Compostable Cotton

Composting Cotton at Home
Most of us know that cotton is a natural fibre. But has the thought of composting your old cotton t-shirt ever cross your mind? Probably not. Can you really compost it though? Definitely.

Cotton is biodegradable, so adding it to your compost pile shouldn't be an issue. In fact, here are some benefits of composting from the EPA:

Composting Cotton in Soil
  • Enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
  • Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.

How to Compost Cotton

Before composting a cotton t-shirt, double check the content label to ensure you are composting a 100% cotton and not a synthetic material or blend. Be aware, however, that although the label may say the garment is made out of 100% cotton, that content might just only be covering the fabric. The trims of the garment (such as the ribbing) or thread used to sew the item together may not be made from 100%, and will not be compostable.

Sidenote: You'll have peace of mind with Northern Threads apparel, as all our Northern Threads styles are made from 100% cotton fabric (60% recycled cotton, 40% organic cotton), cotton trimmings, and cotton thread.
Cutting up cotton tshirt

Once you've confirmed that your garment is indeed 100% cotton, cut the fabric into long strips, about 2 inches wide. Then stack all the strips and cut them into smaller 2-3 inch squares. Don't worry about being precise.

Collect the small square and mix them in the soil, 2 parts soil to 1 part fabric. Discard any metal or non-natural trimmings like buttons or zippers that are not biodegradable.

Other cotton products such as cotton swabs, balls, or pads used for skin care may also be composted. As long as the handle on the cotton swab is made out of paper and not plastic, they are biodegradable. Cotton pads used for makeup removal or skin care regimens depend on the ingredients on the pad. For example, natural toners like witch hazel or rose water may go into your compost. However, makeup made from synthetic ingredients shouldn't go into your compost bin.

Cotton is a versatile, natural material that makes a perfect addition to your compost pile. It will actually benefit your pile since cotton retains moisture in the soil. Just a friendly reminder to be sure the cotton you are putting into your bin is 100% pure cotton, and to double check if your garment's trimmings and threads are also compostable.

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