How to Reduce the Odor of Composting


Composting yard and kitchen organic wastes provides a valuable service to a green planet. It also helps to grow beautiful lawns, flowers and vegetables when used as a soil addition or mulch. Building a simple compost pile is really no different than baking a cake from scratch. Just assemble the ingredients, mix together and let nature take its course. As with a cake, though, sometimes it doesn't work out quite the way you wish. One problem that is often ongoing for people new to composting is having a stinky pile.

Step 1

Mix more browns into the pile if ammonia odor is present. If no other ready source is available, shredded newspaper can work well. It doesn't provide any nutrients, but the carbon cancels the odor after a day or two. Be sure not to use the "slick" paper from the advertising.

Step 2

Mix larger pieces of kitchen waste into the center of the pile, or cover the entire pile with another 6 to 16 inch layer of material if you smell rotten food. Prevention begins by first chopping the kitchen waste into smaller pieces. Mincing is not required, but pieces should be no larger than an inch or two. Meat or other animal by-products are not recommended for beginning composting.

Step 3

Remix the pile to give it more oxygen if there is a sour odor. When a pile lacks oxygen, the anaerobic microorganisms begin to dominate. This can lead to a sourness instead of the sweet smell of a forest floor in autumn. Avoid this by not packing a pile to densely.

Step 4

Add sufficient enough browns, or carbon based material, when adding raw animal manure to the pile. This actively works to control the excess nitrogen. Covering the pile with 12 inches of dirt may also help control the odor.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always use gloves when working with animal manure. Do not put it on your vegetable garden until well composted and matured.

Things You'll Need

  • Brown organic material (leaves, yard wastes, newspaper, straw, cardboard)
  • Green organic material (grass clippings, spent coffee grounds, kitchen wastes, animal manure)
  • Mixing fork or shovel


  • Free Composting: Smelly Composting: Dealing With Compost Bin Odors
  • Planet Green: How to Cure a Stinky Compost System
  • Organic Gardening: Cures for Common Compost Questions

Who Can Help

  • Planet Natural: Composting Tips
Keywords: compost bad odor, stinky compost, smelly compost

About this Author

Jack Burton started writing professionally in 1980. He has written for "Word from Jerusalem," "ICEJ Daily News" and Tagalong Garden News. Burton managed radio stations, TV studios and newspapers, and was the chief fundraiser for Taltree Arboretum. He has a Bachelor of Science in broadcasting from John Brown University, and retired from the Navy Reserve in 1999.