How To Make Compost: 27 Surprising Things You Can Add To The Heap

How To Make Compost: 27 Surprising Things You Can Add To The Heap

Do you know how to compost? Perhaps you already have a compost heap at home. Most heaps contain things like old fruit and vegetable peel, cut grass, egg shells, and not much more besides, but there are loads of other, lesser-known things that can be composted too. 

Today, we want to broaden your minds when it comes to composting. We're sharing 27 surprising things you can add to your compost heap today to help you get the most nutritious compost around, whilst also reducing waste and your carbon footprint.

Ready? Let's get started!

1. Can you compost bread?

how to compost bread
If you ever find you have TOO much bread...

And the answer is...yes!

Most food products made from flour or grains will break down quickly in your compost bin. This not only includes bread, but also cereal, crackers and other flour-based foods.

2. Put your ash in the compost

Do you smoke? Or perhaps you have a wood-burning fire at home?

Either way, be sure to save up all the ash. It will go down a treat on your compost heap.

3. Cotton balls & buds

We always hear how bad cotton buds are for the environment. 

Well, now we have another reason why you should definitely invest in cotton buds with wooden sticks - providing they're 100% cotton, you can throw them on your compost heap along with used cotton wool balls.

What an easy way to reduce your waste every day.

4. Shredded paper

shredded paper compost
What an easy way to reduce your waste! 

Do you know how to compost paper? It's simple! Slide it through the paper shredder, and you'll be able to add it straight to your compost heap along with all your other waste.

5. Leather

Now, this really is an unexpected one on our list of compostable items.

Leather may take a while to compost down, but that's not to say it won't eventually. If your old handbags and jackets are too tattered for the charity shop, cut them into small pieces before adding them to your compost heap.

6. Dirt from the vacuum

compost heap
Now that's a proper compost heap! ©WikiCommons

Vacuum dirt is disgustingly dusty - if only you could dispose of it outside!

Well, good news - you can.

Most of the 'dust' your vacuum collects is 100% natural, so it will break down easily on your compost heap. No more struggling over the bin - take it straight outside and let it do its thing.

7. Can you compost tampons?

Speaking of less-appealing waste, next up on our list of compostable items are tampons and sanitary pads.

Providing these are 100% cotton, they can be composted (used or otherwise) along with everything else.

Female sanitary products are another big contributor to waste here in the UK, so it's wonderful to be able to do something so simple to help combat this.

8. Nail clippings

nail clippings compost
Finally - somewhere to put all those gross clipping!

Our nail clippings used to go in the bin until we found out you could, in fact, compost them.

We were pretty pleased to finally have somewhere out-of-view to put these unsightly little things!

Cutting your nails regularly is essential to keep nails healthy. Discover more ways to get long, strong nails in our guide.

9. Can you compost tissues & kitchen roll?

Tissues and kitchen roll are another item that will have no trouble breaking down on your heap.

 10. Compost dry pet food

Is your fluffy friend a fussy eater? Leftover, dried dog and cat food are also on our list of weird compostable items.

Scrape it straight onto your compost heap to give it a boost of nutrients.

11. Composting nut shells

Most people know you can compost egg shells, but what about nut shells?

Pistachios; walnuts; hazelnuts - all of the shells can be bashed up and added to your compost heap too.

12. Human hair

compost human hair
Time to (finally) clean out your hairbrush.

Is your hairbrush looking a bit of a mess? Turns out you don't need to throw that matted lump of hair in the bin - you can throw it on your compost instead.

13. Toothpicks

Just as cotton buds with wooden sticks can be composted, toothpicks will also slowly disintegrate on your compost heap.

Snap them into a few pieces to help speed up the composting process.

14. Dairy substitutes

Are you vegan? Or perhaps just lactose intolerant?

If so, we have some cool compost-related news for you. Any leftover dairy substitutes (such as almond milk) can be added to your compost heap. As they're 100% natural, they'll break down easily whilst adding nourishment to the mix.

But can you freeze almond milk? Find out before its past saving! 

15. Natural potpourri

How do you scent your home? If you use potpourri, you'll notice it loses its scent after a while. It can be freshened up using your favourite essential oils, but when it's officially past its best, don't chuck it in the bin - throw it on your compost instead.

Don't forget to check out our other uses for essential oils too!

16. Compost your pet hair

cat hair compost
What a fluffy thing!

We've already featured human hair on our list of compostable items, so it makes sense that pet hair would feature on here too.

If your trimming your fluffy friend's hair, or even just giving them a thorough brush, collect the fur and add it to your heap. It will keep the house clean and your compost high!

17. Can you compost wine corks?

There are many things you can do with leftover wine corks - check out our article for inspiration.

If you want a quick and easy post-party solution, chop your corks into smaller pieces and add them to your compost heap.

18. Used matches

Another small, wood-based item that your compost heap will be more than happy to have are used matches. Collect them all, snap into pieces and throw onto your heap to keep them out of your waste bin.

19. Compostable items in your wardrobe

Just as fur and human hair can be composted, wool clothing (sheep's hair) can be too.

If your jumpers have seen better days, you can cut them into very small pieces and, over time, they will completely disintegrate into the rest of your compost heap.

Who'd have thought it?!

Still looking for most compostable items? Keep reading!

20. Can you compost rice?

Most of us know to throw leftover fruits and vegetables on our compost pile. We've already revealed that bread is also good to go on the heap, but did you know cooked rice and pasta can also be added?

We don't personally believe in 'too much pasta', but if you ever find yourself inundated with the stuff, add it to your compost heap.

21. How to compost avocado pits

composting avocado pit
Who knew?!

There are loads of surprising uses for gone off avocados which Anushka shared in her article.

Gone off or not, the seed of your avocado is always something you should compost. It's easy once you know how - all you need is a sharp knife to cut the seed into smaller pieces, and hey presto!

 22. Rope & string

One of the more obscure compostable items is rope. Most rope and string are 100% natural, meaning they'll easily break down on your compost heap over time.

Check they're not man-made, then cut into small pieces and add to the heap.

 23. Loofahs

Do you own a loofah? Authentic loofahs are actually made from fibrous materials found in tropical fruits making them 100% natural.

All that dry skin you use them to remove in the shower can soon take its toll and increase bacteria on your loofah. It's important to replace them regularly, but when you do, don't simply throw them away.

Instead, cut your loofah into small pieces and add it to your compost heap.

24. Can you compost flowers?

flowers composting
They may not look good to you, but your compost will love them!

Flowers are another compostable item that not everyone knows about. 

Once your flowers have started to droop, and the petals fall, there's only one place for them - your compost heap.

Just like leftover fruit and veg, they'll compost down in no time at all and be super nourishing for your outdoor plants too.

25. The weirdest thing on our list of compostable items

Now, this one really did surprise us!

Is it someone's birthday coming up? With all that wrapping paper, wasted food and unwanted gifts, birthdays can be pretty bad for the environment.

We have some good news - balloons can actually be composted! 100% latex balloons will disintegrate incredible quickly on your heap - throw them on and watch the magic happen.

26. Bamboo skewers

Last but not least on our list of compostable items are bamboo skewers. This not only includes skewers, but also some chopsticks.

Bear this in mind next time you're having a BBQ - ask everyone to save their bamboo skewers and do their bit for the environment in the process.

27. Composting beer & wine

balloon ice cubes
Time for a post-party tidy up.

Whilst excess beer or wine is a rarity in our households, any leftovers you do have can be thrown onto the compost heap.

If you've had a party and need to get left of the dregs, this is the perfect solution.

What do you usually compost? We'd love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Stephanie C


Lover of all things fashion & foodie...I look to satisfy my tastes without obliterating my budget. Wannabe interior designer, I'm an avid cushion cover maker and charity shop hunter.

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  1. Author Sylvia Leaver on May 4, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    Having only just bought our composter I was delighted to read your post. Thank you so much for some really good advise. One thing I have been worrying about is that if I compost dandelion flowers will I end up with compost that is going to give me loads of dandelions?

    1. Author Stephanie C on July 16, 2018 at 4:59 pm

      Hi Sylvia, Composts normally get very hot, which will kill any weed seeds. I'd give your compost heap a few months to develop, then you should be fine adding your dandelions to the heap. I hope this helps :)

  2. Author Susan Wilcox on May 4, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Very interesting tips today Stephanie which i have shared with other fb friends. I didn’t know half of the items mentioned could be composted. So now i have extra composting to do but best of all less for the refuse lorry has to collect from my bin. Thanks Stephanie ????????

    1. Author Stephanie C on May 10, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Hi Susan, So glad you enjoyed the tips! Thanks a lot for sharing :)

  3. Author Janice Pedder on May 5, 2018 at 5:53 am

    Tea bags if you take them out of the cup before you add milk. Old receipts and bus tickets.

    1. Author Stephanie C on May 10, 2018 at 11:50 am

      Great ideas Janice - thanks for sharing!

  4. Author jean on May 5, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    You can also add paper products such as news paper and cardboard rolls to the heap.

    1. Author Stephanie C on May 10, 2018 at 11:49 am

      Hi Jean. You're right - just be sure to tear them up/shred them otherwise they may take a while to compost down.

  5. Author Doug on May 7, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Ya done good.

  6. Author Eric on May 20, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Composting sanitary items e.g. tissues, female hygiene products may create an odoriferous compost bin/pile/heap. It may attract additional rats due to the blood scent, along with carrion, and blowflies. Rice and other grains are buried under a layer of compost to reduce the draw for rodents. These practices have kept my compost pile stink free, even though I push the envelope on adding to it. As I rotate the worm composted material it has a moist earthy scent, not that of rotten or fermented fruits, veggies, or other. Worms, attracted by the compost from underground, have reproduced into the thousands. ,The worms, bacteria, and fungi keep up with breaking down the produce scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, and mulched live-oak leaves. I add ash sparingly to prevent making the pile too acidic and driving off the worms. in a 40 x 40" pile I get loads of worm compost full of castings.

  7. Author aish on February 15, 2019 at 11:54 am

    nice article i like it .

    1. Author Joanne A on February 18, 2019 at 10:37 am

      Thanks for the feedback!

  8. Author Brian hamilton on January 28, 2021 at 9:45 am

    Sounds like a good way to attract rats to me especially bread

    1. Author Joanne A on February 8, 2023 at 5:34 pm

      Keeping your compost pile covered and properly managed can help reduce the attraction to pests.

    2. Author caroline farrell on May 3, 2023 at 11:07 am

      unfortunately the rats will tunnel underneath and will reach the lovely food waste

    3. Author Joanne A on May 3, 2023 at 4:28 pm

      To prevent rats from tunnelling underneath your covered compost heap and reaching the food waste, you can remove the food waste, use a rodent-proof compost bin, keep the compost heap well-aerated and dry, and use a rat deterrent.

  9. Author Chris G on January 28, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    You should only compost the tea in teabags because the bag itself has plastic in it and won't decompose. I dry mine out and them empty the dried tea into the heap.

    1. Author Joanne A on February 8, 2023 at 5:33 pm

      That's true - unless you choose tea bags made from biodegradable materials, such as cornstarch or paper.

  10. Author Dave on January 30, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    DO NOT put pet food on the compost heap unless you like rats!

    1. Author Joanne A on March 30, 2021 at 3:37 pm

      Good point, Dave!

  11. Author Rose on July 31, 2021 at 4:49 pm

    I have been composting for years and have learned some new things here thank you. I would say however that I would never compost bread or any other food that has been processed or cooked it can easily attract rodents, ie Mice and rats. So err on the side of caution here. Another great thing to compost is tea leaves, you will need to empty tea bags though as they do not rot down and you will be left with plastic nets in your compost. Also coffee grounds are great too !.

    1. Author Joanne A on January 11, 2022 at 5:38 pm

      You're welcome, Rose!

  12. Author Anne Bunney on January 7, 2022 at 7:38 am

    Be very careful about putting bread or rice in compost as it will encourage rats

    1. Author Joanne A on January 11, 2022 at 3:42 pm

      Great tip, Anne!

  13. Author Beverley on October 30, 2023 at 5:40 pm

    Thank you for these tips! I'm always looking for ways to reduce landfill and I didn't know a lot of these things could be added to compost... very helpful and informative : )


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