Can Kitchen Towel Be Composted?

In today’s eco-conscious world, we are constantly seeking ways to reduce our environmental impact. One area that often raises questions is the disposal of paper products, particularly kitchen towels.

Can Kitchen Towel Be Composted

These universal household items are used for a variety of tasks, from cleaning spills to drying dishes. However, the question remains: can we compost these seemingly harmless paper towels, or should they be destined for the landfill?

Can You Compost Clean Kitchen Towels?

Absolutely! If you have unused or clean kitchen towels, you can compost them without any hesitation. These paper towels have not been exposed to any contaminants and can safely decompose in your compost pile or bin. In fact, adding clean paper towels to your compost can provide carbon-rich brown material, which is essential for maintaining the proper balance of carbon and nitrogen in your compost mix.

To accelerate the decomposition process, it’s recommended to shred or tear the paper towels into smaller pieces before adding them to your compost pile. This increases the surface area exposed to the microorganisms responsible for breaking down the organic matter.

Clean/Unused Paper TowelsYes
Shredded Paper TowelsYes (Decomposes Faster)

Composting Soiled Kitchen Towels

The decision to compost soiled kitchen towels becomes a bit more complicated. The type of substance the towel was used to clean plays a crucial role in determining its suitability for composting.

Organic Messes If you’ve used a kitchen towel to clean up organic messes, such as food spills, mud, or even vomit, you can compost it without any concerns. These organic materials will break down naturally in your compost pile, providing valuable nutrients for your future gardening endeavors. However, it’s essential to exercise caution when composting paper towels used to clean up meat, dairy, or oily substances, as they may attract pests or create odor issues in your compost bin.

Key Takeaway: Dirty kitchen towels used to clean up organic messes, like food spills or mud, can be composted without any issues. However, exercise caution when composting towels used for cleaning meat, dairy, or oily substances.

Cleaning Products and Chemicals

If your kitchen towel has been used in conjunction with chemical cleaning products, it’s best to avoid composting it. These chemicals can harm the beneficial microorganisms responsible for breaking down organic matter in your compost pile. Even natural cleaning products, such as vinegar or baking soda, can disrupt the delicate ecosystem within your compost bin.

Inorganic Messes and Toxic Substances

Under no circumstances should you compost kitchen towels used to clean up inorganic messes or toxic substances like paint, solvents, or harsh chemicals. These materials can contaminate your compost, rendering it unsuitable for use in gardening or landscaping. Additionally, they may harm the microorganisms responsible for the decomposition process, hindering the overall effectiveness of your compost pile.

What about the Bleaching Process?

One common concern regarding the composting of kitchen towels is the potential impact of bleaching agents used during the manufacturing process. While it’s true that many paper towels undergo a bleaching process to achieve their bright white color, the good news is that bleach does not accumulate in the food chain or persist in the environment for long periods.

According to industry experts, the bleaching process used in paper production involves chemicals like peroxide, magnesium, or sodium silicate to lighten the wood pulp. These bleaching agents break down quickly and are not likely to pose a significant threat to your compost pile or the environment.

Easy Steps to Compost Kitchen Towels

If you’ve decided to compost your clean or lightly soiled kitchen towels, follow these simple steps:

  1. Collect your used kitchen towels in a separate container or bin.
  2. Tear or shred the towels into smaller pieces to facilitate faster decomposition.
  3. Layer the shredded towels in your compost bin or pile, alternating with other brown materials (like dry leaves or shredded cardboard) and green materials (like grass clippings or vegetable scraps).
  4. Ensure proper moisture levels by occasionally adding water to your compost pile.
  5. Turn or aerate the compost regularly to promote oxygenation and faster decomposition.

Key Takeaway: Shredding or tearing kitchen towels into smaller pieces before composting can accelerate the decomposition process.


Can I compost paper towels used to clean up pet waste?

No, it’s not recommended to compost paper towels used to clean up pet waste, as they may contain harmful pathogens that can contaminate your compost pile.

Is it okay to compost paper towels used with dish soap?

Yes, you can compost paper towels used with mild dish soap, as long as they have not been exposed to harsh chemicals or grease.

Can I compost paper towels used to clean up motor oil spills?

No, paper towels used to clean up motor oil or other petroleum-based products should not be composted, as they can introduce toxins into your compost pile.

What if I accidentally composted paper towels with chemicals on them?

If you accidentally composted paper towels that were exposed to chemicals or toxic substances, it’s best to discard the entire compost batch and start over to avoid potential contamination.

Can I compost the cardboard tubes from paper towel rolls?

Yes, the cardboard tubes from paper towel rolls can be composted along with the paper towels themselves, as they are made from biodegradable materials.


Composting kitchen towels is a viable and eco-friendly option, but it requires careful consideration.

Clean, unused paper towels can be composted without any concerns, while lightly soiled towels used for cleaning organic messes are generally safe for composting as well.

However, it’s crucial to avoid composting towels exposed to harsh chemicals, inorganic substances, or toxic materials, as they can contaminate your compost pile and potentially harm the environment.

Emma Kellam
Emma Kellam

I'm Emma, and I run Towels Edition, a website for fellow home goods enthusiasts who, like me, are passionate about textiles. After working in high-end retail, I was amazed by how little most people (myself included!) know about all the towel options out there.

I research and write all the content myself. Whether it's specialized towels like bar mops, Turkish cotton production methods, or comparing hair towel absorbency, I cover it. My goal is to share my knowledge and enthusiasm to help others.

Running Towels Edition allows me to constantly expand my own expertise too. I love learning about innovations in bamboo fabric or ideal bath towels. It's so rewarding to receive emails thanking me for recommendations that improved my readers' routines.

I want Towels Edition to be the ultimate online towel resource, making this overlooked necessity far more fascinating. My aim is to open people's eyes to how specialty towels can thoroughly enhance hygiene, cleaning, recreation and self-care.