Can You Compost Hair? What You Need To Know!
If you have a backyard garden and prefer to make your own compost instead of buying it, you might have considered using hair. But is it compostable? The good news is—yes, hair is very much compostable, and it’s quite nutritious.
But it takes a very long time to decompose. In this guide, we’ll talk about the ins and outs of using hair for composting. We’ll cover tried-and-true ways of accelerating the decomposition process, the pros and cons of animal fur, and more.
What Is Composting?
Some people might already be familiar with composting, while others might not understand the process. Composting the process of recycling organic waste, such as scraps (peels, skin, and stalks), plants, leaves, and, of course, hair. Over time, organic products break down and turn into nutrients for your vegetables, fruits, and flowers.
But you can’t just throw whatever you’ve got in the trash bin into the compost pile and expect it to turn into fertilizer. Certain products like meat, eggs, fats, onion peels, and toxic plants are NOT recommended for composting.
Just How Good Is Hair for Composting?
While it might not look like much, human hair is actually an incredible fertilizer. The reason: it’s rich in slow-releasing nitrogen (a key component in any pile), which makes it a perfect substitute for pricey commercial-grade mulch. On average, hair contains 46% carbon, 7% hydrogen, and 16% nitrogen. Add above-average levels of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen, and you’ll see why it’s so highly valued among gardeners.
Hair does a great job of providing support for plant roots and ensures steady growth by making the soil softer, enriching it, and helping it retain much-needed moisture. If you live somewhere up north where the soil is very thick and hard to work with, even a little bit of hair added to the mix will make a difference.
How Long Does Hair Take to Decompose?
Alright, now that we know that hair is, indeed, a good source of nitrogen, let’s talk about the decomposing process: how long will you have to wait for it to turn into compost? On average, hair takes 1–2 years to break down (or up to 100 years, depending on the environment). That’s because it mostly consists of keratin, a highly resistant protein. Thankfully, there are ways to speed up the process.
For example, to prevent lumps/mats from being formed, don’t put every last bit of hair you have into the bin. When dispersed, hair decomposes much faster. Yes, hair should only make up for a very small percentage of the green organic waste. Also, make sure to aerate the pile 2–3 times during the first week. As for the “climate” inside of the bin, it should be reasonably moist and warm.
Thus, the hair will break down even faster (and this applies both to human and pet hair). Lastly, make a habit of turning the pile 1–2 times a week. If you follow all these rules, the hair will decompose much sooner (in a month or two). And you will be able to add it to your veggies/fruits and flowers to stimulate growth. On top of that, the hair will keep weeds and pests at bay.
How to Compost Hair: A Detailed Guide
Don’t have a compost pile yet? Then you need to make it first before adding the hair. Begin by finding a dry spot in your backyard that’s protected from direct sun. Ideally, there should be a water source nearby. Next, add whatever organic waste you’ve got, starting with brown waste (carbon—dried leaves, hay, and paper). Keep all the individual pieces as small as possible.
By doing that, you’ll help the decomposing process go smoother. Remember: brown waste is mostly dry. So, make sure to moisten them a bit. Green waste (nitrogen—fruit/veggie scraps, freshly cut grass, and manure) comes next. Finally, cover the bin with a tarp to trap the moisture inside. Alright, so, what about hair, you might ask? When is the perfect time to add it?
There are no “secret formulas” here: just sprinkle it over the other greens before you cover the pile. To achieve the best results, see that the bin includes enough browns. And remember: the ideal cargo/nitrogen ratio is 30:1. Or, if you don’t have the time to wait for months, nothing’s stopping you from using hair in its raw form. Just add it to the soil and it will feed the plants by slowly releasing nitrogen as it’s decomposing.
Human vs Animal Hair: Is There a Difference?
Hair works the same way, no matter whom or what it comes from. So, if you have a dog or a cat, don’t hesitate to put its hair/fur to good use. Instead of putting it into the trash bin after grooming the pet, add it to the pile. And don’t forget to check the vacuum cleaner. If you’re the lucky parent of a hairy doggy (like a spaniel), there will be lots of hair waste in it, along with some dirt.
Do you have a synthetic carpet? Then we recommend against using the vacuumed hair, as synthetic fibers will not decompose. This also means that if you have synthetic hair (like a wig or hair extensions), it can’t find its way into the bin, as it’s made from vinyl, PVC, silicone, and other non-biodegradable materials. Artificial hair will do more harm than good.
Hair From Salons and Groomers: Check Before Using It
Hair from saloons might be contaminated with dyes, sprays, and other products. That can have a negative effect on the compost. Also, if the dog/cat has gone through a flea/worm treatment recently, wait for a week or two before using its hair.
However, hair that has been freshly washed will be fine for your compost pile. Check with the stylists and ask them to give you all their clipped hair. This way, you’ll do them a favor and get bags of hair for free.
Does Hair Type Matter?
No, it doesn’t. You can go with straight, curly, long, or short hair, and it won’t make a difference. As long as it’s natural and you’re adding it in small portions, there’s nothing to worry about. It can come from your hairbrush, the vacuum cleaner, or, let’s say, a pet rabbit. You can even use hair clogs from the shower drain or the sink (gross, we know).
Composting is at the heart of modern-day gardening. When done right, it will not only help you cultivate growth in the garden but also keep the environment healthy. Reduced emissions and healthier soil are just some of the benefits of composting. And let’s not forget that compost is significantly cheaper than commercial fertilizer products.
Now, for the most part, human waste shouldn’t be anywhere near a compost bin; however, as we learned today, hair is an entirely different story. A huge source of nitrogen, it will be a key component in turning a pile of organic waste into premium-quality compost. So, instead of throwing it away, save as much human/dog hair as possible, add it to the compost pile, and watch your favorite plants grow like crazy!
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay