Is Your Compost Too Wet? Try These Quick Fixes

compost is too wet
Your compost bin should be about 40 - 60% water and feel damp, like a wrung-out sponge, not soggy. 

How Often Should You Wet Your Compost Pile?

You should water your compost once or twice weekly for the best results.

Yet, you must use the proper watering ratio lest you end up with a soggy compost that doesn’t decompose. 

How Do you Know if Your Compost Is Too Wet: 5 Common Reasons

These are some common signs indicating excess moisture in your compost bin.

1. The Compost Doesn’t Break Down

Good compost should take anywhere from 4 weeks to a year to break down into finished compost, depending on the materials used.

If your compost doesn’t show signs of decomposition, it probably has excess water. 

A high moisture level in your compost bin suffocates the microorganisms by cutting off their air supply. Once these microbes die, the composting process stops entirely, and the bin produces a stench. 

2. Your Compost Smells Awful

A healthy compost pile should have a neutral dirt-like scent or the pleasant smell of wet earth after a rainstorm. If your bin produces an intolerable stench, it probably has high water content. 

The foul odor from a wet compost bin originates from the growth of anaerobic bacteria after the aerobic microbes die due to insufficient oxygen.

These new anaerobic microorganisms produce fatty acids and other compounds while consuming wastewater nutrients, giving off a foul ammonia-like odor. 

3. Compost Looks and Feels Mushy

The texture of a soggy compost heap is one of the giant red flags of high water content. Grab a handful of your compost and squeeze to determine the moisture content.

Your compost will have a mushy or soggy feel if it’s too wet and might have an unpleasant odor when you sniff it. 

4. Wormless Compost

Earthworms and other compost-based grubs need oxygen to survive. Yet, high water content cuts off airflow throughout the compost bin forcing the wrigglers and other critters to evacuate.

If you turn your compost and notice a shortage of these worms, you must deal with the excess moisture.

5. The Compost Attracts Flies

Rotting food in your bin attracts more flies than any other decomposing material, but a soaking wet pile can also do the trick. 

Anaerobic bacteria in a poorly aerated compost tumbler produce foul smells similar to rotting eggs which attracts flies in swarms.

These annoying pests lay eggs that birth hundreds of maggots with insane breeding rates. 

What to Do if Compost Is Too Wet: 6 Quick Fixes

You must identify the root cause of your waterlogged compost pile to create the best solution for effective results.

These tips and tricks can help you efficiently deal with high water levels in your compost heap.

1. Turn Your Compost Pile

Aeration is essential for any successful compost because it increases the porosity of your pile and promotes better water drainage.

Turning your pile also reduces its compactness and creates air spaces that would’ve been filled with water instead. 

2. Add Brown Materials

Adding carbon-rich materials helps absorb excess moisture from fresh kitchen waste like peelings and yard waste like grass clippings. The brown materials also create a suitable carbon-to-nitrogen ratio for the prosperity of your compost.

Some of the various brown materials you can add to your compost include:

  • Sawdust
  • Pine needles
  • Dry leaves
  • Wood chips
  • Shredded paper
  • Peat moss

3. Dry the Compost on a Trap

You can spread your compost heap on a trap or wire mesh and let the excess moisture dry out.

Still, this method is best suited for sunny conditions to speed up the drying process. 

4. Add Twigs and Branches to Improve Drainage

Dry twigs and branches may take time to break down, but they also improve the drainage of your compost pile by creating large air spaces.

These spaces allow excess water to drain your pile and provide sufficient aeration throughout the heap. 

5. Cover Your Pile

You’re advised to cover your compost pile during the wet seasons with frequent rainstorms because constant rain floods your pile despite your efforts to turn it regularly. 

Pay attention to the climate in your area to determine how long you must cover the pile. 

6. Add Nitrogen Activator

Saved soggy compost can take time before the decomposition process kicks off again. Adding compost accelerators can help jumpstart this process and get your compost back on track.

Some of these compost accelerators include finished compost and organic nitrogen-rich materials like:

  • Blood meal
  • Manure
  • Bonemeal
  • Alfalfa meal 
Is your compost too wet?
Is your compost too wet? (Source: Sustainable Sanitation Alliance)

Why Is Your Compost Too Wet?

Several reasons exist to explain why your compost is too wet to decompose, including:

1. You’re Overwatering

A good rule-of-thumb dictates that your compost must have consistency and moisture similar to a wrong-out sponge when squeezed. If it feels mushy in your hand, you’re probably adding more water than the required amount. 

A compost moisture meter can help you detect the moisture levels in your heap. Still, this instrument is costly and more suitable for commercial composters than home composting practices.

Grabbing a handful of your compost and squeezing it should do the trick for compact-sized piles. 

2. Poor Aeration in Your Compost

Have you ever wondered why you’re advised to turn the compost pile regularly? Your compost heap requires a constant oxygen supply to boost the decomposition process.

Moreover, excess water evaporates into the air or drains out of your heap whenever you create air pockets in your pile.

If your heap is poorly aerated, the materials will soak up all the water leaving the compost soggy to the touch. 

3. Poorly Ventilated Bin or Tumbler

Professionally-designed compost bins or tumblers from stores such as Amazon have the proper dimensions and ventilation to maintain a healthy compost.

Yet, sometimes these bins, especially DIY projects, might have insufficient ventilation depending on your compost’s target size.

Your bin has a poor drainage system which translates to soggy compost.

4. Imbalanced Brown to Green Material Ratio

One of the most common composting problems is balancing the brown to green materials ratio in your compost bin, and a soggy compost indicates such an issue. 

Fresh kitchen waste like fruit or vegetable peelings and grass clippings have high moisture content, and adding them to your bin in excess makes the pile heavy. 

Heavy compost seals off air pockets with water suffocating the aerobic bacteria and birthing anaerobic microbes responsible for the foul smell in soggy bins.

Also, wet piles create hot compost conditions overwhelming to earthworms and increase the acidity of your heap. 

5. Insufficient Drainage

Too much moisture in a compost bin reduces aeration and displaces the microbes that break down organic waste into finished compost.

Insufficient drainage in your bin floods it and suffocates the grubs and microorganisms inside, halting the decomposition process entirely.

6. Excessive Rain Exposure

Exposing your compost pile to frequent rains makes it soggy regardless of whether or not you turn the pile regularly.

The dry materials also serve as good mulch absorbing moisture after the rainstorm retaining as much water to create a soggy compost bin. 

Can You Fix Slimy Compost?

Yes, you can save slimy compost in most situations. Slimy compost results from anaerobic decomposition, and you can add more dry materials like twigs and branches or turn the pile for better aeration. 

Why Does a Soggy Compost Bin Stink?

Soggy compost stinks because of the anaerobic bacterial activities. Waterlogged compost has air spaces filled with water cutting off the oxygen supply to the aerobic microbes that break down organic matter into compost.

Once these microorganisms die, anaerobic bacteria that don’t require oxygen multiply in your compost and produce the foul smell of ammonia or rotten eggs. 


Discovering composting as a way of life or even better, as nature’s way of recycling, Ana dedicates her time to trying out new methods of composting at home. Her goal is to share everything that she’s learned in the hopes that it will help others discover the amazing rewards of composting.

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