If there is one thing a dog owner knows, it’s that the shedding never stops. Open up the vacuum to clean it, and you will see that 90% of the waste is dog hair. This fur builds up on every surface so quickly it is impossible to keep up with. At the end of the day, it all goes into the trash.
But what if dog hair didn’t need to go into the trash? What if there was another option? Could pet hair be added to compost, and if so, is dog hair even good for a compost pile? Let’s dive in and explore the logistics of composting dog hair!
Can I Put Dog Hair in My Compost?
You can put dog hair in your compost, and it will break down with no issues. It is best to make sure that no chemical treatments have been used on the fur recently to prevent contamination of your garden’s soil. But if you just throw your dog’s fur on top of the compost pile and walk away, you are going to have a bad time.
There are some steps to take to ensure that the animal hair and fur you add to a compost pile becomes quality compost in as little time as possible. It is a good idea to add a fair amount of hair at once and mix it into the pile instead of just sprinkling it on top every day. I have also found that adding some water to the general pile while mixing in the dog hair can prevent clumps.
Once you have added the hair and fur to the pile, you will want to mix it every couple of days for the first week to help the hair spread through the pile and avoid half-broken-down tangles when you go to plant in the spring.
Since you can safely compost hair and fur, let’s look at some of the benefits our soil can reap from a small supplementing of this green ingredient.
4 Benefits of Composting Dog Hair
- Nitrogen – Like most kitchen and food scraps, dog hair is high in nitrogen; while it tends to be drier than the other material we add as green, the hair’s composition is more similar to veggie peels than paper or cardboard. So add more carbon with your dog’s hair to keep the ratio balanced.
- Same Nutrient Composition as Bone Meal – In addition to nitrogen, dog fur also contains carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur. These are the same nutrients found in bone meal, a common garden supplement.
- Plentiful and Free – Garden supplements are great in a pinch, but over time the goal is to produce as much of what our garden needs through our own everyday waste. Adding hair to a compost pile is free and abundant. The best way to do this effectively is to save up a bunch and then add it all at once, along with the other biodegradable materials needed to make a balanced compost.
- Reduce Waste At Land Fills – Anything that can be broken down in your garden saves a tremendous amount of time and money and reduces the global carbon footprint. Even if it’s just your pet’s hair, throwing that in your compost instead of the municipal trash is literally saving the Earth. Keep it up!
How Long Does it Take for Dog Hair to Decompose?
Dog hair can take anywhere from 1 month to 6 months to completely decompose based on a range of factors. Dog hair may appear to be high in carbon due to its dryness but is actually higher in nitrogen. It should be treated like food scraps and given additional brown materials to start the decomposition process.
If too much dog hair is added at once, thrown in a big pile, and not mixed in, then you might have to wait a long time to see results. Also, a cold compost pile, one that sits over winter, will likely not break down hair nearly as fast as a warm or hot compost. Temperature plays a big role in how fast hair breaks down.
Spreading the hair out and premixing it with other materials before throwing it in the pile may help avoid giant clumps. It is quite off-putting to be digging in mature compost only to pull out a clump of half-rotted hair, yuck.
So what can we do to make sure all our four-legged friend’s hair turns to dirt in a quick and timely manner? Let’s find out!
4 Ways to Speed Up Composting
- Cut Up the Materials – Depending on the length of the hair being added, cutting the hair into ¾ inches long can greatly reduce the composting time. Obviously, cutting your dog’s fur after it is in the vacuum is silly, so this probably would only be needed for extremely long-haired breeds or undyed human hair.
- Add the Correct Ratio of Carbon and Nitrogen-Rich Materials – Remember adding hair is closer to veggie peels than paper so add your carbon-rich materials alongside your bag of hair. Leaf mold and litter are excellent to combine with hair in the compost pile.
- Heat the Compost Up – Hair likes to clump and can take a long time to break down if it is not exposed to heat and air. Mixing the compost every 3 or 4 days for the first week is important to heat the compost and break down the fur.
- Add More Worms – Hair mixed into compost is the perfect food for worms. The high volume of surfaces along hair strands that bacteria and microorganisms can lurk on makes it ideal for microbe-loving earth crawlers. Make hair-filled mud balls to keep your worms happy, and add more worms to process more hair faster.
What Composts Like Dog Hair?
A few other common biodegradable materials act in a similar manner as dog hair. But looking at all of these items together, you can find even more materials to toss in the ‘post.
|Time to Decompose
|Prepared LIke Dog Fur
|Cut short, mix together
|Cut short, mix together
|Not cut or mixed
|3 to 6 Months
|Cut short, not mixed
|3 to 6 Months
|Not cut short, Chopped small
- Cat Hair – Pretty much identical to dog hair in how it breaks down, cat hair is a good choice to toss in the compost. Since cats tend to shed and leave their hair everywhere as well, getting the hair out of the house will help everyone breathe better.
- Human Hair – Undyed, not chemically treated, human hair can be added to the compost. If you are thrifty and like an old-fashioned home cut, chopping the cut hair short and mixing it into the compost is a great option.
- Hamster Fur- Hamster fur will break down like dog fur but has the added benefit of being mixed with, usually soiled, bedding. This mixture of hair, wood shavings, and manure is an amazing booster for any home compost’s ecosystem.
- Fingernails – While fingers can persist for decades if dropped behind the couch, in a wet, bacteria-fueled environment, fingernails will break down in the same several months as other regenerative body parts. Make sure they are clipped small and that your compost is moist.
- Pumpkins – Chopped up small and tossed in a pit, pumpkins break down in about the same amount of time as dog fur. Pumpkins tend to have a higher moisture content which allows something so large to break down at the same speed as a small clump of dog hair.