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Can Hair Be Composted?

From Ecology Action

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Question:  Can human or pet hair be used in a compost pile?

Answer: Thanks for your inquiry - the answer is: Yes! Hair can be composted and/or used as mulch.

Organic material, such as yard clippings, non-meat kitchen scraps, manure, etc, can be composted, or broken down, to create nutrient-dense fertilizer. Often overlooked as a potential input into a compost pile, hair can be a great source of slow releasing nitrogen. Nail clippings as well can be used. In fact, any organic input that was not part of the inside of an animal is fair game for composting.

In the GROW BIOINTENSIVE®, we build our soil using a composting technique layering immature (or green) components such as plant leaves and roots, mature (or brown) carboniferous components such as rigid plant stocks, and soil. Because of the low available Carbon, hair is considered part of the immature, or green, material. It takes up to two years to degrade in a compost pile, but is about 15% nitrogen by volume, which is high. Even before it has decomposed, hair will help your compost pile retain water 4 times as well as soil would. If you plan to compost hair, try not to leave the hair in clumps or mats – it will break down much faster if it is dispersed.

Apart from adding it to the compost pile, some gardeners bury fresh hair directly in their beds where it provides structural support for roots to take hold and can be especially useful in helping plants break up thick clay soils. Hair may also be used in mats as mulch in or on your topsoil. Gardeners have success using hair as mulch to deter weeds and animal pests.

Compost PileMany hair salons or pet groomers are happy to give their clippings to gardeners. All animal hair can be used and should be diverted from the waste stream. However, it is important to consider that hair, especially hair from salon floors, may have all sorts of inorganic creams, sprays, dyes and other products. Be wary of this.

Here at Ecology Action, we do not use hair in our compost or elsewhere in our mini-farms. Because they are research sites, we must limit the number of variables and external inputs in our gardens. That being said, let us know if you have experience with any of these hair utilizing methods! We always love to hear of the interesting techniques people are using in their gardens.

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