Can you Compost Paper Towels

reviewed by Christina Lopez

Paper towels play an integral role in every household. Can you imagine life without them? Well, we could experience a seeming standstill life, especially when we have pets and kids. Despite them playing a crucial role in our homes, are they a safe option to add to the compost? Often, the answer to this relies on the kind of paper towel plus the things you wipe.

With that in mind, this article seeks to shed light on whether you can compost paper towels or not. Read on to find out!

Composting Paper Towels

Composting Paper Towels
Composting Paper Towels

Composting entails natural biological techniques of breaking down organic components. It is still an excellent process to minimize methane emissions and ensure the waste materials are managed efficiently. When it comes to paper towels, people use them to clean different things in their homes.

Are They Compostable?

Definitely, it’s effortlessly to compost paper towels. The reason why they are easily compostable is that they are made using 100% recycled materials. The cellulose fiber material is also available in paper towels, making it effortless for bacteria to break. These materials are definitely the best to include in your composter because they also help absorb moisture.

The sole issue with paper towels is that they can impede airflow since they have bits of materials great at absorbing water. While paper towels can assist in controlling moisture, they still initiate decomposition faster than necessary.

When you use many paper towels in your compost pile, paper towels will absorb available moisture and lead to airflow issues. Paper towels can still lead to clumps that develop waterlogging in the compost bin.

Remember that most kitchen paper towels that emanate from cellulose fiber should never be utilized in a compost bin. You should confirm the recycling details from the paper towel package.

You also need to ensure that your paper towels are not an alternative for shredded paper. However, you can consider recycling something like a cardboard and paper towel provided that you tear them into minute pieces.

Which Paper Towels are not Compostable?

There are different types of paper towels, and the name paper towel means all the available options. Note that all the types of paper towels are not qualified to get into your compost pile. You can consider some options, but this will rely on the things they have cleaned. The rule of thumb is that paper towels for cleaning chemical residues, oil, and grease should never get into your compost bin.

As you all know, grease and oil can block the air out of the bin, giving space for anaerobic bacteria. Anaerobic bacteria are types of bacteria that don’t live or grow when there is oxygen. This signifies that when your bin lacks oxygen, it influences the process of decomposition.

That said, you need to make sure that your compost pile is well aerated. Grease and oil still create an awful odor into your pit, and this unacceptable. For real, the awful smell from your compost bin implies that something is not adding up.

When to Avoid Composting Paper Towels?

There are different types of paper towels you must avoid including in your compost pile. Composting the wrong paper towel can contribute to greasy or chemical substances that can alter the balance in your composter. Always try to avoid the following;

  • Fragrance or disinfectant is included in the paper roll towel as the selling feature.
  • Avoid paper towels that have been utilized with chemical cleansing items
  • Paper towels that have wiped butter, grease, or fatty substance
  • Picked up human or animals feces, or bodily fluids

Paper towels with antibacterial additives or fragrances introduce severe chemicals to your compost pit. This influences the ideal health and balance of bacteria that handle the breakdown of the compost.

Chemicals emanating from cleaning items, despite being all-natural, can destroy essential microorganisms found in the compost pile.

You should also avoid butter and fat in a compost pile because, just like oils and grease, they block the air around your compost pile. If there is no air, the bacteria will die; hence, influence the whole decomposing process.

Despite the concern about greasy paper towels, you should never worry if they get into your compost. If your compost is active, the process should progress without any problem.

Last but not least is that paper towels used in animal and human waste should never get into your composter. The reason is that they can enable the passage of diseases or harmful pathogens to individuals touching the compost before complete decomposition.

Advantage of Composting Paper Towels

Can you Compost Paper Towels
Can you Compost Paper Towels

There are several reasons for composting paper towels. These can be;

  • Minimizing household waste materials going into the landfills
  • Releasing or absorbing moisture content so that the pile remains in balance
  • Behaves as brown or carbon compound to the nitrogen available
  • Recycling a waste item into an essential garden additive

Disadvantages of Composting Paper Towels

Decomposing paper towels also comes with some setbacks. Some of them include;

  • Not all paper works can get into the compost pile, which means you must know the acceptable options.
  • Chemicals available on paper towels can influence the balance of microorganisms.
  • It’s somehow hard to tear up your paper towels so that they can blend well into your compost.

How Long Do Paper Towels Take to Decompose?

Paper Towels Decomposing Time
Paper Towels Decomposing Time

The time you require to decompose organic matter basically depends on several aspects. For example, a thicker layer of paper towels and the fibrous wood pulp will take microorganisms a lot of time to digest. An average layer can take between 2-6 weeks to decompose.

Note that paper towels are hard to dissolve compared to toilet paper. The reason is that they are an alternative option for a cleaning cloth and must be long lasting.

Breaking the paper towel into minute pieces will gear the breakdown process. The more you mix many paper towels with other ingredients, the more oxygen and nitrogen they expose, enhancing bacterial action.

A Step-by-step Guide to Compost Paper Towels

Composting paper towel is easy and encompasses a four-step-by-step process. This process must be followed as a part of the waste disposal pattern.

  • Select the paper towels that are ideal or safe to compose. Place your paper towels into a compost bin and add other carbon-based items like cardboard.
  • Before you add your paper towels into the compost bin, you must tear up or shred them into smaller pieces to foster faster decomposition.
  • Add your paper towel and other brown or carbon elements to counterbalance the ratio of green or nitrogen elements.
  • Blend the paper towel appropriately into a compost pile using a garden fork or just rotating the bin. Remember to turn your compost in approximately 2-3 days. This helps keep your compost aerated and hot so that microorganisms can consume other ingredients and the paper towel.


Composting paper towels is straightforward. You only need to follow the right steps, use the right ingredients, and ensure the process becomes part of your home recycling efforts. Actually, you don’t have to fill your land with home waste when you can use paper towels together with other ingredients like coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, and eggshells to decompose them. Just take a move and enrich your compost using paper towels.


About Christina Lopez

Christina Lopez grew up in the scenic city of Mountain View, California. For eighteen ascetic years, she refrained from eating meat until she discovered the exquisite delicacy of chicken thighs. Christina is a city finalist competitive pingpong player, an ocean diver, and an ex-pat in England and Japan. Currently, she is a computer science doctoral student. Christina writes late at night; most of her daytime is spent enchanting her magical herb garden.

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