Does A Compost Bin Smell? And How To Get Rid Of It

Want to start composting but wonder does a compost bin smell?

Or have you found yourself trying composting but are now worried about what does compost smell like especially if you are not staying alone. 

If these questions have run through your mind then I have got all your answers right here. 

Composting is the process of breaking up organic matter and it will emit some form of smell but a well-balanced or maintained compost bin should not stink.

Compost should smell like earthy mud or dirt or some would describe it as the smell of the grass after the rain. 

So, when do compost piles smell and what is compost supposed to smell? And why does compost smell bad? 

In this article, I will help you identify:

  • what does compost smell like?
  • the type of smell you should look out for
  • the cause behind the smell
  • tips to fix your compost if you ever start wondering why does my compost smells like poop
Does a compost bin smell

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Types Of Compost Smells And How To Troubleshoot 

If you are a beginner in home composting and often think is compost supposed to smell bad, the following key pointers will guide you on what should compost smell like and how to troubleshoot should there be any funky smells coming from it.

1. Poop or Ammonia Smell

If you’re wondering ‘why does my compost smell like poop’, this means there may be too many green materials in your compost.

Green materials are made up of nitrogen-rich substances and examples of green materials are green leaves, food wastes from the kitchen, and clippings of wet grass. 

Does a compost bin smell

It is super easy to solve this.

Next time, when you start thinking ‘hmm, my compost smells like poop’, all you need to do is to add more brown materials.

Brown materials are carbon-rich and a few examples of brown materials are pine needles, dry leaves, newspapers, brown cardboards, and small branches. 

It is important to get as close as possible to the ideal ratio of green and brown materials. The materials will still decompose with an inaccurate ratio.

However, to speed up the composting process, it is highly recommended to have a ratio of 3 or 4 parts of browns to 1 part greens

If you still struggle to find the balance of the mixture, try a compost starter. It will activate the decomposition process and is made up of bacteria and fungi.

Does a compost bin smell

2. Sulphur Smell

When your compost bin starts to give off a putrid smell which is very similar to the odor of rotten eggs, this means there is a lack of oxygen in the compost pile causing the pile to decompose in an anaerobic condition

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The compost bin may have been too compacted which means oxygen may not be able to circulate properly. One of the ways to counter this problem is simply adding ‘fluffy’ materials such as dry leaves to absorb any excess moisture. 

Another highly recommended solution to increase aeration and improve air circulation is to ‘turn’ your compost. 

How does one do that? 

By using a shovel or garden fork and physically making the pile rotate. Make sure the inner part of the compost pile is shoved to the sides of the bin and the outer part of the pile to the center of the bin. 

This encourages the outer material to heat up in the center as they are cooler coming from the outer side. If this is too much effort, you can opt for a tumbling composter.

Does a compost bin smell

3. Sweet Sticky or Slimy Ammonia Smell

When a compost pile is too wet, it creates an environment for anaerobic bacteria which gives off the ammonia smell. 

There are a few combined causes of a soggy compost pile which include: 

  • poor aeration
  • an incorrect ratio of carbon-rich
  • nitrogen-rich materials
  • presence of excessive moisture. 

To fix this issue, you can add carbon-rich materials which are also known as brown materials. Try using finer brown materials as bulky materials may take longer to decompose.

Make sure to turn or fork the compost to avoid clumping in the compost pile. Getting a composter that tumbles will make the turning process easier. All you need to do is to give the composter a spin each time new materials are added to the pile.

While there should be some form of moisture in the compost pile, it should not be soggy. This means you should cover any ‘open’ compost pile to protect it from the wet weather unless you live in a very dry climate. 

4. Rotting Meat Odor With Sightings Of Pests

If your compost pile starts attracting pests or rodents, chances are you might have accidentally added any animal products or dairy into your compost pile. Home composters should avoid composting meat or bones as these will attract unwanted pests and cause an unpleasant smell.

Meat also typically takes longer to decompose as it contains high protein and fat as opposed to simple carbohydrate structures in plants. One of the greatest risks of composting meat scraps is also the potential bacteria contamination such as E. coli and Salmonella which are harmful.

Does a compost bin smell

Tips To Avoid Smelly Indoor Compost Bins

While the majority of the compost bins are placed outdoors, it is understandable that not everyone has the space for outdoor composting. Therefore, the alternative will be a kitchen countertop compost bin.

One of the benefits of placing a kitchen countertop compost bin is that it will encourage less waste as you throw away less garbage.

Here are a few guidelines (and bonus tips!) to minimize the smell of the indoor compost bins.

1. Get A Compost Bin With Charcoal Filters

Does a compost bin smell

If you wonder why does my compost smell, then compost bins with charcoal filters might just be your solution.

Another advantage is that it is perfectly easy to use. The removable liner that comes with the bin is safe for the dishwasher and comes with a spot for the charcoal filter.  

A removable liner that is cleaned well means it can eliminate food scraps from getting trapped in tight corners.

When these food scraps that are trapped start decaying, the compost bin will start to smell. The charcoal filter that comes with the bin will help filter any compost bin that smells.

2. Replace Charcoal Filters Often

If your compost bin does not smell bad, it does not mean you do not need to change the charcoal filters. They are prone to damage after prolonged usage.

Does a compost bin smell

Charcoal filters are recommended to be replaced every 4 to 6 months 

3. Empty Your Compost Bin Regularly

Typically, food decomposition starts on the 3rd day and if there are no brown materials in the compost bin, the compost will start to smell like poop or sewage.

You can prevent this by regularly emptying your indoor compost bin into the outdoor compost bin.

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The recommended frequency would be 2-3 days.

4. Use Compostable Garbage Bags

Does a compost bin smell

Compostable garbage bags are perfect for those who do not have an outdoor compost bin. These bags will also help with reducing any stinky smells.

They do not require cleaning after use and allow composters to keep their compost on the countertop longer.

Bonus tip: If you find that your waste produced each week is more than the size of your countertop bin, you should use a 5-gallon container that comes with a lid and is made of plastic for easy cleaning.

5. Clean Your Compost Bin Regularly

Food waste can be downright yucky and when it starts to decompose, that is when it smells terrible. Regularly wash your kitchen compost bin with soap and water to keep the yuck factor to a minimum. 

Wash the liner of the compost bin thoroughly with a little bleach and soapy water. It is also recommended to sanitize the liner by running it through your dishwasher. Such minimal effort can make a huge difference in the smell of the compost bin.

Bonus tip: Sprinkle some baking soda into your compost pail to absorb odors.

6. Dry Your Compost Bin Liners

It is easy to overlook this or get lazy and just use the liner right away before it gets dry completely.

Moist and wet conditions amplify the awful smell and provide ideal conditions for mildew and mold to thrive.

Therefore, make sure you dry the liner out in the sun before using it.

7. Add Brown Materials To Your Compost Pile

As we have learned, having only green materials will result in a smelly compost bin. 

Brown materials such as newspaper or shredded toilet paper rolls should be added to the bottom of your countertop compost bin and carbon from the brown materials will help balance the nitrogen in the compost.

Does a compost bin smell

Bonus tip: Adding a layer of coarse material at the bottom of the compost pile such as branches, broken twigs, corn cobs, and husks can improve drainage and aeration.

8 Best Odorless Compost Bins For Your Home

1. Best Overall: EPICA Stainless Steel Compost Bin

Does a compost bin smell

Capacity: 1.3 Gallons

EPICA compost bin is made of a sleek design which makes it nice to be placed on the kitchen countertop. The bin size is ideal to contain waste for a couple of days. With the charcoal filters, it helps to hide any smell which makes it practically odor-free. You do not need to worry about cleaning as it is super easy to clean. 

What I like:

  • Cleaning is fuss-free
  • Close to zero compost smell
  • Bin design is aesthetically pleasing

What I dislike:

  • It’s not dishwasher safe
  • Finding the right charcoal filter that fits might be challenging

2. Best Budget: Oxo Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin

Does a compost bin smell

Capacity: 1.7 Gallons

Oxo’s Easy-Clean Compost Bin is an amazing size for the kitchen counter. It is designed to hold a few days’ worths of food waste and its awesome locking mechanism keeps the odor from escaping.

What I like:

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Super easy cleaning
  • Odor-control lid

What I dislike:

  • Lack of air vents which means a lack of aeration
  • Not suitable for long-term storage

3. Best Eco-Friendly: Bamboozle Food Compost Bin

Does a compost bin smell

Capacity: 1.25 Gallons

Bamboozle Food Compost Bin not only looks pretty but it is also made up of eco-friendly bamboo fiber material.

This means it has lesser negative impacts on the environment. It comes with filter that keeps odor at a minimum and the biodegradable material of bamboo finers is great at decomposition.

What I like:

  • Eco-friendly and non-toxic material
  • Dishwasher safe and easy cleaning
  • Charcoal filter will eliminate odor

What I dislike:

  • Frequent (every 2 months) replacement of charcoal filters

4. Best Freezer Compost Bin: Full Circle Scrap Happy Food Scrap Collector and Freezer

Does a compost bin smell

Capacity: 0.58 Gallons

If your two pet peeves are flies and stinky smells, this Full Circle bin eliminates both as food wastes are placed in the freezer until they are added to the outdoor compost pile.

What I like:

  • Required small space and mounts to drawer
  • No odor
  • No flies

What I dislike:

5. Best Mountable: ELPHECO Kitchen Compost Bin

Does a compost bin smell

Capacity: 2.5 Gallons

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Perfectly designed for homeowners with a small kitchen and the ELPHECO Kitchen Compost Bin can even be used in the bathroom.

This bin is designed with convenience in mind and can be hidden under the sink, mounted on the kitchen cupboard and food scraps are easily disposed of directly into the bin during food preparation.

What I like:

  • Versatile and durable
  • Perfect for a small kitchen with generous capacity

What I dislike:

6. Best With Compost Bags: Full Circle Fresh Air Odor-Free Kitchen Compost Bin

Does a compost bin smell

Capacity: 1.5 Gallons

This bin caters to those who prefer bins with no cleaning needs. This is done by utilizing compostable bags.

The bin allows air to flow through the perforated lid and comes with a ventilated base which means great aeration for composting. 

What I like:

  • Air flows through easily
  • Minimal odor and lesser flies
  • Waste is easily emptied

What I dislike:

7. Best Design: BelleMark Kitchen Compost Bin

Does a compost bin smell

Capacity: 1.6 Gallons

This rust-proof and stylish designed compost bin will fit right in with any kitchen. It is made of premium craftsmanship from Acacia wood and food-grade stainless-steel material. 

It also comes with a lid that keeps odors locked in and flies away.

What I like:

What I dislike:

  • Price is on the steeper end

8. Best Food Recycler: Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50

Does a compost bin smell

Capacity: 0.53 Gallons

Traditional composting processes may take a while for the food to decompose which is the main culprit for pests and bad odor.

A food recycler is a great option to speed up composting and it uses heat and a grinder to electrically process waste into a mixture.

This mixture can be added to the worm bin, outdoor composter, or garden.

What I like: 

  • Low energy consumption
  • Odorless

What I dislike:

Does A Compost Bin Smell?

If you’re wondering does a compost bin smell, the answer is compost done correctly won’t smell bad at all. It is normal to be worried about the smell but a balanced and healthy compost pile will only give off a pleasant and earthy smell.

Should A Compost Bin Smell?

If you’re wondering should a compost bin smell, a properly balanced compost pile should not smell bad and it should smell like dirt. If it doesn’t, this means organic material is not heating up and decomposing properly. This does not apply if you are composting manure in your compost pile.

How Do I Keep My Compost Bin From Smelling?

So, how do I keep my compost bin from smelling? The best thing to do is to cover your pile in dry, brown materials such as dry leaves or shredded newspaper. Brown materials placed on top can prevent smells from leaving your bin and it is convenient to have them right next to your compost bin.

Do Compost Bins Attract Rats?

More importantly, do compost bins attract rats? The answer is yes, rats are attracted to compost bins as it provides food, and refuge and is an ideal condition for nesting.

So, you have to be extremely mindful of keeping your compost bins well-maintained

What Does A Compost Bin Smell Like?

If you’ve always wondered what does a compost bin smell like, healthy compost will emit a pleasant, earthy odor. Compost that is balanced and done correctly should not smell bad and if it does, it indicates something is wrong and some adjustments are required.

Does a compost bin smell

Conclusion

So, does a compost bin smell? The key takeaway here is that a compost bin should not emit a horrible smell.

As composting is a process of recycling organic matter (which includes food scraps decomposing and breaking down), this process will give off some sort of smell but it should not smell terrible.

If the next time you think “my compost smells”, you can troubleshoot by identifying the type of smell and reasons behind it as soon as you can. Be sure to turn your compost regularly to encourage good aeration and allow ample oxygen in.

Composting allows kitchen scraps to be disposed of easily. But there is more than just that. Proper care and consistent observation are important and will help manage the compost bin smell while making sure the pile last. 

Follow the guide and you will have awesome compost as fertilizer for your garden.

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