What to Do When Your Compost Bin Smells Like Poop

Sorry.  I just didn’t know a different way to say it.  Well, I knew one other way to say it, but that was even less appropriate.

We had this particular probably pop up this year with our new tumbler compost bin.  I wasn’t used to it, since we hadn’t had that happen before (at least that I noticed) with our inexpensive homemade compost bin (which we are still using as well).  When it first happened, I ignored it.  But, the next time I went out to add in some things and spin it, I almost thought I was going to get sick.  Not good.

So, just in case you run into that problem too, I thought I would share how to help that issue.

Help!  My Compost Bin Stinks!

If your compost has a poop smell, it probably means that you have too much green material (which isn’t all green, of course, but includes things like your banana peels and apple cores, as well as things like grass clippings).  These things add a lot of nitrogen to your compost bin.  Another issue may be that your compost is too wet.  (It should be damp, but not wet.)  When I had this problem, both of these things worked together to cause the issue.

The best way to combat this issue is to add more brown material, which is high in carbon. In a house of five family members, one of our favorite brown materials is the cardboard paper tubes from toilet paper.  These used to go to our recycling, but now they pretty much exclusively are composted.  We also add in things like newspaper (best to use ones that aren’t glossy or super colorful), paper towel, and shredded paper.  Another fabulous brown material addition at this time of year are Autumn leaves.  (The live leaves are green material, but dead leaves are brown material.)  It is best to try to shred some brown materials before adding them into your compost.

Even if you aren’t having a smell issue, it’s still best to try to keep a nice mix of both green and brown materials in your composting bin.  Just remember – your compost should not smell bad.  If it does, it’s definitely time to consider if you’ve been adding too much of one type of material.

Do you have a compost bin/pile?  What things do you find you are most often adding?

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Angie Kauffman
Angie, a domestically challenged nerd and mom of three very fun kids, is the founder of Real Life at Home.  Angie also listens to music every chance she gets, writes eBookspodcastsloves Pinterestdocuments the little moments in life on Instagram, and occasionally sleeps.


  1. says

    I don’t have a compost bin/pile, but I do trench composting. Our soil has A LOT of clay in it, and is very hard once you get past the top three inches or so. I decided that, to have a real garden next spring, I would dig down into the planned garden area to loosen all the soil. We have no money to spend on enriching the soil, so I figured I’d better get stared with composting…only we have no money to buy a compost bin or the spare materials to make a compost bin. I found information on trench composting, and decided to run with that idea. I have been burying our compost material in the prepared garden area when we have enough to warrant the digging/burying process, and have started digging a second little (3×7-foot-ish, like the first one) garden plot to continue with the trench composting. If I still feel like spending another 10+ hours digging into another 3×7-foot-ish spot into our seriously-hard soil, I will do it through the winter, weather permitting. It’s a longer process than other types of composting, but it will be ready when spring comes, AND it’s absolutely free. Also, I figure I’m killing two birds with one stone–I’ll have two garden areas with soil loose enough to grow something, and I’ll have compost that I can dig up and mix in with the soil in these garden areas. Hmmm…maybe make that three birds, since I actually have some arm muscles now. 😉

  2. Leah says

    THANK YOU!!! We had/have this problem and could not figure out what was going on! We will now have compost that doesn’t stink. We couldn’t even go close to it without smelling it. What a great help!

  3. Sarah says

    I just started composting in a new garbage can a few weeks ago (my form of a tumbler) and today the juice that got on me while tumbling it smelled exactly like cow manure. Like EXACTLY. I’ve washed my hands 4 times now and I can still smell it. I definitely need lots more brown. I’m going to go through my recycling bin and see what I can add :/