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Published on June 20th, 2013 | by Tara O'Brien


Quick Fixes for Stinky Worm Compost Bins

Green Living Ideas is super happy to welcome yet another writer to our team, Tara O’Brien. Tara is a recent college graduate with an individualize degree program titled “Sustainable Health Education,” focusing on teaching people about health, the earth, and the various ways this two subjects could be combined. This degree led her to find her passion for vegan/vegetarian cooking, soil health, and many new fitness crazes. Tara has long been a writer, and she currently spends most of her time bouncing around between different tropical islands helping set up composting systems and blogging. Learn more about her Compost consulting and her current farm projects at Finca Nueva Lodge.


Although my life has been a short 22 years, I have spent a fair amount of that time observing, interacting with and living on farms. Honestly people, you can have the tightest run farm on the face of the earth. But when it comes to your worm bin: if it’s not in check you still live on a stanky farm.




There are two common problems associated with worm bins: overfeeding and underfeeding. If you are afraid to lift up the lid mainly because you need a gas mask and an army of fly swatters to back you up, you might have a situation of ‘over-feeders’ and ‘under-mulchers’. That label should have just given you a clue as to how you might go about fixing this problem with your worm bin. But here we go:

Let me tell you briefly what has happened to your worm bin. When one starts to pile in the food scraps in the best effort to reduce waste, it can become too much for the worms to process. They become unable to keep up with your constant food stream; the worms are still good, but the excess food is the problem. When layering food scrap upon food scrap, the layers begin to break down, and then the layers will start to compact, releasing liquid and turning anaerobic. Anaerobic is a term that means ‘without oxygen’. This means that all of the bacteria that are oxygen-loving and free of stink begin to die off, leaving the stinky bacteria to multiply and flourish. Your compost starts to put off gasses such as methane and ammonia. Hence the stink!

So how do we fix this problem? A healthy layer of mulch should do! Things such as shredded newspaper, cardboard, leaves, or even dirt from your garden would work. The priority is to create some airflow and dry out the bin. Don’t push anything into the bin, as this will create more compaction. However, make sure that you create a thick (one to two inch) layer of carbon material that covers from corner to corner in your stinky worm compost bin. Then, every time you add food scraps, be sure to cover and mulch over any food.When the food scraps are exposed it may attract flies and other unwelcome pests like mice.

If you already do mulch your worm bin and there is still a swarm of flies and stank there is one other lesser-known way to fix this. Add a small amount of diluted kombucha, water kefir or homemade kim chi liquid to your bin. Both of these superfoods contain beneficial microorganisms that will work as an amendment to the compost. They will encourage the growth of more beneficial organisms and cause the die off of those stinky microorganisms. Just make sure you keep the bin relatively dry, taking into account that the worms need a proper amount of moisture, but they don’t like to be wet!

In conclusion:

  1. Add carbon material as a mulch
  2. Spray diluted (about 10:1) kombucha, sauerkraut juice, or kimchee juice in the bin

Good luck with your stinky worm compost bin! And for more, click here to learn how to start your own worm compost bin.

worm binimages

one type of worm bin!

Worm photo from Shutterstock/ schankz; worm bin image from The Worm Dude

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