Does Compost Smell? Here Is What You Need To Know

does compost smell

Does compost smell? Generally, a compost that is properly prepared and done with proper composting preparation and maintenance in mind, should not suppose to smell. A compost suppose to smell earthy and crumbly when touched.

However, there are some issues or factors that can make your compost smell bad.

Read on to find out.

Does Compost Smell? Here is what you Need to Know

Usually in most cases, composting is a straightforward and easy task, which is not supposed to spoil your leisure time and energy in ideal conditions.

This is because you only need to collect the waste such as fruits and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, grass clippings, weeds, shredded newspapers, shredded cardboard, sawdust, chopped straw and hay, and so on. You need to only add these materials into your compost bin or pile.

However, adding the kitchen and garden waste to the compost pile or bin requires some composting skills. And failure to follow these skills can lead to a production of bad compost that will release unpleasant odor or smell. This is bad for you, your neighbors, and any random visitor that may visit your house.

Here is why your compost is smelling:

Why does Compost Smell?

A compost that is made from well-balanced brown and green organic matter smells like that of earthy soil or dirt. However, if your compost smells like ammonia or like that of rotten eggs, then there is something that you made wrong. And here is why:

Adding too many nitrogen-rich materials: nitrogen-rich organic materials are compostable materials that contain a high amount of nitrogen. These materials usually contain too much moisture. And so when you added them in excess, they will male the compost to pack closely or become compacted.

And this compaction limits the amount of air or oxygen that will circulate in the compost. Remember, the breaking down of these organic materials is aided by a special group of microorganisms called aerobic microorganisms, which means they require oxygen to carry out their microbial activities.

And so in the absence of oxygen, these organisms cannot break down the organic materials. This will become clear when your compost begins to release a smell of ammonia.

An imbalance between browns and greens: in composting, compostable materials are divided into two main parts. That is the brown and green organic materials. The green organic matters include grass clippings, coffee grounds, and other fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, brown organic matters include straw, hay, sawdust, cardboard, newspapers, and dried leaves.

So, in order to avoid making compost that smells, you need to balance between brown organic matters and green organic matters. Adding more greens can increase the chance of making your compost smell bad.

An ideal ratio between greens and browns that are found to be effective is 1 part greens and 2 parts browns or 1 part greens to 2 parts browns. You can also use 1 part greens to 3 parts browns. The best thing is not to add too many greens.

Composting in a poorly made compost bin or pile such as a compost bin that is made without composting in mind.

Here is what I mean: a good compost bin is expected to have holes for easy passage of air in and out of the compost. These holes allow excess moisture to drain out of the compost bin or pile. And failure to make these holes can allow excess moisture or water to accumulate in the compost, which eventually makes the compost release an unpleasant smell.

Additionally, the absence of these holes can hinder the physiological activities of the decomposition microorganisms that are present in the compost. And this also makes compost smells bad due to the poor aeration in the compost.

Failure to turn the compost timely: despite this does not affect the quality of compost directly but lack of turning does affect or can male your compost smells bad. This is because failure to turn the compost can make the green compostable materials to park too closely in one place, and this can lead to the poor breakdown of organic matters. And so they are not properly broken down due to poor aeration in the compost. This leads to the release of an unpleasant smell.

Adding the wrong compostable materials: not all organic materials can be added to the compost bin or pile. Even though they are compostable, but adding them will be the beginning of trouble between you and your neighbors.

They can smell badly and attract pests that can mess up your compost. These organic materials include fish scraps, meat scraps, dairy products, cooking oils, cow manure, humans feces, fats, grease, butter, and other carnivores’ feces.

Learn more about the smell of compost from here and here

How to get rid of Smell in Compost Bin

You can fix the smell in your compost by following these steps:

Add more browns: if your compost is smelling as a result of too many greens, add more brown organic materials to balance off the green’s organic matter. You can add shredded newspapers, dried leaves, chipped branches, and shredded cardboard. This can greatly fix the Smell that is coming from your compost.

Increase aeration in the compost: if it is because of low or lack of oxygen in your compost, consider creating spaces on the sides, top of lid, and bottom of the compost bin. These holes can provide efficient spaces for the movement of air in and out of the compost bin.

If the spot where you placed the compost bin PR pile is not well ventilated, consider changing the location to where there is good ventilation. You can also consider moving the compost to a pace in your backyard that receives the maximum amount of sunlight in a day. This can be done if initially, you kept the compost bin or pile in a place where there is not sufficient sunlight.

Remove unwanted compostable materials: this comes in handy when you initially added compostable materials that cause a bad smell such as fish scraps.

Off the content of the compost bin and remove those materials that make your compost smell bad. Then, finally, return the good compostable materials back to the compost bin.

Turn the compost timely: you can reduce or eliminate the smell your compost is releasing by timely turning the compost. Turn the content of the compost two times a week. This can help mix the browns and greens properly.

And this helps speeds up the breakdown process of organic matters. Turning also helps increase aeration and heat. And these are required by the decomposition of microorganisms for proper breakdown of the compostable materials.

Tip: Learn more on how to a compost

How to Compost without Smell

There are effective ways in which you can compost without smell.

These ways include:

Do not add wrong compostable materials: adding wrong compostable materials cannot only make your compost smell bad but also attract pests such as rodents to mess up the efforts you put into making the compost. So, avoid these smell-causing organic matters to your compost. I made mention most of them while I was discussing”how to get rid of the smell in compost bin”.

Use a good compost bin: do not use a compost bin or pile that was not made with composting in mind. Find a compost bin with hopes at the top of the lid, beneath the bottom, and on the sides of the compost bin.

Tip: learn how to make a compost bin from a plastic dustbin

Locate a good spot for your compost bin: you need to pace the compost bin in a well-dried area, which is flat and receives a reasonable amount of sunlight in a day.

Avoid place with damp, high moisture content, and sloppy.

Use well-balanced compostables: add your compostables with composting preparation and maintenance in mind. Use one part of greens and two parts of browns. You can also use one part to three parts of brown organic matter. But, avoid adding more green organic matters, which are nitrogen-rich materials.

Alternate between browns and greens: add both greens and browns in layers. Add them in an alternating form like this: browns> greens> browns> greens> browns> greens> crowns and so on.

Cover the compost bin with a lid: after you have finished adding the compostable materials, cover the compost bin with a lid and turf. But, only use the turf if it is spring or the place is too moist. This can help conserve heat and speed up the composting process.

Turn the compost from time to time: this is important as it helps increase oxygen circulation in the compost. It also helps conserve heat and make the compost evenly combine.

Tip: you can learn more about how to make compost in a compost bin

Frequently Asked Questions

Do composting toilets smell bad?

To keep it short, composting toilets can be very smelly especially if you do not follow the basic composting preparation and maintenance.

Also read: Can You Compost Onions?: The Detailed Guide To Onions Composting

Do compost tumblers smell?

Tumblers do not usually release an unpleasant odor. Tumblers help control composting odor. This is whether you cover the tumblers with a lid or not. The smell is still not bad. But, it is good to close the tumblers in order to conserve heat in the tumblers.

Does mushroom compost smell?

Mushroom compost does not smell bad. The smell of mushroom compost is similar to that of a musty smell. However, the musty smell is a little bit odd, but it usually disappears quickly after some time.

Read also: Can You Compost Paper Towels?: The Detailed Guide To Paper Towels Composting

Does cow manure compost smell?

Yes, cow manure compost smell but the smell changes from dairy cow smell to that of earthy soil-like smell.

Does vermicomposting bin smell?

If you are using vermicomposting, your worm bin is expected to always smell like that of fresh garden soil. Vermicomposting is not expected to smell bad and if you smell a bad odor from the worms bin, then something went wrong.

Read also: Composting Pine Needles: The Detailed Guide

Why does my compost smell like ammonia?

If your compost is smelling like ammonia, then it is an indication that you added too much nitrogen-rich organic materials. These nitrogen-rich organic materials are called greens.

How can I keep compost in my kitchen without smelling?

If you want to compost in your kitchen without smelling, you then need to follow the best composting practices such as adding a well-balanced ratio of browns and greens, choosing the right compost bin and spot, taking care of the compost, and wisely selecting the compostable materials.


Composting is one of the best and safest ways to recycle waste from our homes and places of work. It is an efficient and simple strategy that can help you turn your kitchen scraps and garden waste into a very resourceful substance for plants.

However, if you do not prepare and arrange everything the right way, you may end messing up with your backyard or apartment.

In this article, I looked at how to fix and avoid smell in compost. I hope you will find the article very useful. Let me know if you have questions in the comments section below.

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