The Smelly Truth About Composting

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Does Compost Smell?

Does Compost smell? Absolutely. Yet, the odor shouldn’t be as bad as one should expect. Because if your compost smells so bad, then there is something wrong with it.  A properly managed compost pile shouldn’t smell horrible. Something is off if your compost smells heavily of ammonia, decaying eggs, or sickening sweetness. Fortunately, a few simple changes to your pile can aid to get things going again.

A great compost should only smell the same as normal soil. Even so though mostly, though a compost pile is added by animal manure, and many more organic wastes, due to its conversion to carbon, it shouldn’t produce any foul odor. However, in the first days of mixing organic wastes in your compost pile, it is given that it will produce foul odors. Thus, after short progress, the foul odor will slowly fade out and the smell would be somewhat earthy.

If your compost still produces foul odors even after so many days, then there is something that is causing that. It is unnatural for a healthy compost to smell bad, as this can toxify the soil and make all your progress unworthy it.

Reason Why Your Compost Has a Foul Smell

The purpose of making a compost pile is to nourish the soil. However, smelly compost will only do the reverse. That’s why you need to have proper maintenance to your compost to prevent this from happening. Yet, mistakes do happen especially to beginners and when it does, you must be able to identify the problem and get rid of it.

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Lack Of Airflow

Observe your compost pile’s condition. Is it too damp? Does it smells like a rotten egg, or sometimes sweet? Then if it is, then there’s no proper airflow.

The prevention of oxygen from entering your compost pile is not just because of increased temperature. This can also happen when your pile is too wet. Keep in mind that if the compost pile is too wet, bacteria increases which cause a foul odor.

But then, the more the bacteria are the better your compost will progress, isn’t it?

No, the bacteria that was supposed to be in the compost pile and decomposing the organic materials is now flowing into the water. Instead of increasing for the better, the bacteria’s increased to produce only foul odor.

The bacteria and microbes that break down the raw material in a compost pile can’t do their work if the pile isn’t adequately aerated.

Anaerobic bacteria establish a foundation and begin to emit some very unpleasant scents as a result of their metabolic activities when there is poor ventilation and an unhealthy population of aerobic bacteria. All of these bacteria live in the compost pile to some extent. As with anything, maintaining the proper balance is crucial for a good compost pile.


Add more compost mixture into your pile and start mixing it. If you have a compost tumbler, you can also put your damp compost mixture in it, and turn it, until it’s properly mixed and slightly dry.

Fats, Dairy Products, Raw Meats, or Oil in the Pile

If you think that any organic materials in composting, then it might be the reason why your compost smells bad. These materials don’t belong in a compost pile at all, not even for small gardens. Utilizing this kind of organic product will only delay or even toxify your compost pile, wasting all your efforts.


There is no other solution rather than redoing your compost pile. Consider not including these organic products the next time considering that they will only produce issues to your pile.

Compost Is Too Wet

The majority of compost piles are outside of our homes, and the most effective piles will decompose effectively when exposed to rain, and sunlight. The components of a compost pile may stagnate, become stinky and wet, and feed anaerobic bacteria instead of decomposing and decaying correctly if one of these factors is out of balance, such as when the compost is placed in a shaded area where it receives little heat from the sun. In terms of appearance and smell, a pile that is too wet frequently replicates one which isn’t gaining sufficient oxygen.


Guarantee that the area where your pile is established has at much as much sunlight as your roof gets. Compost odor may emerge if your compost pile does not receive enough sunlight and airflow.

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Malicious Bacteria Outnumbers the Beneficial Ones

On extremely rare occasions, a pile won’t have any bacteria in sufficient numbers to degrade the fresh materials. This might be the case if the compost pile is kept away from sources of natural bacteria, such as in compost tumblers, where the material is frequently enclosed in a plastic tub raised above the ground, or piles set up on tarps where it doesn’t touch the ground. A pile devoid of microorganisms will not only smell but also not heat up or decompose.


Get rid of the tumblers and plastic sheets and set the compost bin on a firm surface to attract beneficial insects to the pile. Fresh compost or organic soil are other options for introducing microorganisms.

Improper Placement Of Compost Materials

Sometimes, the positioning of the nitrogen and carbon components is the issue rather than merely the ratio. The pile won’t fully decompose if there are too many greens and too many browns together. Layer the materials like book pages and provide even distribution. Additionally, check to see that your pile is thoroughly mixed so that the nitrogen and carbon are distributed equally.


Add more carbon materials little by little not exceeding the amount your compost pile can store. Make sure that your pile also has a proper airflow by properly mixing the greens with the browns.

Does Compost Smell: Conclusion

A compost pile shouldn’t smell as awful as one would anticipate. Surely there must be a problem with your compost if it smells that horrible. The scent of a compost pile should not be unpleasant. Normal soil has the same smell as healthy compost. Even though animal manures and other organic wastes make up the majority of a compost pile, due to their conversion to carbon, they shouldn’t emit any unpleasant odors.

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