re not into stirring a compost bin with a pitch fork.

About Kitchen Compost Buckets

Kitchen compost buckets (or pails) conveniently store food scraps and eliminate odor before you transfer them to an outside compost. Many kitchen containers boast a tight-fitting lid, use long-lasting charcoal filters to eliminate odor, and are attractive options for above or below counter-top use.

Gaiam Kitchen Compost Bucket
Norpro 94 Stainless-Steel Composter Keeper

I’ve used two of these composting buckets over the years while living in an apartment and on the farm. They really do decrease smells and encourage a reduction in kitchen waste since I’m more likely compost kitchen scraps when the compost is easily accessible.

What You Can (and Can’t) Compost

Virtually all plant material can be composted, ranging from fruit and vegetable peels to coffee grounds and garden clippings. A well-maintained compost will break down smaller pieces of organic matter in weeks, giving you access to fresh soil on a regular basis.

Things You Shouldn’t Compost:

  • Inorganic materials, such as: plastic, glass, and metal.
  • Fatty and oily foods like grease from a deep fat fryer.
  • Meat scraps and bones.
  • Dairy products.
  • Poop (human or from your pets).
  • Large pieces of wood – they’ll take forever to break down.

Along with most plant, vegetable, fruit, garden, and lawn matter, here’s a list of compostables that may surprise you!

Surprising Things You Can Compost:

  • Paper products: paper towel, coffee filters, paper bags, news print, cardboard. It’s best to shred paper products if possible to speed breakdown. Even printed papers are safe to compost because most modern inks and dyes are vegetable based.
  • Egg shells.
  • Egg cartons.
  • Tea bags.

4 Easy Steps to Stink-Free Compost

Once you’ve got a compost bin, it’s time to start composting! Here are 4 easy steps to stink-free compost and some methods for building a more effective mixture.

1. Keep a small bucket or container near in your kitchen to help collect biodegradable scraps like produce peels and coffee grounds. Every few days, dump your kitchen waste into the compost bin.

2. Mix the new material into the existing compost. Also, once a month thoroughly turn and fluff all material in the compost bin using a shovel or pitchfork. This gets the air circulating around the material, which provides ventilation and promotes decomposition. Keeping a shovel or pitch fork handy can encourage you to mix!

3. Add some water if your compost gets dry. In the hotter summer months, add a little water every other week to keep the compost moist, but not soaking. Moisture feeds the bacteria in the compost and keeps the material composting.

4. After one or two years, depending on how much compost you produce, remove most of the material from the compost bin. You can either let this sit to “finish” in a pile for a month or dig it directly into your flowerbeds and vegetable garden. Don’t fully remove all your compost, though – leaving a small amount will to help get the next batch going.

TIP: Try to maintain a compost mixture of about half “browns” and half “greens”. Browns are materials high in carbon such as dried grass, leaves, sawdust, straw and paper. Greens are materials high in nitrogen and such as kitchen vegetable waste and any fresh plant material such as grass clippings. You don’t need an exact mixture, but having a compost of only browns or only greens will not promote decomposition.

A working compost should not smell. If your compost has an odor and attracts flies, make sure you have a good mix of browns and greens and always cover fresh material with existing compost.

More great gardening stories:

  • DIY: Getting Dirty with Square Foot Gardening
  • Container Gardening: 11 Fruits and Vegetables You Can Grow in a Pot
  • How to grow and dry tasty herbs
  • How to Save Heirloom Tomato Seeds
  • 10 Ways to Grow Grass and Cut Lawn Care Costs

Final Compost Thoughts

With just a little effort it’s easy to reduce the amount of garbage you create while turning your scraps into fine soil for your lawn or garden. Do you compost? Would you consider it?

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Composting isn’t an exacting science. It happens naturally in our backyard heaps, just as it does on every forest and prairie floor. While maintaining ideal temperatures in a bin or pile takes some attention, the problems that arise when making compost are few and the solutions are many. Here, for when needed, are the problem solvers.

Convert kitchen, yard and garden waste into soil-nourishing organic matter with our backyard tested compost bins, tumblers and supplies. Decreasing household waste and building your soil has never been so easy!


If a compost pile smells, something is wrong. Ordinarily, composting does not smell. Mostly two sorts of smells — rot and ammonia — afflict a pile, and since these have clear and distinct causes, they’re actually quite easy to diagnose and treat.

Rotten Smells

A compost pile that smells like rotten eggs or rotting vegetables has gone anaerobic. This means that there is not enough oxygen to support aerobic microbes and the anaerobic ones have taken over. Unfortunately, they produce hydrogen sulfide as a by-product and hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs.

The solution is simple: turn the pile. This may be unpleasant since it requires that you get up close with the odiferous heap. But it’s well worth it. Rebuild your turned pile on a palette to promote bottom-up air flow. Or work some large sticks into the middle the middle of the heap to give it support. If the pile keeps reverting to an anaerobic mode, it’s time to explore different ingredient ratios or composting styles. Some methods including sheet composting don’t let too much of the wrong materials build up and begin to smell. The trench composting method smothers odors by moving the process underground.


Compost piles smell like ammonia when they give off excess nitrogen (N) in the form of ammonia (NH3). This problem occurs most often if a composter has been adding high-nitrogen products. The smell signals that the pile has a surplus of nitrogen from too many green materials.

The short-term solution is to turn the pile or even spread it out to allow the excess ammonia to vaporize. Mixing in brown material can also restore the carbon-nitrogen balance. The long-term lesson is restore the carbon-nitrogen balance. Increase carbon or brown materials, by adding straw, sawdust, peanut shells, or shredded, unbleached or colored cardboard to the pile. Mix them in well. In the futures, add less nitrogen.


How hot is your pile? The REOTEMP® Compost Thermometer is ideally suited for measuring the core temperature of a bin or pile. Includes an easy-to-read dial, with three important temperature zones, and a 20-inch stem to reach the center of the pile.

The Pile Won’t Heat Up

You heard about hot compost piles, maybe even seen one. But yours never does. Why? Is the hot pile a myth? No. But it takes some planning and effort to achieve. Supply all the conditions and ingredients it needs and the heat will be on.

Old, Unmaintained Piles

First off, it’s important to realize that only a freshly built or freshly turned pile will get hot. Continuous piles — unmaintained heaps that get new stuff added to them continually over the year — will not heat up. There may not be enough nitrogen. The oxygen supply at the bottom may have been depleted over time. Even if the carbon-nitrogen and moisture balance in the new material is perfect there may not be enough of it, depending on the size of the original heap, to support the mass of microbes needed to create a hot pile.

There are two ways to heat up such a pile: add an enormous amount of new material on top, or turn it. The first solution is equivalent to building a new pile on top of the old one, but building it with an eye to heat. As the new material heats up and is turned into the rest of the pile it will raise the temperature of the old material as well.

The second method, simply turning the pile, may be all it takes. But if it’s either too wet or too dry, or if it lacks nitrogen throughout, you can turn and turn and the thing will still not heat up. If moisture drips out when you squeeze a handful of material, it’s too wet. You can spread it out to speed evaporation, you can turn daily, or you can just wait for dry summer weather. If the material doesn’t look and feel damp, it’s too dry. Water it.

If you’re fairly sure that moisture isn’t the problem, try adding nitrogen. This is best done when you turn it as you can incorporate grass clippings or corn gluten meal or blood meal here and there, ensuring an even distribution.

Converting a cool pile to a hot one takes some work — but it can be done.

Newly Built Piles

You build what’s supposed to be a hot pile. You wait and … you wait. The stuff settles a bit over the first week and then just sits there. The thermometer you stick in it barely moves. What’s the problem?

There are several possibilities. Lack of moisture, nitrogen, oxygen or micro-organisms will all cause the composting process to stall out. The real problem is figuring out which item is missing from your pile.

Size: Below a certain size (a certain surface-to-volume ratio), piles won’t really heat up. If your pile contains less than about a cubic yard of material, it probably won’t heat up. Make sure the area where it rests measures at least 3′ by 3′ and that it’s at least three feet high when first assembled.


The Yard Butler® Compost Aerator makes it easy to mix the pile without heavy lifting. Includes folding wings that harpoon directly into the pile, opening when withdrawn. Use to circulate materials, introduce oxygen and promote faster decomposition.

Oxygen: If it’s a new pile, the problem isn’t likely to be a lack of oxygen unless you packed the pile down and ran your tractor over it. The exception would be if it contains large clumps or layers of material like leaves, sawdust or grass clippings that tend to form dense mats.

Dead leaves compost slowly under any conditions because they’re so high in carbon. If they’re not mixed with other ingredients, they’ll compress into a nearly oxygen-free lump. So will grass clippings, which will quickly go anaerobic, turning slimy and stinky. In both cases, it’s best to turn the pile, mixing these ingredients in with others. When adding new materials, don’t leave them in a clump but mix them in throughout the pile. Using leaves? Shred them.

Moisture: If you don’t have big clumps of leaves or grass in your pile, then exploratory surgery is necessary. Get out a pair of gardening gloves and dig into the pile a ways in several places. Does it seem damp? If not, add water. Actually stick the hose into the pile — again, in several places, not just one — and let it run for thirty seconds or so, then sprinkle the top liberally. Check it each day for a while to be sure you’ve added enough.

Too much moisture can also put a damper on hot composting. But this isn’t very likely with a newly built pile. New piles usually contain plenty of air pockets and their ingredients don’t absorb water nearly as well as does finished compost or even partly composted material. If you think this might be the problem, check the solution below under “Old, Maintained Piles.”

Nitrogen: If the pile still doesn’t heat up in the next three to four days, you’ve probably got a nitrogen deficiency and this, unfortunately, may mean that you’ll need to rebuild the pile, incorporating a high-nitrogen material throughout. An alternative would be to sprinkle such a substance — blood meal, organic cottonseed meal, kelp or manure — on the pile and water it in. It won’t distribute evenly, but it should help. And when you turn the pile the booster will get mixed throughout.


Expect rich, moist humus in 60-90 days! Ringer® Compost Plus contains a proprietary blend of microorganisms which break down yard waste as well as a nutrient energy source for a fast start. Two pound box converts 500-750 lbs. of yard waste into mulch. Recharges cool piles, too!

Micro-Organisms: If you know you added plenty of green stuff — for instance, the pile is a quarter grass clippings and they’re well dispersed, not concentrated — then you’re down to the last possibility: not enough micro-organisms. This is a rare and usually self-correcting problem, but one circumstance does make it more likely. If you isolate the pile from the ground, the microbes that live in the earth have no way up into your heap. Occasionally someone will have the bright idea of building a compost pile on a sheet of plastic, often with the aim of making distribution easier, sometimes with the goal of collecting the leachate — the liquid that seeps out. It’s a great idea as far as it goes, but it cuts the pile off from its primary source of micro-organisms: the dirt beneath it.

Once you’ve eliminated all other possible causes of a slow-starting pile, try boosting the population of micro-organisms. This can be done by adding some fresh finished compost, which should be rich in microbes. For quick results, buy an inoculant which is actually the micro-organisms themselves, dry but almost undiluted. Ordinary dirt contains composting bacteria. Adding some will introduce the organisms, but not as effectively as adding compost or inoculant. (There’s some disagreement in the composting world about the value of dirt in a compost pile; finished compost. if you have it, is a better choice.)

In all cases, turning the pile and mixing in the new microbe source gets the best results. In a pinch, sprinkle it on top and water thoroughly. And plan ahead for future batches: add micro-organisms, finished (but fresh) compost, or thin layers of soil to your piles as you’re building them to ensure that they’ve got adequate supplies of the bacteria that do the composting job.

Problem Symptom Solution To Avoid in Future
Lack of moisture Feels, looks dry Add water Water pile as it’s being built, after every two to four inches of new material.
Lack of oxygen Matted ingredients; large quantities of leaves, sawdust or grass added in clumps Add oxygen: Turn pile, or fluff. Mix ingredients well when building, esp. those that tend to mat.
Lack of nitrogen Pile doesn’t heat up; slow decay Add high-nitrogen material: blood meal, organic cottonseed meal, corn gluten meal. Sprinkle high-nitrogen material over every 2-4 inches of new material as pile accumulates.
Lack of micro-organisms None of the other factors apply; pile still doesn’t heat up. Add micro-organisms directly (inoculant) or indirectly (fresh compost, soil). Don’t build piles on plastic sheets; don’t isolate piles from the ground; save some fresh compost from finished pile to incorporate into new pile; add micro-organisms to new piles.

Old, Maintained Piles

This is a pile that was built to get hot and maybe did so once, but now it’s cold and unfinished. Most of the possible causes that apply to Newly Built Piles (above), still apply here.

Oxygen: With piles that have only heated up once or twice, start by turning the pile to introduce new oxygen. If this gets no results, then check the moisture level and add water if necessary. A lot of piles stall out because they dry out.

Moisture: New piles are seldom so wet that moisture impedes microbial activity. Older piles, especially ones left open to the weather in a rainy season, may develop problems from too much moisture. Water can fill the gaps and spaces inside your pile, driving out the oxygen aerobic bacteria need.

Turn the pile, incorporating plenty of hay, dry leaves or other dry, absorbent material as you do. Be aware, though, that all of these materials add far more carbon than nitrogen so you might need to add a nitrogen source to keep the C/N balance. If you don’t have any dry ingredients that fit the bill, you might have to spread the compost out to dry.

To prevent this problem from recurring, fashion some sort of lid for your compost pile, even if it’s only a tarp during rainy weather.

Microbes: One problem that’s unlikely to afflict an older pile is a lack of microbes. If a pile has heated up even once, it’s got plenty of microbes in it. The population doesn’t die off. But it never hurts to add finished compost to a cold pile, if only to encourage the microbes already there.

Nitrogen: This one is unlikely. A pile that has enough nitrogen to get truly hot once usually has enough to last out the entire composting process. But there may be the occasional exception. If it’s heated up once or twice but won’t heat up after turning and it’s neither too dry nor two wet, then try turning it again. Introduce nitrogen throughout as you turn.

The most cheerful addition to the list is the possibility that the compost is done. If it’s performed like a champion for several weeks or months, heating up whenever you turn it, but now the temperature doesn’t budge even when you fork it over, then this is most likely the answer. If it look, smells and feels like soil or compost, then it’s done. Screen whatever remaining materials, twigs and the like, out of it before using. Though it can be used at once, it’s best left to cure for a week or two.


How can this be a problem? By killing off the very reason that compost is so effective; the beneficial microbes. At temperatures above 160°F (71°C) or so, beneficial micro-organisms begin to die off. Adding this compost to your soil will quite simply not be as beneficial as it would be otherwise. In fact, the extension service at the University of Illinois warns that at temperatures this high, “the composting material may become sterile and lose its disease fighting properties.” Those properties, after all, come to us courtesy of bacteria. Kill the bacteria and you kill off any chance for antibiotic action as well.

Unless you have a thermometer in the pile, you probably won’t know if it heats up over 140°F (60°C). It’s next to impossible to tell by hand the difference between 140°, which is optimal, and 160°F (71°C), which is getting close to a temperature which will kill off beneficial organisms. A compost thermometer is a good investment.

Commercial and municipal composting systems actually aim for these very high temperatures to ensure that pathogens are killed off, but they’re not practical for the home composter. Assuming that your pile is free of pet and human feces or other sources of human pathogens, it’s best to keep composting temperatures below 155°F (68°C).


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“I Need It Now!”

Most gardeners have run into a compost crisis: a realization that the pile on hand is just not going to produce what’s needed fast enough. Will you go without or be forced to purchase commercial compost? (If so, make sure it’s dependable and organic.) Sometimes — not always — it’s possible to hurry a pile along.

First, the “not always” conditions. A hot pile already operating at maximum capacity cannot be sped up. If the compost thermometer reads 150°F (65.5°C), raising the temperature risks killing off many of the organisms that make compost valuable. Secondly, if you need your finished compost tomorrow or even next week, you’re out of luck; it’s time to hit the gardening center. Third, if your pile is completely saturated with water, it’s probably not possible to both dry it out and compost it within the time available. Finally, if you don’t have enough material on hand for at least a 3′ by 3′ pile, you’ll have to wait until you do.

However, if you’ve got a partially composted pile of reasonable dimensions and three to six weeks to work with, then many things are possible. The further along your pile already is and the more material you’ve got to work with (within reason) the better. Specifically, it is possible to convert a cool continuous pile into a hot batch pile.

For emergency actions, it’s a good idea to have on hand a couple of compost boosters such as a nitrogen source and a compost additive to add additional microbes. A pair of gloves, always a good idea when handling immature compost, will be especially welcome in the following exercise as some of the ingredients are sure to be slimy.

The basic plan here is to clean out the bin and rebuild it using the most effective new-pile building techniques. Even if you don’t usually chop up ingredients, this would be the time to do so. A hoe, turf edger or sharp-edged shovel can accomplish a great deal. A pair of clippers might come in handy as well. A shredder is particularly effective on materials dry enough (like leaves) that it will accommodate. Anything that resists chopping or shredding, like twigs, corn stalks, or nut shells, should be saved or moved to another, less urgent pile.

New material that’s high in nitrogen and quick to decompose should be welcomed. This includes fresh leaves and grass trimmings as well as soft kitchen waste: plums, peaches or potatoes past their prime, but not carrot ends, peanut shells or cantaloupe peels.


Waste not, want not! Down To Earth® Feather Meal Fertilizer is a by-product collected from the poultry industry and transformed into a nitrogen-rich soil additive. Feathers are heat treated and then ground into a powdered soil amendment.

Before you return material to the bin, create an open airspace at the bottom by laying down sticks, a wood pallet, or even a layer of wood chips or pine cones. This will allow continuous aeration from below which will reduce the need for turning.

After you’ve pulled everything out, chopped as much as you can, and added new material, rake it all together and mix it up with a garden or pitch fork. Bunches of leaves or matted grass need to be shaken up and mixed with other things. Use dirt only if nothing else is available. If you’re working on a tarp, you can sprinkle the feedstock with some of the nitrogen and dry activators as you work.

When the material is well mixed, put down a six-inch layer in the bin and sprinkle it with nitrogen and microbes unless, of course, you’ve already added all the boosters that the directions recommend. Also sprinkle with water if needed, remembering that feedstock should be damp, not wet. Repeat until the bin is full. Sprinkle the top with boosters and with an inch or two of soil or mature compost or several inches of hay.

Poke holes in the pile with a piece of rebar — lots of holes, spacing them three to six inches apart. If they’re not there the next day, do it again. These holes provide aeration channels, drawing air up from the bottom of the pile.

If your bin doesn’t have a lid, figure out some way to protect the compost from rain. Rain will cool the pile down; it can also saturate it, which slows or halts aerobic activity. Suspend a tarp over the pile to act as a lid, keeping it away from the sides of the bin so that it doesn’t impede air circulation.

A pile given this kind of kick-start will get very hot, and it will get hot fast. It’s a good idea to work with a thermometer to guard against overheating. If the temperature starts to rise too high (over 150 degrees), poke holes in the pile with a piece of rebar or pull off the top foot of material to allow the heap to let off some steam. Use the thermometer to determine when to replace the material you removed.

To keep a pile cooking at maximum speed, turn it as soon as the temperature drops to about a hundred degrees. This is only a few degrees warmer than your body, so the inside of a pile at this temperature will feel only slightly warm. Keep turning it every time it cools down. It’s fine to turn it a little sooner — at about 110°, for instance — but above that you’re creating more problems than you’re solving.

Fruit Flies & Fungus Gnats

Most piles have a few fruit flies and fungus gnats. If they don’t bother you, they’re not hurting the pile. But don’t let them get out of hand. Fungus gnats can do damage to your plants, especially the roots, and can spread to your garden when you apply finished compost. Worse, if you add the compost to the potting soil of indoor plants, it can start an infestation inside your home. It’s a good idea to eradicate or at least deplete flies and gnats before they become a problem.


Eliminate pesky fruit flies from your kitchen with a pesticide-free Fruit Fly Trap. A natural attractant entices these flying pests into the decorative trap, where a disposable sticky pad ensures they don’t escape. Safe and effective — NO poisons!

The best way to identify which of the pests you have, put a bit of the finished compost in a pot, seal it inside a plastic bag (to prevent their spread), and bring it indoors where you can observe it. Fruit flies are paler and rounder than gnats which tend to be slender, shiny, and almost black. Gnats, unlike flies, will often run away, rather than fly away when startled. They spend a lot of time crawling around on the surface of the dirt and on the outside of the pot and they’re frequently to be found tucked under the bottom.

Some control measures work equally well for both species; those that don’t are described separately below under Gnats.

  • Both fruit flies and gnats feed on damp, decaying organic matter, preferably fruits, so bury all fruits and vegetables deep in the pile. Don’t just dump them on top where the flies can easily find them.
  • Kitchen waste of all kinds can be wrapped in newspaper and then buried deeply in the pile. This adds an obstacle between the flies and the garbage.
  • Check the moisture level in the pile. Both gnats and flies need a damp environment; their presence sometimes indicates a pile that’s gotten too wet. If that’s the case, turn it frequently to aerate it and add dry leaves or straw.
  • Set traps on the surface of the pile. Commercial traps designed for indoor use can also be used in protected outdoor heaps The banana peel trap, a sealed plastic bag punched with a few tiny holes and holding a banana peel can be effective. Various do-it-yourself versions utilize a jar with bait (vinegar, wine, fruit peelings) at the bottom and a funnel fitted into it so that the narrow end of the funnel points down into the jar. The insects get funneled downwards towards the bait, but very few can find their way out again. Cutting off the top of a soda bottle and inverting it, so that the neck of the bottle points down into the bottom of the bottle. Whichever method you use, place several of the traps around the top and sides of the compost pile.
  • Switch to a hot system with temperatures unsuitable to the flies. Chop all ingredients when setting it up. This destroys many larvae and pupae on the feedstock and creates an environment less friendly for breeding.


Gnats in the finished compost require action. If they’re not eradicated, they’ll travel with the compost to every pot or plot it reaches. The larvae eat organic matter, including the root hairs of plants, causing real damage if the infestation is serious enough. Indoors, the adults can be intensely irritating.


Beneficial nematodes feed on gnat larvae. A on controlling various gnats and flies says that “Beneficial nematodes can provide relatively long-term control of fungus gnat larvae and they can be self-reproducing after several initial applications to establish their populations.” In other words, it might be necessary to apply them more than once.

Before spreading compost that may host gnats , inoculate it with nematodes and spread them in the top layer of soil where the compost will go. This method works well but it’s not instantaneous. It takes the nematodes a while to proliferate and be effective. Add some pre-soaked coconut coir to the soil you’re inoculating to ensure that nematodes don’t dry out.

Before applying inoculated compost in the garden, bag it or store it in garden pots in the garage or some out-of-the-way spot. Give the nematodes several weeks to proliferate before using the compost, especially if you’re bringing the pots indoors. Don’t let the pots dry out or freeze while the inoculation is underway.

A predatory mite, Hypoaspsis miles, can be used in a similar way with similar results.

The biological insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, often used to control mosquitoes, is also effective against fungus gnats. Composters use it in the form of Mosquito Dunks. The donut-shaped dunks, whose active ingredient is Bt-i, are designed to be used in standing water, so these innovative composters soak one in a pail and pour the water over the compost pile. Some composters use prepared water whenever they build a pile to help control gnats.

Related Questions

  • What products to compost


    You will be able to source all of the essential elements in order to build a great compost pile without having to look too far! As long as your carbon to nitrogen ratio is optimal (25-30:1) your compost pile will be breaking down properly. Here are some lists of acceptable additions:

    Carbon Rich Material “Browns”
    Cardboard (free of dyes)
    Corn stalks
    Fruit waste
    Peat Moss
    Saw dust
    Stems & twigs

    Nitrogen Rich Material “Greens”
    Coffee grounds
    Kitchen food waste
    Garden waste
    Grass clippings
    Hedge clippings
    Vegetable scraps
    Weeds (that have NOT gone to seed)

    ​Things to Avoid
    ​Diseased plant material
    Colored paper
    Cat/dog waste
    Manures from carnivorous animals
    Citrus peels

    As for the rhododendron and holly leaves, you can definitely put them in your compost pile. However, it is a good idea to really chop or shred them up, as they take much longer to break down due to their fibrous and waxy make up. It really depends on how quickly you are trying to create usable compost. It might be a good idea to have a separate pile going that you incorporate those leaves into and another pile that you do not. That way you can have a pile you know will rapidly break down into garden goodness and have yet another ready to use later on. Good luck!

One of the most common problems that many people interested in backyard composting have, is a problem with the pile beginning to stink or smell very bad. Common complaints are that the pile smells like rotten eggs or sulphur, the pile smells like feces or that the pile smells very sweet and appears slimy.

Overall, the reason for your compost pile smelling bad is almost always due to the lack of microbial activity and therefore the pile is more or less actually rotting and not breaking down into compost properly.

There are several things that may be occurring in your pile

or how you maintain it that will most likely be the cause of this, and we can go over them here. Rest assured that there is a fix and we can get your compost “stink Free” in no time!

Causes of a smelly Compost Pile
In a perfect world, where everything is going exactly the way you want it to, your compost pile should almost always have a earthy, dirt like smell to it. This would mean that the microbial count and activity would be at perfect levels and the you mix of organic materials is right on target. This situation is sometimes harder to accomplish than it looks.

The Microbial Imbalance Problem
Along with the many creepy crawlies such as worms that are eating and transforming the organics into compost, there are also countless many micro organisms that are doing most of the work as well. These little guys are the ones doing the heavy lifting and to do so, need a good balance of greens, browns and moisture to keep them going.

Addressing the problems below that your compost pile or bin may have is what will fix the microbial imbalance within it. And therefore, will help get rid of that nasty smell.

NOTE: These problems can exist in one form or another in all types of composting systems weather they be bins, tumblers, ditch, vermicomposting or even the simple heap or pile.

The Pile Is Too Wet
A very common cause of smelly compost is that the pile is far too wet. This is especially true during the rainy Spring and Fall months of the year.
If the pile has too much moisture in it, almost all the microbial activity will stop and actual “rotting” of the material will take the place of composting.
Too much moisture in the compost will also cause a severe lack of oxygen, which also causes all the good creatures and microbes to stop doing their job.

If you dig into the pile a few inches and notice the smell getting very strong and the organic materials have a blackish, slimy texture, you most likely have a wet pile.

The Remedy – Check to see if the pile is in the lowest part of the yard. This may be an area where water collects and therefore keeps the pile wet longer. Try to move the pile to a slightly dryer location if possible.
If you notice that the pile is getting too wet and smelling during the rainy season you can cover the pile with a tarp for during the few weeks when rain is heavy. This will help keep excess moisture off the pile.

Rain isn’t usually a problem with enclosed composters like the plastic square bins that are very common and tumblers which are both enclosed systems.

Ensure that your compost pile’s bottom isn’t blocked off but is instead part of the ground itself. This means that the compost isn’t sitting on a tarp or concrete. If that is the case it may be preventing the pile from draining and excess water as needed.

After ensuring that all possible causes of too much water have been addressed, it would be a good idea to turn the pile over and even add some more brown materials to the pile. This will help to add dry materials to help absorb the moisture and turning the pile over also helps add the ever-important oxygen to the mix.

The Pile is Too Compacted / No Aeration
Speaking of adding oxygen to the pile, another major cause of a stinky compost pile is a compost mix that is far too compacted and therefore lacking in oxygen.

In this case, instead of too much moisture causing the microbes to stop working properly, the heavy compaction is the problem. With the materials being so tight together, all the usable oxygen in the pile quickly gets used up and then once its gone, the microbial activity stops.

Compaction is a very common problem and usually happens when compostable materials are added to the top of the pile over time and the pile itself is left to break down on its own with little to no mixing of the materials.
For example, generally what happens is a person may cut their lawn one day and put the grass clipping on the compost pile. The next day, they may add the collection of kitchen scraps, and rake the leaves and trim the shrubs a few days later and put that material on the pile. They may follow this routing week in and week out never touching the pile other than to add material. This habit will generally cause the pile to compact down and most composting will cease to continue.

The key to stopping this from happening is to remember to turn over the contents of your pile or bin on a regular basis. Once every week or two. This will not only loosen the material, allowing oxygen to permeate throughout the pile, but will also help keep a good mix of greens to browns that is so crucial to creating great compost.

Too Heavy on The Greens
A very common problem that is the root cause of a bad smelling compost pile is the fact that there is just too many greens without all the other stuff.
Now to be straight, the greens in a compost pile are all the nitrogen rich materials you throw in it. These itmes include grass clippings, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and fresh trimmings of shrubs and hedges.

A problem with having too many greens in the compost is clearly an easy one to have. Most of the season we are cutting our lawns, trimming our shrubs and throwing out fruits and vegetables scraps from the kitchen. The only time we have more browns like leaves and pine needles is usually During Fall and Spring clean ups when they are much more abundant.

Some ways to address this problem would include mulching your grass as often as possible instead of collecting it for the compost pile. This will not only eliminate a large part of the green problem but will also benefit the lawn as the clippings will break down and feed the roots of the grass.

Another tip is to add more browns to the pile. If you have the room and wish to, collecting dry leaves in the Falls in waterproof garbage bags and saving them to use in the compost throughout the summer months is a great idea. This will reduce the amount of browns you add the pile in the fall and helps during the year.
Collecting and shredding cardboard and newspapers will also work well for adding your browns.

Be sure to thoroughly mix the pile every week or two and add at least a 50/50 to 1/3 greens vs 2/3 browns to the pile as you go.

There May Be Meats, Fats and Other No No’s
A sure way to get a smelly, stinking compost pile is to throw some old meat into the mix. This is a big no no and for more reasons than for just the smell.

Any meat, dairy, fat, oils and even whole eggs of any kind should never be introduced to your compost pile. These items do not break down in a good way as do organics like fruits, vegetables and grass clippings. These items such as meats and oils rot away and with rotting items comes the smell. And with the bad smell of these items also come the unwanted pests like rats, mice, raccoons and other creatures of the night.

What ever you do, just throw out any old or unwanted meats and dairy products. There is a reason farmers bury or incinerate dead animals and don’t put them with the organic compost piles, they can cause disease, attract varmint and smell really bad.

Putting It All Together
To recap, There are only a few things you need to do with your compost pile or bin in order to keep it from smelling like a garbage dump or sulphur mine.

  1. Keep the pile dry. Even though moisture is wanted in your compost pile, you do not want it wet for prolonged periods of time. Put a tarp over it or add more dry material to absorb the moisture.
  2. Mix the pile. Don’t let the constant addition of materials to the pile lull you into a false sense of composting bliss. Too much material and no mixing almost always means that their will not be enough oxygen getting into the center of the pile and then it will begin to rot and stink. Mix it up!
  3. Take it easy on the greens. No, you should still eat your salads, but when getting rid of the leftovers, make sure your not putting too much of that Nitrogen-Rich material in the pile without evening it our with some dry brown materials throughout.
  4. Don’t add meat. Meats, Dairy, oils and fats should never touch a compost pile. Never.

And that’s how you keep your compost pile smelling good and not having your neighbors complaining about the bad odour coming from your yard.

We hope you like the products we recommend. Just so you are aware, Freshome may collect a share of sales from the links on this page.

Finding fresh, enriched soil for your garden can get surprisingly pricey. A 12-quart bag of pre-made compost can run around $25. It’s simply $25 you don’t need to spend if you start composting. You can even do it right in the comfort of your own home by starting an indoor compost bin.

Starting your own indoor compost bin ranks on the easier side of home projects. All you’ll need is a suitable compost bin and all those food scraps from the kitchen that would normally go to waste. Time and nature take care of the rest. You can learn how to make your own compost bin in several minutes or find an indoor compost bin to purchase online or in a store. Read on to learn how to start that compost bin inside. It’s a great way to make a more sustainable home.

You can put scraps like bread and eggshells into a compost bin. Image: photographyfirm/

Indoor Compost Bin Materials

If you want an indoor compost bin, the first aspect of the bin you’ll need to understand is what to put in it, of course. Knowing how to keep a well-balanced compost bin will be your first line of defense in creating a bin that has little to no smell. Adding items to the compost bin that certainly shouldn’t be there, or adding the wrong balance of organic materials, will create an unpleasant odor that could make indoor composting impossible.

Your compost bin needs five major components:

  • Greens: This is a misleading label. It actually covers anything that is nitrogen-rich, not necessarily only green waste. That means you could use veggie leftovers, fruit waste like apple cores and banana peels, eggshells and even old bread. Anything is game, as long as it’s somehow plant-based. Animal products like meat and dairy should be kept out of the bin, as those will immediately lead to a smell.
  • Browns: This label is a little more literal. It covers anything carbon-rich, like coffee grounds, tea leaves, dry grass/leaves and untreated paper (like coffee filters). A general rule is a 2:1 green to brown ratio, but ratio estimates vary dramatically. If your pile is slimy, add more browns. If your pile is dry and slow to compost, add more greens. After a while, you’ll learn the correct balance.
  • Air: Your indoor compost bin should have some type of mechanism that allows for airflow, like holes or filters. That will allow aerobic breakdown of the scraps in a way that doesn’t lead to a foul odor. Estimates vary for when you should turn your compost pile, but a general estimate is that you should turn it once or twice per week for decent aeration.
  • Water: The compost pile should be slightly damp, but not soaking, to the touch. Usually, kitchen scraps can keep this level of moisture, but you should check to make sure the compost pile isn’t drying out. Spray with water if the pile is dry.
  • Soil: The soil has microorganisms that will help with the breakdown of waste. You’ll only need one scoop from the great outdoors.

From there, you’ll want to decide if you want your bin inside full-time or you want a bin that you can take out to a larger compost bin outside. If you have a lot of kitchen scraps, you might want a bin you can keep inside and carry to a larger compost bin out back when the inside container gets full. Otherwise, if you don’t like the idea of schlepping out back in the middle of winter, there are systems that allow for a full-time indoor compost bin.

Many attractive compost bin styles can fit right on the counter, like this Breeze 0.85 Gal. Kitchen Composter. Image courtesy of Wayfair.

Types of Bins

There are several different types of bins you can choose for your indoor compost bin:

  • Basic countertop scrap bins: These are literally just tubs that sit on your countertop. They’re meant for filling with scraps in the kitchen and taking to a larger compost pile. Many come in distinct shapes and colors to work with any decorating style. Some also have bags inside to cut down on odor and mess.
  • Under-counter bins: These attach to the inside of cabinet doors. They’re larger but are still typically meant for emptying into a main compost pile. They’re a convenient way to keep the composting bin out of the way.
  • Bokashi system: This is a type of bin and microorganism mixture kit. It allows you to fill the bin with waste and then cover the waste with a mixture to neutralize the smell and ferment the material. It’s a system you can use as a full-time indoor compost bin.
  • Aerobic bins: These bins have some sort of vent and filter system, usually with charcoal filters. These allow for the aerobic breakdown of waste, which can also cut the smell. These are also suitable for full-time indoor use.
  • Worm bins: Some kits allow you to grow worms, which can aerate the material and keep it more nutrient dense. These systems are also odor-free, making them good for indoor use. Plus, it’s a good science project to do with kids.

And remember, your indoor compost bin should be able to fit your family and your environment. For instance, people in harsher climates may want a full-time indoor bin. Or families with a high volume of kitchen scraps could opt for a system of collecting scraps indoors and carrying them to a larger pile outdoors. The compost bin should work for your lifestyle first and foremost.

We’re fervent compost advocates over here at Epic Gardening. And as a compost fanatic, I collect all my kitchen waste to add into the mix. I’ve got a countertop compost bin that I use for that task.

Kitchen counter compost bins are not all created equal. As everyone’s kitchen has unique decor, there’s a myriad of styles. Not only are there pretty compost bins, but there’s different features to choose from.

Let’s go over what you’ll need to get the right compost bucket for your space!

Our Top 3 All-Around Countertop Compost Bin Picks

Image Product Details
Best OverallEpica Stainless Steel Compost Bin
  • 1.3 Gallon Size
  • Stainless Steel
  • Replaceable Charcoal Filter
Check Current Price
Silicone OptionPolder Kitchen Composter
  • 1 Gallon Size
  • Silicone Bin
  • Adjustable Airflow
Check Current Price
Most StylishChef’n EcoCrock Compost Bin
  • 3 Quart Size
  • Ceramic Bin
  • Pop-Out Bucket
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What’s A Countertop Composter?

A countertop compost bin can be carried out to empty into a worm bin or composter. Source: MN Pollution Control

Let’s talk about what a counter compost pail is… and what it’s not.

For the newbie to composting, it can be an easy assumption that a countertop compost bin is all you’ll need. After all, it’s called a compost pail, right?

But you really don’t want to do normal composting in your kitchen. For one thing, kitchen waste is generally considered green waste. You need to balance your green and brown waste to make good compost. And for another, it can smell.

Bokashi composting and worm composting can both be done indoors from start to finish. Those use different techniques. By contrast, your countertop composter should be used for collection.

Once you’ve got a partially or completely full countertop bin, you can carry it where you need it. If you’ve got a worm bin, tote it over there and feed the worms. Do you have a compost tumbler? Go add some browns and greens and give it a couple of good spins.

After rinsing out your compost pail, it can go right back in the kitchen for the next batch. And there will always be the next batch!

Features Of Compost Bins

There are only a couple of common features in kitchen composters, so it’s not hard to pick your options.

The most common feature is a filter system. These are both good and bad. They’re great because as food scraps break down (especially onions), they smell. The filter prevents the stink from getting around your kitchen. But they need regular replacements.

In some compost bins, there’s also an inner liner. These are wonderful for keeping your pail clean, but can be difficult to remove when fully loaded. If you’re using compost bags, it’s much easier to empty the bin.

Handles are available on most bins, but not all. Usually, ones with an inner pail are the ones that lack handles on the outside. While this is more style than anything else, it’s helpful to have a good handle if you’ll be taking it outside.

Material Matters: Compost Bin Construction

What your compost bucket’s made of can have an impact on its longevity and usability.

A DIY kitchen compost bin is often built out of wood. While this does in fact work, wood absorbs any moisture that leaks out of your kitchen scraps. That means that your bin will start to smell like kitchen waste. Not very appetizing, is it?

Metal is the most common, especially stainless steel or aluminum. Surfaces of metal are easy to clean, but if it’s not stainless or aluminum, it can rust. Be sure you know what metal your pail’s made of.

Ceramic is a popular option for kitchen decor, and it can work really well too. The drawback with these is that ceramic tends to be heavier than metal. If it has an inner pail, these look great and work great. But if you have to haul the entire crock out to empty it, it may be too much effort.

Don’t forget plastics! There are a few great plastic options available right now. The downside of plastics is that they are often less durable. Your plastic bin may only last for a few years, and when it finally kicks the bucket (so to speak), you’ll need a new one.

Best Countertop Compost Bins

SaleEPICA Stainless Steel Compost Bin 1.3 Gallon-Includes Charcoal Filter

This is what I use, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

It does not have an inner pail, but I’m okay with that. My complacency is because this bin is formed of a single sheet of steel. There are no weld joints to develop rust, and no weak spots that might leak. It’s solid construction.

I will admit that it’s not the fanciest option in the world. The interior gets gunked up with assorted waste products. You’ll have to scrub it clean. But it’s easy to clean, and the lid fits securely. In that lid is an easily-replaced activated carbon filter.

More often than not, I leave the lid off entirely. Most of my kitchen waste gets covered in coffee grounds, so there’s little risk of bugs forming around my bin. But when there is a lot of food waste on the surface, the lid keeps pests and smells at bay.

A sturdy steel handle makes it easy to carry out to the composter and dump it. If there’s any drawbacks, it’s that if it’s tightly packed, I need a spoon to scrape the waste out – and that’s true of any pail.

Yes, it’s very simplistic. But in all honesty, how fancy does your kitchen waste container have to be?

Polder Kitchen Composter-Flexible silicone bucket inverts for emptying and cleaning – no need to…

  • Innovative and elegant countertop composter,…
  • Flexible push-through silicone bucket inverts to…
  • Adjustable aerobic compost setting, lid rotates to…

Whoever created this knows just how annoying it can be to empty a tightly-packed compost bin. And so they went a step beyond any other style. This bin can literally be turned inside-out.

Constructed of silicone, the bin has a small handle on its underside that allows you to push all the waste out. You can then rinse off the interior and pop it right-side out again, making it extremely easy to keep clean.

It’s also machine washable, an option most other composters don’t have. But there is a drawback. It’s unusual-looking, and might not blend with your kitchen decor. The wire frame that supports the bucket stands out a bit from the grey silicone.

If that’s not a problem for you, this is probably the easiest compost pail you’ll find for your kitchen. And it’s worth every penny.

SaleChef’n 401-420-120 EcoCrock Counter Compost Bin

This thing is seriously adorable. No, really. It has a little leaf “growing” out of the top as a handle for the lid.

But once we’re past the cuteness factor, this is actually a great option for your countertop. The exterior is ceramic, with a green plastic inner bucket. The cute little lid hides a filter, too.

I’m still not a fan of plastics for my compost pail, but in this case, I’d probably make an exception. If you’re teaching your kids how to compost, this would be an excellent reminder. And even if you live alone, it’ll do the trick!

OXO Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin, 0.75 GAL/2.83 L (NEWER MODEL AVAILABLE)

  • Convenient size and design for everyday…
  • Lid flips up for easy filling and flips down to…
  • Smooth interior walls prevent foods and liquids…

For a plastic bucket, a lot of thought went into this model. It’s designed with ease of emptying in mind. But it’s not designed for ease of cleaning, which is its downfall.

Yes, you can handwash it, and it works just fine. That’s easy enough. But you can’t put this model in the dishwasher. The inner layer is attached to the outer, and it’s not sealed well. Water can build up between the layers.

If you only handwash, this may be a great option for you. It holds 12 cups of waste, or roughly 3/4ths of a gallon. The lid does not have a filter, but keeps the scent down. It’s made to flip up which makes adding waste simple, and can be removed to empty.

I prefer something a little sturdier, but if you want a good beginner bin, this is a decent option.

The Relaxed Gardener Kitchen Compost Bin (0.8 Gallon) – Rust Proof and Leak Proof – Built Tough to…

  • OPEN WITH ONE HAND! If you have been looking for a…
  • LEAK PROOF! The problem with other composting bins…
  • NO SMELLS! Unlike other bins that need two filters…

This one may have a farmhouse look to it, but it’s an excellent option for the average household. Just under a gallon of waste will fit in this milk-can inspired bin. A plastic liner pail makes it easy to remove the waste material, and there’s a filter in the lid.

I like that they used steel for the exterior, but to me it seems to defeat the purpose of using steel. Metal doesn’t retain odors or stain like plastic can. They’ve opted to make the inner pail dark in color to prevent staining. But it’s still plastic, and it still can have permanent odor issues.

The powder-coated steel exterior gives it a rustic look. So does the emblazoned “COMPOST” on the side. This would look fantastic in a farmhouse kitchen. It may not blend as well with industrial kitchens, but that’s style, not function.

For functionality, I’ll give this high marks. If you’re looking for a model with a removable inner pail, this is a great choice!

Kitchen Compost Pail Bin for Countertop – 1 Gallon Food Scrap Container, Leak proof Stainless Steel…

Let’s face it, most of us like our kitchens to look nice. And if you’re one of those folks who has all copper cookware, first off, I’m jealous. But you’ll want something that fits your decor.

Enter the Gardenatomy bin. This is similar in construction to the seamless Epica stainless steel model. However, it’s been fully copper-plated to heighten its looks. Shiny and sleek, it’ll do the task you want it to do.

It has the same downfalls as the Epica model as well. But remember, I use an Epica. I don’t consider the lack of inner pail to be a major issue for this model.

So if you’re looking for something that’ll blend in with your dark wood and copper kettles, here’s your bin! And it’ll be beautiful no matter where you put it.

Joseph Joseph 30046 Compo Easy-Fill Compost Bin Food Waste Caddy with Adjustable Air Vent, 1 gallon…

  • Wide opening makes scraping food from plates…
  • Adjustable air vent: Open – helps reduce moisture…
  • Slimline design perfect for storing on the counter…

I’m not a fan of plastic, but I am a fan of people being able to tuck items out of view when they want to. This little plastic bin fits that need perfectly. Designed to mount on the inside of a cupboard door, it allows the user to hide their kitchen waste from casual view.

When you need to use it, grab the handle and lift it off its hanging hook. You can take it to your cutting board and fill it up, or carry it out to empty it. And when you’re done, it hides right away with ease.

Norpro 83 Ceramic Floral Blue/White Compost Keeper, 3-Quart

The aesthetic of ceramics can’t be denied. For those of us who like to have their line of ceramic jars on the kitchen counter, this bin will fit right in.

My biggest complaints about this model are that it’s designed to be shaped like the Epica, and its weight. The shape is good, but the entire weight of the handle will hang from two slender ceramic points. And ceramics are heavy even when they’re not loaded with soggy coffee grounds!

Even with my reservations about those two points, this is still a great model. It does not have an inner pail, so you’ll need to wash it out thoroughly after emptying it. And a filter pops right into the lid, keeping odors out of your kitchen.

Bamboozle Food Composter

Bamboozle Food Composter, Indoor Food Compost Bin for Kitchen (Natural)

  • Made of biodegradable, dishwasher safe, and…
  • Dimensions: 8” x 6.25” x 9”
  • Individually packaged in beautiful craft paper…

If you want a natural, BPA-free and metal-free solution, the Bamboozle bin should be your choice. Made of bamboo fiber, it’s a fully-sustainable, eco-friendly option as well.

Style-wise, this design fits well into most kitchen environments. It’s unobtrusive, with a white color that blends into the scenery. This won’t hold as much as some other types of compost caddy, so you’ll have to take it to the pile more often.

What I like about it is the sustainable aspects of construction and its looks. What I don’t like is that bamboo fiber can absorb odors. This would be best if used with compostable bags to keep the smell from permeating your bin.

A carbon filter in the lid and a sturdy bamboo handle finish it off. All things considered, if you like the sustainability aspect, this is a great option.

Full Circle Fresh Air Odor-Free Kitchen Compost Bin, Black and White

  • Patented design lets air flow through for less…
  • Opens easily with a push of a button
  • Easy to clean and empty for less mess

I keep reiterating that I don’t like plastic compost pails. But even though I don’t, this one has great design elements.

With a touch, your spring-loaded lid will pop open, ready to add material. A compost bag can be suspended within to catch your waste products. And its design allows air to flow from the bottom of the bin upward, reducing the amount of smells.

It also keeps the material drier than a normal bin, which slows decomposition in the kitchen. While you want this stuff to break down quickly, it’s better if it does it in the pile or worm bin!

This option’s great for people who make coffee every day and have wet grounds, as it can dry them out more readily. Lots of peels or damaged produce? No problem. Your only concern should be really juicy stuff leaking through the bottom of your bag before it can dry.

Greenlid Compostable Compost Bin – Starter Kit (30 Pack + Reusable Greenlid)

  • Just fill it with your food Waste, and compost the…
  • Leak proof and eliminates Smells
  • Comes with 30 containers, 30 compostable lids and…

Finally, we come to the bin-that-is-not-a-bin. Or, rather, it’s a bin and it’s compost fodder, too.

If you’re someone who finds it difficult to have enough brown waste in your bin, this is your choice. Squeamish about cleaning out the gunk in your pail? This will fix that, too.

Unlike all the other models today, this entire bin gets carried out and dropped right onto the pile. Remove the lid to use later – it’s machine washable and ready to put on the next one.

Fully constructed of “end of life cardboard”, this bin is a final stage in cardboard recycling. Cardboard can’t be recycled more than a few times before it needs to be retired. And this bin ensures your compost pile is the cardboard’s final resting place.

If you have a lot of soggy materials, the bin may become soft or leak. But for most normal kitchen waste, this works perfectly. And who doesn’t need more browns in their green waste?

In the end, we all need a bin that looks good in the kitchen while it collects our waste. There’s a wide variety of options out there. My recommendations are all models that meet both stylistic and functional needs. After all, if it doesn’t do its job and it looks bad, it doesn’t belong in your kitchen!

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Lorin Nielsen
Lifetime Gardener
Kevin Espiritu
Founder Did this article help you? × How can we improve it? × Thanks for your feedback!

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How to Keep Compost in the Kitchen With No Smell

  1. Find a large (at least 1 gallon-sized) ceramic or metal container with a lid. Aluminum or stainless steel weighs less than ceramic, but ceramic cleans up more easily, as it requires less scrubbing. Lids should be tight-fitting to keep out bugs and keep in odor.

  2. Place a plastic bag in the container as a liner. If you are opposed to using plastic bags, you do not have to use one. Or you can find biodegradable bags. But these do make clean-up easier–and you won’t have to take the whole container out to your garden compost–you’ll just have to carry the plastic out and dump the contents on your outdoor compost pile.

  3. Place the container in an out-of-the way area. Beneath the kitchen sink is usually a good place.

  4. Place a variety of kitchen scraps in the container. These can include coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps and eggshells. Avoid putting meat scraps in the kitchen bin–these become malodorous quickly, as do other animal proteins, such as milk, eggs, cheese and butter. Avoid bones as well–they won’t break down.

  5. Sprinkle or spray a compost deodorizer on the compost. Find these in many places that sell kitchen compost bins. Use deodorizer at least once every week unless you are dumping the compost frequently. When using your own ceramic or metal compost bin, dump compost in the outside bin once every four to 10 days.

  6. Clean the inside of the container and lid by scrubbing it with a wet soapy sponge. Rinse the container and dry it before re-using. Do this each time you dump out the old compost. Even when you use a plastic bag, the inside of the container will hold on to old odor if you don’t wash it frequently.

Compost Troubleshooting

Following your compost the right food and in the right proportions will help you avoid possible problems, however here are some common problems that people are either concerned about or have experienced.

Why does my compost pile smell?

If your compost smells sour like ammonia, the most common reason is too much green material and/or a lack of brown material. You should use 2 to 3 times as much browns as greens. Always cover your greens with a layer of browns like leaves. Check out the “Basics and Getting Started” section for more detail on how to balance your greens and browns. If you have been composting without browns for a while, you may also need to incorporate the browns into your entire bin by turning your pile as you incorporate layers of browns. When you have finished turning the pile be sure to top it off with another layer of browns.

If the compost smells like sulphur or rotten eggs, then there is a lack of oxygen causing the pile to decompose anaerobically. (without oxygen). This can be due to either excess moisture or your pile being to compacted. Turn the pile adding browns as necessary to absorb any excess moisture.

Nothing seems to be happening. Why?

Once again this can be a problem with balancing how you feed your pile or an issue with moisture and air. If you have been feeding your pile with a balance of greens and browns, your pile may be too dry. Check to see if there is sufficient moisture by taking a handful of the compost and squeezing it in your hand. If it stays together in a ball (not more than a few drops should come out) it is at the correct moisture content. If not, your should add water to the pile. At the same time it would likely be a good idea to turn the pile to introduce some oxygen. You could also simply use an aerating tool to to this. Check out the “Basics and Getting Started” section for more on aerating your compost pile.

If you would like to kick start things a bit, try adding a thin layer of soil or finished compost to introduce more microorganisms into the pile. Also make sure not to turn your pile too often; once every few weeks in warm weather should be enough. turning your pile will interrupt the heating up of the pile and can slow the decomposition if done too often.

Why are there so many insects in my bin?

Insects should be in your bin! They are an important part of the composting process, but a large amount of flies or wasps could indicate a problem. Flies are attracted to odours, and can be controlled by ensuring you always have a layer of brown material on top of your pile. Wasps and ants may also be attracted to odours, however they will also tend to nest in a dry pile. Turn your pile regularly and ensure that it is moist. If it is too dry, simply add water. Want to know more about how to deal with wasps in your compost pile, !

What about rodents and other pests?

Racoons and other animals are also attracted to odours, especially if those odours are meats, fish, or dairy products. Keep these materials out of your compost bin, or use a digester like the Green Cone instead of your compost bin. Always cover your fresh food waste with a generous layer of browns. If you are using a plastic bin, keep the lid on to keep animals out.

Mice may be attracted to your bin if it’s too dry. Make sure to properly mix your greens and brown and ensure that the bin is kept moist. The materials in the bin should be approximately as damp as a rung out sponge. Want to know more about how to deal with mice in your compost pile, !

Can I compost meat, fish, dairy, etc?

These items should not be added to your compost bin, but can be added to a digester like the Green Cone. A digester is a special type of bin that breaks these items down, but does not create compost. These systems only require green material and are therefore usually recommended in conjunction with another composting system to compost excess yard waste.

How do I compost pet waste?

Pet waste should never be added to your compost bin, but you can build or purchase a digester to break down pet waste in a safe and effective manner. Check out the step-by-step photo guide or video on how to build your own pet waste composter at City Farmer. Pet stores may also sell pet waste digesters or you can also buy a system like the Green Cone mentioned above to handle more than just pet waste.

Can I compost weeds or diseased plants?

Most weeds will break down in the compost bin. If you are adding large amounts of weed seeds or diseased plant material, use a compost thermometer to ensure that the pile reaches 55 Celcius for 3 consecutive days to destroy all seeds or pathogens. If your compost bin is not heating up enough, you can use a compost bin made from an old garbage can and leave it in the hot sun. This will heat up enough to ensure that the seeds are no longer a problem. Check out our plans for building a garbage can compost bin.

Can I compost rhubarb leaves?

Leaves from plants like Rhubarb, Foxglove, and Lupins can be safely composted. While the leaves are poisonous, the toxic oxalic acid in them is mostly broken down by the heat of the pile. The small amount of acid remaining will not inhibit the microbial action or make the compost unusable. The bottom line is that since we don’t eat compost, it is not a problem. Even compost piles containing large quantities of rhubarb leaves etc. decompose nicely and the compost in no way inhibits plant growth.

Still Have Questions?

  • Give us a call: toll free at 1-866-394-8880 or in Winnipeg at 204-925-3777
  • Drop an email to the compost staff!

Odour Free Composting

All composting produces odorous chemicals. The ability for the human nose to detect them depends on the concentration in which they are released. This in turn depends on how much waste is decaying and at what rate (i.e. cold or hot composting) and other factors such as temperature, humidity and wind speed.

What should my compost smell like?

It all depends on the age of the compost (fresh or mature), and whether it is working aerobically (with oxygen) or anaerobically (without oxygen). The different types of compost odours, what causes them and how to limit or reduce them are explained below:

The 4 Main Composting Odours

1. Cabbage/Fruity Odour
2. Ammonia/Urine Odour
3. Putrid/Rotten Odour
4. Musky/Earthy Odour

Recognising each of them is a relatively simple matter of learning and experience.

1. Cabbage / Fruity Odour | Normal in all composting

Explained: When lifting the HOTBIN lid you may smell a fruity boiled cabbage type odour; this is a sign of a highly efficient HOTBIN. This odour is due to bacteria breaking down complex sugars and cellulose into smaller chemical compounds rather than carbon dioxide. These hundreds of chemical compounds vaporise (become odorous gases) and are given the collective name of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). At hot composting temperatures of 60°C, VOC’s are produced faster and vaporise quicker leaving the HOTBIN via the valve. The HOTBINs filter pack in the lid help reduce these odours below nuisance levels. However there will always be a short whiff each time the lid is opened. In cold composting, these chemicals are produced slowly and do not vaporise to the same degree, hence why you rarely notice them.

2. Ammonia / Urine Odour | Excess nitrogen in mix

Explained: This smell is created when excess nitrogen leaves the heap as ammonia gas. You are most likely to notice this when composting large quantities of 1-2 day old grass mowing’s. When you turn a pile of grass you will often notice the odour when you get indoors as it has clung to your clothes. Read more on composting grass.

3. Putrid / Rotten Odour | Lack of oxygen

Explained: These odours are associated with anaerobic heaps. There are a wide range of chemicals including valeric acid (sick), hydrogen sulphide (bad eggs), dimethyl sulphide & acetic (vinegar) that are described as sour, acidic and very unpleasant smells, which create a natural “gut wrench” reflex in humans. It is believed this is a defence mechanism to prevent us eating rotting dangerous food. This is a group of odours you definitely do not want. Not only are they unpleasant but they are a robust indication that the compost bin has turned anaerobic and you will eventually end up with a wet slimy mush rather than brown crumbly compost if this is not rectified.

4. Musky / Earthy Odour | Normal – compost ready

Explained: This musky, soil-like smell is generated when the compost is mature and ready to use. This is what your final product should smell like.

Tips for preventing odours

Odour Type Prevention Tips
Cabbage/Fruity Always present. The HOTBIN has an inbuilt bio-filter in the lid that helps to minimise these odours below nuisance level.
Ammonia/Urine Mix in plenty of dry, easy to digest shredded corrugated cardboard/office paper and bulking agent.
Putrid/Rotten Take action as soon as the HOTBIN begins to have a sour smell. Shredded corrugated cardboard or office paper (to absorb excess moisture) and bulking agent (to aerate waste) need to be added. Read more.
Musky/Earthy This is what your final compost should smell like.

Why do de want to avoid unplesent composting odours?

Not only are putrid odours unpleasant to the human nose, they also run the risk of attracting unwanted flies and vermin. They are sensitive to the odours and use them as a means of detecting rotting food which they will try and get to using any means.

Will Turning the compost remove odours?

No. In fact, turning will increase the odours given off during the process.


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advertisement advertisement Sorry. I just didn’t know a different way to say it. Well, I knew one other way to say it, but that was even less appropriate.

We had this particular probably pop up this year with our new tumbler compost bin. I wasn’t used to it, since we hadn’t had that happen before (at least that I noticed) with our inexpensive homemade compost bin (which we are still using as well). When it first happened, I ignored it. But, the next time I went out to add in some things and spin it, I almost thought I was going to get sick. Not good.

So, just in case you run into that problem too, I thought I would share how to help that issue.

Help! My Compost Bin Stinks!

If your compost has a poop smell, it probably means that you have too much green material (which isn’t all green, of course, but includes things like your banana peels and apple cores, as well as things like grass clippings). These things add a lot of nitrogen to your compost bin. Another issue may be that your compost is too wet. (It should be damp, but not wet.) When I had this problem, both of these things worked together to cause the issue.

The best way to combat this issue is to add more brown material, which is high in carbon. In a house of five family members, one of our favorite brown materials is the cardboard paper tubes from toilet paper. These used to go to our recycling, but now they pretty much exclusively are composted. We also add in things like newspaper (best to use ones that aren’t glossy or super colorful), paper towel, and shredded paper. Another fabulous brown material addition at this time of year are Autumn leaves. (The live leaves are green material, but dead leaves are brown material.) It is best to try to shred some brown materials before adding them into your compost.

Even if you aren’t having a smell issue, it’s still best to try to keep a nice mix of both green and brown materials in your composting bin. Just remember – your compost should not smell bad. If it does, it’s definitely time to consider if you’ve been adding too much of one type of material.

Do you have a compost bin/pile? What things do you find you are most often adding?

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