What should you do if your compost pile is too stinky?

QUESTION: What should you do if your compost pile is too stinky?

ANSWER: What you should do to handle bad smells coming from your compost depends on the type of smell the compost bin is producing. 

An ammonia-like scent means your compost has too much wet, nitrogen-heavy “green” materials. You can help matters by leaving the lid off your compost bin on a warm, sunny day so that the sun can help things dry out a bit.

If leaving the lid off doesn’t do the trick, instead you can take the compost out of its container and spread it out in a thin layer that will dry faster. You should also mix in some dry, carbon-rich “brown” ingredients like dried leaves, shredded cardboard, or newspaper.

If the compost bin smells sulfuric, like a rotten egg, there are several potential reasons. First, have you been adding meat, fish, dairy products, or grease to your compost? If so, you should stop using these ingredients immediately, as they can cause unpleasant smells and also attract pests.

If a sulfur smell is occurring and you haven’t been adding meat, fish, dairy, or grease, then the compost pile isn’t getting enough oxygen, leading to an excess of microbes. You should turn the compost well to aerate it. Also take the opportunity to add in more dry carbon-rich “brown” ingredients like shredded newspaper, leaves, or cardboard.

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