Should compost bins smell bad?
Compost bins, whether inside or out, should not smell bad. If your outside compost pile or bin is smelling bad, you need to follow some trouble shooting. Naples Compost has you covered with all the best tips and tricks to keep your compost smelling just like it should- like dirt!
What should my compost smell like?
Your compost bin or pile should smell like dirt, even when it is actively decomposing food and other green matter.
That’s right, compost should smell like dirt.
If your compost bin or pile smells sour, rotten, like ammonia, or any other strange smell that doesn’t smell like dirt, then you need to follow these tips below.
Why does my compost smell bad?
There are many reasons why your compost might smell bad. Here are a few of the most common reasons compost starts to smell funny:
- Compost is too wet
- There is too much green material
- Compost pile is not getting enough air
- Pile is not layered correctly
- Oil, fat, meat or dairy were added to pile
How to troubleshoot a stinky compost pile
Troubleshooting a stinky compost pile or bin might seem overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of composting, it will become second nature. Compost for a while and you’ll instinctually know what to do in order to avoid a smelly compost bin.
REASON #1 YOUR COMPOST IS STINKY- YOUR COMPOST IS TOO WET
This is one of the easiest stinky compost problems to fix.
First, double check that you’ve put your pile or bin in the right location. If you have a compost tumbler or bin, it can be tempting to put it on the side of a house. This is a big mistake because runoff from your roof might run right into your bin, making it more of a compost tea rain barrel instead of a compost tumbler.
If you find that you need to move your bin or pile, choose a spot that gets plenty of sunshine and no extra rain runoff. This one tip alone could completely change your compost tumbler from being stinky to smelling like dirt.
Second, add more brown material to the bin or pile to start soaking up all the liquid. Turn your pile, then add a layer of brown material on top.
You may find that you have to turn your compost more and add more brown material during the rainy season.
REASON #2 YOUR COMPOST IS STINKY- YOUR COMPOST HAS TOO MUCH GREEN MATERIAL
Too much green material will definitely make your compost smell funky.
If you compost pile smells sour, like ammonia, you do not have enough brown material in the compost.
Well made compost, that doesn’t stink, requires a ratio of 3 parts green material to 1 part brown material. The easiest way to accomplish this is to add a thick layer of brown material each time you add a layer of green material.
Learn more about the 3:1 green (nitrogen) to brown (carbon) ratio here.
REASON #3 YOUR COMPOST IS STINKY- YOUR COMPOST ISN'T GETTING ENOUGH OXYGEN
The major player in decomposition is oxygen. If you don’t have it, then anaerobic decomposition will occur, leaving your bin or pile smelling like rotten eggs. Yuck!
You can fix this by regularly stirring or turning your compost. Just stick a pitchfork or shovel in there to mix it up.
Avoid compacting your compost pile. Instead, gently lay down layers of green and brown matter. A compacted pile or bin doesn’t allow for oxygen to seep in and decompose the organic matter.
REASON #4 YOUR COMPOST IS STINKY- YOUR PILE ISN'T LAYERED CORRECTLY
This goes back to the 3:1 ratio of green to brown matter. When you add your green and brown matter to the compost pile or bin, add it in layers instead of mixing it all together.
Put a thin layer of brown matter over your thicker layer of green matter to keep your pile from getting too stinky. The brown matter doesn’t smell bad as it decomposes, as opposed to the green matter that does get a little smelly.
REASON #5 YOUR COMPOST IS STINKY- OIL, FAT, MEAT OR DAIRY WERE ADDED
All living things will eventually decompose, however some things like oil, fat, meat, and dairy get pretty stinky as they decompose. Not only will it stink up your compost, adding meats, oils, and fats can attract animals and maggots (side note- a few maggots are actually a good thing to find in compost, but you don’t want to have an infestation).
This fix is pretty simple- keep oil, fat, meat, and dairy out of your compost. If you are dying to compost oils, fats, dairy and meat then you are a good candidate for bokashi composting. Learn more about bokashi bins here.
Troubleshoot your stinky compost by smell
compost smells like ammonia
If your compost smells like ammonia, then you have too many green materials.
Use a 3:1 ratio of green to brown materials. Learn more about green and brown materials here.
compost smells like rotten eggs
If your compost smells like rotten eggs, then you aren’t getting enough oxygen to your compost pile or bin.
To troubleshoot this you need to turn your bin, mix your pile, or make sure you don’t have too much water. Compost piles should be moist, but not wet.
There are Few hard and fast rules for Composting
Any carbon based material will eventually decompose. Basically, anything that was ever alive, will eventually decompose.
However, if you want to keep your compost from getting smelly you do need to follow a few tips and tricks. To sum it up, you need to do the following regularly to make sure you don’t get stinky compost piles or bins:
- Always keep a 3:1 ratio of green material to brown material.
- Keep compost bins and piles moist, but not wet.
- Layer brown material on top each time you add green material.
- Keep oil, fat, meat and dairy out of your compost bin.
Learn more about composting
Learn even more about composting with these helpful articles: