How to Use an Indoor Compost Bin That Doesn’t Stink

Does your indoor compost bin smell like the business end of a garbage truck? Here are some helpful tips to make your nose happy again.

I have a love/hate relationship with my indoor compost bin. I love that I don’t have to walk out to my compost heap every time I peel a banana or empty my tea pot. I hate that it can sometimes smell like I’m downwind from the town dump. Even though I empty it regularly, it can still develop a nose-turning aroma. And for some people without an outdoor compost pile, it’s a lot more difficult to empty the indoor bin regularly. Some friends that live in the city have to wait a full week before their compost gets picked up.

After some trial and error, though, I figured out how to keep my indoor compost bin from smelling up my home. And just to see if it actually worked, I tried keeping the compost indoors for the week. Here is some of what I learned.

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Your indoor compost bin doesn’t need to be the neighborhood nuisance

To be clear, I’m referring to using an indoor compost bin that stores your food waste until you take it to your outdoor pile or if, like my city-dwelling buddy, you subscribe to a composting service and need to hold onto your compost for a week or so. You could spend a pretty penny on a full indoor composting system, but for our purposes here, all you need is a container with an airtight lid. A five gallon bucket works perfectly.

There are a few options you can try that will help keep your nose from wrinkling in fear every time you walk near your compost. Using compostable bags is one approach. Then you can tie off the bags every day or two until you’re ready to remove them from your home.

If you don’t use a bag, try adding a layer of dry leaves, shredded newspaper, or brown paper bags to the bottom of your indoor compost bin. This is part of that brown and green mix you may have heard about. The shredded paper also helps decrease the moisture in your bin. Too much dampness is an invitation to smelly mold and mildew. No thanks.

Speaking of dampness, I’ll assume you wash your indoor compost bin between uses? If not, that will certainly help with the smell. And again, to keep mold and mildew at bay, thoroughly dry your bin before you start using it. Adding a bit of baking soda will also help reduce odors.

Keeping your bin out of the sun will help, too. There’s nothing like “cooking” your compost to bring out that distinct scent. Additionally, make sure you’re sticking to plant waste, or things like egg shells for your composting. Meats, cheeses, oils, and so forth don’t work in a compost bin.

Incidentally, if you are going for the full indoor compost bin experience, and plan to let your compost completely break down, many of the same principles apply. Keeping the right mix of greens and browns will do wonders for preventing odors, too.

What tricks do you have that prevent your indoor compost bin from smelling up the place? I’d love to read your ideas in the comments below.

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By Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur is Senior Editor & Producer for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. She is responsible for generating all daily content and managing distribution across web, email, and social. In her producer role, she plans, edits, and deploys all video content for guides, magazine issues, and daily tips. As a best-selling cookbook author, Amanda cooks using ingredients from her outdoor gardens in the summer and from her indoor hydroponic garden in the winter.

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