How to Compost Indoors

A woman dumping food scraps into a small bucket.
  • 4-8 hours
  • Beginner
  • 50-100
What You'll Need
2, 14-gallon plastic bins
1/4 inch drill bit
Waste to compost
Red wiggler worms
Rubber gloves

If you're looking to live a greener, less wasteful life, composting can be a perfect solution to getting rid of your trash in a responsible way. Starting a compost pile reduces greenhouse emissions and keeps the waste from ending up in a landfill. Traditional compost piles up outside your home in your yard. But when outside composting just will not work due to lack of space, keep in mind that you can compost indoors, too.

However, it's something you have to experiment with to master. If the mixture isn’t just right, your compost can get soggy and smelly—something you may be able to live with if it's outdoors, but not so easily indoors. It will also have a tendency to attract bugs if poorly maintained. So, you will want to set yourself up for success and manage your indoor compost bin properly.


hands holding vermicomposting soil in plastic container

The most common indoor composting is called vermicompost, or worm composting. The worms break down the garbage and transform it into nutrient-rich “casting,” which is basically a clump that looks like dirt but is a byproduct of the worms that serves as incredible fertilizer. Here are a few steps to get started.

Step 1 - Prepare the Bins

To start a vermicompost bin that is indoor-friendly, get two 14-gallon plastic bins. On one bin, drill 30 or so ¼ inch holes in the bottom and 10 holes in the sides. Stack your bins one inside another with the drilled bin on the top. This two-bin setup will let the extra liquid safely seep out of your worm bin. (To keep your compost from getting too wet, you'll need to dump the liquids from the bottom bin every so often. The liquid is full of nutrients, so you can pour it into your garden or onto your lawn as a sort of bonus fertilizer.)

Step 2 - Fill the Bins With Browns and Soil

To begin the composting process, fill your holey bin with your “browns” first. Named for their earthy color, browns include dead crumpled leaves, unbleached paper, mulch, cardboard, pine needles, bark, or wood shavings. These materials soak up the extra moisture from your other materials so the bin doesn’t get soggy. After you make a layer of browns, the next layer should be a cup of soil (either from a garden or an existing potted plant).

Step 3 - Add the Worms

Worms in compost.

After the soil comes the worms. Purchase composting worms, known as "red wigglers" or simply red worms. About 1,000 worms can eat 4 pounds of waste a week in their new indoor home.

Step 4 - Add the Greens

Next, comes the “greens," which may include grass clippings, coffee grounds, eggshells, and fruit or vegetable scraps. Once the greens are added, continue with the same amount of browns again two more times. The ratio should be about three browns to one green, but it doesn’t need to be perfect.

Step 5 - Mix the Compost

Mix your compost well, either with a yardstick or your hands. (You will probably want to wear rubber gloves for this step if you're using your hands.)

Step 6 - Harvest the Castings for Your Garden Beds

A healthy compost bin will have material that is moist like a sponge. The compost will absorb waste rather quickly and should smell like fresh earth. When the worms finish their job, you can harvest the castings from the bin. The casting clumps will be an excellent fertilizer for any plants you have.

Tips and Tricks

Shred Food Scraps for Easier Break-Down

Adding food scraps into a compost bin.

hen adding waste into your compost bin, be picky. Not everything should be thrown in like you would with a trash can. Tear or shred your waste material before tossing it in the bin because the smaller the pieces are, the more quickly they will break down. To keep flies away from the bin, bury the food scraps before they are rotten.

Use Coffee Grounds to Keep Flies Away

In your indoor bin you can compost fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags, and shredded paper (with no ink). Do not add meat, dairy, fats or spices to your compost bin. These wastes will make your bin smell bad and will not be good for your worms—not to mention they also will attract flies. If you're worried about the smell coming from your bin, be cautious about the stinky foods you add. If you're especially worried about bugs, used coffee grounds on top of your compost will usually ward off flies.