Composting Paper Towels


Is there some confusion about whether or not paper towels can be composted?

Is it ever okay to compost something that isn’t food?

Can you compost paper towels at all?

Are there some types that can’t be composted?

Some people may not believe paper towels can be composted. This is often because paper towels may be bleached or treated with chemicals, and some individuals believe these chemicals don’t belong in the compost bin.

However, it is entirely possible to compost paper towels safely and effectively. All you have to do is learn how!

In this article, we’ll show you some information about how to compost most types of paper towels and which ones you should avoid adding to the pile. You’ll learn the best way to use paper towels when composting, so read on!

All About Composting Paper Towels

In this section, we’ll teach you the basics and help you get started with adding paper towels to your compost pile. Check out the information below to find out everything you want to know and more about composting your paper towels:

How are paper towels composted?

  • Paper towels break down fast, which makes them a great addition to most composting piles. Since they’re made of paper, and that paper is thin, it begins breaking down almost right away when you add it to the pile.
  • They are broken down by aerobic bacteria, which is a type of bacteria that relies on oxygen in order to do its job. This is the type you want to find in a composting pile, since it does most of the hard work of composting. Therefore, paper towels are very useful in your compost pile in most instances.

Do paper towels always count as organic material?

  • Although there are a couple of types of paper towels you should never add to your compost pile (more on that later), paper towels in general are always going to count as organic materials. They are not a green material, however, but are instead known as a brown material.
  • Brown materials are rich in carbon. This type of materials burns well in a compost pile and decomposes easily. Therefore, paper towels make excellent organic additions to your compost, even if they have been bleached or treated with some type of chemical. The amount of these chemicals present in paper towels will not affect your compost negatively.

What kinds of paper towels can you compost safely?

  • You can safely and effectively compost any type of paper towel that is not on the list of “don’ts” below. If you have used the paper towel to clean up spilled food or beverages, it can be composted. Even if the paper towel is covered in dirt, you can throw it in the pile.
  • You can even compost paper towels that have been used to clean up waste from animals or children in the household. Just remember that these materials may smell worse when composting and may be harder to manage for inexperienced individuals, and plan accordingly.

What kinds should you never compost?

  • You should never compost a paper towel that has been used to clean up a chemical or to clean with a chemical. For example, if you used a paper towel to wipe a window with window cleaner, throw it away rather than composting it.
  • This is even true of the more eco-friendly cleaners out there. These cleaners destroy bacteria, but bacteria are an important part of composting.
  • You should also stay away from composting paper towels that have any sort of grease or fat on them. Stay away from paper towels covered in butter, cooking oil, or mechanical oil. These can cause issues with the heat in your composting pile and can also cut down not he good kind of bacteria you want in the compost, too.

What are some issues you might encounter when composting paper towels?

  • The biggest issue when composting paper towels is simply the heat. If your paper towel contains any greasy substances or anything that heats more than other organic materials, the heat level may rise higher than usual in the composting pile.
  • Paper towels may also contribute to fewer aerobic bacteria present in the compost. If you compost something on a paper towel that kills bacteria, you will be more likely to lose bacteria that are necessary to the composting process.

How can you troubleshoot these problems?

  • The most important step you can take in troubleshooting your paper towel composting issues is to make sure you’re always composting the right types of paper towels.  Keeping incorrect paper towels out of the composting pile is crucial when it comes to ensuring your composting success.
  • If you absolutely must compost these types of paper towels, make sure to keep the number very low and to bury them in the middle of the composting pile. This way, the rest of the pile will help break down the substances on the paper towels more effectively.


Now that you know how to handle paper towel composting, it’s time to see just what it can do for you. There are some upsides of composting your paper towels that you may not have realized, so it’s important to brush up on these before choosing to go this route with your own composting bin.

Here are a few benefits you may enjoy from composting paper towels:

  • You can use paper towels as a replacement for grass or leaves if you need to. Because of the way paper towels break down, they are an excellent substitute; even though they are brown materials instead of green materials, they can serve the same purpose in your composting pile. This is true of dirty paper towels as well as clean ones, as long as you make sure not to compost greasy or chemical-coated paper towels.
  • Paper towel compost can be easily used on plants of almost any variety. It is also sometimes used municipally as cover soil for landfills. In these instances, paper towel waste is collected and then spread over the landfills, encouraging the soil quality to rise and making it easier for the dirt to bounce back after pollution issues.
  • Composting paper towels also helps to cut down on the amount of paper towel waste present in landfills. As with all types of composting, getting rid of your own waste in a healthy and organic way is a great way to improve the environment while making the situations at landfills a little less dire. Even something as small as paper towels can make a big difference when everyone gets involved.
  • Paper towels compost easily. Because of this, even some areas accept them municipally to add to their own composting programs. They break down so quickly that they may also be picked up as part of yard waste by the city or county where you live. When this happens, the paper towels are usually used to facilitate composting at a municipal level.
  • You can save money on fertilizer as well as on garbage services when you toss your paper towels in the composting bin instead of in the garbage bin. You might be surprised to see just what a difference this one small change can make in your household!

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