How to Keep Compost in the Kitchen With No Smell


Urban dwellers and those who live in developments where outdoor composting is not allowed can still recycle and reuse waste by vermicomposting---an odorless indoor process using worms. Worms are efficient processors of food waste; each one can consume half its weight in kitchen food waste. When fed a variety of non-animal-based materials, including spoiled food from the refrigerator, vacuum dust or ground-up egg shells, a few pounds of worms can produce its weight in compost in only a few days--all without the rancid smells of a garbage can.

Step 1

Buy a plastic "worm condo" or wood or plastic vermicomposting box in which to house your worms. You might even want to build your own box using plywood and two-by-four-inch framing. If you make a compost box out of wood or use a plastic tub, build your bin with one square foot of area for each pound of garbage that you will put in it each week. This means that if you build a bin that is two feet by three feet, or six square feet in area, you will be able to process six pounds of garbage a week.

Step 2

Drill about a dozen half-inch holes for drainage in the bottom of a homemade box and cover them with nylon screen mesh, available in the window section of hardware stores. Add holes in the top and along the upper-third of the sides for ventilation. Put a tray (use a sturdy boot tray) underneath the box to catch excess liquid. Drips can be used as liquid plant food.

Step 3

Fill your compost box about two-thirds full of dampened shredded newspaper, cardboard and sawdust to make a home for your worms. Don't use color-print newspaper (even the comics); it's indigestible. Add shredded newspaper daily as your worms turn it into compost, and keep it all moist.

Step 4

Add your worms. You'll need 12 pounds (or 12,000) worms if your family produces six pounds of garbage per week. Buy red wigglers at bait stores or where composting supplies are sold. If you have friends who compost, they may be willing to share. Given an environment with the right amount of water, air and food, the worms will thrive and reproduce, keeping the population at a level that is supported by the amount of food provided.

Step 5

Add non-animal food waste, including vegetables, fruit, coffee grounds, pasta and bread to your compost box for your worms to munch upon. Add plant-based material like paper egg cartons, too. Do not add oils, meats or meat products; they'll smell bad and may attract rodents. Each week, move all of the bedding to one end of the box and remove "castings" from the bottom to use as compost. Add fresh bedding each week and keep paper damp, not wet using a spray bottle.

Tips and Warnings

  • Use only vegetable-based material for your compost box. Animal matter cannot be digested completely by the worms and decaying organisms will stink. Worms and their castings are odorless provided they are fed the right food. Regular earthworms (night crawlers) cannot survive in an indoor compost bin---stick with the red wigglers.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic or wooden composting box
  • Half-inch drill
  • Nylon mesh screening to fit the bottom of the box
  • Boot tray
  • Red worms; "Eisenia foetida" "red wigglers"
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Corrugated board
  • Sawdust
  • Spray bottle


  • Vermicomposting
  • Worm Composting: All-Natural Recycling

Who Can Help

  • Kitchen Composting
  • Vermicomposting
  • About Worm Composting
Keywords: indoor compost, kitchen composting, vermicomposting

About this Author

Laura Reynolds began writing professionally in 1974. She has worked as author and editor in nonfiction, professional journals and newspapers. Reynolds has also served in numerous appointed and elected local offices. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from Northern Illinois University.