As someone who composts, you have probably realized there are quite a few substances that can be added to it.
You might be wondering though, can you add hair to a compost? What value does hair have to a compost?
You can add hair to a compost. It adds high levels of nitrogen to compost and helps your pile retain water better than soil does.
The Value of Hair To Compost
As an organic material, hair adds needed nutrients to a compost pile. It is actually part of the green layer of a pile because it contains more nitrogen than carbon.
Other materials that are part of the green layer include:
- Fresh cut grass
- Kitchen waste
This green layer is what provides the nitrogen that keeps the bacteria in the pile growing. Bacteria use nitrogen for the synthesis of:
- Amino acids
Without it, the bacteria won’t be able to break down your compost pile.
Hair Is Nitrogen Rich
Compared to other organic materials typically found in compost piles, hair is nitrogen-rich. It is about 15% nitrogen by volume. This is very high in comparison to grass clippings which only contain about 4% nitrogen.
Hair Retains Water Better Than Soil Does
The bacteria within your compost needs water to survive. Maintaining optimal water levels is important to keep your compost breaking down at a steady rate.
Hair helps with this by retaining water 4 times better than soil does. With less water seeping out of your compost, you won’t need to add as much.
Hair is great for dry composts that you are having trouble keeping moist. You need to be careful with composts that are exposed to a lot of water though, as hair will likely cause your pile to retain too much water.
What Type of Hair Can You Use In Compost?
It does not matter what type of hair you want to use in your compost, any will work. You can use:
- Cat hair
- Dog hair
- Human hair
Next time you go to clean out your hairbrush, put the excess hair into your compost instead of your garbage. The same is true for the next time you brush your pet. Instead of tossing it out, throw it in your compost.
Where Can You Get Hair For Compost?
Besides your own brushes at home, you can find hair for your compost in multiple ways.
- Ask your local hairdresser
- From a friend
- From your local pet groomer
Hairdressers have access to a plethora of excess hair every single day. Most of the time they are willing to bag it up and give it to you for free.
The same goes for local groomers. They oftentimes have more pet hair than they know what to do with and would be happy to give some to you.
If you’re comfortable with asking, you can even ask a friend for the excess hair off their hairbrushes and pet brushes.
They might think it is weird at first but it’s better to put it to good use than just throwing it away.
Important Risks To Consider When Getting Hair From Other Places
If you decide to get your hair from a hairdresser or even pet groomer, it is important to consider the possibility of it being contaminated by inorganic substances such as:
- Hair dyes
- Hair sprays
These inorganic substances will likely not break down and could contaminate your compost.
So, if you decide to get hair from an outside source, be sure to ask if any substances were used on it before taking it.
The Best Way to Compost Hair
If you decide to compost your hair, sprinkle it around when you add the rest of your green layer. Don’t just throw big clumps of it in all at once.
The hair will break down faster and more efficiently if you break it up and spread it out evenly. Also, try not to layer it too heavily.
Preserving the Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio of Your Compost
Since hair is so nitrogen-rich, it is important to take into consideration the C:N ratio of your compost pile before adding to it.
The ratio of your pile should be about 30:1. Not maintaining this ratio will result in your pile not breaking down at an optimal rate.
Therefore you should pay attention to how much brown layer, or carbon-rich material, that you have in the pile.
If your pile is too nitrogen-rich, you may want to hold off from adding hair for a while. Instead, add some brown materials. You’ll know if your pile it too nitrogen-rich if:
- It appears slimy
- It smells like sulfur
- It smells like ammonia
If your pile does not appear this way but you are worried that the added nitrogen from the hair will be too much, just add some carbon-rich materials in with the hair. Carbon-rich materials include:
- Coffee grounds
- Dry leaves
How Long Does It Take Hair to Break Down In Compost?
Hair can take up to 2 years to completely break down in a compost pile. However, this breakdown time can be accelerated by:
- Aerating your compost every 2 to 3 days
- Only adding a thin layer to avoid clumps
- Use a bin or pile rather than a tumbler
- Use the Stafford recipe
If you use the accelerated techniques, you can experience hair decomposition in as little as 60 days. Results may vary though depending on your aeration techniques and the amount of hair you use.
The Stafford Recipe for Large Amounts of Hair
William Stafford developed a way to break down large amounts of hair in 30-60 days. For this recipe you need:
- 1.5 yards of leafmold
- 10 pounds of hair cut ¾ long
- 20 pounds of cottonseed meal
Mix, water, and aerate regularly in compost for wonderful mulch.
You Can Add Hair to Compost
Hair is an excellent inorganic material to add in moderation to any green layer of compost.
Due to its ability to add high levels of nitrogen as well as retain high levels of water, hair adds great value to any compost pile.
You can add hair to a compost. However, what value does hair have to a compost?