Site Meter

Cleaning your Compost Pail?

by Thom Woodard
(San Francisco, CA)

My wife and I have a stainless steel compost container with a filter. I dump food in there everyday and then take it to the garage occasionally to put it in the compost bin (San Francisco requires us to compost).

There is no odor when the lid is on; however, there are some juicy scraps that cling to the walls of it and they stink when it’s open. I also noticed the inside bolt was rusting a little (probably because of all the moisture in there). I was wondering if I should be cleaning the pail after I use it. That sounds like a waste of time though.

Do other folks clean their compost containers, or do you just change the filters every once in a while? I think I’m just going to do what’s easiest and see if I run into any problems.

Comments for Cleaning your Compost Pail?

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Nov 28, 2011
The Most Common Complaint
by: Compost Junkie Dave


This question is all too common. How the heck do you keep your compost container clean?

The simple, and most frugal, answer…as painful as it is…you’ve gotta wash it regularly. Yes, it’s one more step, but it definitely reduces those odors and possibility of fruit flies.

Another option is to use compostable bags that fit into your pail. Lately, we’ve tended to use the bags when we have them, but when we run out, we end up washing our container regularly. My concern with the compost bags that we’ve used is that most of them don’t remedy the moisture issue. The moisture is simply a natural part of the composting process…all those veggies and fruit scraps are mostly water, and that water has to go somewhere as the food breaks down.

I’ve attached a picture of one of our dirty compost pails. Note, this one is plastic, so it tends to hold even more moisture, but cleaning it is a breeze.

Another option is to move away from the pail altogether. In Canada, we can get these brown paper bags with a cellulose lining (i.e. made from corn). These bags hold the scraps, don’t leak, and breakdown quite quickly in the compost…you throw the entire bag in the composter, no mess, no cleaning.

I’ll review a bunch of compost bags in the near future.

Re your nested question re the filters…yes, please do change them frequently (usually every couple months is ideal).

Lastly, at the end of your post you didn’t quite tell us what you decided to do…what did you come up with?

Hope this helps.


Dec 08, 2011
More Options…
by: Compost Junkie Dave

A couple more options came to mind…

– Keep your compost in your fridge or freeze until it’s ready to go out to your pile

– Line your compost container with newspaper or paper towel before throwing your food scraps inside. This will help to absorb moisture as well as reduce odor.

– Add baking soda to your compost crock. Again, this will help reduce the odor and won’t harm your compost microbes (unless used in extreme excess).

Dec 09, 2011
by: Thom

Thanks for the suggestions. We’ll try them out.

I’ve been neglecting to clean the compost container over the last year, but it hasn’t really caused any issues. The top of the compost pail has a foam liner that’s pretty good at eliminating the odor. We have some replacement liners too, so I’ll change it out if it gets smelly.

Oct 28, 2012
Easier cleaning of kitchen compost container
by: E Bers

I line the bottom of the compost container with newspaper – in my case torn into strips because the compost goes into a worm bin and adds to their bedding and breaks down faster. Either way, you peel the newspaper from the bottom and cleaning is much less of a problem! No purchasing bags and a great way to recycle the paper.

Mar 19, 2015
compost pail
by: Jane

So, I, a Canadian living in the USA and before I moved I went to Canadain Tire and purchased two of the compost pails. I did not see the bags. Are they only available in Canada(betcha!)

Click here to add your own comments

Return to Comments or Questions.