A composting bin

Can I put linen in my compost bin?


It's complicated, whether you can put linen into your composting bin, so read on!

Key info
No category📂
2-5 months

Get the right balance of brown and green composting materials in your bin with our expert guide.

Composting Natural Fabric Clothing and Textiles

Composting fabric and textiles made from natural materials like cotton, linen, wool and silk can contribute valuable nutrients to your compost pile. As responsible consumers and gardeners, diverting these items from landfills to compost bins is an eco-friendly choice.

What Kinds of Fabric Can Be Composted?

The key factor determining if a fabric will compost is whether it's made from natural materials. Here are some fabrics that can be composted:

  • Cotton - One of the most common fabrics, cotton clothing and textiles like sheets and towels can be composted. Expect pieces of cotton fabric to take 2-5 months to break down.

  • Linen - Made from flax plants, linen is a very biodegradable material that can decompose within just a few weeks in the right composting conditions.

  • Wool - Wool clothing and blankets decompose more slowly than cotton or linen, taking up to 1-5 years depending on the size of the pieces.

  • Silk - Delicate silk items will compost in a matter of months.

  • Hemp and bamboo - Other plant-based fabrics like hemp and bamboo can also be composted effectively.

Any fabrics made from these natural materials can be composted - from old t-shirts, jeans and dresses, to sheets, towels, blankets and tablecloths. Even natural fiber blends are usually fine to add.

Synthetic & Blended Fabrics Won't Compost

On the other hand, synthetic fabrics made from petroleum-derived materials like polyester, nylon, acrylic, spandex and vinyl do not biodegrade, so they cannot be composted.

Blended fabrics that mix natural and synthetic fibers also won't fully break down. For your compost's health and quality, it's best not to add fabrics with more than 5% synthetic material.

Tips for Composting Fabrics Effectively

Follow these guidelines for successfully diverting old natural fiber clothing and textiles into your compost system:

  • Cut or shred pieces into smaller chunks - this gives microorganisms and insects more surface area to work on decomposing the material.

  • Mix fabric pieces throughout the pile - don't concentrate too much in one area. Blend with other brown and green compost ingredients.

  • Avoid fabric treated with chemicals - for example, avoid adding clothes or textiles that have been heavily dyed or flame retardants applied. These could affect your finished compost quality.

  • Use compost with fabric scraps only for ornamental plants - don't use compost containing clothing scraps to grow edible plants, just in case of any chemical residues.

FAQs About Composting Fabrics

How long does it take fabric and textiles to break down in compost?

This varies a lot depending on the exact material and the size of the scraps added, but here is a general timeline:

  • Cotton - 2 to 5 months
  • Linen - A few weeks to 1 month
  • Wool - 1 to 5 years
  • Silk - 2 to 5 months

Can I put my 100% natural fiber clothing in curbside compost pickup?

Rules vary by municipality, but many curbside compost programs do accept 100% natural fiber textiles like cotton, linen and wool clothing. Check the guidelines for your local program before adding clothes. Some may require you to cut up or shred items first.

What should I do with clothes and textiles that can't be composted?

For any synthetic and blended fabrics that won't break down, try to donate, reuse or recycle them first before considering the landfill. Special textile collection programs help keep these items out of landfills.

So if you have clothing, sheets, blankets or other natural fiber textiles that are damaged or worn out, consider diverting them to your compost pile instead of the trash. It keeps textile waste out of landfills while benefiting your garden!

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