Avoid These Common Mistakes: What NOT to Put in Your Compost Tumbler for Optimal Results

What Not to Put in a Compost Tumbler: A Comprehensive Guide

Welcome to our blog post on what not to put in a compost tumbler! Composting is an excellent way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. However, certain items should be kept out of your compost tumbler for various reasons, including avoiding pests, odors, or slowing down the decomposition process. In this article, we will provide you with a detailed list of items that are better off left out of your compost tumbler.

The Basics: What Is a Compost Tumbler?

A compost tumbler is a device designed specifically for efficiently breaking down organic materials into usable compost. Unlike traditional outdoor piles, a tumbling mechanism allows for regular turning and aerating of the materials inside. This promotes faster decomposition and ensures proper airflow throughout the mixture.

Why You Should Avoid Certain Items

While most organic matter can be added to your compost tumbler, it’s essential to understand why specific items should not find their way into this process:

  • Pests: Some elements may attract unwanted critters like rodents or insects that could infest your compost bin.
  • Disease and Weeds: Certain plants or plant parts may carry diseases or weed seeds that could spread throughout the pile and eventually harm your garden when using the finished compost.
  • Foul Odors: Adding certain items with strong smells can cause unpleasant odors while decomposing.
  • Limited Decomposition Rate: Certain substances take longer to break down properly and might slow down the overall decomposition process in your composter.

Items to Avoid in Your Compost Tumbler

Here’s a comprehensive list of items you should keep out of your compost tumbler:

Cooking Oil and Grease

Avoid adding cooking oil, greasy food leftovers, or fatty substances to your compost tumbler. These materials tend to attract pests and can create an unpleasant smell.

Dairy Products

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, or yogurt should not be included in your compost tumbler. They can also attract pests and emit foul odors when decomposing.

Meat and Fish Scraps

While meat and fish scraps are organic matter, they decompose slowly and may cause strong smells that attract unwanted animals. It’s best to avoid these items unless you have a specialized composter for them.


Bones take an incredibly long time to break down fully. Adding bones to your compost tumbler may result in unappealing remains even after months of decomposition.

Processed Foods or Bread Products

Avoid putting processed foods like chips, cookies, bread, or any other refined grains into your compost tumbler. The high salt or sugar content might disrupt the natural balance within the pile.

Pet Waste (Dog/Cat Feces)

The waste from dogs or cats contains harmful bacteria that can persist even after decomposition. This poses risks for both human health and plant growth if used on edible crops later on.

Tips for Maximizing Your Compost Tumblers Efficiency:

While knowing what not to include in your compost tumbler is essential, here are a few tips to ensure optimal performance:

Air and Water Circulation

Regularly turn the contents of your tumbler to promote airflow. Proper moisture levels throughout the mixture will accelerate decomposition.

An Ideal Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratio

Maintain a balanced carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (roughly 30:1) by adding both “green” nitrogen-rich materials like grass clippings and “brown” carbon-rich materials like dried leaves or shredded paper.

Cutting Materials into Smaller Pieces

To speed up the decomposing process, cut larger items into smaller pieces. This increases their surface area, allowing microbes to break them down efficiently.

In Conclusion

Compost tumblers offer an efficient way to transform organic waste into valuable nutrients for your garden. By avoiding items such as cooking oil, dairy products, meat scraps, bones, processed foods, and pet waste in your compost tumbler, you can prevent pests and unpleasant odors while maintaining an optimal decomposition rate. Remember these guidelines when managing your compost pile for healthier plants and sustainable gardening practices!