Compost Odor? Potential Solutions!

Are you dealing with compost odor, or afraid to begin composting because you’re worried about bad smells?

If your compost has a bad odor, then there is something wrong. When the composting process is working correctly, then there are not any bad smells or strong odors.

Compost has a strong ammonia smell

A strong ammonia smell is typically related to too many nitrogen rich materials, and too much moisture.


Add sawdust, shredded leaves, shredded newspaper or shredded cardboard to add more carbon rich materials, dry out the pile, and bring it back into balance. If it’s a bin, leave the lid off in sunny weather so that the moisture can burn off.

Compost smells rotten

A rotten smell is usually related to adding materials to your pile that should not have been composted in the first place. Are you added meat, dairy, grease or bones to your compost pile or bin? If so, stop!


You can try adding more carbon rich materials like leaves and sawdust to bury the smelly materials.

You could dig a hole and bury the entire contents of the bin or pile and start over, avoiding meat, dairy, grease and bones in your next batch. Trench composting takes place underground, but there aren’t any smells because the materials are fully buried.

There are organic products that rapidly end any odors, and they work! I like this BioWish Odor Control product.

Do you have a different kind of stink with your compost?

Leave a comment here and tell us about it, or go to our Composting Questions page for help.

6 thoughts on “Compost Odor? Potential Solutions!”

  1. Hello,

    I am living in Seattle, where meat and dairy scraps (and nearly all food) are allowed in our compost bin. It has begun smelling soooooo bad that I had to bleach the bin. I am now worried about the bleach and what to do to keep the smell down from now on. I used to use compost bags, however, that is an added expense. I will just go back to bags if I have to, but I am wondering if there is a way to keep the smell down. It seems to be that the guys that pick it up don’t empty it all the way. Not their fault I think. Any product that is cheaper than bags that can keep down any odor?

    Thanks a million!!


  2. I LOVE composting my own garden and chicken (manure) materials to maintain a nearly sustainable, organic garden. I never before had an ammonia smell to my compost. Thanks for your website. Now I know – too many grass clippings and not enough “brown” materials. (Or maybe too much water, now that my little grandchildren are helping – sometimes their help is a little too enthusiastic!) Thanks again, David in Phoenix, AZ

  3. On the Odor control issue I have found a product called Ecosorb by OMI Industries works extremely well also. It is great to use in the short term until you can equalize your mix. It is fast acting, easy, and does not affect your compost in any way. I use it on my bins and my piles both. Great organic product.

  4. Hey there!
    At Goshen College we compost in a 4×4 box behind our cafeteria.
    Holes in the bottom allow for drainage into shallow yellow bins, but
    the problem is, our compost TEA stinks in the warm months.

    The tea collection in the bottom is also not covered well, so flies lay their larva in there. We used to have a pump, but the it was not strong enough and broke.

    Ideally we would clean out the compost tea weekly, but due to a number of factors, this is not practical.

    I am looking for advice on a) how to clean out the tea, b) any chemical counter actions we could use that would not be too terrible or just how to eliminate the smell in general.

    We have been compost meat for about a year know because it only makes up about 10% of the green waste, and with bulk food, it is almost impossible to get away from grease/fat.

    let me know what you think!

    1. I really like the Biowish product line, which is very effective against odor, and also works with grease.

      You might check with them and see if they’d be interested in doing a case study with you, because they have a lot of different case studies on their site that shows all the varying ways people are using that product. Everything from environmental cleanup of polluted water to odor reduction on poultry farms and landfills.

      The product isn’t super expensive, so it wouldn’t be hard to just try it out. I’d try the “odor” version first and see how that helps.

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