Anyone who is starting out on composting – and even experienced compost gurus – will have questions about what can and can’t go into the compost heap.
After all, there is lots of contradictory advice online, and what some people say absolutely cannot and should not be added, others will say you can add without a problem.
If you’re looking to expand the things you can put in your compost, you might be wondering: can you compost hair? ( Human or pet hairs ).
It seems quite tough and fibrous, so is it safe to add to the heap or will it cause problems?
The answer is that you can compost both human and pet hair in your home composting heap, so grab those hairbrushes and get cleaning them.
Let’s look into this in a bit more detail.Can You Compost Human Hair?
Yes, you can put human hair in your compost heap. It is an organic material, and anything organic can and will break down (though there are some organics, such as meat and pet poop that you shouldn’t add for other reasons).
It doesn’t matter if you have long hair, short hair, curly hair, straight hair – it can all go on the compost heap.
You don’t usually need to do anything else to it; next time you clean your hairbrush, simply add the contents to your compost bucket, ready to be transferred to the heap later.
This is great for anyone who is trying to reduce their landfill waste.
Unless you have a very thick head of hair, you may feel it’s quite a small thing to do, but it adds up over the years and every little bit helps!
There’s no reason for hair to go to a landfill site, and organic materials actually produce methane if they break down in landfill conditions, so if you can keep your hair out of landfills.
You’re not only saving space and fuel costs to get it there, but you’re reducing the amount of methane being released into the atmosphere.
Can You Compost Pet Hair?
This is all true for pet hair too! Got a dog that sheds unbelievable amounts of fur, or a cat that leaves cat-fur-shadows every time it sits on your favorite chair?
If you spend a lot of time brushing or cleaning up after a pet, the fur can add up fast.
Many people are amazed by how much their pets shed – it can seem like almost half of their fur comes out in a single brushing sometimes.
Whether or not that’s the case for your pets, it’s definitely worth gathering the fur up and adding it to your compost heap.
Just like human hair, it will break down and add to the compost, and is much better diverted from landfill for the reasons already mentioned.
How To Compost HairYou can just add hair to your compost like any other ingredient. However, it’s worth remembering that compost benefits from having its ingredients a little spread out.
If you are adding a large quantity of hair (probably from a pet, unless you’re storing human hair), you may want to scatter it around, or add it a little bit at a time.
Nothing bad will happen if you don’t do this, but it may take longer for your compost heap to decompose large clumps of any single material. On that note, how long does hair take to decompose?
It will depend a bit on your compost heap and its temperature and other ingredients.
An active compost heap operating at high temperatures will process the contents far faster than a cold compost heap which is rarely stirred.
On average, about 6-10 months should be enough for hair to break down, unless it’s in large quantities. It is thin, after all, which makes it easier for microbes to decompose it.
However, don’t worry if it seems slower; this is very much dependent on your compost heap and the surrounding environment. It could take two years or even more.
If you want to speed it along, look into hot composting, or consider covering your compost heap with a tarp to trap some heat in. Stirring your compost regularly is also key to rapid decomposition.
What Does Human Hair Add To Your Compost?
What are the benefits of adding human hair or pet hair to a compost heap?
If you’re a keen gardener, you’ll be interested in learning how to add the maximum goodness.
Hair is considered a “green” in terms of composting (regardless of its actual color!) and it’s a good source of nitrogen.
It also has some similar nutrients to bone meal, including carbon, oxygen, and sulfur.
Adding it to your compost can be very beneficial, giving your plants these ingredients.
Having hair in your compost heap can also provide better water retention for the heap, so if you’re struggling with your compost drying out, it can make an excellent addition.
Small quantities of human hair probably won’t make a big difference to your compost heap, but these things are worth bearing in mind, especially if you’ll be adding a lot of pet hair.
Some people choose to bury hair directly into their flowerbeds, as the nutrients will still be released and it can help plants break up heavy clay soils.
In certain situations, people also use it as a mulch on top, partly because it offers such good water retention, helping to trap moisture under the earth.
This is particularly useful in the summer.There is no doubt that hair is a good addition to the garden!
Benefits Of Composting Hair
Why should you compost hair? It might seem like a hassle if you only have a small amount, and some people prefer to dispose of it in the garbage can or in the toilet.
However, both of these have problems.
We already discussed the issues caused by adding organic ingredients to landfill sites.
A tiny handful of hair is probably going to make very little difference, but if you’re brushing a large dog or emptying the household hairbrushes into the garbage every three days, it’s certainly worth considering this.
Disposing of hair into the drains is also not a good plan. It might seem to work, but you have probably seen how effectively hair can block your plug holes.
This is true of all the pipes and networks that carry our water, so it’s really better not to add to the potential problem with more hair.
Long hair in particular should not be added to the water system, because it can easily get entangled with fats, clogging up pipes very effectively, and making them hard to clean.
It is best not to put more strain on the plumbing systems than they already bear; fats and hair do not belong down the toilet or household drains.
That really leaves the compost as the best option. It not only diverts the waste from places where it is actively harmful, but adds it somewhere that it can be useful, and the nutrients in it can be reused.
That has to be a significant win in the book of anyone who is interested in the environment.
What Else Might I Want To Know?
Something to be aware of before you compost hair is that it may have come into contact with chemicals.
Shampoo, bleach, colors, creams, gels, sprays, etc., will all introduce small amounts of contaminants to your compost heap.
Similarly, pet hair may contain traces of shampoo, flea treatment, or other chemicals.
For most gardeners, this is not going to be significant.
The amounts that remain on the hair are likely to be small, and as the amount of hair you’re adding is also likely to be quite small compared with other compost ingredients, this is probably not something to worry about.
However, you should bear it in mind, especially if you are interested in organic gardening or you are conducting any sort of research with your compost heap.
You might want to choose more natural shampoos and hair products.
Another minor point that some people suggest is cutting up long hair.
This is not really for the benefit of the compost heap (though it will help it disperse and decompose), but in case birds select hair to nest with.
They may pluck it from the compost pile, and while that’s a nice thought, long hair can pose dangers to baby birds as they can become entangled.
If you cut your hair into short lengths, you decrease the chance of this happening.
It’s best to bury pet hair into the center of your compost heap to discourage birds from taking it; although any residual chemicals are unlikely to do damage to your heap, they could negatively affect baby birds if they are nestled up against them for long periods of time.
These are minor precautions, but worth considering before you add hair to your compost heap.
So, is it worth composting hair? Yes is the short answer. It diverts unnecessary waste from landfill sites and keeps our drains clearer.
It brings multiple benefits to your garden, improving the quality of your compost, adding nutrients, and retaining moisture in the compost heap.